Op-Ed: It’s time to break down stigmas about sex education


Viktor Mogilat

Comprehensive sex education involves open-discussion and normalizing intimacy. Meanwhile, practices such as abstinence-only sex education do not protect young people from unwanted pregnancies or STIs, according to Columbia University.

Most human beings want to have healthy and satisfying sex lives. When I decided that it was time for me to join the ranks of the sexually active, I talked to my mom. I should have been able to get accurate information at school, but my public school system did not offer comprehensive sex education.

I am lucky to have parents who are open and honest with me about sex. Unfortunately, many teens and young adults do not have access to anyone with the information they need to stay safe during sexual activities. In order for people to make safe and satisfying choices about their sex lives, they need access to comprehensive sex education in school, especially when they may not receive it at home. Sex education courses need to be inclusive of both the cisgendered, heterosexual,  and LGBTQ+ communities and include accurate information about contraception, STI prevention, and practical information about informed consent and personal safety.

Many adults are afraid to let schools give their children any information about sex. The fear that an informative sex education will encourage unsafe practices and lead to unwanted situations, However, accurate information in sex education makes teens safer, and encourages smart and safe sexual activity.

Dr. Albright from Penn Medicine states that, “for some reason, many parents believe that information will lead to bad behavior. And that’s a fallacy. If you educate them, they will be more informed and can better assess or judge a situation.” 

According to Education Week, “such education helps young people to reduce risk of potentially negative outcomes, such as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Such education can also help youth enhance the quality of their relationships and to develop decision-making skills that will prove invaluable over life.”

Unfortunately, in the United States, individual states allow different topics within sex education. According to a study from Guttmacher Institute, in 2014, 72% of U.S. public and private high schools taught pregnancy prevention as part of required instruction, 76% taught that abstinence is the most effective method to avoid pregnancy, HIV and STDs and 61% taught about contraceptive efficacy.

Sex-ed courses that fail to include information on safe contraceptives for sexual health are both commonplace and dangerous. A 2017 article from Columbia University shows that replacing abstinence-only courses with accurate contraception information would lead to decreases in unprotected sexual activity, STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

“The weight of scientific evidence shows these programs do not help young people delay the initiation of sexual intercourse… while abstinence is theoretically effective, in actual practice, intentions to abstain from sexual activity often fail. These programs simply do not prepare young people to avoid unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases,” the article states.

Another way that comprehensive sex education courses could keep young adults safe is by including thorough and open discussions about sexual safety and consent.

According to Planned Parenthood, “consenting and asking for consent are all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner, and checking in if things aren’t clear. Without consent, sexual activity…is sexual assault or rape.”

Learning the differences between mutual and informed consent vs. sexual assault and rape will encourage students to avoid dangerous situations and grow healthy relationships with their partners. 

Even thorough sex education is incomplete if it fails to include different sexual identities and orientations.

For LGBTQ youth to experience comparable health benefits to their non-LGBTQ peers, sex education programs must be LGBTQ-inclusive. Inclusive programs are those that help youth understand gender identity and sexual orientation with age-appropriate and medically accurate information…emphasize the need for protection during sex for people of all identities,” a story from the Human Rights Campaign said.

Knowledge is power. Quality sex education inclusion in schools would keep all young adults safer and give them the tools they need to make good choices about sex.  Sex is a basic human need and accurate information about it is something we all deserve.