A bill was introduced this year by Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) that would grant money to schools for abstinence-only sex education. The Abstinence Education Reallocation Act would cost more than $100 million per year over the course of five years.
Hultgren voiced his support for the bill citing a report from the Center for Disease Control regarding sexually transmitted diseases in teens. He claimed, as a father, he wanted his four teenagers to avoid acquiring STDs, and the best way to do that is to focus primarily on abstinence in schools.
The problem with abstinence-only education is that it often relies on confusing metaphors and dances around the realities of teenage sexuality. It enforces the idea that abstaining from sex is the only way to truly avoid STDs.
Instead of putting funding into teaching students that the only way they can avoid STDs is by not engaging in any sort of sexual activity, why not educate them on real ways they can protect themselves against these risks and, if they choose to do so, how to have safer sex?
Abstinence should be one option — not the only option — taught in schools on how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases. Even turning on MTV to shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 And Pregnant” show viewers that abstinence-only education is not 100 percent effective for teens.
By educating students about the realities and consequences of sex, and the effects STDs can have on their bodies, perhaps teens will gain a better understanding of their sexualities instead of receiving mixed messages from their teachers and what they see on televisions.
College students are generally not forced to take a class that furthers their understanding of sexual health. Some engage in unprotected sex with the only concern being a potential pregnancy. STDs are a reality every person who engages in sexual activity needs to be conscious of, and covering up this fact with a strong emphasis on abstinence in high school only further spreads misinformation and apathy.
Fortunately, as college students who are arguably more independent than high schoolers, we are able to seek out our own resources regarding sexual health. The responsibility falls on us to actually do it.
University Health Services provides educational resources, free condoms and free and confidential HIV testing. There are programs and organizations on campus that strive to help students have safer sex and understand the risks of sexual activity. Instead of ignoring those abstinence lectures we learned in high school, we think it’s time to educate ourselves, and each other, on the very real risks of these diseases.
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.