September 04, 2014 — Blog Post
An Early Start for Sex Ed?
When you hear the phrases “sexual education” or “sexual health”, what pops into your head? Did “abstinence” immediately enter your mind? Maybe you pictured yourself sitting in a classroom, facing a flustered P.E. teacher trying to quiet a bunch of snickering teenagers watching a hilariously dated video littered with ambiguous metaphors describe the act of sex. Maybe you thought about that painfully real slideshow with endless pictures of STI outbreaks on various body parts meant to instill fear in those who even dare to think about having unprotected sex. It’s possible that nothing comes to mind at all but feelings of confusion or exclusion could have come about. Yes, I realize these are obviously specific but I know numerous people can identify with at least one of these instances.
I recall those precious memories of being a preteen girl obsessed with glitter, rushing home to watch 106 & Park, wearing my first “real” bra, and obsessing about my first kiss from a boy. I also remember those extremely cautious sex talks with my parents about sex, peeking through hands whenever a movie’s highly dramatic sex scene would play in theaters, and having to repeat words like “penis” and “vagina” during class without giggling. Going from that to immediately learning about unwanted pregnancy and HIV/AIDS was the most confusing time I’d had.
A recently published study within Global Public Health, An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice suggests sexual education should be taught earlier in childhood. The study urges policy makers, educators, and parents to start sexual wellness conversations earlier. It examines how there are currently no policies or programs focused specifically on kids in the beginning stages of puberty in various countries around the world. Most sexual health programs are narrowly focused on preventing unwanted pregnancy and HIV-prevention. These topics are important but do not solely encompass all aspects of effectively promoting sexual wellness.
I think programs promoting self-positivity, diverse healthy relationships, and continuing efforts to eliminate the taboo around sex are all things that preteens should have as a foundation to build on into adulthood. It’s especially important for kids to know how to decipher confusing messages about sex from movies and TV shows, the internet, their parents, teachers, friends, and even strangers on the street.
What do you think? Should sexual education be taught at an earlier age? Let us know your opinion in the comments.