In a recent Vox article, Dan Savage offers a few comments about the abstinence education favored by the Trump/Pence administration and Republicans as a whole. Throughout the short exchange, Savage focuses on the importance of moving away from abstinence only education and its failings and stressing the need for comprehensive sex education for our young people. Savage brings up the point that sex can be a very dangerous thing if approached without understanding. There are buckets and buckets of data showing that teens who are more educated about sex make better decisions when it comes to sexual activity. STI and pregnancy rates drop significantly when teens are taught the many consequences that are possible from unsafe and uneducated sexual activity in a way that doesn’t paint sex as frightful act.
But, as addressed in the article, the goal of abstinence only education is not to give teens the best means of protection from the possible dangers of sex. It is to propagate a fear of sex and force values held by a few members of society onto the nation as a whole. If you truly want to avoid STIs and pregnancy then yes, abstinence is a sure fire way to get there. If you don’t have sexual encounters at all then you are unlikely to experience negative consequences, save for a few extreme possibilities.
No matter how hard they have tried in the past, those who try to rule and control with fear ultimately fail. This is no different. The reality is that human beings are driven by sex. We have a built in mechanism that makes us strive for reproduction. Our advancement as a species has allowed us to use that simple biological drive as a means for pleasure. Pleasure that can sometimes yield unwanted or dangerous results.
This is where the comprehensive part of sex education is important. No matter how much Western culture tries to pretend, there is not a simple, bland, vanilla blueprint for sex. Everyone has their own desires and proclivities that they wish to pursue. Using fear, shame, religion, or other means in a wasted attempt to drive human sexual desire has failed time and time again and will continue to fail. People like what they like and the more we accept that and encourage the education and safe practice of sexual activity, the better our society will be for it.
The values that we hold close and let influence our lives are important and valid until they negatively affect another. Just because one person does not live exactly as you do, does mean they are wrong. Gay, straight, gender fluid, trans, religious, non-religious; all of these values can coexist as long as the words and actions used by those who hold them do not harm others. You are allowed your own values and means to live until you disrupt the sanctity and peace of another. Do not force someone to forgo their values unless what they do is causing undue harm against another living being. A man falls in love with a man, wishes to get married, and have/adopt children? Perfectly fine. Just because you don’t see the lifestyle as something you would be drawn to participate in, whether by natural wiring or choice, doesn’t mean they are wrong. Two consenting adults should be able to live in a way that suits them.
The battle between comprehensive sex education and abstinence only education has never been about providing the younger generation with tools to live a healthy and happy life. It has, and will continue to be until we get over ourselves, a shoving contest between values. An unfortunate fact about the progression of society is the resistance put forth by those that choose to rely on outdated information, superstition, and tradition. By all means, if a parent wishes to withhold their child’s participation in comprehensive sex education, that is their right. That right, however, does not extend to forcing other children to receive subpar education. A program receiving government funding should not be held to the standards of a specific set of values that has been proven to yield substandard results. The up and coming generation should always receive the best possible education available regardless of outdated opinions.
The complexities of what constitutes “the best possible education available” could fill volumes, but for the sake of this topic we should acknowledge the facts at hand. The data shows us what works and what does not. We need to move past holding onto ideals and values for the sake of tradition when those values can cause harm. Think of the implications of our species’ future as a whole and what it means to step with the best foot forward. We are all too easily wrapped up in our own bubbles. Take a moment and explore the perspectives of those who live differently than you. You may have more in common than you think.