Sex education needs a modern update

Alyssa Fernandez

Sex can be a positive thing. But when states like Utah declare sex a public health hazard, it only reinforces the stigma toward sex. What these legislators fail to comprehend is that porn is not responsible for women’s objectification or their hypersexualization. Rather, it is a symptom of the U.S.’s failure to provide an adequate sex education.

U.S. teens are not any more sexually active than their Canadian or European counterparts. However, American teens treat sex less maturely than teens of other countries according to the Guttmacher Institute’s findings.

According to the study, “[U.S. teenagers] are more likely to have shorter and less consistent sexual relationships, and are less likely to use contraceptives, especially the pill or dual methods.”

The same findings revealed a higher rate of STIs in American teens, compared to Western Europe. Sex education with higher accessibility to medically accurate information could lead to more responsible sexual activity amongst teens. Even when children ask their parents about sex, they are unfortunately just as ill-informed. Many teens then turn to online research, of which 46 percent have misinformation about contraceptives.

Porn is a reflection of our own limited understanding and inadequate education of sex and sexuality. According to researchers at the University of Indiana, certain pornography objectifies women and even influences social decisions, such as hiring women. The study found that increased porn consumption correlates to increased workplace discrimination — a demonstration that misogyny in porn can have harmful effects outside of the bedroom.

Now, combine this misleading information from the Internet and porn with the hypersexualized American media, and you come out with a batch of confused teens and adults. The solution is not to censor porn in an effort to restrict information.

Instead, it is to rethink what sex and sex education ought to be. Our current sex education is stagnant and does not provide answers on how to build healthy relationships with your sexual partner or how to give and reciprocate sexual pleasure. A rights-based approach is the solution to the American epidemic of misrepresenting sex.

This approach merges several elements of sex education and human rights. The first is the foundational principle that every individual has a sexual right. Then, an expansion of the curriculum would incorporate information beyond STIs and unintended pregnancy, such as a LGBT perspective. The ultimate goal would be to teach students how to critically think about their sexual activity and sexuality.

Legislators are quick to find something to blame — and porn is the convenient scapegoat. These reprimands only lead to a more unhealthy view of sex.  A rights-based approach is not the only solution to destigmatize sex, but it is the most effective. It offers an open and safe space for the youth to explore questions about sexual activity and sexuality. It teaches people to be positive and responsible about their own sexuality.

Fernandez is a Spanish and rhetoric and writing junior from Allen. Follow her on Twitter @blancoalyssa.