Will Learning About Sex Make You More Likely to Have Sex?
Originally Published: March 6, 2015
Revised: March 12, 2015
There are adults who believe that teens who are more educated about sex will have more sex. These adults fear that teens will become sexually active with more information, but that’s just not the case. Some people also fear that if teens learn about sexual orientation they will suddenly “turn gay.” There is no evidence that supports this claim or any others that promote sheltering teens from receiving comprehensive sexuality education.
These myths about sexuality education are used to justify refusing teens’ access to comprehensive sexuality education and birth control. As a result, many teens, including me, have not received a comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. If adults really want to protect young people, they have to make sure we are educated. And whether we’re ready to have sex or not, we need and deserve to be educated about sex, our bodies, sexual orientation, birth control and healthy relationships.
The next time you hear someone arguing that teens shouldn’t have great sex ed or access to birth control, share some of the facts below.
There are adults who believe that teens who are more educated about sex will have more sex. These adults fear that teens will become sexually active with more information, but that’s just not the case.
Myth #1: Sex ed will encourage teens to have sex.
Despite popular belief, sex education does not cause teens to have sex. One researcher, whose study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, reviewed 48 comprehensive sexuality education programs and found that 40 percent of the programs actually helped teens delay having sex, reduce their number of sexual partners or increase their use of birth control. A third of these comprehensive sex ed programs helped teens reduce the number of people they have sex with or choose to be abstinent. The widespread myth that sex education will cause teens to have more sex is used to justify keeping information from teens. But if some teens are having sex and almost all will eventually have sex, shouldn’t teens be given the information they need to prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
Myth #2: Comprehensive sex ed only teaches teens about sex and birth control.
A well-rounded sexuality education is so much more than sex and birth control. Comprehensive sexuality education does inform teens of the risks that are involved in sex and provides information on birth control—as well as abstinence. But it also educates teens about their bodies, puberty, how pregnancy happens, how STDs are transmitted, STD testing, sexual orientation, gender identity and healthy relationships. Truly comprehensive sex ed covers many topics and allows teens to make educated decisions based on real information. If adults really want us to make healthy choices and to avoid unplanned pregnancies and STDs, then they have to provide the education we need. Keeping information from us only means those who do choose to have sex will do so with little or no accurate and trustworthy information.
Myth #3— Getting the HPV vaccine will encourage girls to have risky sex.
Recently, a study published in the journal Pediatrics found that girls who had gotten the HPV vaccine were not any more likely to get pregnant or get an STD than girls who hadn’t gotten the vaccine. The HPV vaccine has no impact on risky sexual activity among teen girls. In fact, it has a positive impact because it’s an opportunity for girls to talk with their parents and doctors about sex.
Myth #4— Girls who have access to birth control are more likely to have sex.
There are people who believe that access to birth control should be restricted in order to prevent teens from having risky sex. But the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology published a study that found that women and teen girls who received free birth control did not start having riskier sex. What does happen when teens get free birth control? When the Colorado Department of Health provided free birth control, the state saw a 40-percent drop in the teen birth rate. It seems clear to me that access to birth control helps—and does not harm—teens.
These myths are used to control teens’ access to quality sex ed, birth control and reproductive health services. But I believe teens absolutely need comprehensive sex ed to make the best possible decisions. Keeping teens in the dark about sexuality would mean neglecting an essential part of life. If adults expect teens to make healthy decisions, they should provide the information and services for us to do so.
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