My criticism of abstinence only sex education rests on these grounds. Censored education is reckless because it suggests that young people will make better decisions by being uninformed. This idea is a felony against intellectual honesty itself. Regardless of intentions, abstinence only sex education is a lie of omission. A denial of relevant facts in defense of ideals suggests to me that, for some people, their belief is more important than the well-being of any young person whose suffering could be avoided by access to the real knowledge. We who advocate sex education should state every honest argument to counteract the opposition.
Decisions involving sex such as the creation of new life, pleasure, jealousy, heartbreak and disease, are very important, therefore, such decisions should be well informed. Regardless of any awkwardness when discussing underage sex, any matter so crucial deserves our best efforts.
“We’ve been culturally watered down to think we have to teach about sex, about having sex and how to get away with it, which is intellectually dishonest. Why don’t we just be honest with them upfront that sex outside marriage is devastating?”
I would answer Mr. Wright by saying the question is not honest. I wasn’t devastated by sex outside of marriage as a teen. The same is true for many other men and women. In fact, many people, like myself, remain happily unmarried. Of course, I know teens that had painful troubles with sex too, but that fact does not justify hiding the truth.
Abstinence only sex education advocates like Mr. Wright simply assume the ‘best way to satisfy sexual desire is to have sex after marriage which in turn suggests marriage is superior to other alternatives. Consider just one of many consequences for believing that martial vows somehow ‘legitimize’ sexuality, make it ‘respectable.’ Such a belief may lead young people headlong into a destructive marriage, particularly if they have a strong sex drive. It’s deceptive to exaggerate idealistic wedded living and allure young people with fictions that don’t indicate the reality. Many people experience the dissolving of nuptial contracts with its awful cost and pain. Candid conversations imply that many people simply endure marriage. Frequently, people who exalt matrimony deceive their spouses.
We should not pervert facts or ignore the contemporary destructive displays of marriage, including divorce, brutality, despair and even murder at the hands of a spouse. To point to some couple in an instance of happiness as representative of marriage is like pointing to a gambler on a winning streak, it is not a true reflection of gambling overall. The omission of facts to the young robs them of the chance to learn from other people’s suffering and mistakes. Arguably, marriage is better than it was in the past and many people with agreeable circumstances prefer a married lifestyle. Even with its improvements, the institution is falling out of favor. Let us remember that all events change.
Why ignore the fact that many teens are having sex and this is not a new issue. Even in eras that were more conservative, teens had sex. Young women were dying from botched abortions long before they were safe and legally available so obviously sex happened.
“It is a cruel thing to let a boy or girl be overtaken by the physical and emotional changes of that time without preparation…”
Bertrand Russell, Education and The Good Life
Most adults can remember moments of intense yearning during their own youth. Imagine an adolescent in such a moment of overwhelming desire contracting a dreadful disease that would’ve been avoided by using a condom. Let’s not disrespect sexual impulses. Let’s stop ignoring the cruelty of denying people access to the best knowledge. To deny knowledge is to rob the young of their inheritance from the human race and I do not believe that any teacher, parent, or politician can claim the right to do that wrong to another. That is wy I advocate for the most comprehensive sex education like they have in Norway.
By Todd Vickers
Edits for SEO