Moving WGHS’ sexual education program towards a “sex positive” program would help students understand that sex is a part of life and should not be something the school sweeps under the rug.
“(Abstinence only sexual education) Makes sex seem like this bad thing. When as long as two people are consenting, and it is safe, it can be a great experience,” Feminist Coalition co-founder senior Jenny Perkowski said.
“Sex positive” or “positive sexuality” programs try to teach students that sex is a good thing (shocking right?). These programs also teach students about the benefits and potential risks of sex.
Missouri is one of 29 states that does not require a sexual education program, but if a school is to voluntarily implement a sexual education program, it must be an abstinence-only program, according to Missouri House Bill 1055, passed in 2007.
As defined by Section 510(b) of the Social Security Act, an eligible abstinence education program is one that:
- “Has as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity;
- Teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children;
- Teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems;
- Teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity;
- Teaches that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects;
- Teaches that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society;
Teaches young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increase vulnerability to sexual advances; and teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity.
The legislature receives $50 million from the United States Congress each year to spend towards educating youth about sexual health, but all this money is going to waste if schools are just teaching that sex before marriage is dirty and unethical.
As for how Missouri needs to go about teaching sexual education, the legislature needs to start by replacing and updating the abstinence-only programs that are currently in place.
The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) conducted a study on abstinence-only sexual education programs.
“At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners. In addition, there is strong evidence from multiple randomized trials demonstrating that some abstinence programs chosen for evaluation because they were believed to be promising actually had no impact on teen sexual behavior,” the SIECUS study reported.
Still, Missouri laws ONLY want sex ed to teach abstinence as the way to prevent pregnancy. Abstinence is an effective method, but there are many other effective ways to prevent pregnancy.
According to Planned Parenthood, “Less than one out of 100 women will get pregnant each year if they always take the pill each day as ‘directed.’”
Another step the legislature could take is to allow school nurses to provide sexual health resources to students.
Nurse Rachel Huertes is not allowed to give condoms or any form of birth control to students.
“I can’t give condoms or pregnancy tests”… “Mainly what happens here is conversations about prevention and protection,” Huertes said.
According to the ECHO’s senior issue last year, 57 percent of seniors are sexually active. Webster’s sexual education program still teaches abstinence as the only way to avoid emotional/ physical health risks that come along with sexual activity.
Currently, students must take a semester of health, which is offered to students during the year and as a summer school class. Health is taught by Sean Wright, the school’s athletic trainer, and Ken Manwarring.
“Our sex ed is abstinence stressed, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t cover other ways to protect yourself if you are sexually active. ‘Abstinence stressed’ means that abstinence is taught as the only protection that is 100 percent effective to prevent pregnancy, STDs and HIV/AIDS,” Wright said.
“That doesn’t pertain to everyone, and health class is meant to help every student make individual life choices to improve their personal health,” Wright said.
Sex positive based sex ed would not only better protect students from pregnancy and STDs, but also prevent the negative emotional consequences that are implicit in an abstinence based sex ed program.