The debate between abstinence-only sex education and safe sex education has been potent and present throughout the United States. Conservatives and liberals have taken stances based on these political positions, influencing the presence and potency of each perspective. The politics and perspectives concerning which mode of sex education should permeate or which is the most effective is still a major point of division within the United States’ position. Liberals regard the abstinence-only sex educational models as primarily outdated and restrictive (Luy et al. 50). On the other hand, conservatives believe that safe sex education or that which is related to contraception encourages teenagers to engage in sex at a younger age. However, this might be the wrong perspective or approach to the issue. The ultimate goal is to ensure the safety, health and well-being of teenagers by using currently available and obtained data to support a position that will ensure this. There has been a reduction in the levels of teenage sexual activities and pregnancy; however, enhancing safe sex education strategies in schools and institutions is likely to enhance the health safety of teenage students, prevent teenage pregnancies and allow teenagers to make more informed decisions regarding their sexual life with a well prepared and educated mind.
Background on the Issue
Major issues surrounding the type and mode of sex education relate to the morality, safety, health and welfare of teenagers. The US government acknowledges the need to ensure sex education for its teenagers in the current age. This is because the inception of the age of information has come with tremendous implications for information systems and knowledge. The presence of social media and digital media accessible even to children has increased the prevalence of sexual information contact and access among children, especially teenagers. Teenagers have been continually exposed to information on sexual matters at a tender age, more than it has happened in the past, influencing their curiosity and indulgence in the act (Rouhparvar et al. 90). This presence of too much knowledge and information has allowed teenagers to gain access to sexual materials information earlier on. It can obscure their decisions and minds regarding their approach to sexual matters.
To counter this, the government has used the abstinence-only sexual pathway as its strategic model through which to counter challenges that come with teenage sex, including the contraction of STIOs and pregnancies among teenagers. Abstinence-only sex education has also been called “sexual risk avoidance”, which, according to KFF par 7, would be the best approach towards managing the deleterious impacts of teenage sex. This education model tends to ignore elements of contraception and instead encourages teenagers to avoid sex altogether using elements such as the virginity pledges (KFF par 9). 26 of the 37 states that emphasize sex education provide more emphasis on abstinence-only education for their school district as the approach towards minimizing sexual contact among teenagers. This approach has realized some success with a reduction in the levels of teenage pregnancies over the current century compared to the past. The major intentions of this approach were to mitigate all risks that teenagers face for engaging in sex at a young age, including pregnancies and STI infections.
The major success of this approach has been the considerable reduction in the levels of pregnancies among teenagers at the current age. According to Rascoe par 4, the levels of teenage pregnancies currently compared to the previous 30 years have decreased by over 77%. A different study by Boonstra par 9 revealed that the levels of teenage pregnancies have reduced by at least 50% between the 1990s and 2020 for both black and white children in the US. Currently, most teenage pregnancies are among 18–19-year-olds. The levels of teenagers abstaining from sex have been reduced from 54.1% in the 1990s to only 39.5% of self-reported teens in 2017 (Lindberg et al. 1000).
However, this success in reducing levels of pregnancies can sometimes obscure the accurate pictures. This is because there is still a considerable number of teenagers who engage in sexual intercourse. The CDC puts the number of teenagers that have had sexual activities by 18 years at 55% (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, par 1). Assessments by Ojeda par 6 reveal that there has also been an increase in the rates of abortion among teenagers currently more than in the past (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League). Kim et al. 110 indicate that there has been an increase in the rates of teenagers with STIs currently more than in the past. This is an indication of a skewed perspective about the effectiveness of the strategy. It indicates that there has been an increase in the levels of risky sex and that while there has been a reduction in sex among teenagers, those who engage in sex are less prepared for what is to come.
Numerous assessments have been done concerning the efficacy of safe sex education for teenagers and it has an impact on the population. According to an article by Infobase 90, the authors of the study revealed that the increase in sex education over the last decade on sexual matters to students has led to a tremendous decrease in the levels of teenage pregnancies. Studies reveal a direct association between the level of education (Infobase 95). The study, nonetheless, suggests that education on abstinence is not as effective in reducing the levels and rates of pregnancies as purported (Infobase 100). As such, it is difficult to associate the reduction in levels of pregnancies primarily with abstinence-only sex education because there have been different modes of sex education in different countries, and the current assessment seems to negate this fact as well.
Furthermore, a study by Tamar par 4 revealed that while abstinence-only sexual education helped reduce pregnancies, there was no evidence regarding its impact on the number of teenagers engaged in sexual activity. The study by Tamar revealed an increase in the levels of abortion courtesy of abstinence-only education. The author acknowledges that there has been a resultant decrease in the levels of teenage pregnancies in the last decade, courtesy of sex education. However, he notes a critical element, which has been the resultant increase in the average number of teenage abortions present all around the US, which has been on the increase. Tamar argues that this is courtesy of the increased push for abstinence-only methods for reducing teenage pregnancies, which is not effective given the fact that it failed to increase the levels of contraception use among the youth despite an increase in sexual activities among the youth increasing their prevalence for pregnancies and therefore abortions.
Tamar’s assertions are supported by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, which revealed that abstinence-only sex education is not as effective as when it is combined with birth control education (Ojeda, par 6). The findings of the league indicated that abstinence-only sex education strategy only propagated fear among teenagers regarding pregnancy and sex; however, it never prepared them with the capacity to make sexually informed decisions that ensure they are protected. A lack of sexual education on contraception makes them vulnerable and unprepared in such circumstances, predisposing them not only to pregnancies but also to sexually transmitted diseases.
These findings are supported by Caplan’s study, which revealed that abstinence-only sexual education was ineffective in helping reduce sexual indulgence and sexual activity among teenagers (Caplan, par 5). The assessment unveiled that there has been a surge in the number of teenagers that engage in sexual activities buy 18 years and that there has been an increase in levels of STIs among teenagers below 18 than among young adults, indicating that even teenagers that took virginity pledges realized the same levels of STI infections. This heightened number of infections implies that the few teenagers who engage in sexual activities tend to be less prepared for its outcome or safe ways of protecting themselves. Their lack of contraception education makes the teenagers oblivious to the deleterious side of unprotected sex. Given the fact that numerous teenagers engage in the act by 18 years, the disease risk and pregnancy risks are too immense to negate the need for safe sex education.
These studies reveal that safe sex education seems to be more effective in helping minimize teenage pregnancies and also enhance the safety of teenagers who engage in sexual activities. The articles by Tamar and also by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League have made it clear that the abstinence-only sex education model is ineffective; it helps reduce levels of sexual activities but does not protect teenagers that end up taking part in them; instead puts them at risk of poor sexual behaviours that can make their lives worse through teenage pregnancies and contraction of STIs depicted by the data. On the other hand, “Teen Pregnancy.” Issues & Controversies par 7, the article reveals that safe sex education strategies for teenagers enhance the safety of teenagers who end up engaging in teenage sex. It equips them with sufficient knowledge regarding ways they can protect themselves in case they end up having sex.
There are several studies as well in support of the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education models for teenagers. Kim et al. par 4 assessed the significance of abstinence education on the level of teenage pregnancies. The assessment revealed that abstinence education was effective as it helps sensitize the levels of sex and that it reduced the levels of sexual activities among teenagers and thus helped prevent pregnancies by minimizing sex contact. The authors reveal that the significant reduction in the levels of sexual activities among teenagers not only reduces their sexual risks but also helps minimize other deleterious impacts of sexual activities while in school. These risks of early sexual activities include a reduction in performance, mental health issues among teenagers and instances of children born out of wedlock.
Furthermore, a majority of the studies mentioned above acknowledge the fact that the abstinence-only sex education model has been highly effective in helping reduce the number of teenagers engaged in sexual activities at their age. Numerous teenagers currently. It has reduced the general interest in sex among teenagers and, thus, by a huge margin, prevented the numerous risks that come with sex at an early age.
This perspective is, however, biased in that it fails to take into account the specific teenagers who often end up still engaging in sexual activities. While it protects tremendously those who choose to follow its model, it completely negates the needs and welfare of teenagers who end up engaging in the act. This is not a perspective that a government should take. It should first consider that many teenagers are still likely to engage in the activity. Despite their choice, it is still paramount that their healthcare and well-being are considered. Helping provide a framework of safety and wellness for the few teenagers who engage in teenage sexual activities will help minimize the high number of teenage abortions and minimize the number of STI infections.
In wrapping, safe sex education is highly influential in helping enhance the safety of teenagers from STIs and unwanted pregnancies and helping them make informed, knowledge-based decisions regarding their sexual lives as they approach adulthood. Current concerns regarding sex education have been politicized rather than approached rationally with the intent of ensuring and enhancing the sexual health, safety and well-being of teenagers around the United States. Current approaches have taken the perspective of denying children sex knowledge as a form of immorality. At the same time, the other side of the divide is intense to institute sexual freedom for teenagers. However, the perspective should ensure the safety and well-being of teenagers. Abstinence-only sex education helps reduce the number of teenagers having sex. However, it puts those who engage in it at increased risk of STI infections and teenage pregnancies, which often lead to increased abortions. On the other side, safe sex helps take into account the small percentage of teenagers who still engage in sexual behaviour, equipping them with knowledge on how they can better protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and STIs. The latter approach is more feasible and likely to promote and propagate the health and well-being of teenagers, allow them to make informed sexual decisions, promote healthy sexual activity, reduce the rates of teenage STI infections and raise a society of young men who are fully knowledgeable on sexual matters.
Boonstra, Heather D. “What Is behind the Declines in Teen Pregnancy Rates?” Guttmacher Institute, 30 Aug. 2022, www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2014/09/what-behind-declines-teen-pregnancy-rates.
Caplan, Arthur. Abstinence Sex Education Does Not Reduce Teen Sexual Activity. Teens at Risk, edited by Christine Watkins, Greenhaven Press, 2009. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://www.link.gale.com/apps/doc/EJ3010167277/OVIC?u=mag_c_magn0126&sid=bookmark-OVIC&xid=5bce2b48 Accessed 6 Oct. 2023. Published initially as Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Defies Common Sense: Education Policy Spreads Ignorance, Sends Confusing Message to Teens, MSNBC.com, 13 Oct. 2005.
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