Why Get Involved?
SIECUS has been advocating for sound policies and programs relating to sexuality education for over 50 years. We understand that this is not always an easy task. Discussions about sexuality, especially adolescent sexuality, often evoke strong personal opinions, feelings of discomfort, and highly charged emotions. For this reason, myths and misunderstandings about sexuality education are pervasive. This can make advocacy efforts daunting.
There may come a point in your own efforts when you ask yourself, “Is it worth it? Do I really need to be involved?” In those moments, looking at the reality our young people face may help you understand the importance of your involvement.
Young people are not getting the information they need.
Adolescents today are bombarded with sexual images and messages from television, music, movies, and the Internet. Yet when we look at the high rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and dating and sexual violence among young people, it becomes clear that they are not getting the accurate, unbiased information about sexuality and sexual health that they need.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Government, many state governments, and numerous school systems across the country have relied on abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs which have never been proven effective for long-term results. These programs pose a simplistic solution to a complex challenge and provide young people with one message: avoid all sexual activity.
Typically, AOUM programs do not provide young people with even the most basic information about pregnancy- and disease-prevention methods other than abstinence. In fact, some provide inaccurate information about STDs and exaggerated contraceptive failure rates. Many of these programs also rely on fear and shame to control young people’s behavior.
Young people benefit from comprehensive sexuality education.
In contrast, comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programs that include information on a wide-range of topics from disease-prevention to relationships allow students to develop the skills they need to make healthy decisions about their sexuality throughout their lives.
Scientific evaluations of sexuality education, HIV-prevention, and adolescent pregnancy prevention programs that provide information on abstinence as well as condoms and contraceptive use have consistently found that these programs can help teens delay intercourse, reduce the frequency of intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners they have, and increase condom and contraceptive use.
Young people need your help!
Whether you are a young person yourself, a parent, an educator, a health care provider, a religious leader, a member of the community, or a combination of any and all of these and more, the challenge for advocates is tapping into the public support that we know exists, organizing others in your state or community, and taking action.
The good news is that it can be done across the country—from Hawaii to Florida, Alaska to Pennsylvania—students, parents, educators, and policymakers have rallied together and improved sexuality education in their states and communities.