SIECUS has been advocating for sound policies and programs relating to sexuality education for over 40 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 how important your involvement really is.
Young people face epidemic rates of pregnancy and STDs.
- Over 60 percent of high school seniors have had sexual intercourse.1
- Three out of 10 young women will become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20.2
- About half of all new STDs in 2000 occurred among young people ages 15–25.3
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 and STDs among young people, it becomes clear that they are not getting the accurate, unbiased information about sexuality that they need.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Government, many state governments, and many school systems across the country have turned in recent years to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs which have never been proven effective. These programs pose a simplistic solution to a complex challenge and provide young people with one message: avoid all sexual activity.
Typically, abstinence-only-until-marriage 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 and exaggerated 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 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, responsible 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!
The challenge for advocates, such as yourself, 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 — from California to Maine, from New York to Texas — policymakers, parents, educators, and students have rallied together and improved sexuality education in their states and communities.
- Danice K. Eaton, et. al., “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2005,” Surveillance Summaries, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 55.SS-5 (9 June 2006): 1-112. Available online at: <www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/>.
- Factsheet: How is the 3 in 10 statistic calculated? (Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2006), accessed 11 September 2007, <www.teenpregnancy.org/resources/reading/pdf/3_in_10.pdf>.
- STD/STI Statistics (American Social Health Association, 2006), accessed 12 September 2007, <www.ashastd.org/learn/learn_statistics.cfm>.