It is important to allow young people the freedom to form their own attitudes and beliefs about sex and sexuality. They can get confused with all of the mixed messages they are sent through the media, their religion and health messages. For example: the media generally shows sexual activity as a way for people to be more attractive, churches stress the importance of abstinence until marriage, and health messages instill fear about sexually transmitted diseases. These biased opinions and one-sided facts influence the beliefs of young people today but that does not suppress their curiosity. They are very interested in sex and sexuality, both morally and culturally.
Some might argue that sex before marriage is unacceptable, but in our society it is something that occurs more often than marriage. It is important that young people are informed about why people have sex. Hormones tend to guide young people toward irrational and impulsive decisions regarding sex and they may not be aware of all of the consequences that come from their actions. Sex is more than just hormones and feeling good. It involves emotions and respecting one self. It also requires respecting other’s feelings, decisions and bodies. Knowing why people have sex will help to guide young people into making decisions that are right for them, making the choices that they are ready to make.
Some people might believe that providing information about sex is what causes young people to get curious and experiment. Young people will be curious regardless of whether they are taught all the facts about sex or given an opinion from a narrow point of view. It is important that they are given the right information to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS, unintended and unwanted pregnancies, exploitation and abuse. 40,000 to 80,000 new cases of HIV are reported to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year. Half of the new infections are among people younger than 25 years of age. With more than 20 sexually transmitted diseases out there it is absolutely necessary that young people know how to prevent them. Teenagers from ages 15-19 years old have some of the highest reported rates of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in the United States. More than one million teens in America get pregnant each year, reducing employment opportunities and completed levels of education, and increasing welfare dependency.
Because sex is about more than just babies and diseases, it is important that young people are taught the importance of a healthy relationship. 30-50% of female High School students say they have already experienced teen dating violence. Young people need to be informed how to communicate, listen, negotiate with others and ask for help and advice. Teaching sex education is beneficial to young people because it teaches them how to make decisions, be assertive, to listen and to negotiate, which are all skills that will help them to thrive in relationships and in life. It also teaches them to recognize and resist peer pressures from others. Studies have shown that peer pressure is one of the leading reasons teens say they had sex.
Teaching young people to differentiate between accurate information and opinions and myths is essential for them to make informed decisions about sex. It is natural to be curious but it is empowering to be educated.