Sex education is one of the main preventive forms aimed to protect children from undesirable pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, critics admit that sex education promotes sexual practices and informs children about sex.
The impulse to regulate sex venues under the sign of HIV prevention has serious political implications for the future of AIDS activism. These implications must be articulated in order to expose the false equation of sex while preserving the culture of sex as an arena for disseminating safer sex information.
Sex education does not promote sex but helps to inform children about the precautions and possible consequences of sex.
The main layer of literature on this topic argues that mass media and peer pressure has a great impact on views and values of children promoting sexual practices and sex. Mcclain (2006) and Williams and Bonner (2006) underline that sex education corrects false views popularized by mass media and unveils false assumptions about sex.
Mcclain (2006) states that the real link between public sex and STDs prevention is its potential to educate children about the multiplicities of non-penetrative sex. The most treacherous aspect of taking up regulation as a prevention strategy may be that the need to continue to develop safer sex education becomes virtually eclipsed in the interests of eradicating non-monogamy.
More is at stake, however, than safer sex education alone: regulation poses a false set of connections that threaten the well-being of counter-normative sexualities. While such unproductive responses certainly reflect the feelings of some, an historical and psychological examination of sex education suggests that failures are very often not failures of primary prevention, but failures to accurately conceptualize the nature of primary prevention.
The research study conducted by Williams and Bonner (2006) finds that Women benefit from and prefer a more expansive presentation of sex education, including instruction from a variety of sources, over a single type or modality. School sex education plays a significant role in reducing unplanned pregnancies and abortion” (p. 15).
Another layer of literature proves that other forms of disease and pregnancy prevention are undifferentiated and ineffective.
Somers and Surmann (2004) and Schaalma (2004) find that mass media education creates confused identifications between uninfected and infected men, and thus exacerbates largely unconscious feelings that contracting HIV is inevitable; it cannot identify and specifically address the distinct psychosocial issues of sex; and, finally, undifferentiated education cannot explicitly support distinct benefits for remaining uninfected.
Undifferentiated education often exacerbates psychological conflicts that work against the primary prevention purpose of keeping children from sex.
Schaalma (2004) proves that “evidence-based sexual health promotion in schools is only possible within certain political contexts and, where these do not exist, health promoters are faced with a choice of becoming political activists or renouncing evidence-based practice” (p. 259).
These results show that information coming from mass media and friends promotes sexual practices and behavior, but do not prevent children from pregnancy and STDs.
Some authors (Mcclain 2006; Glazer 2004) analyze and evaluate the role of abstinence in sex education. Glazer proves that abstinence cannot solve the problems of sexual relations, because the institute of marriage cannot exist without sexual relations between spouses.
On the other hand, “abstinence messages are very important, but clearly the coverage of contraceptive topics is also crucial in helping our youth prevent unplanned pregnancy and STDs” (Abstinence – Only Sex Education Is Not Enough, 2004). It is often precisely the fact that children were born into the epidemic that creates a plausible and seamless integration of AIDS and HIV into their lives, and makes them vulnerable to infection.
Sex education is needed and helpful because it allows children to make right choices and obtain correct information about sex. One of the most peculiar characteristics of undifferentiated prevention is an almost exclusive focus on the process of prevention, with rarely a mention of the benefits or results that might be obtained.
Statistical results show that the USA “has the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) of any industrialized nation, and sexually active youth account for about half the new cases of infection occurring annually” (Glazer, 2004).
The focus on process rather than results is understandable. If educators tell children simply to put on condoms, educators can talk to all. But if they wish to talk about the complex psychosocial reasons men are not putting on condoms, the discussion will have to be very different for girls and boys.
Because undifferentiated prevention cannot acknowledge discrete identities, issues, and needs of girls and boys, it cannot acknowledge that the outcome of successful primary prevention would be quite different for the two groups. Regarding protected sex, motivation for each of the two groups is very different.
In sum, the correct literature and research studies prove that sex education helps both children and community to destroy myths and false images of sexual practices and educate them about contraception and STDs. Sex education gives children a possibility to choose between abstinence and sexual relations.
Sex education becomes true primary prevention easily recognizable because it will name and speak explicitly to and about its outcome population of children. Denial of the importance of these differences is an expression of disrespect for the lives and sexuality of children.
The most obvious benefit of such simple changes is that prevention will be more effective, because the outcome population will know it is being spoken to and about what. Such changes will also help correct two other important problems contributing to HIV transmission.
- “Abstinence – Only Sex Education Is Not Enough”. USA Today 129 (2668) (January 2001): 7.
- Glazer, S. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The CQ Researcher, 3 (14),(2004): 997-1020.
- Mcclain, L. C. Some ABCs of Feminist Sex Education. Columbia Journal of Gender and Law 15 (1), (2006): 34.
- Schaalma, H. P., Abraham, Ch., Gillmore, M. R., Kok, G. Sex Education as Health Promotion: What Does It Take? Archives of Sexual Behavior 33 (3), (2004): 259-261.
- Somers, Ch. L., Surmann, A. T. Adolescents’ Preferences for Source of Sex Education. Child Study Journal, 34 (1) (2004): 47.
- Williams, M. T., Bonner, L. Sex Education Attitudes and Outcomes among North American Women Adolescence 41 (162), (2006): 1-16.