Column – Sex education should start with parents, not schools

December 8, 2009 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador.

This morning I read on Wired.com that the parents of Jessica Logan are suing their daughter’s ex-boyfriend, who had distributed a nude photo of her to his classmates. Jessica committed suicide and the ridicule she received due to the photo is considered the primary cause of her death.

The photo was only ever in existence because Jessica had practiced the currently popular art of “sexting,” sending out nude or otherwise risqué photos to a boyfriend or girlfriend via your cell phone.

This comes on the heels of a story I saw on CNN.com last night, which cited a study in Pediatrics which claimed that forty percent of children have sex before having “the talk” with their parents.

The study involved children aged 13 through 17, as well as their parents.  In it, forty-two percent of girls reported that they had not discussed the effectiveness of birth control, and forty percent had never received any sort of talk or advice about refusing sexual intercourse.

But this was practically saintly compared to what the boys reported. Seventy percent of them claimed they had not received any sort of education on condom use. In defense of at least of few of the parents of these boys, fifty percent of them claimed to have discussed condom use with their sons. However, they should probably remember something about teenage boys: many of them aren’t going to listen to you the first time you tell them something.

There’s been a lot of talk these days about sex education in schools, or the lack thereof, and such talks are warranted. The school system could probably be doing a better job in a lot of ways. However, I think that the biggest factor in the fight against teen pregnancy and STDs should be the parents, and obviously a lot of them are failing.

Thought I don’t yet have children myself, I’m sure that “the talk” isn’t the easiest thing to give to them. I understand the awkwardness, both from the parents and the children. It’s not an easy subject. However, parents shouldn’t expect parenthood to be easy all the time, and a few awkward talks could save them from a lot more awkward (and potentially rage-filled) talks in the future.

I also understand the (usually Conservative minded) desire to focus on abstinence-only sex education. I understand the worry that if you teach children and teens how to have safe sex, it will only encourage them to have sex when they really shouldn’t.

However, even coming from a very Conservative family (in which I was homeschooled after elementary school) I was given substantial talks on safe sex. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that no man, woman or child is going to be perfect, and so while we should continue to hope that the youth of this world will be morally smart and responsible, we should still prepare them in case they make mistakes.

A teenager who avoids sex until marriage is great, but a safe-sex, STD-free teenager is still much better than a pregnant teenager with crabs.

This sexting trend is one in particular that should be discussed between parents and their children. As the Jessica Logan case proved, it isn’t wise to create a sexual explicit image or video of yourself and share it with anybody unless you are willing to share that material with everybody – in other words, if you’re a model or porn star.

Maybe there’s something exciting and romantic about such actions between married couples, but it is a rather stupid idea in high school, and probably in college as well. I know that – especially in high school – it’s easy to feel like you’re completely in love, want to stick with your boyfriend or girlfriend and believe you can trust them completely. But too many cases have proven otherwise. If you’re going to do something like sexting, it would be better to wait until you’re absolutely sure the content isn’t going to leak or be shared – and that’s difficult to be sure of before marriage, at least.

Parents need to start educated their children better on all of these issues, rather than complaining that the school systems aren’t doing their job for them.

Britton Peele

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Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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