Does Sex Education Encourage Sex In Teenagers
In Nigeria, it is not uncommon to find university students who believe that having sex for the first time won’t get them pregnant or having sex whilst standing up won’t allow semen to be deposited; while some continue to take antibiotics after sex as a form of Birth control. A recent report showed that only 29% of women and 27.9% of men aged 15- 24 were able to correctly identify ways of preventing STIs [i]
This is why it’s imperative to include comprehensive sex education programmes into our curriculum and also encourage them outside of school because when they are left in the dark, they become vulnerable to abuse by predators and lack adequate knowledge to protect themselves. It also makes it easier for them to be deceived- for example, I have heard many teens who were deceived into allowing men to fondle their breasts because they were told that it makes them grow faster.
In the world we live in now, young people are growing up differently than their parents/ grandparents; they now enter adolescence at a much younger age. Back then we moved from being a child to an adult, because people married much earlier but right now the transition is taking longer-making adolescence a pivotal time in a young person’s life[ii] Research also shows that young people are having sex at about the same age as in the past, but because right now marriage has been delayed, it seems there’s an influx of premarital sex.[iii]
And we must be honest with ourselves. Young people have more opportunities and with that also comes challenges- the increasing use of smartphones and internet and access to more programs on TV/radio have created a room for young people to be exposed to an array of misinformation concerning sex. So in order to combat all that and the major societal changes we notice, there’s a need for sexuality education.
What Is Sex Education
Sex education according to Planned Parenthood is high-quality teaching and learning about a broad variety of topics related to sex and sexuality; exploring values and beliefs about those topics and gaining the skills that are needed to navigate relationships and manage one’s own sexual health.
This can be taught from as young as 2 years old but because of the misconceptions about sex-education, many may refuse for their child to be taught about sex. However with appropriate comprehensive sex- education, the children are not taught about issues that are too mature.
A 2-year-old child is taught about body parts including their genitals and told that nobody should touch them there. Then from age 2-5, they are taught about the basics of reproduction; that a man and a woman make a baby and the baby grows inside the woman’s body. They are not taught about sex at that age because the kids are not even interested – they are more interested in pregnancy and babies. From age 2-5, they are also taught about their own body and privacy around it – hence CONSENT.
Consent taught from infancy isn’t only used when speaking of sexual activates but taught as a fundamental human right; where the child learns that he/she has right over their space and what belongs to them. So as the child gets older, broader issues are tackled until it’s embedded in their sub-conscious.
However comprehensive sex education should cover themes like-
- Body image
- Sexual Identity and Orientation
- Marriage and life commitments
- Relationship with the larger society
- Goal setting
- Decision making
- Finding help
- Sexuality throughout life
- Shared social behavior
- Human sexual response
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sexually transmitted disease/HIV/AIDS
- Sexual abuse
- Reproductive health
Society and Culture
- Gender Roles
- Sexuality and the law
- Sexuality and religion
- Sexuality and the arts
- Sexuality and the media
Sex Education and Adolescents
Many people tend to insinuate that educating teenagers about sex will make them want to sex, but the opposite is actually what is inclined to happen. However to explain why this thought seems plausible, we need to understand that the human brain is simply hard-wired to believe in cause and effect, it often picks the best story that explains something. So we hear, “Of course she got pregnant because she heard about sex, if you hear about it won’t you want to try it? “
But we can clearly see that’s not the truth because in a country like Nigeria where sex-education is not prevalent, it is unlikely that we should be battling with a high rate of teen pregnancies and abortions in Nigeria, and have countries like Amsterdam, Germany and Italy that people perceive as sex capital with the lowest rate of teen pregnancies in Europe with the Netherlands having the lowest abortion rates in the world.
Teenage Pregnancy and Sex-Education
How can we tackle teenage pregnancies in Nigeria? How is it possible for Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, among others, to have fewer than 4 teen births per thousand babies born?
The answer is simple – They offer a certain type of sex education.
We generally have 2 main types
- Abstinence-Only Approach
- Comprehensive Approach
As the name symbolizes, the abstinence approach prioritizes abstinence in their sex education, whilst comprehensive sex education discuss those main themes I highlighted earlier.
These European countries with low teen pregnancies provide a holistic sex-education program that does not view sex as dirty or solely emphasize the dangers of sex but instead discusses it as a normal, healthy, positive act.
They focus not only on teaching young people about STI and unwanted pregnancies but also about their choices.
These programs empower them to make informed decisions about their lives and allow them to develop critical thinking skills when discussing sex and their sexuality; and more importantly, it helps clear myths and misconceptions about sex.
Evidence has also shown that sex education actually leads to a delay of sexual intercourse and also increased use of condoms—meaning that the programs don’t just emphasize abstinence, they also discuss contraceptives[iv]. This makes conversations around sex more realistic and effective; whilst focusing solely on abstinence prevents young people from learning about pregnancy, STI and other issues boarding around sex.
In Nigeria, where many young people continue to normalize abusive practices due to ignorance and matters like HIV, Child marriage, sexual abuse and FGM are prevalent, our sex- education programmes need to highlight these issues and create a space that’s not- judgemental and allow for them to share their views.
Sadly, we can’t discuss everything sex education in one post, but if you are interested in a blog post for parents on how to tackle sex education with their child– Please drop a comment below!
But we have two questions for you- Who do you believe should be responsible for teaching sex education- the school or the parents and who taught you about sex!
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[i] National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (2017)
[ii] Guttmacher Institute, special tabulations of data from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth
[iii] Heather D. Boonstra. Advancing Sexuality Education in Developing Countries: Evidence and Implications: Guttmacher Institute 2011
[iv] United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education: An Evidence-Informed Approach for Schools, Teachers and Health Educators, 2009