At some point, everyone learns about the “birds and the bees,” so to speak. Whether it comes from a talk with parents, a formal class setting, hearing it from a friend or accidentally stumbling upon it alone, thanks to the trusty Internet, there comes a time when everyone learns about sex.
The question is, what is the appropriate age to start teaching people about sex, and how informed should they be?
I was one of those kids who started watching risqué television programs a little too early, so around second grade, I learned a thing or two about sex. My mom didn’t want me to get the wrong idea, though, so she has always been very candid with me about keeping me informed. However, not all of my friends’ moms were the same way.
My mom received several angry phone calls from other moms saying, “Your daughter told my kid about sex.” My mom wasn’t mad, and I never got in trouble, but it did introduce the idea that creating a dialogue about sex is, for some reason, extremely controversial.
Lacking that type of relationship with parents or formal classroom setting to talk about sex means that people then aren’t informed about the important and life-changing aspects of sex. People need to learn about different types of protection, sexually transmitted diseases and furthermore the emotional aspects of sex. Not to mention learning about gender expression and LGBTQ aspects of sex, which seem to be lacking in proper sex education.
Young people need to learn about sex as soon as possible. The more informed on this topic, the better.
According to a new study from Georgetown University researchers, children should start receiving a formal education about sex as early as the age of 10 to decrease the amount of unplanned pregnancy, unsafe abortions and STDs around the world. Those researchers identified that a person’s gender identity and sexuality typically begin to form from ages 10 to 14.
I didn’t receive my first real sex education class until I was a freshman in high school, at the age of 14. By that time, I already had my own ideas about sex — some correct, some incorrect. I would’ve benefitted greatly from an earlier sex education class, and from talking with my friends, they would’ve spared themselves a lot of mistakes by learning about sex earlier as well.
For so long, the mantra in many sex education classes has been to just abstain. Abstinence is promoted in a variety of films about high school teens in their health classes, but it’s the reality. My health teacher told us that abstinence was the best way to go and could barely talk about sex without clamming up and becoming wildly uncomfortable.
Young people deserve better. According to an article from the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics, every day in the United States 10,000 teens contract STDs, 2,400 teens get pregnant and 55 contract HIV. Although abstinence technically is a full-proof way to avoid STDs and teen pregnancy, it’s not a feasible option. Young people are going to have sex, whether they’re informed or not. At least if they’re informed, they’ll be able to be safe, make good choices and know all of the outcomes and logistics before engaging in the activity.
Sex education is about much more than just STDs, pregnancy and the physical act of sex. Receiving an early formal sex education class can act as a loose guide to sexuality and gender identity. By incorporating LGBTQ information early on in adolescence, it can create a more normalized presence of different gender identities and sexualities. This could make it easier for young people to start owning who they truly are and having the information necessary to do so.
Young people should begin learning sex education no later than fifth grade, at the age of 10. Of course, children’s maturity levels aren’t fully developed yet, so they’ll joke and make fun, but in the long run, they’ll be thanking educators for the important information exposure and early normalization of LGBTQ sexuality and gender identity.
Riley Runnells is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Let Riley know by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.