Sex Education is the education of issues related to human sexuality, which includes knowledge about human reproduction, physiological aspects of sexual attraction, adult sexuality, basic human rights, legal responsibilities related to sexual activity, physical aspect of sexual attraction, and knowledge about emotional and psychological aspects of sexual orientation, identity and relationships. It also includes moral values, social and cultural aspects of sexual expression, interpersonal relationships and family values. The primary objective of sex education is to provide information that promotes healthy sexual practices by informing people about their rights and responsibilities regarding sexual behavior. This also aims at preventing young people from engaging in sexual activity before they are ready. The objective of sex education is to raise the awareness of young people at all levels, especially teenagers, about everything they need to know about sex and how to have healthy sexual relationships.
There has been a great deal of debate on the subject of sex education and its significance to society. Some people feel that sex education removes individuals’ freedom of choice in matters of sex. Others believe that there is no need for such education because individuals can get adequate information about sex from the relevant sources like magazines, television programs, the internet, or by personal communication. Still others believe that sex education promotes sexual awareness and promotes healthy sexual practices. According to these arguments, sex education helps to build healthy relationships between peers and helps people make healthy choices. One of the major concerns raised against the introduction of sex education into schools and colleges is that there is not enough quality sex education in the curriculum.
Several studies have attempted to assess the effect of sex education on teen pregnancy and its related outcomes. Based on cross-sectional studies, Fisher (1990) found that girls who received some form of sex education had a lower probability of getting pregnant during their first intercourse, and that boys who were exposed to more comprehensive sex education programs had lower rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Similarly, Cross (1991) found that girls who were adequately taught about reproductive health and human reproduction and who were offered multiple options regarding contraceptive use and sexually transmitted diseases had a decreased likelihood of becoming pregnant through all forms of sexual intercourse. However, these studies were observational and they cannot prove that exposure to sex education decreases the risk of getting pregnant or of getting infected with sexually transmitted diseases. Further research is needed to examine the protective effects of comprehensive sexuality education programs on teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. More research is also needed to examine the effect of abstinence from sex on the prevalence of STDs.
Recent developments and research have attempted to address some of the more common myths concerning the relation between sex education and gender identity. For instance, research has shown that there is no significant association between social media use and a person’s gender identity (e.g., female or male). Similarly, there is no evidence that exposing young adolescents to media messages with traditionally negative connotations about sexual activity increases the likelihood that these adolescents will engage in sexual activity. Similarly, exposure to social media messages decreases the chance that exposure to sexual images will increase the likelihood that adolescents will engage in same-sex sexual contact. These results are consistent with prior research indicating that exposure to television and other popular culture materials does not promote sexual attraction and is not correlated with an increased likelihood of sexual experimentation.
An additional area of controversy regarding the relationship between sexual education and sexuality involves the effects of contraception on fertility. Controversy surrounds the ability of certain contraceptives to prevent ovulation or to inhibit maturation of the endometrial lining. A majority of physicians and public health professionals maintain that the use of birth control pills, whether used consistently and correctly, alters the balance of hormones in the body and interferes with fertility. Other researchers dispute this claim, claiming that there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. Some even theorize that hormonal changes that result from consistent use of contraceptives may reduce the efficacy of the other forms of contraception (including the combined oral contraception pill) and may increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
In recent years, efforts have been made to include sexuality education as a topic in the curricula of schools. For example, New York State passed a law requiring that all students be taught about sexual health and wellness at both public and private high schools. Various organizations also held sexual health and wellness conferences to bring together school nurses, teachers, counselors, doctors, and other individuals who promote sexual health education. Several states also required that all publicly funded schools to educate their students on sexual health. For more information on how you can promote sexual health and/or education in schools, visit the Online Sexuality Education Resource.