Statistics shows that 60% of teenage women and 70% of teenage men are already sexually active by their 18th Birthday. 75% of teenage pregnancies are unintended, and 25% of these pregnancies end up in abortion. Most of teenage pregnancies happen because of an early beginning of sexual life, low use of birth control methods , and lack of information on sexuality and protection against unintended conception and sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore sexuality education is one of the most effective ways in providing such information to young people.
Sex education, also called sexuality education or relationships education, is a course, during which young people receive information and form their opinions and beliefs to sex, relationships and intimacy. It helps the listeners to form their skills for them to be ready when they make a choice to have a relationship and sex for the first time. This way sexuality education assists in protecting teenagers against sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, through teaching them different methods of birth control.
When sex education should start?
One of the most important questions is when sex education should start. Most specialists agree that it should start before young people enter puberty, meaning that they have not formed their views on sexuality and sexual behavior. It depends very much on the level of understanding which information should be given. Therefore the information given is different in different age groups, since what understandable to a 16-year-old is, will be inappropriate to a 12-year-old. Usually sex education starts at the age of 11-12, depending on the country and state policies.
Sex education works both ways – it helps to decrease negative results and improve young people‘s relationships. With all the information given students are then able to make informed choices and decisions when they decide so. It works to form the skills that teenagers need in their lives. Sex education is not only about introducing and discussing various methods of birth control or abortion, it is also about teaching young people to listen, negotiate and make a decision. It assists in recognizing the pressures other people may have on them and teaching how to resist them.
Our society forms controversial attitudes towards sex. Means of mass media give a lot of information on sexuality and contraception and during sex education young people are taught how to recognize useful information and facts. For example, most health messages stress the dangers and risks when sex life is concerned, whereas mass media mostly support the image that a sexually active person is more affectionate and progressive.
During sexual education young people get information on religious and ethical aspects about sexuality, abortion, and sex life. Then students can discuss them during the course.
The aim of sex education
Part of the education is to give the youth a message what sex is, why people make love, what consequences it may have. In addition, young people can find out about emotional aspects of sex and negative aspects if sexual life begins before they are mature enough. This does not mean that the educator sets strong standards and narrow moralistic ways. He/she only provides all the possible information and guidelines. Young people then should be able to make decisions for themselves what the positive properties of love relationships are.
People during puberty usually are very curious about their body changes, gender differences, and sexuality — the things they do not know yet. Therefore they seek for information from their friends, mass media, like TV, newspapers and magazines. It could be wrong because their friends also do not know much about sexuality and birth control, mass media also provides with sometimes unreliable information, which could be damaging to people who are not yet able to make their own judgments. Hence, teenagers form a wrong opinion on sex, birth control, and sexually transmitted diseases. Some of them may think that it is not possible to get pregnant during a first sexual act, others may not know that only a male condom protects against most sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS/HIV. It is significant, therefore, to provide correct information in order to fix mistaken opinions. And hence this lowers the danger that young people may put themselves to.
Usually during sex information students are taught about sexual development, including physical and emotional transformations connected with puberty. They also are being informed on reproduction — when a woman can get pregnant, how it all happens, what sexually transmitted diseases are and how people can protect themselves against them. In addition, teenagers are provided with the facts of various birth control methods , their advantages, disadvantages, and side effects. They also find out how each method works, how various methods are used, what the efficiency is, and the decision whether to use them or not. Young people get information on what kinds of relationships are, what positive qualities of them are, what commitment, marriage and partnership are.
In some countries state policies on sex education are very controversial and basically negative. However, practice shows that efficient sex education is very useful and helpful to young people, since they can then make informed and wise decisions in their future lives.