Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is Sex Education The Answer?

What is Sex?  In the simplest of terms sex can be defined as a physical act ultimately resulting in the procreation of a species. However the fact that sex can rarely be discussed without a flood of emotions indicates that there is much more surrounding the topic than just the physical act. It is the side effects into the rest of life rather than the act itself that is the most widely discussed and debated.

Physical effects such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are often on the forefront of the mind of society as issues to be addressed. In a recent article I also discussed the viewpoint of the brain chemistry as it relates to sexuality. Such a discussion shows many of the physical reasons as to why the physical act of sex can result in emotional ramifications both positive and negative. There are also moral and religious arguments as to how one’s sexual life should be correctly conducted. These issues often lead into either heated arguments and judgmentalism on all side of the issue or are ignored almost entirely and placed almost solely into the social aspect of humor.

So what is the issue? When it comes to teenage sexuality it is almost a societal form of risk management. Sex education has become a regular part of the curriculum in the school system to adequately prepare students with tools and knowledge to conduct sexual relations safely. However perhaps an article posted on states it best with their comment that, “Sex ed simply can’t compete with teenagers’ hormones.” Typically the idea here is that teens are going to have sex, let’s help reduce the physical risks as much as possible. This is why many social workers and medical clinics give condoms out for free.

The first risk that is always brought to the surface is the teenage pregnancy. A father myself I know that having kids is something that completely changes one’s way of life. Things I know I wouldn’t have been mature enough to handle as a teen. But what if teens don’t see pregnancy as a risk? Single parenting is so common now that it doesn’t carry the social stigma that it used to. The article even went so far as to say, “Teenagers having babies is really not such a bad thing – younger parents have the energy that older parents lack.” STD’s are also a risk, but everyone has different sources and studies on the risks and there doesn’t seem to be any hard data on the statistical odds.

However, in terms of calculating risks, as intelligent as teens are, they do not seem to always make decisions based on logical data. If you don’t believe me, or the copious amounts of scientific data on that, just ask car insurance companies. Teens are risk takers. This is not necessarily a negative trait, but while some risks are worth it, others are not. So is sexuality worth the risk or isn’t it? The thing is that even if someone intellectually decides against an activity – the emotions and physical feelings that are raised in the midst of a sexually charged situation can through even the most well adjusted kid off their base.

So the problem with sexual education is we don’t know if it is working because we are unsure as to what it is we want it to accomplish. I think the better question is to ask why youth participate in these risky activities in the first place and how we can foster them to make mature decisions about their lives as opposed to having them rely on emotional or even intellectual aspects of these sexual choices. After all the choices that we make may technically be “healthy” but still leave a lot of other aspects of life a mess.

What is sexual maturity? Well in an interview with Dr. Harry Schaumburg on Family Life Today he paints a picture of sexual maturity by comparing it to sexual immaturity. He says, “Here’s the proof that it was immature. How did you feel when you didn’t get it? How upset did you get? How frustrated did you get because I couldn’t get what I want. That sounds like immaturity. Hopefully as a mature man when I can’t get what I want I can handle that in a more appropriate way.” How many young boys manipulate their girlfriends because they are after something that they want as opposed to actually showing her more love. I have talked with countless young people that talk about the fear of losing their relationships if they don’t engage sexually even if that is something they wouldn’t choose for themselves.

So how do we train youth in maturity? It is a commitment to a lifetime of sexual conversations as opposed to a one time class on sexual mechanics and risk management. However, before I discuss my idea on how to promote maturity. What are yours?
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