The pitfalls in our sex education

By Ezinwanne Onwuka

Sex education is a broad term used to describe education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse and other aspects of human sexual behaviour. It is the instruction on issues relating to human sexuality, including emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, age of consent, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control and sexual abstinence.

Sex education is a kind of holistic education. It teaches an individual about self-acceptance and the attitude and skills of interpersonal relationship. It also helps an individual to cultivate a sense of responsibility towards others as well as oneself.

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There is a wide variety of examples of sex education. These include a parent explaining to his or her child how babies are made, a friend explaining to his friend the importance of using protection during sex, or a teacher lecturing his or her students about the risks of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

Sex education can generally be broken down into three categories:

Abstinence-only sex education teaches children to wait until they are married. Children learn the basic mechanics of sex, but do not typically get information on topics like birth control and/or disease prevention and defending oneself against sexual predators; instead, the psychological and physical risks of sex are emphasized, and parents and teachers only discuss ways for students to say no to premarital sex and avoid temptations to engage in such.

Health and safety-oriented sex education is sex education that teaches children the mechanics of sex as well as basics of birth control and sexual consent. Here, children receive lessons in choosing and using different forms of birth control. This form of sex education focuses primarily on physical well-being, and children who receive this type of education are generally better equipped to protect themselves, but still might not be prepared for the emotional implications of having premarital sex.

Comprehensive sex education attempts to address both safety and emotional concerns regarding sex. In this type of education, children learn the basics of sexual negotiation and how to please one’s partner during sexual intimacy, for example, that many women require clitoral stimulation in order to reach orgasm. Comprehensive sex education also addresses diverse sexual orientations such as homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender etc. Comprehensive sex education is highly controversial but beneficial. The benefits include a drop in the rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs, and a better and adequate preparation of children for sex, whether they are waiting until marriage or not.

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Majority of people believe that sex education is valuable. Their line of argument is that sex education will enable children better understand their sexual anatomy, the dangers of sex before marriage such as pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), and the need to abstain from any form of sexual relationships until marriage. And this has been the kind of sex education parents and teachers give. With this degree of emphasis being laid on “abstinence until marriage” and the traditional “if any boy touches you, you would get pregnant” (for girls) type of sexual education, you would think that the results would be promising. However, it is the opposite. Such lopsided type of education has only succeeded in increasing the menace of rape and sexual abuse and molestation, the risk of unintended pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

Why is this so? The reason may not be far-fetched. Abstinence-only sex education operates as a sexual stimulus. Parents and teachers fail to understand that sex education is not like education on Economics or Geography. They do not acknowledge that sex is a special subject that, unlike an English or Mathematics class, requires a bit more finesse to teach effectively. The child has sexual organs and on getting a half-baked information on sex, the individual’s curiosity to search for more sexuality information will be stimulated. He/she will try to learn about sexual education on their own terms and at their own discretion. In other words, adolescents may try sex if they receive abstinence-only sex education because they will view the sex education as a motivation for sexual awareness.

The solution? Abstinence-only sex education has done more harm than good. There is need for us to reform our sex education, providing a way for children to accurately and effectively learn what having sex entails. We need a comprehensive sex education that will arm the child with the knowledge and skills to make healthy and informed decisions regarding his or her sexual relationships. Comprehensive sex education involves teaching on abstinence, safe sex practices, and sexual diversity (heterosexual and homosexual relationships). A comprehensive sex education will effectively help children prevent themselves against abuse, exploitation, molestation and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

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