Study: Sex Ed Needs To Start Much, Much Earlier

Illustration for article titled Study: Sex Ed Needs To Start Much, Much Earlier

Many American educators will be shocked to learn that the best way to encourage safe sexual practices is not to cover your eyes and pretend that the youths won't grope each other dirtily 'til marriage if you vehemently insist that they shouldn't. In fact, a new study shows that teaching kids about sex before puberty is the best way to promote sexual health. HUH.


According to a new study from Georgetown University researchers, targeting adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14 for "positive youth development to promote sexual and reproductive health (SRH)... is imperative to lay foundations for healthy future relationships and positive SRH." To anyone who isn't convinced that sexual desire is an evil, terrible menace, this makes a lot of sense: teaching adolescents about healthy sexuality before they start experimenting with sex is more efficacious than starting after they're sexually active, at which point they're far more likely to have internalized harmful cultural norms and attitudes — many of which are highly gendered and cast sexuality as secret and shameful.

As the study puts it:

If programmes, based on the healthy adolescent framework, rooted in human rights and gender equity, are implemented at a time when adolescents are still malleable and relatively free of [sexual and reproductive health] problems and gender role bias, [very young adolescents] can be guided safely through this life stage, supported by their parents, families and communities.

Investments in emerging [sexual and reproductive health] and gender role formation among [very young adolescents] –working at root level – will yield important dividends, and consequently, fewer investments will be needed later in adolescence and adulthood.

In other words, it's far better for youths' sexual health when they learn about sexuality, contraception, ~hormones~, etc. from a proper sexual education course, rather than from some punk-ass kid in the back of the school bus whose source material is a late-90s issue of Cosmo, Embarrassing Sex Stories section — or, like, Reddit (the horror). It makes sense that giving kids the proper framework for encountering sex in a healthy way is far better than having to do some sort of belated ideological damage control in high school.

Of course, this is all completely unlikely to happen in America, where 46% of males and 33% of females never receive formal instruction about contraception before having sex for the first time; where many of our illustrious sexual "educators" hawk abstinence-only agendas; and where students learn in public school that having sex will render them dirty and used-up (but only girls!).

Image via woaiss/Shutterstock.



I think we've been arguing this all wrong. We aren't advocating starting sex ed earlier. We are advocating for a return to sex education at an earlier age. Centuries ago, sex was much more obvious to children growing up. For one thing, try growing up on a farm and not learning about the birds and the bees at an early age. And for another, think of all those pioneer or 15th century families living in a one-room house and ended up having 10 kids. You think the kids didn't know what was up?