The Failures of American Sex Education


Though teen pregnancy has been declining in recent years, America’s sex education system remains mostly a dismal failure, made far worse by the inane idea of abstinence-only sex education. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control provide some of the reasons why:

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that surveyed teen girls between the ages of 15 and 17, most young women don’t receive formal sexual health instruction until after they’ve already become sexually active. Federal health researchers warn that “this represents a missed opportunity” to ensure teens are receiving the medically accurate information they need to prevent pregnancy and STDs.

Even though the teen birth rate has been declining for the past several decades, and continues to hit record lows, the United States still has one of the highest rates in the developed world. The CDC is particularly worried about unintended pregnancies among younger teens between the ages of 15 and 17, since they’re at greater risk for “poor medical, social, and economic outcomes” after giving birth.

Nonetheless, federal researchers found that this population isn’t necessarily hearing the right information about sexual health. About a quarter of them said they had never discussed the issue with their parents. And although about 91 percent of teen girls said they received some kind of sex ed instruction in school before they turned 18, just six in ten said that included information on both birth control and how to say no to sex. And a staggering 83 percent said they had already started having sex before they heard anything about the topic in class.

The model we should be following is the Netherlands, which provides comprehensive sex education beginning at an early age, including free and anonymous birth control and pregnancy and STD testing. Their teen pregnancy rate and teen abortion rate is about 1/7th that of the United States.

Comments

  1. Schlumbumbi says

    Sidenote:
    Even among european countries, the Netherlands is considered a “dirty whore house” because of its “liberties” in regards to sex, including legal child pornography and teenage prostitution.

  2. says

    The model we should be following is the Netherlands, which provides comprehensive sex education beginning at an early age, including free and anonymous birth control and pregnancy and STD testing.

    IMAGINE HOW MUCH LOWER THEIR ABORTION RATE WOULD BE IF THEY FOCUSED ON SLUT SHAMING AND BANNING ABORTION!

  3. steve oberski says

    Additional sidenote, even based on the depressing low bar in place to vet catholic apologist trolls, Schlumbumbi appears to have no problem slithering under it in a catholic clerical kiddy fucker enabling race to the bottom.

    How do I know this ? I got it from the same source that Schlumbumbi got its facts.

  4. blf says

    Schlumbumbi@1, “the Netherlands is considered a “dirty whore house” because of its “liberties” in regards to sex, including legal child pornography”.

    BULLSHITE! Trivial research: “Netherlands: Main article: Child pornography laws in the Netherlands
    Production, possession, and distribution of child pornography and accessing child pornography on the Internet is illegal in the Netherlands and punishable by up to 4 ears in prison.”:

    In the Netherlands, the definition of child pornography is: pictures (photos and videos) of sexual acts of someone that seems to be younger than 18 years.

    You, Schlumbumb, are a LIAR of the same order as the pope and other deniers.

  5. Jenna Stewart says

    Hm. It appears Schumbumbi is full of shit (again). A cursory Google search turned up this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_pornography_laws_in_the_Netherlands):

    According to the Wetboek van Strafrecht:

    Article 240b,[1] number 1 prohibits the production, distribution, possession and sale of child pornography, and gaining access to it by means of the Internet. Maximum imprisonment is 4 years or a fine of the fifth category (€ 78,000).
    Article 240b,[1] number 2 prohibits committing crime, described under number 1 as a profession or as a habit. Maximum imprisonment is 8 years or a fine of the fifth category (€ 78,000).
    In the Netherlands, the definition of child pornography is: pictures (photos and videos) of sexual acts of someone that seems to be younger than 18 years.

    And this (http://www.minbuza.nl/binaries/content/assets/minbuza/en/import/en/you_and_the_netherlands/about_the_netherlands/ethical_issues/faq-prostitutie-pdf–engels.pdf-2012.pdf):

    Anyone who
     forces another person to engage in prostitution
     induces a minor to engage in prostitution
     recruits, takes away or abducts a person to engage in prostitution in another country
    (pursuant to the 1933 International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in
    Women of Full Age)
     profits from prostitution involving a minor or forced prostitution
     forces another person to surrender the proceeds of prostitution
    is liable to a custodial sentence of up to eight years

  6. Alverant says

    Don’t worry, Jenna. When someone tells an outlandish like Schlumbumbi did, then the truth needs to be repeated with multiple facts.

  7. blf says

    Indeed, Jenna, and it is helps when someone — you. in this instance — digs a bit further and improves the case for Schlumbumb being a lying, dishonest pope-a-like. Thanks!

  8. raven says

    The CDC is particularly worried about unintended pregnancies among younger teens between the ages of 15 and 17, since they’re at greater risk for “poor medical, social, and economic outcomes” after giving birth.

    The teenage pregnancy rate is focused on because teenage pregnancy is highly correlated and causal with life long poverty.

    You can see how that works. If you start your life with a long term responsibility that you have no knowledge or ability to actually do well, you are going to have trouble climbing out of that hole.

  9. colnago80 says

    To the born agains, this study is irrelevant. They couldn’t care less. They believe that out of wedlock pregnancy is punishment for what they consider immoral activities.

  10. raven says

    www. npr. org/blogs/…/how-birth-control-saves-taxpayers-mone…‎

    by Julie Rovner – in 24 Google+ circlesMar 6, 2012 –
    Love them or hate them, contraceptives do save taxpayers money, … Spending $145 million on such programs would return $356 million to …

    Pregnancy Prevention and the Taxpayer – NYTimes.com …
    economix. blogs. nytimes.com/…/pregnancy-prevention-and-the-taxpayer…‎

    Mar 5, 2012 – A study measures how subsidizing pregnancy prevention programs and birth control might provide … other pregnancy prevention programs: they save taxpayers money. …
    These programs can save taxpayers anywhere from $2 to $6 for … higher if his model could account for spending on other government …

    Spending government money on birth control saves the taxpayers money!!!

    Various studies come up with different amounts, each BC dollar saves 2 to 6 dollars down the line. It’s a lot of money in total.

    One would think the alleged fiscal conservatives of the Tea Party would be pushing free birth control just on this basis.

    Of course they aren’t really trying to reduce government spending. They are trying to make as many people miserable as possible.

  11. dan4 says

    You want to provide “free and anonymous birth control” to people “at an early age,” Ed? Could you specify how “early,” because a vagary like that comes off as a bit, well, unsavory.

  12. says

    dan4 @ 12

    a vagary like that comes off as a bit, well, unsavory.

    Well, some percentage of kids start having sex at age 12 and 13, so younger than that. As in every kid that asks, no matter how old they are.

  13. anbheal says

    Agreed, Kamaka, “unsavory” is a red herring here. Due to some suspected combo of obesity, hormone additives in food, and brain-body connections to sex saturation in the media (at least, last time I saw any reputable studies), American girls are hitting puberty in 3rd grade now. If you think 3rd graders requiring birth control is unsavory, how unsavory do you find it for fourth graders to give birth 10 months later?

    Now, I’ll give dan4 some leeway here — if I were running an anonymous condom distribution window at a local library, e.g., and some 9-year-old girl requested a few, I’d want to consult the relevant laws regarding the reporting of child abuse. If her proposed partner is any older than 9 & 1/2, I’d be inclined to say “screw the anonymity, I’m talking to her parents”. Or, at the very least demand that the sex education part of the program precede the birth control part. And ya know, even if her beau were 9 & 1/2, I’d still find the facilitation of the whole concept rather approaching “unsavory”. Still, better with a condom.

    (and apologies for the gender assumptions here, but I suspect that’s the norm at a very young age — my point applies either way, and certainly for gay pre-teens as well)

  14. lorn says

    Modusoperandi @ #2:

    Of course the US system has never been about protecting women or preventing pregnancy. The main driver was the need for moralizers to feel good about themselves and superior to the sexually active teens. Because it feels so good/right. Any plans that might actually effective in lowering the teenage pregnancy rates have to be avoided because they interfere with the opportunity to feel morally superior.

  15. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    You want to provide “free and anonymous birth control” to people “at an early age,” Ed? Could you specify how “early,” because a vagary like that comes off as a bit, well, unsavory.

    Anyone who needs birth control should be able to get it without financial, legal, or practical obstacles.

    What the fucking fuck is “unsavory” about that?

  16. matty1 says

    To correct Schulumbi, within Europe there are self declared moralists who look down on the relatively liberal Dutch approach to *adult* prostitution and pornography (and pot smoking) despite the evidence that this results in less harm to people than driving those activities underground.

  17. says

    About a quarter of them said they had never discussed the issue with their parents.

    Here’s the real problem. The adults in the room too embarrassed/uncomfortable to discuss sexuality with their own children? My parents certainly failed in this parental duty with me. The priests like to make sex a “dirty thing”, because then we’ll all be dirty. But how the fuck can parents not-deal with their kids like this? It’s not just kids who need sex education, apparently most parents do, too.

    anbheal @ 14

    if I were running an anonymous condom distribution window

    I understand you were just making a point, but condoms barely rate as protective or as birth control. Any prophylactic that has such a high failure rate and does not protect against herpes is totally worthless.

    I find it perfectly acceptable that your 9-year-old birth control seeker gets some counseling at the birth control window, but in a non-judgemental manner.

  18. steve oberski says

    @Kamaka,

    What is your source of information on the effectiveness of condoms ?

    According to the CDC, condoms do provide protection against pregnancy, HIV and other STDs,

    With a failure rate of 18% they are not perfect but I would not describe them as “barely rate as protective or as birth control” and “totally worthless” and in fact disseminating such misinformation on your part borders on irresponsible.

  19. says

    steve oberski @20

    An 18% failure rate means a near certainty of failure after more than 6 or 16 uses. So condoms provide minimal protection against pregnancy. They DO NOT protect against herpes, the gift that keeps on giving. And if they fail on average in 1 of 6 uses, I would not call the use of condoms protective against much of anything.

    The irresponsible people are the ones who have presented condoms as somehow protective. The best that can be said for condoms is that a condom is better than nothing when engaged with a sex worker or in a one night stand. Except herpes.

    A 1-in-6 bet on HIV don’t look so good, either.

  20. Who Cares says

    @Ed Brayton: pregnancy rates in the Netherlands are 1/4 the ones in the US. Birthrates are 1/7 the rate in the US (1/3 of teen pregnancies are carried to term). Rates are highest in population groups that view sex in the same way as the ones in the US who want abstinence only education.

    Schulumbi is correct that some people look down on how we Dutch handle sex.
    And that includes charges of child porn due to the age of consent being 12, with safeguards that last till age 16. This basically means unless 1 of 3 parties (the child involved, parents or CPS) specifically report it to the police as not voluntary there will be no prosecution. Even then there might be no prosecution, for example parents not approving but it being voluntary. The other exception is dependency relationships (think teachers, priests, etc) these are never considered voluntary.
    But teenage prostitution? You got to be joking. They raised the minimum age for having paid sex from 16 to 18 at the same time they legalized prostitution.

    Sex ed starts at age 10/11 in schools so people know about it generally before they are starting puberty. This is combined with public education campaigns that boil down to “sex is OK but dammit use protection”, the result is that only 7% of people report not using any form of prevention during their first time.
    The pill can be acquired the moment that menstruation starts, most of the time this is to help regulate an uneven menstrual period, seeing that over 1/2 the women up to age 19( inclusive) report not using any form of contraception and around 90% of those report not having sex

  21. Who Cares says

    Forgot to add in. price of the pill is about 8 euro/month and fully reimbursed through the health insurance.

  22. raven says

    Kamaka:

    An 18% failure rate means a near certainty of failure after more than 6 or 16 uses. So condoms provide minimal protection against pregnancy.

    Think your numbers are way too high here.

    http:// www. nhs. uk/Conditions/contraception-guide/Pages/male-condoms.aspx

    At a glance: condoms
    •If used correctly every time you have sex, male condoms are 98% effective. This means that two out of 100 women using male condoms as contraception will become pregnant in one year.

    A reputable source from a quick Google search, the UK National Health Service website has it at 98% for one year.

    I know there are various numbers out there but some of them are ideologically driven. The RCC uses a number that no one else does and so on.

    That 18% rate you state is most likely on a per year basis not a per use basis, the normal way of giving the effective rates of BC.

  23. raven says

    Planned Parenthood:

    Like all birth control methods, condoms are more effective when you use them correctly.

    Each year, 2 out of 100 women whose partners use condoms will become pregnant if they always use condoms correctly.

    Each year, 18 out of 100 women whose partners use condoms will become pregnant if they don’t always use condoms correctly.

    US Planned Parenthood uses the same numbers.

    Not perfect but better than just hoping and praying to the gods or whatever.

  24. raven says

    One of my hobby horses is how we really need better birth control, more effective, fewer side effects.

    1. There is some research on this ongoing. It’s not all that much though.

    2. This is one place where more money and effort would pay off in a better world.

    I saw too many traumatized people and wrecked lives from birth control failures in college.

  25. Russ Hamilton says


    kamaka@21

    Note that the 18% figure is for “typical use” over the course of a year for people that report that they use condoms as their primary birth control method. This means that your statement about having a certainty of failurein 6-16 uses is incorrect.
    Note that typical use includes things like not using a condom every time, using broken or expired condoms, and other behavioral aspects unrelated to the condom’s effectiveness. For perfect use, the figure is around 2%.

    This means that in order to have a failure probability equal to that of no birth control (1 year of use), you would have to have >12 years of typical condom use, or >70 years of perfect condom use.

    I admit that there are some more effective birth control techniques, but none that are as effective against stds, and none as accessible.

  26. says

    raven “A reputable source from a quick Google search, the UK National Health Service website has it at 98% for one year.”
    Wow. That’s an awfully long time to wear a condom.

  27. dingojack says

    Modus – better than Kamaka who, apparently, washes and then re-uses them, 6 to 16 times . (Ewwwww)
    ;) Dingo

  28. michaelcrichton says

    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :):

    Anyone who needs birth control should be able to get it without financial, legal, or practical obstacles.

    What the fucking fuck is “unsavory” about that?

    Because below a certain age, it’s almost guaranteed that the person needing birth control is being coerced and/or manipulated by a adult? While from a strictly pragmatic standpoint, it may be “better” that Hypothetical Ten Year Old be molested with a condom than without, I think most people would still find it unsavory to be a party to it.

  29. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Modus:

    Apparently some people haven’t gotten the word on contacting a doctor after 4 hours.

    Either that or some people were bragging a bit to the NHS.

  30. dingojack says

    michaelcrichton – I’m curious.
    a) Why wouldn’t this hypothetical abuser (presumably an adult or teenager) provide their own condoms? Why get a child to get it, and draw attention?
    b) Almost all 10 year olds who are sexually active are being abused? Got any data for that assertion?
    Dingo

  31. Who Cares says

    @dingojack(#32):
    It’s even better then that. Like I pointed out where I live sex ed starts at age 10/11 and that school year has been specifically chosen since that is before kids go through puberty.
    The segment on the youth news was interesting to see. They interviewed a class when this was made mandatory. No embarrassment or ickyness when talking about it just that what has this to do with me feeling of kids not yet interested in sex.

  32. raven says

    While from a strictly pragmatic standpoint, it may be “better” that Hypothetical Ten Year Old be molested with a condom than without, I think most people would still find it unsavory to be a party to it.

    It is a bit squircky.

    OTOH, how unsavory is it to be a partial cause to a 10 year old who ends up pregnant? At that age, a pregnancy is potentially life ending for the walking incubator and in any event is going to be a disaster for both the child mother and the child as well.

    You aren’t Catholic are you? The church’s position is that it is better to kill 100 women then one fetus.

    This is a poorly made strawperson argument anyway. If a ten year old gets a condom so what? Chances are they just want to show their friends, the WOW factor. I’m also told they make great water balloons.

    We can’t distribute free condoms to millions of teenagers and young adults at risk of pregnancy because a ten year old might get one? I suppose we can’t sell alcohol either because a ten year old might get a hold of a beer.

  33. raven says

    Church Excommunicates Doctor And Mother Of 9-Year-Old …
    thinkprogress. org/ health/…/brazil-excommunication-for-abortio…‎

    by Annie-Rose Strasser – in 111 Google+ circlesMay 25, 2012 – In 2009, a 9 year old in Brazil had to have an emergency abortion … the victim and offering to help the family, the Catholic Church … debate in Brazil, where abortion is permitted only in cases of rape or medical emergency.

    Some of us remember this shining example of the evil of the Catholic church. A 9 year old was raped by her stepfather or father, got pregnant with twins.

    At his point, with her stage of body development, a pregnancy was going to likely to miscarry and likely to kill her as well. So the docs did an abortion.

    The RCC excommunicated the doctors and the mother. They didn’t excommunicate the rapist though.

    This was a happy ending considering. In some Catholic hospitals and countries, women and female children end up dying this way.

  34. raven says

    Here are the UK NHS guidelines for distributing condoms to teenagers. I’ve bolded the relevant parts. It’s just pragmatic common sense and doing what they can with the best interests of the kids in mind.

    :UK NHS:

    Where to get condoms
    Everyone can get condoms for free, even if they are under 16. They are available from:

    •contraception clinics
    •sexual health or GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics
    •some GP surgeries
    •some young people’s services
    Find sexual health services near you.

    You can also buy condoms from:

    •pharmacies
    •supermarkets
    •websites
    •mail-order catalogues
    •vending machines in some public toilets
    •some petrol stations
    If you buy condoms online, make sure you buy them from a pharmacist or other legitimate retailer. Always choose condoms that carry the European CE mark as a sign of quality assurance. This means they have been tested to the required safety standards.

    Contraception services are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16.

    If you’re under 16 and want contraception, the doctor, nurse or pharmacists won’t tell your parents (or carer) as long as they believe you fully understand the information you’re given, and your decisions.

    Doctors and nurses work under strict guidelines when dealing with young people under 16. They’ll encourage you to consider telling your parents but they won’t make you. The only time that a professional might want to tell someone else is if they believe you’re at risk of harm, such as abuse. The risk would need to be serious, and they would usually discuss this with you first.

  35. pocketnerd says

    Remember that child abusers thrive in a climate of sexual repression. A child who understands little about sex except sex is dirty and bad is much less likely to seek help. Abusers leverage this; survivors almost invariably report their abusers making claims like “if your parents find out, they’ll blame you” and “if you tell, everybody will know what a dirty little whore you are.”

    “Ewww, you’re too young to need these!” plays right into the hands of those who would abuse or exploit children. If a kid asks for condoms, give them to her. No matter what she plans to use them for, shaming will not help her. Even if she just plans to make water balloons to throw at her friends, your reaction has just told her that you’d think she was bad if she had sex; that if she does, she must keep it secret. And that’s exactly what kiddy rapers want her to think.

  36. freehand says

    Apparently for some people any number of dead fetuses is worth it to punish one girl (or woman) who had sex. Whether it was her choice or not. These same folks generally prefer to leave the most defenseless among us even more defenseless. I note that kids who have sex education (and decent drug education, for that matter) are less likely to have sex. Knowledge empowers people, young and old, but authoritarians are not big fans of independent behavior, even when its chaste. How can you control and guilt somebody who doesn’t make serious errors and suffer for them?

  37. dingojack says

    Pocketnerd – yeah exactly. When we make something taboo it not only makes it desirable but also something that must be hidden (shameful). That isn’t really isn’t healthy.
    Dingo

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