Sarah Palin’s daughter is not the only one for whom abstinence education didn’t work. Despite the millions of dollars invested in “abstinence-only” education for youth, both teen pregnancy and birth rates have jumped up in the US after a 15 year decline. Just as our sexual attitudes and beliefs were stretched wide open by the younger generation of the 60’s, our children are demanding and creating a new kind of sexual dialogue to fill the void that our sanctioned teach them nothing approach has created. Education is the path that the future is built upon. We cannot expect different results when we keep providing the same or less information.
The World Health Organization refers to sexuality as an intrinsic part of human experience. Human sexuality is one of the primary ways that we define and know ourselves. Understanding our sexuality and being able to make decisions that enhance our life experience are two sides of the same coin. This is as true for adults as it is for our youth. To the degree that we have not sorted out these questions for ourselves as adults, we are both uncomfortable and unable to help our children with these same questions. And for many of us, the facts and language to help us make the vital connections between our sexuality and the relationships that we form (or don’t) has been long left out of our educational model, even prior to the current vogue of “just say no”.
The good news is that we are on the verge of a new sexual revolution that has the potential to provide the comprehensive sexual education that we all have been missing. Across the country, from Chicago to New York, teens and young adults are demanding changes in school system policies to provide comprehensive sexual education as part of their basic and required curriculum. Even more exciting is that they are benefiting from their access and the reach that online technology and social communities offer to organize and extend their efforts, disseminating accurate and research based information about the physical, social and psychological aspects of sexual behavior.
Although the internet has been largely a venue for sexual entertainment purposes, this new sexual revolution has the potential to re-educate us all. These new teen inspired websites elevates sexuality from the pornographic content which currently doubles as most teen’s basic sex ed., while providing the framework and direction for age-appropriate, non-discriminatory and open dialogues where real questions can be asked and answered. The rule of thumb in my home is that if you are old enough to understand and ask a question, then you are old enough to be given the truth about that question. Not providing real answers to legitimate questions about who we are, sexually and otherwise leaves room for whatever is the loudest voice to fill the void.
Comprehensive sexual education is revolutionary because it provides both access to information and normalizes the language and discussion of the powerful force that human sexuality exerts on our lives and culture. Giving ourselves permission to explore and discuss our intimate needs and sexual identity is the foundation for offering this to the people we love the most. Visit www.sexetc.org or sexed4u.googlepages.com to see where the next generation is leading this sexual revolution and commit to asking or answering the questions in your relationships that will create a sexual revolution in your own life.