News About Sex Education
And now, from Ed Barnes (Fox News, February 8, 2010) comes word of a new report by the International Planned Parenthood Federation advocating that children as young as 10 be given extensive sex education, including an awareness of sex's pleasures. Are you shocked by the news? Are you encouraged? Or, are you willing to take the path of least resistance and be indifferent?
The report, "Stand and Deliver," demands that children 10 and older be given a "comprehensive sexuality education" by governments, aid organizations and other groups, and that young people should be seen as "sexual beings."
"Young people have the right to be informed about sexuality and to have access to contraceptives and other services," Bert Koenders, the Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation, wrote in the foreword to the report. His organization helped fund the report.
"Stand and Deliver" argues that sex education should be "recast" to show sexuality as a "positive force for change and development, as a source of pleasure, an embodiment of human rights
Meanwhile, Michelle Turner, president of the Maryland-based Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, said Planned Parenthood was simply trying to eliminate parental say. "What are they trying to do? They are trying to eliminate the role of mom and dad in the family," Turner said. "For Planned Parenthood to decide that governments, private organizations and religious organizations should make decisions about kids' sexuality is just going too far." (Ed Barnes, Fox News, February 8 2010)
Before you decide whether to pounce on the "Stand and Deliver" people or become an advocate, consider the big picture of sex-ed.
• Nearly half (46%) of all 15–19-year-olds in the United States have had sex at least once. (JC Abma et al., "Teenagers in the United States: sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing," 2002, Vital and Health Statistics, 2004, Series 23, No. 24.)
• Most young people have sex for the first time at about age 17, but they do not marry until their middle or late 20s. This means that young adults are at risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for nearly a decade. (The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), In Their Own Right: Addressing the Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of American Men, New York: AGI, 2002.)
• More than three-quarters of teen females report that their first sexual experience was with a steady boyfriend, a fiancé, a husband or a cohabiting partner. (JC Abma et al., "Teenagers in the United States: sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing," 2002, Vital and Health Statistics, 2004, Series 23, No. 24.)
And, now, after falling for more than a decade, the numbers of births, pregnancies and STDs among U.S. teens have begun increasing. Sexual activity? Is it any wonder young people are choosing to have casual sex or sex without proper protection? The media is ablaze with sexual invitations aimed at youth. Where can one escape the lure of "hot and sexy" is fashionable, even in modern conceptions of child beauty? Parents could and should draw lines about their children's sexual behavior, revealing dress, and actual lack of independent maturity. According to Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood (www.focusas.com & www.commercialexploitation.org) --
In 2003, 83% of the episodes of the top 20 shows among teen viewers contained some sexual content, including 20% with sexual intercourse
42% of the songs on the top CDs in 1999 contained sexual content -- 19% included direct descriptions of sexual intercourse
"Adult entertainment often deals with issues and challenges that adults face, including the complexities of sexual relationships. Children have neither the life experience nor the brain development to fully differentiate between a reality they are moving toward and a fiction meant solely to entertain," adds David Bickham, PhD, staff scientist in the Center on Media and Child Health and co-author of the study. ("...Become Sexually Active Earlier In Life, reported in ScienceDaily, May 4 2009)
In his writing, Rob Stein (Washington Post, February 2 2010) reported, "The Obama administration eliminated more than $170 million in annual federal funding targeted at abstinence programs after a series of reports concluded that the approach was ineffective. Instead, the White House is launching a $114 million pregnancy prevention initiative that will fund only programs that have been shown scientifically to work -- a program the administration on Monday proposed expanding to $183 million."
Yet, results of a study conducted between 2001 and 2004, led by John B. Jemmott III and published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found, "Only about a third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active."
The findings are the first clear evidence that an abstinence program could work. "This new study is game-changing," said Sarah Brown, who leads the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "For the first time, there is strong evidence that an abstinence-only intervention can help very young teens delay sex."
Notable differences in the administration of the new study included lack of a moralistic tone; sessions encouraging children to delay sex until they are ready, not necessarily until married; lack of portrayal of sex outside marriage as never appropriate; and no disparagement of condoms. There are populations that really want an abstinence intervention, and they are against telling children about condoms.This study suggests abstinence programs can be part of the mix of offered sex-ed programs.
The Cost of the End of Innocence
Indiana University researchers (J. Dennis Fortenberry, Regenstrief Institute, December 16 2009) said half of all urban teenage girls may get one or more sexually transmitted infections within two years of becoming sexually active.
A study published in the Journal of Health Economics (Joseph J. Sabia and Daniel I. Rees, September 2008) reported that young American girls who are sexually active are far more likely to suffer from depression than those who remain virgins.The study also found that the mental health of boys in the same age group did not depend on whether they were sexually active. Following a study of more than 14,000 adolescents aged between 14 and 17, researchers said that these feelings could be directly ascribed to sexual activity, rather than outside influences, such as family difficulties.
The research follows a separate study by the American Psychological Association last year which warned that the portrayal of young women as sex objects in parts of the media was harming young girls' mental and physical health.
Other findings (Robert E. Rector, Kirk A Johnson, and Lauren R. Noyes, Heritage Foundation, http://www.heritage.org.) also showed that when compared to teens who were not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who were sexually active were significantly less likely to be happy and significantly more likely to attempt suicide. Thus, in addition to its role in promoting teen pregnancy and the current epidemic of STDs, early sexual activity is a substantial factor in undermining the emotional well being of American teenagers.
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Teen Pregnancy United States #1: 494,357 births