There is a very vocal minority who believes that sexual education for children and teens should be nonexistent, that somehow keeping a child ignorant is “protecting his or her innocence.” I firmly disagree with this. Scratch that; make that strongly, emphatically, vehemently disagree.

That belief ignores a very simple reality: some teens have sex.

Even today’s teens are aware of what they do not know. MSNBC posted a clip of a teenager asking Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders what he will do about access to sex education in American schools today:

I suspect there is an assumption that kids will go out and immediately act upon the new information if they are taught about human sexuality so we preach Abstinence-Only. Let us look at some of the consequences of this inadequate approach to sexuality education. Nationally, there are some pretty startling statistics if one compares American teens to European teens. American teens surpass their European peers in our incidence of teen pregnancy, teen birth, and HIV. Trust me: these are not areas where we want to be number 1. Some states do a better job educating than others, but parents are still able to opt out of the education for their kids. Opting out isn’t a bad thing in some of the states that hold Abstinence-Only where the teachings can be harmful; kids remember these fear-based approaches when they get older. I live in California, a progressive state in its approach to comprehensive education, and I still enrolled my oldest child in the Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education Program. With all of this information about sexuality available to her, she doesn’t come back wanting to screw some guy as homework.

At the very least, accurate sexuality education that addresses the plumbing and prevention aspects of human sexuality will make huge strides in preventing the need for a favorite topic of some politicians – abortion. Abortion is not just a solution for the “promiscuous and irresponsible.” If we stop hand wringing and pearl clutching long enough to remember that pregnancy is what happens AFTER two people have sex, then we have to admit that education will help people protect themselves from getting pregnant or needing an abortion the first place. Politicians tend to get hung up on abortion when that is a result of inadequate sex education. I’ll only remind you here that infanticide is a historical fact and still happens today. Neither abortion nor infanticide is ideal. Education is the key. I believe, if teens are well educated and informed then they will act more responsibly. Let’s try putting some effort toward accurate sexuality education. Let’s examine the leaks in the dam upstream before it breaks and creates a flood of problems downstream.

As a trained sex educator, I believe the most important things that we can do to PREVENT any need for abortion in the first place are the following:

  1. EDUCATE people with honest information about how pregnancy occurs;
  2. COMMUNICATION: remove stigma around TALKING about sex; the ability for people to discuss their needs, wants, desires or fantasies in a safe and healthy manner can be the difference between a healthy relationship and one full of dysfunction where a person acts out in an inappropriate manner, and there are many forms that can take;
  3. Teach CONSENT and how important it is for men and women. Combine this with education, respect, and communication and I believe RAPE would be less prevalent;
  4. Teach RESPECT for self and others. This, along with communication, might help to remove the mindless (used as the opposite of mindful) “hooking up” that occurs as a result of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to sex education currently touted in our country;
  5. Teach that PLEASURE is more than sexual behaviors. That physical touch, for example, a hug or kiss, does not always have to be sexual. Most adults have a tough time with this concept but children do not. Children learn this bodily shame from us;
  6. As long as we fail to provide comprehensive sex education, we need to make it clear that the adult video or porn that youth is watching is someone else’s FANTASY, and it is not “real” sex. Then, making it ok for people (teens and adults) to fantasize, and consequently, communicate those with a partner free of shame or guilt, goes a long way in fostering a healthy adult sexuality.

The hypocrisy is unfair. Daughters of wealthy families of all political and religious backgrounds have had abortion options available in far-off lands and have for a long, long time. Many people know anecdotes related to this; I also know the story of a former acquaintance. He was an Evangelical Christian who traveled a lot for work and had some out-of-town side action, aka a weekday girlfriend. She got pregnant, and he arranged for her to get an abortion to protect his relationship with his fiancée and his congregation. These stories of hypocrisy are typical if you start looking. So instead of having this option only for the wealthy few, let’s make accurate sex education available to all. Our teens are not purposefully being careless – the commonality is terrible, neglectful sex education.

It seems clear that denying access to information is not working. Reinforcing the notion that somehow ‘Abstinence-Only-Before-Marriage Sex Education will provide our children enough information’ is not working. The change that needs to happen is we need to process through as a culture why we are willing to stay so ignorant about a topic that is a natural part of the human experience. It is time for politicians and parents to process through the fear or whatever causes them to stand by Abstinence-Only education because it does not work. Together we can work through the discomfort and resolve why it is so bad for people to be informed about sexuality. As it is, I have yet to meet someone who has not benefitted from accurate, life-affirming, and healthy sex education.


The MamaSutra

About the Author

The MamaSutra

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on

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