Why we need sex ed, for real

This infographic collects a lot of important data about teen sexuality and sex education in the US. We absolutely need comprehensive sex ed, and this image includes a lot of evidence why. Part of that is the high rate of unintended pregnancies among teens. But this entire image is framed around preventing teens from getting pregnant, and I can’t get on board with that. I can’t get on board with sex ed that’s about policing other people’s sexual and reproductive decisions. Offering them information so they can make more informed choices? That’s rad. Sex is a part of life, as much as some folks would like to pretend otherwise. So it’s worth being informed about, just like everything else we do. Sex ed is important so folks can actually know what they’re making decisions about. But it shouldn’t be another way to police young folks.

I get that we have to make practical, numbers based arguments to win policy. But they should back up our actual beliefs. There are a ton of reasons sex ed is great, and they can be framed around why there are a ton of positive outcomes when people are informed. We don’t need to make the argument in a way that seems designed to shame pregnant and parenting teens.

The reproductive health, rights, and justice field really needs to stop making its arguments in ways that undermine its cause.

But this is some great data! (Infographic after the jump)

Infographic about sex ed

h/t Shelby Knox

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/mighty-ponygirl/ Mighty Ponygirl

    What parents need to understand is that kids going into puberty *want to know about sex.* Just hearing “don’t do it” doesn’t tell them what they want to know, and so they’ll keep looking for that information.

    And in the absence of comprehensive sex ed, kids get their information from their peers, who Make Shit Up (like you can’t get pregnant your first time, you can’t get pregnant if you douche with coke afterwards, etc), or they get their information from porn, which teaches them a bunch of unhealthy, crazy BS that they now think is Normal Sexual Behavior.

    So it comes down to parents: How do you want your kids to learn about sex? In a classroom with a curriculum that gives accurate information (including things like failure rates and what being a parent really entails), or from porn?

  • http://feministing.com/members/megsy/ Megan

    I totally agree that sex education should be a tool for teens to make informed decisions about sexual and reproductive decisions. However, I do not think one can be instantly disappointed that the infograph focuses mainly on pregnancy. You have to realize that the infograph delineates right at the top that MORE THAN 80% of teen pregnancies are UNINTENDED pregnancy. So when referring to pregnancy rates and avoiding teen pregnancy I do not think the infograph’s focus on pregnancy statistics is making a case for using sex education as a way “to police sexual and reproductive decisions.” Avoiding pregnancy is not an ideal that needs much imposing or policing on teens. Why? Because the fact that more than 80% of teens who got pregnant did not intend for it to happen shows that most teens already have the preference for not getting pregnant. I personally think the infograph is great in terms of promoting comprehensive sex ed, and that interpreting it as a tool that encourages policing is possibly a bit of a stretch. Again, I totally agree that we still need to make sure that sex educations is used to give teens a better sense of agency and knowledge around sex and reproduction- because they deserve that knowledge and that agency!