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There is every evidence that most in-school sex education is not working. According to SIECUS, "To date, six studies of abstinence-only programs have been published. None of these studies found consistent and significant program effects on delaying the onset of intercourse, and at least one study provided strong evidence that the program did not delay the onset of intercourse. Thus, the weight of evidence indicates that these abstinence-only programs do not delay the onset of intercourse. A study of 7,326 seventh and eighth graders in California who participated in an abstinence-only program found that the program did not have a measurable impact upon either sexual or contraceptive behaviors. Nearly two-thirds of teenagers think teaching "Just Say No" is an ineffective deterrent to teenage sexual activity."
While we at Scarleteen do not hold to the notion that telling young adults to go have sex is a better solution, we strongly feel that belying judgment and furnishing them with the facts they need to know REGARDLESS of whether or not they are sexually active readies them to learn to make their own choices, and that often unheard perspectives help develop their own systems of ethics and values when combined with the perspectives of peers, schools, parents, other mentors and their overall culture and communities. One cannot make a decision from a position of informed consent without actually being informed.
The statistics may surprise you. More than half of American teens DO abstain from intercourse until age 17 (and have since before abstinence-only initiatives), and that a quarter of them at 20 still have not had heterosexual intercourse. These same studies show that informative sex education has not increased sexual activity, pregnancy or the number of sexual partners, and has in fact, wildly succeeded in that, "Teenagers who start having intercourse following a sexuality education program are more likely to use contraception than those who have not participated in a program. (SIECUS)." In addition, while many teens may not be having vaginal intercourse, they are often instead engaging in a myriad of other sexual practices, including petting, oral sex and even anal sex, and a recent study of those who have taken abstinence pledges has shown that those pledgers have identical rates of STDs and STIs as well as sexual activity, to those who have not pledged to abstain.
We feel that the best model for lifelong sexual education is as follows: Providing information which educates in ALL aspects of sexuality, including birth control, safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases, masturbation and self-pleasuring, anatomy, diverse sexual orientation and identification, gender politics, sexual and romantic relationship and communication tools, and care and compassion in sexual technique and practice.