My poor kids…..having a labor and delivery nurse for a mom means never knowing when they’re going to be cornered in the house or trapped in a car with me and be forced to discuss sex. Can’t you picture the scene? I walk into a room where some unsuspecting kid is hanging out with a, “So, we need to talk about (fill in the blank)…”
Cue the eye roll, the sigh and the “Oh, mom.”
I won’t say I’m not uncomfortable with it, because sometimes I am, but seeing what I’ve seen in my career I am under no illusions about what teenagers can get up to when left to their own devices. And I always figured that if there were any holes in my choice of topics to discuss, that at least they would be discussed in sex ed classes which I knew my school district offered. So when the time came for my oldest to attend class I dutifully went to the parent meeting beforehand so I would know what the kids were going to learn. It never occurred to me that what they were going to be learning was how dangerous sex is both physically, emotionally and legally.
I really, really want someone to explain to me the point of Abstinence Only sex ed, because as I see it the only point is to assuage the fears of parents who want to believe that if they tell kids “Just say no.” and some other adult type says the same thing, that will be that and they need never worry about their child having premarital sex. Oy vey.
It just doesn’t work like that, and studies have shown this to over and over again. Kids with comprehensive sex ed have lower numbers of unplanned pregnancies and actually lose their virginity at an older age than kids who have abstinence only sex ed.
Information is so easy to come by nowadays. It used to be that kids would find out the juicy tidbits about sex from a friend with an older sibling or for the guys it was a friend who managed to get a copy of Playboy, hell, if all else failed there was always National Geographic…but information about sex was usually more about hearsay than actual knowledge. Today, any technologically savvy 10 year old can find out anything he or she would like, and probably some things they wouldn’t like, over the internet. They know if they’re not being told the whole story.
I hope I have instilled some values and a sense of the importance of sex to my kids. I would like for them to wait until they are much older and more mature before they have sex, but who are we kidding? What we want our kids to choose and what they actually choose are often two very different things. What I want my kids to know above anything else is that they can come to me or my husband to talk, that even if we can’t prevent what we may think is too early a sexual initiation, we can arm them with the information to prevent a pregnancy or an STD.
The analogy I think of is this: I don’t want my teens to drink alcohol. I know about the dangers of doing so from the minor (getting sick) to the major (alcohol poisoning) to the life-changing (driving and getting into an accident), and I also remember the allure of partying with friends. While I hope they are able to make responsible choices I have also provided them with alternatives if they do decide to drink. The fact that they know they can call for a ride if they’ve been drinking doesn’t make me think they’re more likely to drink; it means that they won’t feel forced into a worse situation than the one they already find themselves in.
Finally, my last big problem with abstinence only sex ed is that it seems to me that when you spend a kid’s whole adolescence telling them all of the bad things that can happen if you have sex, it will be hard for them to see sex as natural, healthy and fun when they get older. As I alluded to earlier in this article, I’ve seen a lot of teens with unintended pregnancies and STDs, but I’ve also seen a lot of grown women with unbelievable inhibitions surrounding sex which causes them so much pain, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, and that makes me sad for them, because they are missing out on something special. I don’t want my kids to turn me into a grandmother any time soon, but I will not guilt them or scare them into an inhibited adulthood either.