Abstinence is not the only way

By Emily Cousins | Contributor

The Bible belt is an easy place to be a Christian, but it is not always an easy place to be educated on sensitive topics. Specifically sex education.

In Texas, it is not required for public schools to teach sex education in schools. When it is taught, the majority of public schools only teach abstinence. According to the 2016 Texas Freedom Network study, 58.3% of schools teach abstinence, 16.6% teach abstinence-plus and 25.1% do not teach sex education at all.

Teaching students only about abstinence is problematic and unrealistic. Many parents want to see Christian values instilled in their children while attending public schools. This puts students in a situation where they do not get the information they need if they choose to have sex before marriage or are not of the Christian faith. Parents cannot assume their children will do exactly as they say.

When schools in Texas teach about sexually transmitted diseases, they will usually say abstinence is the best way to avoid STDs. While it is true only having one sexual partner is the most fool-proof way to avoid STDs, it is not the only option and should not be treated as such. It needs to be made clear that condoms are the only contraceptive that will prevent STDs. Using oral contraceptive, the implant or an IUD are great for preventing pregnancy but not STDs. If students are not made aware of this, they may get into trouble that could have been avoided through proper education.

Teaching about contraception allows students to be aware of their choices so they can choose the best option. For women, there are many types of contraceptives and not all of them work for everyone. It is helpful to be aware of the options to make sure everyone has a chance to make an informed choice.

Some of the contraceptives for women are also used for other reasons besides preventing pregnancies. Many women with heavy periods use birth control pills to lessen cramps and make their periods lighter, making them easier to manage.

For people who do choose to wait until marriage, contraceptives are also useful for family planning. Some couples may not be ready for children as soon as they get married, and contraceptives are the most effective way to prevent pregnancy. Without education, students would not have the opportunity to know this information and know the different ways contraceptives can be used.

When comprehensive sex education is implemented, it makes it easier to have open discussions about consent. Consent should always be given before sex, whether it is within a marriage or not, but if sex education is pushed to the side and students are told to practice abstinence alone, it is not easy to have this conversation. The first time some people are taught about real consent is their welcome week at college. This has to happen earlier to implement it in students’ minds before they go off on their own.

It already seems hard to make it mandatory to have comprehensive sex education in schools, but an even bigger step that needs to be taken is adding LGBTQ sex education into the course. It is important to teach all students about things beyond heterosexual sex to broaden their minds and let LGBTQ youth know that they are normal and are also being taught safe sex. Ignoring LGBTQ sex allows the stigma it is unnatural to be anything other than heterosexual and cisgendered to continue.

Public schools in Texas and everywhere in America need to do better in regards to sex education. Nothing should be left out and it should be mandatory in every public school. If public schools only teach what is Christian and “normal,” then students miss an opportunity to learn something new and be a more informed person. A more informed society is good news, no matter how sensitive the topic.

Emily is a junior vocal performance major from Houston.