October 30, 2023

What is comprehensive sex ed and why is it important?

By Sales Team
What is comprehensive sex ed and why is it important?

Our youth today are growing up in a culture that surrounds them with sexual imagery and messages—but one in which marriage is often delayed until the late twenties or later. Historically, public health prevention messages have singled out abstinence until marriage as the most effective way to remain free of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Abstinence is a fundamentally important aspect of preventing STIs, but this message alone does not serve well in the absence of comprehensive sexual education and a supportive environment. The American Sexual Health Associate (ASHA) believes young people deserve balanced, accurate, and realistic sex education, as well as access to confidential sexual health services.

Will comprehensive sex ed make my child more likely to have sex?

Research clearly shows that comprehensive sex education programs do not encourage teens to start having sexual intercourse, do not increase the frequency with which teens have intercourse, and do not increase the number of a teen’s sexual partners. Research also shows that sex education programs that promote abstinence-only have proven ineffective. Federal appropriations for abstinence-only education programs have exceeded $1 billion since 1982. However, reviews have found that none of the programs has shown a positive impact on sexual behavior or STDs over time. Furthermore, some research shows that young adults who made virginity pledges (to abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage) as teens ultimately have rates of STIs similar to young adults who did not make such promises as teens and are less likely to use contraception or protection when they do become sexually active.

A position paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine published in the Journal of Adolescent Health discussed two reviews that evaluated the evidence supporting abstinence-only programs and comprehensive sexuality education programs designed to promote abstinence. As the authors note, “Neither review found scientific evidence that abstinence-only programs demonstrate efficacy in delaying initiation of sexual intercourse. Likewise, research on adolescents taking virginity pledges suggests that failure rates for the pledge are very high, especially when biological outcomes such as STIs are considered. Although it has been suggested that abstinence-only education is 100% effective, these studies suggest that, in actual practice, efficacy may approach zero.”

If you are a parent or guardian seeking advice on how to talk to your kids about sex, we have several books that help guide those conversations.  Here are those recommendations:

For Goodness Sex by Al Vernacchino

For Goodness Sex by Al Vernacchino

“Al Vernacchio has written a wonderful book that includes numerous model answers and a new way to think about adolescent sexuality—as a force for good in life rather than simply a problem to be dealt with.”

— Leslie M. Kantor, MPH, Vice President of Education, Planned Parenthood Federation of America 

S.E.X. The all-you-need-to-know sexuality guide to get you through your teens and twenties by Heather Corinna

"S.E.X. is, literally, a lifesaving book. Corinna's vast commonsense wisdom -- especially on topics relating to gender roles, queer sexuality and gender identities -- has the potential to improve the physical and emotional health of anyone who reads it, and to help heal our culture's unhealthy, conflicted approaches to sex, sexuality and gender."

Lisa JervisBitch magazine co-founder

200 Words to Help You Talk About Sexuality & Gender, by Kate Sloan

"200 Words to Help You Talk About Sexuality Gender] makes an excellent gift or an excellent accompaniment to sex education materials whether or not you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community."

- GeekDad

This article on comprehensive sex education has been reposted from ASHA's website ashasexualhealth.org.