Abstinence-Only Is a Failure to Educate

Editor’s Note: The following post was written by Julie, one of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s interns. Julie is an Arizona State University student majoring in biological anthropology and women and gender studies. She has a passion for women’s reproductive health, and hopes one day to pursue medical school and become a provider for an organization like Planned Parenthood.

college studentsHow well do college students feel their sex education prepared them for navigating relationships in college and coming into their sexuality?

Though many young people begin dating in high school, college is the time when a lot of relationships flourish and students begin to explore their own sexuality. The experience can be exhilarating, like navigating a battlefield of hookups and breakups without the threat of a curfew.

Abstinence-only programs fail students, who need accurate information to make informed decisions to protect their health.

Facing the dating scene in college can be scary as well, especially for those who didn’t have the chance to learn about sexuality or how to form healthy relationships while still at home. Many schools across the country teach only abstinence to students, and this can leave them ill-prepared to make healthy decisions when they face real-world situations.

Bailey W., an ASU women and gender studies student, describes her experience with sex ed in primary school as anything but comprehensive. Her school provided the abstinence-only education common in schools across Arizona and many other areas of the country. These programs advocate for heterosexual, monogamous marriages as the only appropriate settings for sexual interaction.

For Bailey, this created an unhealthy mental perception of sex that followed her into college. “I felt guilty about my sexuality because I was always taught that there are only two options: Don’t be sexual and stay safe, or be sexual and put yourself at extreme risk of ruining your whole life.” She admitted she didn’t know much about birth control until she came to college, and her first boyfriend basically taught her about her own anatomy. Continue reading

Starting the Conversation: Talking About Sex and Relationships With Your Teen

mother-and-daughterTalking about sex is never easy, but it can be easier.

A survey released last year from Planned Parenthood and Family Circle magazine, with assistance from the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health, found that teens are much less comfortable talking with their parents about topics pertaining to sexuality than their parents are talking with them about the same topics.

Planned Parenthood Arizona will be hosting workshops in Phoenix and Tucson to educate parents on how to have “the talk” with their children.

However, when teens are able to have open, ongoing conversations with their parents about relationships and sex, it makes a difference. Studies show that teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex wait longer to begin having sex and are more likely to use condoms and other birth control methods when they do become sexually active. Further, when teens are comfortable talking with their parents about relationships and sex, parents are better able to help and support them in the decisions they make.

There is no better time than now to get the conversation started, and Let’s Talk month does just that …

Background on Let’s Talk Month: For those who might not be familiar, Let’s Talk Month is a time during which sexuality education providers and advocates across the country encourage young people and parents to communicate with one another about sexuality. Sexuality comprises a wide range of topics, including relationships, anatomy and body image, reproduction, gender and sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of sex education, offers resources, guidance, and encouragement to teens and parents who are unsure about how to talk about relationships and sex. Continue reading