Henry: Abstinence-only sex education is damaging, excludes LGBTQ+ people

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Collegian | Chloe Leline

(Graphic Illustration by Chloe Leline | The Collegian)

Brendan Henry, Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Young adults have sex before marriage. Believe it or not, it is a common occurrence, especially when leaving home for the first time and being on one’s own — it is a time not only to learn about a specific field of interest in a university setting but also to learn about and explore the field of sexuality.

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This leads to the question of why abstinence-only sex education is still a thing.

There are still many states that push for abstinence-only sex education. Students in some of these states were not educated on anything sex-related beyond simply not having it. The issue is it does nothing to properly educate the people who want to have sex before marriage.

“The data says that (abstinence-only education) doesn’t work,” said Allison Goar, a Colorado State University ethnic and gender studies senior instructor. “In jurisdictions like states or counties or school districts that practice abstinence-only sex ed, … we see higher instances of teen pregnancy (and) higher instances of STIs among youth.”

According to Goar, this is not the only issue. Other issues, such as the spread of misinformation regarding sex and sexually transmitted diseases, become a problem as well in communities wherein either abstinence-only sex education or no sex education is provided. Many people are not getting prepped for sexual success.

Unfortunately, the federal government is still funding some of these abstinence-only education programs. School districts are free to choose what they teach regarding sex, but the fact that these programs are still being encouraged through federal financing is concerning.

“The only way to really fix the issue is to educate everyone. Give everyone the instruction they need to succeed, and account for both the heteronormative community and the LGBTQ+ community.”

Sure, abstinence-only education is the product of a conservative mindset, but thinking beyond one’s own values to help others who hold different views would be beneficial. If a conservative community wants to teach abstinence, they should also inform students on how to use protection and get consent if they so choose to engage in sexual activity. Why not cover all the bases to help everyone instead of attempting (and failing) to assimilate everyone into a single mindset?

While actual comprehensive sex education is proven to work better in reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, it also has its flaws.

“One of the biggest critiques of people receiving comprehensive sex ed is that it’s very heteronormative, that it’s assuming that men are going to have sex with women and women are going to have sex with men,” Goar said. “So a lot of the LGBTQ community doesn’t receive relevant sex education.”

Sex education is a difficult topic for many. Some parents hold different values than schools, schools worry about parental reactions and teachers do not always know how to teach it to students. In a country with incredibly diverse cultures, it is nearly impossible to please everyone.

The only way to really fix the issue is to educate everyone. Give everyone the instruction they need to succeed, and account for both the heteronormative community and the LGBTQ+ community. Students could be taught that, of course, abstaining from sex is the only way to be certain that all risks are avoided, but they should also be educated on the ways to stay safe when choosing to have sex.

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CSU has a diverse student body, so there is a likely chance that some students received abstinence-only sex education. It is not too late to educate yourself on the topic of sex, and there are great resources, like Planned Parenthood, that can help you along your sexual journey.

Reach Brendan Henry at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @BrendanHenryRMC.