The Sex Education False Dichotomy

by | Jul 16, 2005

MSNBC.com is reporting, “a leading group of pediatricians says teenagers need access to birth control and emergency contraception, not the abstinence-only approach to sex education favored by religious groups and President Bush.” I think both sides are wrong. It’s a parent’s responsibility to teach their kids about sex, not the government’s. More than that, it’s […]

MSNBC.com is reporting, “a leading group of pediatricians says teenagers need access to birth control and emergency contraception, not the abstinence-only approach to sex education favored by religious groups and President Bush.”

I think both sides are wrong. It’s a parent’s responsibility to teach their kids about sex, not the government’s. More than that, it’s a parent’s responsibility to teach their kids how to love life. Loving life means enjoying every aspect of life, and recognizing (as one comes to maturity) that sexual behavior is a celebration of life.

The social liberals want kids to have access to sex, paid for by the government if necessary, without really understanding what sex is about. The social conservatives generally just want sex repressed altogether, in hopes that the subject will go away. The answer doesn’t lie in politics, and it doesn’t lie in simply encouraging parents to talk with their kids about sex. First and foremost, parents need to live happy lives, as a role model for their children. If parents do their jobs right, kids will enter young adulthood with a sense that it’s good to experience fun and pleasure, but only in a context where thought and self-responsibility are involved. With sex, this means that it’s a good idea to know something about your partner and why you want to take this important step of having sex with him, rather than merely acting on hormones or pressure.

Both the liberals and the conservatives put pressure on kids that make it harder to grow into sexuality in a healthy way. The liberals impose pressure by providing the bare, clinical facts and the contraceptive methods without any reference whatsoever to ideas, thinking or values. (Heaven forbid a young person be encouraged to make judgments and assessments about behavior and other people!) The conservatives want to suppress not only government funding of sex, but also any discussion of sex at all, usually within families as well. In fact, more and more conservatives are happy to use the taxpayer dime to proclaim their views about sex, just as liberals did in their own era.

Pretending that sex doesn’t exist creates pressure on kids, because it creates an aura of secrecy and shame. Considering only the clinical or contraceptive aspects–and even shoving these down kids’ throats before they are ready, on a taxpayers’ dime, no less–creates an impression that, “You should be sexual now or else there’s something wrong with you.”

I’m sick of these same old “debates” about sex education, over and over, decade after decade. Both sides are wrong, and most people sense it. Drop the politics and figure out how to teach your kids to be happy, in rational and self-responsible ways. Denial didn’t work and government subsidizing doesn’t work either. Teaching kids how to think and enjoy life represents the best sex education in the world. Most of the rest will follow. Young adults who feel they should never settle for the mediocre or unhealthy in life will apply this to sex–and only then will they benefit from knowledge about contraception and all the rest.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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