Get the Facts
Sexual health is a major, positive part of personal health and healthy living. Here are some facts that support sexual health education.
Sexual health education does not teach students how to have sex.
FACT: There are a number of confusions about sexual health education, the worst one of which is defining it as sex education. Sex is used in our culture as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Sexual health is a much broader issue and includes talking about values, decision-making, biology, emotions, gender identity, and sexual feelings. Classes do not include teaching about sexual techniques. Sexual health education emphasizes that abstinence is the best behaviour choice for adolescents, and that the next best alternatives are postponement of sexual intercourse, limiting the number of sexual partners, and the effective use of protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Teaching sexual health in school does not replace it from being taught at home.
FACT: Various studies have shown that sexual health education programs result in increased parent-child communication about various topics concerning sexual health.
Comprehensive sexual health education does not lead to increased rates of sexual behaviour in adolescents.
FACT: A World Health Organization literature review concluded that there is “no support for the contention that sex education encourages experimentation or increased activity. If any effect is observed, almost without exception, it is in the direction of postponed initiation of sexual intercourse and/or effective use of contraceptives.”
Students in elementary are not too young to receive or inquire about information on sexual health.
FACT: In every subject, students are given a foundation in the early school years that is expanded upon in later years. Children are often curious about issues related to sexual health and need accurate, age-appropriate information. Students in elementary learn about physical, emotional and social changes that occur during puberty, how to care for and protect their body, the basic components of the reproductive system, fetal development, and risk factors associated with exposure to blood borne infections.
Comprehensive sexual health education does teach abstinence.
FACT: Comprehensive Sexual Health Education stresses abstinence as the preferred sexual behaviour amongst teens. Abstaining from sexual activity that involves exchange of bodily fluids and/or genital to genital or skin to genital contact is the only way to be absolutely sure of avoiding the risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Postponement of initial sexual activity until maturity, adherence to one sexual partner and protected sexual intercourse are sequentially offered as the next best alternatives. The programs that have been most effective in helping young people to abstain discuss both abstinence and contraception.
Condoms are very effective in preventing pregnancy and STI.
FACT: Studies have repeatedly shown that condoms used consistently and correctly offer a high degree of protection against pregnancy and STI and HIV. The most common cause for failure is improper or inconsistent use. Using a condom is 10,000 times safer than not using a condom at all. That is why including condom instruction in sexual health education is so important.
Kids may not pick up what they need to know.
FACT: Kids are exposed to commercial and exploitative messages about sex and sexuality. Most of these messages are made in the interest of advertisers and do not promote healthy relationships or health sexuality. Kids may also pick up misinformation from their peers. Lastly, kids may come to believe there is something wrong with feeling comfortable about sex and sexuality from the adults in their life.
If you talk to kids about sex they are less likely to experiment.
FACT: Children who are well informed and comfortable in talking about sex and sexuality are the least likely to have intercourse when they are adolescents. It appears that knowledge does not lead to risky behaviour, whereas a lack of information poses greater risks.
Students are exposed to sex and sexuality whether we talk about it or not.
FACT: Children learn from us by observing our behaviour. We become models of how to be healthy adults, to have relationships, to show affection, and to resolve conflict. When we avoid talking about sexual health we give children the message that this topic is not proper to discuss, to learn about, to have questions about.
It is not better to avoid teaching sexual health, even if you don't feel completely comfortable with the topic.
FACT: Sexual health can be a difficult topic for anyone to discuss. Knowing where to look for information is an important part of feeling comfortable. If you feel you are unable to comprehensively teach a difficult subject because of ethical, moral or religious differences, you might consider involving someone else to help teach this topic. If you are unsure about a question, be sure to find the correct answer and get back to the students. Don’t ever feel you have to be an expert, no one knows all the answers.