The cover story in Sunday's New York Times Magazine profiles a Pennsylvania sex-ed teacher who has abandoned the usual "sex is dangerous, don't do it, but if you must, use a condom approach." Instead, Al Vernacchio aims for candor, telling tells his ninth- and 12th-graders that sex can be pleasurable. For homework, he has even asked students to interview their parents about how they learned about sex. Meanwhile, a University of Massachusetts professor is making news with a study comparing American and Dutch teens. The Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of teen pregnancy in the world, and parents there tend to have more open attitudes about teen sexuality. Is it time the U.S. stopped focusing so much on abstinence?
Focusing on abstinence is still best: "It's appalling" and "incredibly sad that these young people, with the connivance of parents, apparently, are being schooled in a sexual repertoire and vocabulary that would not be out of place in a brothel or on a porn set," says Carolyn Moynihan at MercatorNet.com. These misguided educators are showing kids pictures of genitalia, supposedly to help "desensitize" them. But what kids need is a "strong message" that they should wait until after high school for sex — or better yet, until marriage.
"So this is what they mean by 'comprehensive sex education'?"
We need a better approach to sex ed: "Let's face it," says Betsy Shaw at Baby Center. "Abstinence-only [sex ed] doesn't seem to be cutting it." As a parent, it's easy to be so concerned with your child having sex that you forget that sex "isn't inherently bad." We need a healthier attitude. A professional, well-informed teacher can be help teens gain a comprehensive understanding of the birds and the bees. "Fully informed is fully prepared."
"Sex education just got sexier"
And it's better they learn at school than from porn: "If teenagers don't learn much about sex beyond how to use a condom from trusted adults, they're going to turn to porn," says Amanda Marcotte at Slate. Porn has its purposes, but sex education isn't among them. When young men learn about sex from porn, they tend to be inconsiderate lovers who know little about pleasing a woman. And young women are left not really enjoying sex and developing unhealthy attitudes about their bodies.
"Kids are learning sex from porn"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
- How I dug myself out of debt — and stayed that way
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 10 things you need to know today: September 17, 2014
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
Subscribe to the Week