Poor sex education has devastating health effects, contributes to rape culture

Credit: Paola Mathus/ Credit: Paola Mathus/
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Last month, a 30-year-old woman took a pill that significantly reduced the effects of her ovarian cancer. Another woman who took the same pill no longer suffers from anemia, or iron deficiency. A 16-year-old girl took this pill and no longer has acne. Another teenage girl took this pill as treatment for a cyst in her breast.

This pill isn’t some magical, new medical discovery: it’s birth control. And thanks to President Donald Trump, who signed a rule last Friday, employers are no longer required to pay for birth control if they have a religious and moral objection. While birth control provides many benefits outside of preventing pregnancy, most Americans do not know these benefits due to a lack of sex education. The lack of sex education in America causes the average citizen to be poorly educated on matters of women’s health care — and consent.

Sex education is not mandated throughout the United States, and the ways states implement sex education varies greatly across the country. According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, only 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education, and only 13 states require it to be medically accurate if provided. So, in only 12 states are students certain to receive medically accurate information. Even more appalling is that three states require that information on sexual orientation be negative, and discourage students from identifying as anything other than straight. Only 20 states require that information on contraceptives is provided, leaving many students ill-equipped to make decisions about sex.

The lack of accurate sex education causes Americans to be uneducated on women’s health care. As mentioned above, birth control provides many health benefits besides preventing pregnancy, but most women never learn this because few states require that information on contraceptives is provided. Birth control can be life-changing for simple matters such as acne or menstrual pain, but it can also help women who suffer from ovarian cysts or endometriosis. States should not value preventing teenagers from having sex more than providing women with the health care they deserve.

Poor sex education in America also results in many Americans remaining uneducated on consent. Also according to the Guttmacher Institute, less than the half of the states require that education on consent is provided. In a country where someone is raped every 98 seconds, consent education should be mandatory. Rape is an ongoing problem at college campuses as well — here at Carnegie Mellon, 26 percent of undergraduate women are raped during their collegiate career — yet many students aren’t educated about consent until they arrive on campus. Educating children on consent would help lower sexual assaults and help victims seek help, but instead, most Americans are taught to be shameful of sex regardless of whether they gave consent. Once again, the state values preventing teenagers from having sex more than helping prevent rape.

Sex education needs to be transformed in America. With advancements in medicine have come more advanced ways to prevent pregnancy and research has shown that abstinence-only education does not work. Instead, sex education needs to be redesigned to discuss reproductive health and consent.