Excerpt from Cassandra Hough:
Although classified as education in sexual “health,” the comprehensive sex education offered at the primary, secondary, and collegiate levels reflects a very limited understanding of human health. There is no discussion of the emotional and psychological effects of sex before marriage and of sexual promiscuity and experimentation. These programs also aim at teaching something else besides avoiding health risks. The author of You’re Teaching My Child What?: A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child, Miriam Grossman, M.D., argues that comprehensive sex education courses do not actually aim at preventing disease and risk so much as they are a social movement for moving society in a certain direction.
That direction is not the proliferation of healthy, high-quality marriages.
Sex Education Does Not Prepare Students for Love and Marriage
The comprehensive sex education of today’s primary, secondary, and collegiate institutions may purport to aim at sexual risk reduction, but it effectively instructs young men and women in sexual risk-taking. It sets up abstinence as an unrealistic ideal and neglects adequate discussion of the importance of sexual restraint and the attitudes, behaviors, and environments that best enable young people to practice that restraint. It encourages condom use as a means of reducing risk while simultaneously normalizing behaviors that make the incidence of sex more frequent and that create environments of increased vulnerability. In reducing sexual safety and responsibility to the use of a condom and the acquisition of consent, comprehensive sex education sends the inaccurate and dangerous message that these two precautions allow one to have lots of sex without consequences.
As if this weren’t bad enough, comprehensive sex education programs like HiTOPS and Teen PEP regularly disconnect sex from the context of a committed, loving, exclusive relationship (i.e. marriage). This saturates the young imagination and whets the appetite not for a relationship but for sex itself, disconnected from any person or commitment of love. It is no wonder that the hookup/friends-with-benefits/anything-goes sexual culture has become normalized among today’s emerging adults. Contemporary sex education prepares young men and women not for the fullness of friendship, intimacy and love, but for casual relationships and recreational sex.
This is not simply inadequate education in sex and relationships. This form of sex education is definitively anti-marriage (and this, without even considering how such programs define marriage itself). As Rhoades and Stanley found, the quality of marriage is adversely associated with having sex with someone other than one’s spouse, with having multiple sex partners, and with having a marriage begin as a hookup. Other studies have shown these or similar premarital behaviors to be associated with other adverse marital outcomes such as higher incidence of divorce and infidelity and lower quality of health and happiness. Although marriage may be far in the future for a twelve-year-old or even a twenty-year-old, comprehensive sex education programs at the primary, secondary, and collegiate levels do young men and women a disservice by training them year after year in attitudes and behaviors that undercut their chances of future marital success.
It is encouraging that the pre-marriage courses typically offered engaged couples seem to have a positive effect on early marriage. However, if these courses follow the trend of comprehensive and abstinence programs alike, their effects will fade over time. What then? Probably, these young couples will fall back on the understanding of intimacy and relationships that was taught to them for over a decade.
For my own part, learning to live out a commitment to abstinence brought with it an education in something much greater: chastity. It was this education that best prepared me for married life; for it established an understanding of and appreciation for the unique relationship that is marriage—and it cultivated habits that directly support marital fidelity and selfless love.
Comprehensive sex education provides none of this, instead offering a most disappointing and weak foundation for any committed relationship, least of all marriage. Our educational institutions would do well to consider how comprehensive sex education jeopardizes young men’s and women’s futures and launches them into greater, not less, risk.
Cassandra Hough is Founder and Senior Adviser to the Love and Fidelity Network.