By Camira Powell /Policymic /Originally published August 2012
If you believe comprehensive sex education can actually make a difference in how kids think about sex, the CDC has the numbers to back you up. A recent study conducted by the organization reveals that the percentage of teens engaging in oral sex has decreased between 2002 and 2010. This trend is accompanied by a decrease in vaginal intercourse among teens, and the lowest teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. in 40 years.
As much as these numbers are cause for celebration, the fight for adequate sex education in schools in lieu of abstinence-only education has not been given any thought this election season. When first elected to office, the Obama administration provided more funds to programs that took an evidence-based approach to teaching sex and health education. Evidence-based programs give students the facts about things like sexual intercourse, STIs and pregnancy prevention using contraception. However, with the passing of his Affordable Care Act, Obama is now backing conservative abstinence-only programs in public secondary schools. Romney, on the other hand, has remained mum on the issue in recent months, though he has publicly supported abstinence-only sex education in the past.
With studies showing time and time again that students with comprehensive sex ed are 60% less likely to get pregnant (or to get someone else pregnant) than those with abstinence-only education, it becomes clear why this issue should be given more attention. Although this issue does not seem as pressing as the budget deficit or unrest in the Middle East, it is a topic worthy of discussion, given that the CDC reports that half of all new STIs occur in people ages 15 – 24.
It must be said the results are based on over 6,000 voluntary interviews with young men and women between 15 and 24, and unfortunately, this age group is not known for being the most honest when it comes to their sexual history.
Regardless, it seems like teens may be turning to oral sex as a safer alternative to vaginal intercourse. However, it is often a precursor to vaginal intercourse, and there is no way for researchers to determine the wait-time between when teens engage in oral sex before intercourse.
Nonetheless, this study illustrates that the education students receive about the connections between sexual activity and health can make a difference in their behavior. If the two presidential candidates are really concerned with the health and safety of American youth, than it’s time they start talking –– and doing –– something about it.