So, let’s talk about sex. Yeah, sex, I know. When it comes to this uncomfortable and intensely intimate topic, it’s not easy to talk about sex with parents and other adults. A Planned Parenthood study found that half of all teens feel uncomfortable talking with their parents about sex. In fact, 34% of teens say they’ve never or only once talked with their mom or dad about sex.
But considering 57% of high school graduates and 76% of college students have had sex, as a generation… well we’re doing it. And that’s okay.
What’s not okay? The state of sex education for our generation.
Matthiesen of GreatSchools explains that many parents assume that they don’t need to talk about sex at home because they believe teens receive sex education at school. The problem is that sex education at school is extremely inadequate.
All states are somehow involved in sex education for public school children. However, the degree of involvement varies greatly. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 39 states and the District of Columbia actually mandate sex education in public schools. Nine states have absolutely no provision for sex education, including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Texas, and Virginia.
Even when sex education is compulsory, the quality and content of the programs range from completely comprehensive sex ed, including reproduction, puberty, contraception, and consent, to abstinence-only education.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and policy organization, 29 states require that sex-ed classes stress abstinence; within that, 19 states require that teachers emphasize the importance of saving sex for marriage. And only 20 states require information on condoms or contraception. Meanwhile, only nine states require inclusive discussion of sexual orientation in sex-ed classes.
My favorite sex-ed stat is the fact that only 17 states require sex education to be medically, factually, or technically accurate. This statistic poses so many questions for me about the sex education in the other 28 states that somehow doesn’t have to be “medically accurate”…? All information taught to children should be true, no matter the beliefs of the educators themselves. Schools and individual states should not get to decide what information and how factual the information they teach Gen Z is. We deserve to know the truth.
So why is the quality of sex-ed so important?
Comprehensive sex-ed doesn’t just teach about abstinence; it also teaches about condom and contraceptive methods to reduce the risk of STI and unintended pregnancy. Indeed, comprehensive sex-ed covers a broad range of issues relating to the physical, biological, emotional, and social parts of sexuality. It provides honest information to young people about sexuality and helps diminish the impact of negative sexual messages or stereotypes often found in the media or among their peers.
Furthermore, sex-ed empowers youth to make responsible choices that protect their health, well-being, and academic achievement.
While often considered a taboo topic, research published by the Public Library of Science shows that comprehensive sex education makes students feel more informed, allowing them to make safer choices, which leads to healthier outcomes. This results in fewer unplanned pregnancies and more protection against sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Exposure to comprehensive sex-ed has been proven to lower the likelihood of teens becoming sexually active, increase the likelihood that they will use contraception, and help prevent sexual violence.
The Problem with Gen Z’s Sex-Ed
Since parents and schools aren’t giving all the facts to Gen Z, we get our sex-ed from different places.
Crystal Abidin from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia found that girls get the majority of their information from social media influencers, while boys piece things together through adult cartoon shows such as Family Guy and American Dad. That doesn’t spell great things for the quality of our sex education.
There are both pros and cons to learning about sex from TV, social media, and the Internet as a whole.
Pros: We’re exposed to more diverse viewpoints, which is really important especially concerning sexual and gender identity. We’re also able to access vital information, like how to be safe. We do not let our schools or parents control our sources of information, or let them be the only sources.
Cons: There is a lot of misinformation on the Internet, and the effects on our viewpoints are surprising. Some sex-ed misinformation that recently came to light emerged from a viral trend on Tiktok: a massive prank on boys orchestrated by girls on the social media platform, convincing them that all girls had penises that we had to cut off once a month. And of course, boys fell for it. But the scariest thing? Girls believed it too! No wonder #cutitoff had 32.9 million views.
So where should you go?
Comprehensive sex-ed is important, and when Gen Z can’t get it from their schools or parents, they turn to other sources. Because Gen Z has a lot of information on the tips of their fingers, good and bad, we have to know where to look. That’s why included at the end of this article are helpful resources for Gen Z to learn about sex-ed.
Having sex is okay, and admitting that you have sex is important. But Gen Z needs to create a dialogue, with each other and our parents. Gen Z needs to do better than our elders. We need to pass laws to ensure that everyone has equal access to comprehensive sex-ed information. We need to foster conversations about gender and sexual identity, how to say no to sex, and if we do choose to have it, how to practice safe sex. Let’s admit it: we have sex. Now, let’s learn about it properly.
Cecilia Granda-Scott is 16 years old. She is Cuban-American, and was born and raised in Miami. Ceci is a junior at Ransom Everglades Upper School in Miami, Florida. She identifies as bisexual and came out in 8th grade. A swimmer since 5th grade, she is on the Varsity Swimming and Waterpolo teams. Her more recent passion is competing on the Speech and Debate team in Public Forum Debate, an activity in which she devotes hours too. Ceci loves researching topics that interest her for hours, and plans to be a lawyer in the future. She hopes to share relevant and important topics with the rest of Gen Z, and aims to inspire others to feel the same way. She is an avid reader and would definitely call herself a nerd!