Sex Education In Traditional Societies Essay Research

Sex Education In Traditional Societies Essay, Research Paper


This paper discusses sex education in traditional societies, rumors surrounding the topic, the results from different techniques and the different views of each. Five countries were chosen for this analysis and were chosen based on their economy, culture, and availability of information. The countries are the United States, England, Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden. It is measured by the rate of teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in teens.


Sex education deals with all aspects of human sexuality. It is often used when talking about educating young people. It covers topics such as reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), contraceptives, relationships, behavior patterns, cultural issues, and gender issues. Sex education can be taught in many ways. Children learn about sex from their peers, their parents, schools, and sometimes church. Television has a large impact on children in developed countries, especially in the United States.

There are varied opinions on the topic of sex education. Many people feel that educating teens on contraceptives makes them more likely to have premarital sex, but despite this “nine out of ten parents want their children to receive it.” (Haffner and Sowell, 1993:426) Some opinions are for sex education while some are against it. A recent change is that many groups who were against sex education have moved toward a very conservative program supporting abstinence.


England is trying to drastically cut their rate of teen pregnancy. By the year 2000, England wants its pregnancy rate for teens 13 to 15 to be down to 4.7 per 1,000 girls from its rate of 9.5 in 1989. Their plan was to increase the number of family planning clinics for young people and to increase the sex education program in schools. The annual report showed a drop from 10.1 to 9.3 between 1990 and 1991. This is the lowest rate in the 10 previous years. Extra services and education seemed to be the major cause of this success. (Malcolm, 1994:1149)

Even with this decrease, the important second part falling apart. Proper sex education in schools is having major opposition by moralists who believe that more sex education leads to more sex. In 1991 and 1992 the Education Secretary removed contraception, abortion, and AIDS/HIV from the secondary school science curriculum and gave parents the right to remove their children from the program without penalty. Even worse, he proposed that the children must be separated by categories of awareness so “the innocent remain innocent.” (Malcolm, 1994:1149)

A second setback on England’s health campaign has been the sex-obsessed media and tabloids. It took the tabloids less than two months to stop the printing of a health pamphlet on sex education directed at 16 to 25 year olds by calling it “smutty.” Some of the education ministers believe more education leads to more sex. On the contrary, a National Survey of Sexual Attitudes found that not only did the education improve protection it also delayed the age which people experienced their first sexual experience. (Malcolm, 1994:1149)

A study of 19,000 men and women aged 16 to 59, showed that sex education programs did delay the onset of sexual activity and also increased the use of the condom during first intercourse. In addition Douglas Kirby, director of research for ETR Associates, pointed out that earlier studies showed that school programs did not hasten the onset of sex or increase its frequency. In fact, some programs may delay both. Kirby wrote: “There is not enough direct evidence to determine whether any of these education programs significantly decreases rates of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, or HIV infection. If some do delay the onset of intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners, or increase the use of protection, then logically they should also have an effect on these endpoints. What this study does show is that, while not all sex and AIDS education programs work, some do. If effective programs were implemented more broadly, they could have a modest, but significant, impact on reducing sexual risk-taking behavior.” (Health Facts, 1995:p6)


Sweden is very open about its sex education programs. Since mandating it in 1956, sex education is part of every school. From 1975 to 1985, the U.S.’s rate of birth control rose 43 percent, while it fell 30 percent in Sweden. Education there obviously is a major cause. Sexual activity is initiated much earlier than in other countries. By 16 one-third of girls have experienced sexual intercourse, yet the pregnancy rate is much lower that the other countries except for the Netherlands. (Jones et al., 1985)

Even in Sweden where attitudes about sex are very open, young people wish to keep their sex lives personal and private. Swedish clinics are forbidden to inform parents of adolescents request for birth control. Contraceptives are offered free of charge to all patients.(Jones et al., 1985)


Canada has the latest first sexual experience of all the countries. At the ages of 16 to 17, only one out of five girls is sexually active. Canada’s clinical system is sparse and not as private as in Sweden. Many of the doctor’s require parent consent before prescribing contraceptives to teens under 18. All the clinical expenses are free but the prescribed supplies must be purchased from pharmacies. Teenage pregnancy rates reflect these policies and are much high in Canada than in Sweden. The education about sexually transmitted diseases is poor. Pregnancy and STDs in Canada are second only to the United States.

One recent program based on abstinence until marriage has had some effect on high school students. Twenty-three year old Rebecca Morcos has introduced a 90 minute presentation to many high schools that present all of the advantages of staying sexually inactive until marriage. The numbers on its effectiveness are not yet published but she broken through the stereotype of old, grim, prissy, and out of touch virginity enthusiasts.(Blyfield, 1995: p2)


The Netherlands has the highest level of education and accessibility of clinics and it is reflected greatly by the very low pregnancy rate among teens. Patients are offered the choice between their family practitioner and family oriented clinics. As in Sweden, doctors are forbidden to disclose any information to parents of teens. All contraception options are free of charge.

The United States

“In this country we profess great concerns about protecting our children from the harm that might come to them through the exposure to unsuitable information.”(Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 1993: p1) Parents often overprotect their children to the point that they endanger them by withholding information vital to them making proper decisions about their actions. Most sex education programs in the United States are geared only toward “disaster prevention.” Many of the programs only discuss the sexually anatomy and reproduction, saying nothing of love or relationships.

With 21 states mandating sex education and 23 encouraging it, one would think that teens are being educated about sex in school. Contrary to that, recent studies show that less than 10 percent of teens receive comprehensive sexuality education in school.(Haffner and Sowell, 1993: p426) Most of the programs face only the negative effects of sex and none of the positive ones such as the pleasures. Less than one in ten classrooms discuss sexual behaviors. Schools need to turn away from being conservative. One ignorant superintendent said, “The utter certainty and stridency of those who are pushing sex education programs contrasts sharply with their factual evidence to its effectiveness.”(Haffner and Sowell, 1993: p426)

With such poor educational programs, teens must turn to other ways to learn about sex. The media is the most controversial of these methods. Fully 49 percent of African Americans, 27 percent of Whites, and 29 percent of Latinos reported watching talk shows daily. A monitoring report showed that teen sex was the topic of as many as 21 shows in 20 days. Shows with topics such as “I slept with my step-dad” along with shows on gays, transsexuals, and sex in the schools, show where teens sometimes get their false beliefs on their own sexuality.(CQ Researcher, 1995: p1022)

With the schools teaching mostly pro-abstinence programs, students sometimes turn to each other for information on sex. Over 80 percent of all people leave their teens already experiencing sex, the programs that promote abstinence helped very little. Education about contraceptives and AIDS is limited to very few schools. School leaders are left to make decisions that effect the students’ sex life with pressure from groups that want opposing programs. Some groups propose that the education should strictly promote abstinence. They believe dealing with such topics as condoms and STDs send mixed messages. Other groups believe that the education should prepare the student for sex yet promote delaying it until marriage. Even others oppose the promotion of abstinence saying that it associates fears and shame with sex. Most the debates occur between the conservatives and the moderates though. With nine of ten parents wanting sex to be taught in schools clearly the issue needs to be resolved.(Berne and Huberman, 1995: p229)

In some inner-city schools where sex education is not taught, 10 percent of mothers giving birth are under 18. While at an other school of 303 students put through a sex education program, one third less became pregnant even though sexual frequency remained the same.


It is obvious that there is a need for sex education, and many programs do effectively lower the rate of pregnancy and STDs. The question facing todays educators should be on the type of program most affective. Abstinence-until-marriage curricula proved ineffective when tested. No differences were shown in the attitudes of participants and the control group. Abstinence-plus programs including a lesson on contraception showed that first sexual encounters were delayed and that the pregnancy rate was down compared to the control group.(Berne and Huberman, 1995: p229)

A review of 23 studies found that affective sex education programs share these characteristics:

1. Narrow focus on reducing sexual risk-taking behaviors that may lead to HIV/AIDS infection or pregnancy.

2. Social learning theories as a foundation for program development, focusing on recognizing social influences, changing individual values, changing group norms, and building social skills.

3. Experimental activities designed to personalize basic, accurate information about the risks of unprotected intercourse and methods of avoiding unprotected intercourse.

4. Activities that address social or media influences on sexual behaviors.

[DeCarlo, 1994: p3]

Many sex education programs start at an early age. They are divided into categories that are set up to answer the question, “What should a child know by this age?” Starting at age five and going through to adolescents, the program covers all aspects of sexuality. By 13 years of age one should know all about sex and the consequences of it, including the use of contraceptives.


This paper discussed sex education in traditional societies, rumors surrounding the topic, the results from different techniques and the different views of each. Five countries were chosen for this analysis and were chosen based on their economy, culture, and availability of information. The countries were the United States, England, Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden. It was measured by the rate of teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in teens.



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