Exploring the sexuality of children and adolescents is a question of defining the boundaries of morality and openness to the outside world. Virtue and purity have long existed as equivalent concepts, leading to several problems: molestation, pedophilia, early sexual disease, and pregnancy. Attempts to keep children away from sex only had the opposite effect, making sex a frowned-upon topic. Since the advent of the sexual revolution, attitudes toward sex education have changed somewhat, but not enough (Cortínez-López et al. 145). I am convinced that the inclusion of sex education will change the sexuality of children and adolescents for the better. Those who oppose sex education make the main mistake of thinking that such classes teach sex or corrupt children. It is fundamentally wrong because lessons solve problems that result from a lack of knowledge about sex. In this essay, I argue that sex education will change attitudes toward sexuality, reduce problems, and have a much more significant impact on adolescents’ awareness.
Background of the Issue
To begin, I provide a brief essay on the issue of sex education and the background of the topic of sex. Absolutely everyone deals with sexual problems in one way or another because they are about the process itself and other aspects (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights 10). I’m sure that many children were not talked about sex freely or even forbidden to read about it. For example, I am talking about the experience in Muslim countries, where religious beliefs are placed above girls’ health and where almost everyone is still subjected to punitive gynecology. It is a prime example of what the lack of adequate perception of sex has led to. The tabooing of sexual topics leads to a significant problem: ignorance about sex, pregnancy, abortion, and disease. Moreover, parents often carry that ideology to their children, so there continues to be a cult of purity as the only salvation of the soul from moral offenses.
It is fundamentally wrong to think that sex education in schools will molest children or force them to have sex. Since 2017, UNESCO has published reports on sex education that provide statistical information about the positive impact of such lessons (UNESCO 6). I agree with this and believe that sex education will take the education of children to another level and solve the ethical aspects of this issue. Philosophy looks at sex from the perspective of the various factors of sexuality formation. It critically examines the possibility of undermining moral principles (prostitution) and the impact of celibacy on life. I believe that introducing compulsory sex education lessons in schools is one way to get at the truth about the philosophy of sex.
How many people were told about sex by their parents, and how many listened to their advice rather than brushed it off? I think this is not a large percentage, or rather the conservatism that accompanied our parents for various reasons (the Cold War, communist ideas, religion) blocked helpful information about sex. In many ways, sexuality and sex, according to sex-positive philosophers, is a way of satisfying needs. In today’s world, sex education is also a way of moving away from traditional imposed ideas and toward an understanding of the philosophy of sex as another essential part of being human.
First, sex education in schools is about consent and the metaphysical definition of sex. The incidence of pedophilia and rape continues to be high, despite the activities of police and legal figures. Moreover, rape is the subject of debate about who is to blame and why the victim is incorrect. Public censure results from a lack of knowledge about the victim’s behavior after the rape and dehumanizes the rapist (Dimmock and Fisher 177). Sex education influences teenagers’ awareness and teaches them that victims are never at fault and it is wrong to blame them. Children who understand why strangers should not touch their genitals are more aware and can tell their parents about such situations. It, in turn, will warn others and prevent similar incidents.
As I have argued before, consent is the subject of the metaphysical definition of sex. What is sex, and how can we tell if there has been sexual abuse? Traditionally, sex is defined as PIV (penetration of the male penis into the female vagina), but the heterosexual term cannot be applied to people of any other orientation or gender (Dimmock and Fisher 170). I believe that the definition should be shifted: sex should be called any action in which the genitals are used to satisfy physiological intimacy. Sexual behavior, then, is a set of acts whose purpose is to meet the sexual desire. Understanding one’s wishes and attitudes toward sex is a healthy practice implemented in curricula.
Children are often not exposed to sexual topics before the age of 10, but statistics state that acts of pedophilia are committed against young children every day. One reason for this is a child’s inability to say no or run away because of fear or threats (UNESCO 8). Children who were sexually abused as children are later frequent guests of psychologists to regain their sexuality. Sex education develops an ethical component to sex and notions of consent, the ability to refuse and leave in children. In case of violent behavior, children should not be afraid to tell their loved ones about what happened. Sex education develops in children’s awareness and understanding of sex as a process, the purpose of which is to get pleasure, and violent sex without desire is a crime that must not be silenced.
Now I smoothly turn to my second thesis, at what age it is necessary to develop sexual “etiquette” in children. I believe that sex education should be divided into periods. In the first stage, up to the age of 5, parents should explain: you cannot touch other people’s genitals, other people cannot touch them (even parents, because violence is not excluded in the family). Moreover, the use of diminutives and jokes should be minimized. Opponents of sex education argue that children should not know “adult” words, but if substitutes are used, children may not recognize the abuse and think it is a game (Kollars 2). In the second stage, until the age of 10, children should be involved in elementary and middle school, where children are taught the importance of hygiene, some diseases, and precautions. Also, I am sure that there can be both combined and separate lessons in the first two stages depending on gender. In addition, it is essential to instill in children recognition of gender and that their gender feelings do not override their gender identity.
The third stage of sex education is the longest and covers the entire puberty period from 10 to 19 years of age. At this stage, in-depth topics should be raised: the structure of sexual organs, sexually transmitted diseases, and the basics of sexual behavior, safe techniques, and other issues. During the third level, the emphasis should be placed not only on the physiological reasons but also on the ethical component. Many teenagers are raised in families where they are taught that sex is only for procreation and that preserving virginity leads to a better life (Kollars 2). It is a fundamentally incorrect statement because there is no guarantee that virtue is the key to a good marriage. I would say that it only limits girls and boys, after which sexual problems arise. The third stage of sex education is developing a healthy interpretation of sexuality, understanding sex as a normal physiological process, and forming one’s attitude toward sexual values (Dimmock and Fisher 172). I also draw attention to the fact that everyone’s values are different and respect for them is also a matter of sexual education.
I will now turn to the specific argument for sex education as a public health and bioethical tool. Sexually transmitted diseases are a broad group of viral and bacterial infections that occur in humans after sexual intercourse and manifest themselves in significant deviations to sexual health and health in general. Such diseases include hepatitis, HIV, syphilis, candidiasis, human papillomavirus, and other infections, which inevitably lead to disorders and, in some cases, are fatal. I invite you to see if the introduction of sex education in schools, especially in high schools, will solve the problem of increasing sexual issues in adolescence.
First, I want to share data provided by the United Nations Population Fund. According to November 3, 2021, UNESCO report, Canada has sex education lessons in elementary and secondary schools that do not include the topics of consent, same-sex relationships, and gender identity. It results from a 2018 policy where teachers were forced to revert to the 2015 curriculum, which is much more limited than the newest material (UNESCO 20). I want to emphasize that this political move only worsens teens. In reality, education never leads to teens’ perception of sex without considering the negative consequences (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights 15). On the contrary, experience in the U.S. and progressive European countries suggests that the percentage of adolescents who get sick is declining. At the same time, the number of teens having sex remains the same as in countries without sex education (Santelli et al. 402). Consequently, teaching children to take care of their sexual health does not lead to promiscuity.
I believe that teenagers must know the three main topics: the structure of the sexual system, the pregnancy process, and STDs. Although forums and various websites cannot be taken as reliable information, it is there that a depressing phenomenon can be found. Many people with female primary sex characteristics do not have sufficient knowledge about their organism and therefore continue to use ineffective methods for contraception. Among teenagers growing up in families with an attitude that sex is sinful, such knowledge is also not disclosed, leading to accidental pregnancies. Likely, these families do not support abortion, which makes underage teenagers doomed to commitments. Pregnancy is a heavy burden on a teenager, so sex education will prevent these cases and teach how to be conscious about having a child.
Of course, without knowledge about STDs and contraception, it is impossible to teach teenagers to have sex responsibly. I believe that such lessons should be regular and the information should be taught freely. In addition, I would recommend creating available classes for parents to make sure they can help their children in time. The dissemination of information should occur in schools with posters, brochures, and teaching aids. It is essential to instill a sense of responsibility for their health, to make them aware of the negative consequences. I believe that sex education is a way to reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted infections and increase children’s general level of awareness.
In addition to the above, I want to focus on another important topic: who and how should teach children. The issue of sex is a subject of study in various scientific fields, so as many specialists as possible should take part in making the curriculum (UNESCO 28). First of all, it is the responsibility of psychologists and teachers, who should consider the age peculiarities of children and promote a reasonable distribution of topics in the lessons. Besides, it is necessary to involve medical staff: gynecologists and andrologists, infectious disease doctors, who will provide reliable health information. I am also sure that sociologists who will analyze the opinion of teenagers after sex education lessons are required. The system of sexuality education should work in pedagogical and medical directions and be the result of their combined experience for integration into the school environment.
Let’s look at attitudes toward sex education from the other side: some people think it is wrong, and I want to point out the reason why those people are wrong. What is the most common argument against sex education? I am sure all teens have heard that their peers would teach them bad things (sex), and they will turn down the wrong road. Statistics quickly challenge this statement, and it’s not even about people’s attitudes toward sex; it’s about healthy sexual behavior. Most teenagers who receive sexuality education support in schools are much less likely to have a disease or be prone to early pregnancy. It is due to the new regulation to increase the distribution of free contraception and counseling by a psychologist in schools. In addition, a new study argues that abstinence-only sex education is as bad as not having it at all (Santelli et al. 402). This data suggests that even sex education can be misconstrued, but not because it is ineffective, but because conservatives fail to accept reality.
I also want to challenge the religious aspect regarding sexual topics. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people are supposed to be chaste, and fornication (any sexual act) is liberating and violates human dignity (Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights 13). In Canada, most people are Catholic, so in many families, there is still a traditional way of life in which girls are brought up with many restrictions, and boys are not allowed to have friendships with girls. This kind of family division separates the children; they see the example and repeat it to be good for God and their parents, sometimes even genuinely believing it. Ultimately other people’s positions of permissibility and free access put pressure on them, so children grow up with traumatic psychological experiences that later block any notion of sex.
Relying on church tenets to convince us that sexual acts are wrong is the wrong position. Instead, religious people should point out that sexual enlightenment in school will, on the contrary, stimulate the development of children’s awareness and appropriate attitudes toward sex. Many people think the position that the church and God impose obligations on you so that any free action is punished and leads to hell is correct. I believe this view must disappear and be replaced by the realization that faith has no bearing on sexuality and enlightenment in this area. Unions in which children will grow up must be built on love and respect to understand the responsibility of entering into a sexual relationship. And in traditional religious settings, this responsibility is punishable and not welcome even to be introduced.
I want to draw your attention to another counterargument used by opponents of sex education. It is a common belief that sex education leads to a loss of control over children and corrupts them by forcing them to have sex (Santelli et al. 402). It is impossible to deny that there are cases of sexual abuse in schools by teachers, but they are severely punished and censured. Single issues are so rare that they can be excluded from the statistics because teachers who teach sex education are psychologically monitored in most schools, which reduces the risks. Parents worry about their children, and this is standard practice, except that one cannot achieve control over a person by banning something.
The purpose of sex education is to teach about sexual behavior and its peculiarities, teach children to understand personal boundaries and prevent violence. These lessons do not force children to have sex and do not bully them; on the contrary, children learn, show interest, and become aware of themselves as part of society (UNESCO 25). When a child understands that sex is not the same as evil, something will probably change their understanding of the world. The older the children get, the more educated they will become, leading to protests against conservative parents. There will be no more levers of control, and teenagers will feel freedom and take responsibility for any actions.
Protests against sex education result from personal limitations in knowledge about sexuality and an inability to accept the apparent reality that children and adolescents need such programs. Prohibitions, control, abstinence do not solve the interest in sex but only stimulate desire and separate children from family and peers (Santelli et al. 401). Negative attitudes toward sex education (e.g., in Eastern Europe and African countries) lower the standard of living and, in my opinion, is an amoral crime against children without protecting them.
Now I want to summarize and reiterate that sex education is a must for schools. First, sex education is a way to develop healthy attitudes toward consent and sexuality in children and adolescents: in this way, children can be protected from pedophilia and depravity. Secondly, introducing lessons in different age groups will change attitudes toward sexuality and allow adolescents to define their values. Third, sexuality education will solve problems related to STDs and pregnancy by providing access to information. I am convinced that lesson programs should be designed as topics by age and gender, but attendance should be mandatory. Operating toward loss of control and divine punishment because of sex awareness is wrong and violates a child’s ethics and morals. Instead of abstaining and keeping the child from this information, it is the parents’ responsibility to help the child understand this information and show that this knowledge will be helpful in adulthood.
Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights. State of Sex-Ed Report. 2020.
Cortínez-López, Aroa et al. “Effectiveness of Sex Education in Adolescents.” Sexes, vol. 2, 2021, pp. 144-150. MDPI, Web.
Dimmock, Mark, and Andrew Fisher. “Sexual Ethics.” Ethics for A-Level, 1st ed., Open Book Publishers, 2017, pp. 169-181.
Santelli, John et al. “Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Policies and Programs: An Updated Position Paper of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.” Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 61, 2017, pp. 400-403. PMC, Web.
Kollars, Katie. “The Kids Could Be Alright: A Call for Comprehensive Sexual Education.” Harvard Public Health Review, vol. 22, 2019, pp. 1-3, Web.
UNESCO. The Journey towards Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Global Status Report. UNESCO, 2021.