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  • Writer's pictureNatalie Tai

THE PROBLEMS WITH TODAY'S SEX EDUCATION

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Why sex education lessons in schools are failing us.


What is Sex Education Like Today?


Endless timelines later, the rawest part of human still remains delicately veiled under social taboo and cultural boundaries. Preserving a child’s innocence has slowly digressed into a painful backstab for both parents and teenagers as their biggest fears in maturity are made prone. Sex education isn’t just a biology lesson introducing the physical developments of children undergoing puberty, but a curriculum that validates and affirms the natural sexual curiosities and bodily changes of teenagers while setting boundaries to ensure positive and healthy sexual experiences in their journey of growth. Also, the multiple social issues addressed through adequate sex education not only prevents unsafe or unhealthy sexual behaviors in teenagers, but it simultaneously helps to eradicate society’s burden from teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and labor complications.


Sex education has become a fast-evolving curriculum that constantly updates its content based on contemporary social issues and a slow movement of progression towards inclusivity and constitutional freedoms. Especially in more culturally conservative countries like Taiwan, physical and mental sexual maturity is something that goes unspoken in most households, making sex education a good point of intervention to address and inform the complete picture of sexual health in young adults while pointing out misguiding cultural standards and media portrayals of sex.

Sex education in the status quo is failing. The popular abstinence-only curriculum has long been proven to have little to no effect for preventing sexual activity among teenagers, neither has it provided much emotional and mental guidance and support in questioning teenagers. Contrary to popular opinion, teaching teenagers the appropriate ways of having safe sex while addressing the subsequent consequences of teenage pregnancy, allows teens to rationalize on their own behalf which more effectively discourages sexual activities and instances of sexual bullying, harassment, and violence among the teenage populace.


Why is Sex Education so Important? What Needs to be Taught?


Validation and Learning:

Sexual curiosity is a natural biological development that characterizes emotional and mental development in teenagers undergoing puberty. Avoiding topics of sexual curiosity thus won’t stop unhealthy sexual explorations in teenagers, while on the contrary, by accepting and validating this mental development allows for effective solvencies against teenage pregnancy, STDs, sexual violence and harassment, (etc.)


Preventing Misinformation:

With sexual curiosity being a natural part of a teenager’s biological development, the lack of information outlets from educational institutions or parental guidance will only pivot teens in a tending towards the internet for questions. This leaves them to limited or incomplete sets of information that most often backfires against society. Through mandatory sex education, the spread of misinformation from unlicensed platforms regarding sexual identity and the overall concept of sex can be effectively eradicated.


Addressing Social Issues:

Another key concept to address in sex education curriculums is role of sex and sexuality in mainstream media. Sexual portrayals of characters along with heavy-handed sexual references isn’t at all shied from online consumer culture. Oftentimes used with the incentive of advertisement, unrealistic narratives of the human body, romantic relationships, and sexual etiquette (oftentimes dealing with religion) subconsciously undermines the knowledge of young adults, standing as one of the principal catalysts to the continuation of issues such as socially-detrimental gender roles and sex crimes (harassment, assault, violence).


The Right to Education (Physical Education):

Perhaps the biggest middle ground we stand upon in a conversation of sex education is the importance of addressing the anatomical changes of teenagers in their pubescent years. In the status quo, about 44% of girls don’t know what is going on when they start their first period which not only undermines children’s unwritten freedom of understanding and mentally prepare for a terrifying yet normal bodily change but this statistic has become the embodiment of the world’s failing sex education curriculum.


Information for Marginalized Communities:


Even in countries where education seemingly prevails, several key topics remain left out in sexual education curriculums. The popular sex education classes catered for individuals that align with the common neurotypical, cis-gendered, heterosexual narrative of sex means children of the LGBTQ+, disabled, or other minority communities are being left with little information relevant to their sexual experience and possible pitfalls along the journey. This makes it so that children from minority communities that already bear the brunt of media misrepresentation are once again left hurdled to access information about the act of sex at its base along with the other concepts addressed through sex education as mentioned earlier.


What is Stopping Progressive Complementary Sex Education?


Society’s heavily polarized stance on modern social issues such as abortion, contraception, and gender and sexuality’s diversity has shaped the current sex education curriculum. Paired with communities that tend more towards religious conventionalism and conservatism, progressive sex education continues to be opposed by parents around the world and those who’ve retained the misguiding mindset that “sex education encourages sex”. This lack of a common ground of “what should be taught in sex education” among a spectrum of parents from varying cultural backgrounds has determined the slow progression of complementary sex education.


What is Sex Ed in Taiwan Like?


For decades, gender equality has been a hot topic in Taiwan that has readily earned a spot on the written law that grants gender equity education as a mandatory course in all schools. Citing Article 14 of the Enforcement Rules for the Gender Equity Education Act by Taiwan’s ministry of education, curriculum must include “affective education, sex education, different gender, gender characteristics, gender temperaments, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and prevention and handling of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual bullying on campus”. Though laws like this are in place, controversy and discontent still surrounds sex education curriculum in schools as critics argue that classes are too socially biased in a sense that the curriculum reflects significant influences from Taiwan’s pro-gay government. Many others argue that the content taught in class are inappropriate for their children’s according age range.

Video: What sex education is like around the world. My sex education experience.


Taiwan’s sex education and gender equity education act not only enforces the importance of acceptance among school faculties and educators towards students experiencing hurdles in their teenage life (in terms of teenage pregnancy, gender expression, and sexuality), the government aims to provide adequate information outlets for teenagers regarding the transmission and prevention of STDs such as HIV/AIDS. School teachers and counselors are mandated to provide full support to students struggling in this area without any form of discrimination or unwarranted prejudice, progressing Taiwanese society to a safer and much healthier society. Other than the role of governments, the MOE welcomes NGO/NPO representatives specialized in the field of gender equity education to participate and take leading roles in related curriculums.

Video journalist Tania Safi’s documentary on Days for Girls, a NGO in Lebanon (and around the world) that fights period poverty, providing reusable menstrual products to girls and women while teaching sex education classes to those unable to access.


Resources for More Information


What Should Kids be Learning in Sex Education Classes: https://qz.com/1375805/why-sex-ed-is-such-a-controversial-topic/


Importance of Sex Education, Failure of Abstinence-Only Education: https://www.verywellhealth.com/support-comprehensive-education-schools-3133083




Call to Action in Supporting LGBTQ Sexual Education and Awareness: https://www.hrc.org/resources/a-call-to-action-lgbtq-youth-need-inclusive-sex-education


Status Quo’s Inclusivity Coverage in Sex Ed Classes, Risks and Myths: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/07/the-power-of-inclusive-sex-ed/533772/


Importance of Education Teens about Sex, LGBT Inclusive: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/lgbtq-sex-ed-important


Sex Education in Taiwan. It’s Conservative Culture and the Value of Virginity: https://international.thenewslens.com/article/29566





Enforcement Rules for the Gender Equity Education Act: https://law.moj.gov.tw/Eng/LawClass/LawAll.aspx?PCode=H0080068


References


“A Call to Action: LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education”, Human Rights Campaign, https://www.hrc.org/resources/a-call-to-action-lgbtq-youth-need-inclusive-sex-education. Accessed April 28 2021.


Chuang, Yu-Ning Aileen. “If Parents in Taiwan Are OK With Their Kids’ Sex Ed Class, Why Are Others So Upset?”, NPR, November 18 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/11/18/557368363/a-teachers-sex-ed-class-reveals-taiwan-s-struggles-for-pushing-gender-equity. Accessed April 28 2021.


“Enforcement Rules for the Gender Equity Education Act”, Laws & Regulations Database of The Republic of China, April 2 2019, https://law.moj.gov.tw/Eng/LawClass/LawAll.aspx?PCode=H0080068. Accessed April 29 2021.


Hanreich, Herbert. “Is Sex Education in Taiwan Enough? If Not, Why?”, The News Lens, October 25 2015, https://international.thenewslens.com/article/29566. Accessed April 28 2021.


Sager, Jeanne. “The Power of Inclusive Sex Education”, The Atlantic, July 17 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/07/the-power-of-inclusive-sex-ed/533772/. Accessed April 28 2021.


“Sexual Health Education in Schools”, National Association of School Nurses, https://www.nasn.org/advocacy/professional-practice-documents/position-statements/ps-sexual-health#:~:text=Evidence%2Dbased%20sexual%20health%20education%20can%20improve%20academic%20success%3B%20prevent,youth%20(Szydlowski%2C%202015b). Accessed April 28 2021.


Timsit, Annabelle “Sex ed in schools can be dangerous— but not for the reasons you think”, Quartz, September 20 2018, https://qz.com/1375805/why-sex-ed-is-such-a-controversial-topic/. Accessed April 28 2021.


“Why comprehensive sexuality education is important”, UNESCO, February 15 2018, https://en.unesco.org/news/why-comprehensive-sexuality-education-important. Accessed April 28 2021.


“Why we need sexuality education”, Victoria State Government”, https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/physed/Pages/aboutwhy.aspx. Accessed April 28 2021.


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