First, the good news ... According to a new report from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), part of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, most teenagers received formal sex education before they were 18 (96% of female and 97% of male teenagers).
Hooray! In fact, that's GREAT news.
However, the findings in the report that are a little alarming are that girls seem to be getting better sex education than boys.
Um, what's that about? You parents of boys out there do know that it takes two to tango, right?
Here's what the survey found:
- Female teenagers were more likely than male teenagers to report first receiving instruction on birth control methods in high school (47% compared with 38%).
- Younger female teenagers were more likely than younger male teenagers to have talked to their parents about sex and birth control.
- Nearly two out of three female teenagers talked to their parents about “how to say no to sex” compared with about two out of five male teenagers.
In other words, both schools and parents are doing a better job at teaching young females about sex and birth control than their male counterparts. So where does that leave our young men? Probably misusing condoms, uneducated about pregnancy and the reliability of female birth control methods, and unable to talk to their parents about sexual pressures or the intricacies of sexual relationships.
This is NOT good news.
I am definitely not upset that girls are getting good sex education; young women absolutely need to take control of their decisions and their bodies and have the confidence to choose the right path for themselves in regard to sexual activity.
However, I'm bothered about the sexist message this educational imbalance sends to boys. It's a message that runs rampant in our society: that girls are the only ones responsible for unwanted pregnancies or preventing pregnancies (the odds of unwanted pregnancies go down when both parties take birth control seriously, especially if they use a dual method!), that boys should just trust that a girl's handling the birth control or that her method is 100% effective, that girls are the only ones capable of saying no to sex or waiting for the right time and a time when proper birth control is in place (boys just can't resist sex, right? it's not in their nature -- it's only up to girls) -- and even more scary for our young boys' sexual health, that boys don't need to know how to adequately protect themselves against sexually transmitted disease (also, boys and men often carry and transmit the very prevalent HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer in women).
As long as we tell boys and young men they are only capable of half-brained "boys will be boys" type behavior, that's how they will continue to act. And it doesn't end in high school or college either. Telling boys they don't have to be "as responsible" for these critical aspects of their lives carries on into relationships and marriages and fatherhood too.
Does this sex education imbalance bother you? Or is this as it should be? Should teaching girls to protect themselves be our top priority?
Image via Invisible Hour/Flickr