Why is America Failing at Sexual Health and Education?
For a country with as many resources as the United States, we shouldn't have such a big problem with sexual health. Yet we do. The problem is that the topic of sexual education has gotten lumped in with a lot of other issues and has been hampered by politics.
Sexual health should not be a partisan issue. This is an area where Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, independents and apolitical citizens, can all come together to fix something that's so utterly broken.
The State of Sexual Health and Education
The state of sexual education in this country – and, as a direct result, sexual health – is quite poor. There's really no other way of putting it.
"One fact that will be surprising to some people is that the United States has the highest STD rate among industrialized countries," SaferSTDTesting.com notes. "For many people this statistic alone will have them reconsidering how well they take care of their sexual health. If a country with such a high standard of living as the United States can have the highest STD rate, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed."
They also point to a number of other relevant statistics, including the fact that 20 million new cases of STDs are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, costing the health care system $16 billion annually. When you consider that the vast majority of STDs are totally preventable, that's $16 billion's worth of resources that could be reallocated to other health needs.
The problem with poor sexual health, and all of the issues that go along with it, can be directly tied to a lack of proper sexual health education for children and teenagers. While there are certainly other factors that come into play, this is one area where most can agree there would be clear benefits.
Now's the Time to Reach Across the Aisle
While we, as conservatives, have historically been resistant to the idea of sexual education as a tax-fueled public health initiative, we shouldn't be the only ones catching the brunt of public backlash. Liberals have often coupled sexual education initiatives with other issues that they know conservatives won't budge on – such as abortion. As a result of attaching sexual health to the topic of abortion, they immediately alienate conservatives from listening and point the finger when disagreements continue.
Listen: we're at a point where political affiliations are strong, and disagreements are more hostile than ever. Merely utter a word of support for President Donald Trump, and you're called a racist and bigot. Say something flattering about Senator Bernie Sanders, and you're labeled a socialist. We live in a world of name-calling and strict party adherence, which is dangerous and unhealthy.
But this is one of those few issues where everyone can come together and find some common ground. Everyone agrees that STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and sexual assault are best prevented. And while there are differing opinions on how to deal with the aftermath of these things, you'll find few people who object their prevention.
Let's be clear about one thing. Just because you support better sexual education doesn't mean you're suddenly pledging allegiance to Planned Parenthood. This is a trap the left has laid in an attempt to claim that the right doesn't care about sexual health. You can approve of better sexual education and disavow Planned Parenthood and abortion.
With that being said, now's the time for conservatives to make the first move. Let's open up some dialogue on the importance of better sexual health and education in an effort to correct an issue that's clearly become a massive problem.
Two Ways America Can Get Sex Right
What can we do to get sexual education right in this country? While most agree that better education is important, the details of how to educate, when to educate, and what to educate our youth on are where things get divisive. With that being said, let's take a look at two suggestions that could be considered bipartisan in nature.
1) Information Accuracy Must be a Priority
There's certainly room to discuss the issue of how old children should be when they're exposed to sexual education, but if there's one thing we can all agree upon, it's that the information being taught should be accurate.
Would you stand for your children being taught inaccurate concepts in physics class? Or maybe information that's untrue in world history class? Absolutely not! So why is that only 20 states require sex education to be medically, factually, or technically accurate? If we're going to teach our youth about sex, they need to get the truth – not some fictional rendition that leaves them with a false understanding of reality.
2) Educators Need Better Training
How do we ensure that students get more accurate and relevant sexual health education? It all starts with how our educators are trained. According to research gathered by Beatrice Koehler-Derrick, there are just nine universities in the U.S. that offer graduate degrees with a focus on human sexuality. Unfortunately, they're all within other disciplines, such as psychology, counseling, public health, and research. There's only one undergraduate program in Montreal and a doctoral program in Pennsylvania that offer degrees specializing in sexuality education.
If we expect our youth to receive better sexual education, it makes sense that we start at the top and focus on educating the "educators." Pressure on public colleges and universities to develop more specialized programs would be a start.
What Will It Take?
What will it take for America to get sexual health and education right? Clearly, the biggest problem lies in politics. Why are we, as a country, letting something as superficial as political affiliations and personal preferences lead to the highest STD rate in the world among industrialized countries? When you look at it through this lens, it's quite foolish.
Let's stop being Republicans, Democrats, and independents and start being Americans.