The Birds, Bees and Bias

Why American sex education needs to change

Erica Niehoff


This is an opinion article piece. Erica is a junior at Mendham who writes for social and global news. All opinions expressed in the following editorial are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of  The Patriot. 

America is well known for its subpar education. However, it isn’t the only country with outdated sex education. Many sources of media actually poke fun at this, one of them being Netflix’s show Sex Education. It’s sad to know that many lack this information, or have to do their own research. Either topics covered in American sex ed are blatantly biased towards religious ideologies, like abstinence, or completely skimmed over. Sex education can be beneficial when it is taught correctly, however it can be harmful if taught incorrectly. Sex education is integral because this knowledge will be needed for the rest of one’s life. This is why it’s so important how the topics are taught in the class. 

Ever since sex education was first introduced to American public schools in 1912 and was deemed a curriculum necessary for schools in America, biases developed between states and other schools. According to, as of March 1, 2020, Twenty-nine states, including the District of Columbia, have required public schools to have some sort of sex education. Twenty-seven states also mandate sex and HIV education. Although this seems great, 2014 CDC School Health Profiles state that fewer than half of American high schools teach all 16 topics recommended by the CDC regarding essential components of sex education. Guttmacher Insitute recently conducted a survey to show how fewer high schoolers are given formal sex education, which includes timely information and a range of sex education topics.  This is detrimental to them and their future or current partners. The neglect to educate the growing generation on important topics like birth control, std’s, amongst others need to change.

It’s quite upsetting to learn that the accuracy and academic level at which your sex education class is taught depends on where you live in America. Guttmacher Institute states that only “13 states require that the instruction be medically accurate.” It can also differ between district to district, and school to school. Many schools don’t publicly release information about how they teach their classes and when they do it’s quite alarming that two teenagers can have different levels of knowledge about sex education. In some states, it’s illegal to show condom demonstrations. This isn’t inherently shocking because Mississippi ranked 3rd highest state in teen pregnancies in 2015. Not only this but the state also has the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea in the same year. And over half of the cases were between the ages of 15-24.  Mississippi is not the only state censoring certain aspects of sex ed, in fact, eight states in America are considerably limiting what teachers can say about homosexuality, making teens question their sexual preferences. One of these states is Utah, which has prohibited providing any information on intercourse, believing that it should be taught at home. However, many teens do not want to have that talk with their parents and vice versa. Not only this but many students will be given even more biased information depending on their parent’s own corrupt education and personal views.

Many sex-ed programs have blatantly biased information that is completely untrue and can be seen as very demeaning towards teenagers, especially girls. Forced abstinence is extremely common in sex ed classes. Some states believe that having multiple sex partners throughout one’s life can have a negative impact on one’s life. Many, like Shelley Donahue, are guest speakers who talk about the dangers of having sex. Sadly she does this by singling out young girls. This is done by using tape to describe them, saying that the more partners they have the less likely they are to stay with those partners and have a strong relationship. Meaning that they lose their bonding capabilities and become damaged, which is completely untrue. Many of these lessons shame girls for dressing a certain way, and that they are asking for “it” when they do dress that way. Many teenagers are ashamed for making the decision of being sexually active or forced to remain virgins until marriage. Sex education can be extremely biased from school to school when it is optional to teach the ideology that having sex devalues a person, especially women. This can be heartbreaking to those who are taught this ideology, especially to survivors of sexual assault. Being told that they are that “chewed piece of gum” a “used toothbrush” or a “piece of tape” can be absolutely devastating, especially to someone who was not given the option. 

This leads to the topic of consent, which is also skimmed over or completely ignored in sex-ed classes. Many deem certain sexual actions as consent, but many do not understand that the only way one can get consent is a verbal “yes”. This can be harmful to both partners. One can be completely unaware of the fact that they are committing a crime, and the other unaware of the fact that they are not giving consent. So when the anti-sex ideology is taught, students arent given the right education when having intercourse. Information can also be biased depending on the gender being taught. Many students have different sexual labels so only discussing how women have to give consent excludes men. Or how only men have to ask for consent excludes women. This leads to women not understanding what receiving consent means, and men not knowing how to give consent. 

Another topic that is hardly ever taught in sex ed is sexual identities. Many people can go the majority of their life not realizing what they identify as, especially dealing with ones that are not as “commercialized”. The lack of inclusivity in sex education can be harmful. Teaching labels is extremely important because someone might discover that a certain label applies to them without even knowing. This is also important if someone is heteroromantic and heterosexual, straight because they will be able to understand these types of labels and not bring in stereotypes or false information. What is even more needed is the education of asexuality. This means a person who has no sexual attraction to anyone and does not want intercourse ever in their lives. This should be important to teach because people who are asexual or who lie on the spectrum, like demisexual or gray sexual, are very often ignored. Overall, the need for more education with different sexual preferences is extremely important. 

Sexual education is something that one will need to know for the rest of their life. Lawmakers need to revaluate how important sex education is and why it should be mandatory for all schools to teach it correctly. Understanding how necessary sex education is important for teens to lead a happy, healthy life with the needed information in order to be safe and knowledgable. The fact that sex education can be extremely biased will lead to a lot of false information and confusion when students leave high school, which can affect them and others for years to come.