at what age should sex ed begin?

A few months ago, Presidential candidate Barack Obama created quite a stir when he suggested that aspects of sex education had a place in the kindergarten classroom. Conservatives went wild, claiming this idea reflected Obama’s weak morals and that sex education was damaging for young children.

Liberals pointed out that Obama’s idea was not to teach five-year-olds the equivalent of a college level human sexuality class, but rather to address issues like the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch.

But opponents of sex education (and Barack Obama) dismissed these claims and continued to argue that the only appropriate way to talk about sex with youth was through abstinence-only education.

The debate about sex education is a particularly American one. In a lot of other Western countries this class doesn’t raise any eyebrows. In fact, in some parts of Europe, sex ed has been a mandatory part of elementary school education since the1950s!

So why do a lot of Americans react so negatively to something many others take for granted?

In an interview about sex education with the Washington Post, the Swiss head of a research group on adolescent medicine gave one possible answer. "The main difference is that in the States sexual activity is considered a risk. Here we consider it a pleasure," he explained.

Another reason is that people fear that talking about sex with young children will traumatize them, or that it will encourage them to try it out for themselves.

But research doesn’t back up this notion, and studies have found that far from harming children, those who get age-appropriate sex education have sex later and are safer when they do. This result is apparent in Western Europewhere there are much lower teen pregnancy and STDs than are found in the States.

But as the reaction to Obama’s comments showed, there is still a wide range of ideas about when sex ed should begin: Some feel it should be provided in kindergarten, and others think the material is inappropriate even for high school seniors.

Though a lot of people have offered their opinions on this matter, one voice that hasn’t been heard a lot during this debate is that of youth. I’m curious, when do you think sex ed should begin?


Posted in: Health, Sex & Relationships, The State of Sex Ed
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  • Hayden

    First of all Obama is the bomb! And he does have a point, I knew about sex since pre k, and then in kindergarten (please dont judge) my best friend and I would makeout and . . .did other things (btw she was a girl, and we didnt know about lezbians). When we had sleepovers we went on masturbating sprees with stuff animals, for we should start teaching sex ed in pre school or atleast 1st grade literally!!!!!

  • Shayla

    I'm 11, when I was 3 I drew a picture of the egg and sperm, yeah, I'm in 6th grade and half the people have BF's and GF's and there's a girl in 7th grade at my school is pregnant. I think that sex ed should start being taught in Kindergarten or first grade, as in no-touch, by, like 4th grade they should have the sex talk though. BTW, GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!! WOOT!

  • Summer

    Ok who cares, im 12 i new since i was 4, every child know's! this 5 year old asked me to play hump tag! please stop i do think it should be taught to kids in 5th grade and under! at least 3rd grade! im only in 6th and please we make out and stuff but if were taught when we are younger it wont be embarising to say in front of ur kids and we would learn not to do it because then we no that its a big deal to do it and we could get hurt!

  • Jessica

    And I also very much agree with Elizabeth !

  • Jessica

    Well, I believe that, with the way society is right now, sex ed should be taught earlier. Obviously, "abstinence only" isn't working for us because how many teens do you know that are pregnant or have been pregnant ? I can name at least 20 on the top of my head. Everybody believes its so taboo and shouldn't be talked about, but yet majority of teenagers have has sexual encounters, am I wrong ? I think Obama has a valid point and I believe it's worth a shot, honestly! Mccain and other republicans must be some kind of blind to believe that "abstinence only" is really working. STD's and pregnancies are basically everywhere. I believe strongly that Obama has a valid point on this topic.

  • Kenzie

    Honestly, I think this whole debate is just plain silly.
    I have a friend who, when she was about 7, was touched inappropriately by a family friend. She’s been scarred from the experience ever since.
    I have another friend who was similarly abused when she was 17. She didn’t have quite as hard a time with it, because even though she didn’t have any control over the situation (she was asleep – and a very hard sleeper at that) she knew what happened because she knew about that kind of thing.
    Imagine if someone had tought my friend when she was 7 simply that it’s not okay to do that to kids, and to understand why it isn’t okay. It’s simple.
    Isn’t that about the age where kids start asking questions like “where do babies come from?”? How do parents answer? Obviously, with a simpler answer at a younger age and then with more knowlege as a child’s maturity increases. As long as that’s how Obama’s legislation would teach children, I think it makes sense.
    In 3rd grade at the school I went to, we learned about our own bodies, you know, menstruation, puberty, things like that. We understood it and it helped us out, because many of my friends started to “grow up” in the next year or two.
    In the 5th grade, we learned about the opposite sex. Fairly simply, mind, but enough that we weren’t curious anymore and that knowlege was just a part of our lives. We were mature enough to handle it.
    Thinking that kindergarteners wouldn’t be able to handle a kid-appropriate teaching on good touch/bad tough is honestly just silly. Kids deserve much more credit than we give them.

  • Kenzie

    Honestly, I think this whole debate is just plain silly.
    I have a friend who, when she was about 7, was touched inappropriately by a family friend. She's been scarred from the experience ever since.
    I have another friend who was similarly abused when she was 17. She didn't have quite as hard a time with it, because even though she didn't have any control over the situation (she was asleep – and a very hard sleeper at that) she knew what happened because she knew about that kind of thing.
    Imagine if someone had tought my friend when she was 7 simply that it's not okay to do that to kids, and to understand why it isn't okay. It's simple.
    Isn't that about the age where kids start asking questions like "where do babies come from?"? How do parents answer? Obviously, with a simpler answer at a younger age and then with more knowlege as a child's maturity increases. As long as that's how Obama's legislation would teach children, I think it makes sense.
    In 3rd grade at the school I went to, we learned about our own bodies, you know, menstruation, puberty, things like that. We understood it and it helped us out, because many of my friends started to "grow up" in the next year or two.
    In the 5th grade, we learned about the opposite sex. Fairly simply, mind, but enough that we weren't curious anymore and that knowlege was just a part of our lives. We were mature enough to handle it.
    Thinking that kindergarteners wouldn't be able to handle a kid-appropriate teaching on good touch/bad tough is honestly just silly. Kids deserve much more credit than we give them.

  • obama would have muh vote if i wus 18 lol
    but real talk;
    i think it is necessary.
    cuzz i knew about sex in PRE K
    as a matter of fact.
    in 1st grade..
    i remember my friend tellin me bout her && this boi having "physical interactions"
    lmaooo
    && trust me..NOW A DAYSSS children need to learn that at that age…it's not….
    i wont say its not okay…
    but..it's not…sanitary! lmaoo
    nor is it safe, kosher, good, etc. lol

  • Stephanie

    I think Obama is the bomb. I bet he taught his kids about sex (healthily) when they were really young. Today, sex is a huge part of our society but there are so many taboos that we struggle for a healthy balance of what is right and what is wrong. I have found that young kids are not being healthily exposed to sex and when they get a little older, it's like an explosion of bad information. I work at a summer camp with 5th graders and some of the little boys make suggestive comments and they think it's funny and they don't even know what they're talking about! If sex was healthily portrayed at a young age I feel like certain issues regarding sex, sexuality, experimenting and more could be resolved. Finally a presidential candidate who knows what he's doing!