Sex education has reached an all-time low in Florida. A recent survey has found that 1 in 4 Florida teens believe that drinking a capful of bleach after sex can prevent HIV and that a shot of Mountain Dew can prevent pregnancy. To make matters worse, it was also found that Florida teens believe that smoking marijuana can prevent pregnancy as well.
How can so many teens be so mistaken about the realities (and the dangers) of sex?
Abstinence-only sex education might be to blame. When educators and parents only teach teens that "sex is bad" and nothing else, teens have no resources when it comes time for them to manage inevitable sexual situations. Some educators and politicians believe that giving teens information about sex is the same as giving them permission to have sex, but this is simply not so. Information does not equal permission. Instead, it just helps teens make smarter, safer decisions when they are confronted with potentially sexual situations.
Indeed, a study published in the April edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 50% less likely to become pregnant than those who received abstinence-only education, and those teens who received comprehensive sex education were 60% less likely to become pregnant than teens who received no sex education at all. The facts are in: Comprehensive sex education is the most effective tool in preventing teens from engaging in unsafe sex. It is time for the legislature and our schools to reflect this inescapable, crucial fact.
Here is a cheat sheet to help teens make smart decisions when confronted with sexual situations:
- There is no such thing as safe sex. Condoms cannot prevent all sexually transmitted diseases, and they are not 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. HPV and herpes can be transmitted even when you use a condom, and there is no cure for these conditions. Abstinence is the only way to be completely safe.
- Oral sex counts as sex. Many sexually transmitted diseases can be spread during oral sex. If you do have oral sex, make sure you use a condom. Young women should use dental dams when receiving oral sex. Dental dams are placed around the genitals and prevent saliva (which might carry bacteria and disease) from entering the vagina. These are available online, at Planned Parenthood centers, and at many drugstores in the family planning aisle.
- Don't believe the urban legends. There is no surefire way to prevent pregnancy and STDs except for abstinence. Any urban legend which tells you otherwise is a lie. It doesn't matter if it is the first time you had sex, if you douche with Coca-Cola, if you smoke marijuana, or if you drink bleach -- you can still get pregnant and contract diseases.
If teens have any questions or concerns about sex, they should ask their parents, a doctor, or call the free Planned Parenthood hotline at 1-800-967-PLAN.
Get Dr. Laura Berman's customized advice for you: