This Ain’t Right, Oklahoma: Abstinence Only Sex Ed

Whether it is for your religion, health, sexuality, or affiliation with a regular Dungeons and Dragons group, there are many reasons you may choose to be abstinent. And that’s all fine and dandy because nobody should be pressured into having sex. But instead of associating the choice to have sex with reason and maturity, many young Oklahomans are taught to associate sex with the fear of danger, death, or Jesus dying for your sins of masturbation. And this ain’t right, Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is a weird state when it comes to sex education. First of all, Oklahoma doesn’t require sex education to be taught in school. In fact, as of 2014 Oklahoma Public Schools offered no mandated comprehensive sex education classes to students. But when a school does provide sex education, our great state requires abstinence to be stressed. Oklahoma schools can pretend their students are made flat like Barbie and Ken all they want. But sooner or later, the students are going to look more and more like Midge.

Still more accurate than Oklahoma’s sex ed courses.

While other states’ sex education programs have mandated topics like avoiding coercion, healthy decision-making, and sexual orientation, Oklahoma has none of these mandates, let alone requirements for medical accuracy. Come on, Oklahoma. Losing your virginity is confusing enough. At least give people a road map.

Now full disclosure; when I was in high school back in the days of yore in 2010, I will admit I was a part of the Teens Promoting Abstinence club. But that was my choice. Even if it wasn’t my choice to remain abstinent, the club t-shirts with giant stop signs on the front that read “Teens Promoting Abstinence: My Road Is Closed” definitely kept me there. But even I saw flaws in the abstinence-only education model I experienced in Elk City, including:

  1. There was a lot of shame

Even though I didn’t go to a religious-based school, the sex ed provider made sure we knew that premarital sex will lead to pregnancy, death, and hell, in that order. In Oklahoma, it is not mandatory that instructors keep their own personal Jesus out of the classroom. Sex education classes can promote specific religions.

  1. There was very little education

I learned more about the birds and the bees through my biology textbook and reruns of Friends than I did in sex ed. Now, this is anecdotal evidence, but I have a feeling I am not alone.

  1. It didn’t work

As evidenced by my hometown’s teen pregnancy rate and the prom night bragging rights, abstinence-only education not only didn’t prepare students for a future healthy sex life, but it didn’t even convince the teens to remain abstinent.

But the state’s sex ed requirements didn’t only affect Elk City. Despite abstinence education being the gold standard in our great state, in 2011 about a third of high school students in Oklahoma reported being sexually active. According to the same study, of those who were sexually active, more than a third reported using no condom the last time they had sex. In other news, chlamydia has increased by 15%, gonorrhea by 22.3% and syphilis by 77% since 2013.

STD ain’t pokemon.

Studies have also shown a strong correlation between states that stress abstinence in sex ed and high teen pregnancy rates. In 2013, Oklahoma had the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. I know that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. But I’m willing to bet a lot of these pregnancies occur due to lack of sex education rather than immaculate conceptions.

These rates are appalling. But as other states’ sex ed requirements suggest, it can be changed. It’s about time our state makes like a couple of teenagers in the backseat of a 2007 Toyota Camry and experiment with comprehensive sex education.

Hayley still has that “Teens Promoting Abstinence” shirt. It will never see the light of day again. Follow her on twitter @squirrellygeek