I thoroughly believe teaching safe sex is far more effective than teaching abstinence. Kids are going to want to have sex, what do we gain from trying to suppress those urges indefinitely? From a scientific standpoint sex is a natural part of adolescence. It is a time when hormones push and pull us in a hundred different directions and urge us to procreate. We can teach our children at home that abstinence is in fact the best way to stay disease and baby free, but at school our kids should have exposure to some alternative ways of thinking. The problem with abstinence is that it is an all or nothing dogma, with no allowances for mistakes or tragedy. Once you’ve had sex you are no longer abstinent, then what? Kids make mistakes; it is the gift and curse of being young. I would rather there is some type of education in place that informs them about what to do in the event those mistakes happen, rather than let them find out from the internet or from uneducated strangers/children about what’s next. It’s a confusing world out there. The town I grew up in used to have a staggering teen pregnancy rate. When I graduated from high school I knew very few of my classmates who did not already have children, and even fewer of them had not been pregnant at some point before our graduation. Since then my high school has transitioned into an emphasis on safe sex and teen pregnancy rates have plummeted. As a bonus high school dropouts have also plummeted since my graduation year from 52 percent to nearly just over 2 percent! I am not saying safe sex education alone is responsible; however, it has played its part especially in keeping young ladies from becoming teen mothers and leaving high school early.
From a religious stand point I think it is worth repeating what I’ve said in previous blogs, that Buddhists do not have the same rules regarding sex and sin that many Judeo-Christian religions have. Priests get married and have children; in some sects monks do as well! Sex is viewed as a part of life, not a sin. Lay people are encouraged to procreate and enjoy the pleasures of this world, as deprivation of these things is spiritually the same as overindulgence. With this in mind I would say teaching strict abstinence is almost discouraged by Buddhists. Teaching safe sex demystifies sex, makes it less scary and confusing, and prepares young people for the mistakes they may make. Safe sex education is more than just about condom use and birth control; it is about options and disease education. I believe that knowledge is valuable and that we would be remiss to deny our youth all of the education that we can provide.