Let’s have sex education

The April 1 legislative hearing for Assembly Bill 230 was one that will affect generations of Nevadans to come. More casually known as the sex education bill, the act seeks “to establish a comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate course of instruction” in regard to not only the act of reproduction but also for STD protection, birth control, defining sexual consent, human trafficking, the effectiveness of abstinence as a method of preventing STDs and pregnancy, developing healthy relationships, recognizing abuse, the effects of drug use and alcohol on responsible decision making, the electronic transmission of sexually explicit material, and other related subjects.

In an ideal world, parents would teach their children all the facts of life they need to survive as adults as well as encourage their children to wait until they are physically, financially and emotionally ready to start having sex. But Nevada is currently ranked as number three in the nation for teen pregnancies, and Nevada also has one of the worst dropout rates in the country (currently hovering around 38 percent).

As a Libertarian, I personally support a comprehensive, objective sexual education plan, and I am impressed with the variety of topics that the bill seeks to institute into curriculum. While social conservatives may fret about teenagers receiving any kind of instruction about sex that isn’t “abstinence only,” the fact is that teenagers and college-aged students are going to have sex, and it’s important to teach the difference between safe sex and risky behavior.

Perhaps one of the most important developments that has happened in the relatively recent history of comprehensive sex ed is the push to define sexual consent. While clear-cut cases of rape already occur far too often—such as the recent incident in Steubenville, Ohio—there are also the blurrier gray areas that people don’t like to talk about. For example, if a man and woman are drinking together and seem attracted to each other and one of them blacks out, it may be difficult for the other person to tell that a loss of mental faculties has happened. If they have sex, it may be considered rape, even if both parties were giving indications of consent at the time that intercourse occurred. With prior in-depth education about the laws regarding consent, individuals will be better equipped to understand the consequences of their actions as well as what to do if a boundary line is crossed.

In this same vein, the act intends to educate on all aspects of domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse. In Nevada, human trafficking is a huge issue, so education on the seriousness of human trafficking is an important step to end the sexual exploitation that goes along with it.

Further, the push for education on recognizing healthy and unhealthy relationships—and how to intervene in the latter—is another important topic of discussion that students may or may not be getting at home. I remember that when I studied sex ed back in high school, the program I was in taught us about how to be effective interventionists if our friends or family were in abusive or controlling relationships. I still remember the signs that I was taught in that class and have since been able to help several friends get through difficult times.

Finally, the relatively new topic of the distribution of sexually explicit images and materials between peers—better known as ’sexting’—will continue to be more and more important as technology improves. Minors have engaged in this activity at an alarming rate, and they need to understand the consequences.

Sex education creates well-informed citizens of our state and of the world. By encouraging that a generation be protected with knowledge, we can ensure that they will be protected in other ways.