Report: Many Young Boys Have Sex Before Sex Education

Young people have sex whether we educate them or not

Students protested sex ed curriculum rollbacks in Toronto last fall
Students protested sex ed curriculum rollbacks in Toronto last fall
(Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Surprise, young people are having sex. In fact, many of them are having sex well before they receive any kind of comprehensive sex education — if they ever receive it at all. 

Last month, the journal JAMA Pediatrics published a study indicating that as many as one in 13 boys reported having sex before entering their teens. The survey combined data from the Youth Risk Surveillance System and the National Survey of Family Growth. About four percent of the 15 to 24-year-old respondents in the latter survey reported having sex before age 13, while eight percent of the Youth Risk Surveillance System respondents reported the same.

According to the New York Times, this means that the majority of boys in the United States aren’t getting comprehensive sex education before their first sexual encounter. “The gap is even more significant for those who become sexually active at these young ages,” said study author Dr. Arik V. Marcell, an associate professor of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

In light of increasing evidence of a gap between sexual activity and sex education, many public health experts are calling for significant changes in sex education programs. The JAMA study included a commentary on the young age of sexual initiation among boys, calling for “medically accurate, developmentally appropriate sex education starting in elementary school.” The authors of the commentary also noted that only 13.9 percent of adolescents who participated in the most recent National Survey of Family Growth reported receiving any education about saying no to sex by sixth grade.

Beginning sex education in elementary school is also recommended by the Future of Sex Education Initiative, which argues that introducing comprehensive sex education at a young age can help delay sexual initiation, reducing some of the risks associated with early sexual activity, including substance abuse, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

“Our culture is always afraid that by talking about something, it encourages something,” said commentary author Dr. David L. Bell, an associate professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “It’s not true about sex. It doesn’t encourage them to have sex, it encourages them to be thoughtful.”

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