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Wisconsin: What Does Sex Ed Have to Do With It?

April 13, 2006

Experts have various explanations for the rising prevalence of oral sex among teens. Thanks to media exposure, "Teens simply know a lot more than ever before," said Janet Hyde, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of psychology and women's studies. Peer culture also counts: Hyde said most teens have a different set of cultural values than adults.

In addition, Hyde considers the increase in oral sex an ironic side effect of abstinence-only education. Teens may view oral sex as a way to be abstinent and preserve their virginity, she said.

This idea is controversial, however. "I think it's a huge leap to conclude that an increase in oral sex is caused by abstinence-only education," said Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life. "Unless it's supported by research, it's pure speculation."

The Wisconsin Senate and Assembly have passed a bill that would require state schools teaching sex education to "present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior" for students; the bill has not yet been presented to the governor.

"Teens need to know that no sex is safe," said Tanis Jean-Louis, nurse manager at Care Net Pregnancy Center. "While you can reduce your risk, you can never eliminate it." Even so, "I think that you can't expect all teens to be abstinent, even if you emphasize that it's the only way to be 100 percent risk-free. Knowledge is always good, and I hope that a comprehensive curriculum is presented in schools," she said.

Lyons, however, said any instruction besides abstinence-only risks sending a mixed signal. "There needs to be a clear message to teens. You can't just say, 'It's best if you remain abstinent, but if you do have sex ...' Many teens will interpret that 'but' as permission to be sexually active."

Back to other news for April 13, 2006

Adapted from:
Wisconsin State Journal
04.09.2006; Jennifer Scott Curwood

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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