Faulkner: Sex education, shame, and victims of sexual abuse

Monica Faulkner

Monica Faulkner

Associate research professor Monica Faulkner discusses the impact of sex education that emphasizes shame on youth who have been sexually abused in The Conversation:

Sex education has long been a controversial topic in the United States. In Texas, where I work, sex education does not really exist, at least not in schools. About 47% of school districts provide nothing in terms of sex education and state-approved textbooks lack information on contraception. If a school chooses to teach sexual health education, they must emphasize abstinence and inform youth about the “emotional trauma” associated with sexual activity before marriage.

As a result, the school districts in Texas that do address sexual health convey a strong message that self-worth is tied to virginity. Twenty-four other states have similar policies that force educators to stress abstinence before marriage. Some programs even use the analogy that virginity is like gum or a candy bar. The take-away message is that no one wants a chewed up piece of gum or an unwrapped candy bar that has been passed around.

While evidence-based, comprehensive curricula offer more practical information about sex and contraception, they too can contain messages of shame about pregnancy and STDs.

How do you think those messages sound to a young person who has been sexually abused? Sex education curricula that tie premarital sex, getting pregnant or getting an STD to shame don’t leave much space for anyone to develop healthy views about sex and sexuality. But they are especially unhelpful, and even harmful, for youth who have been sexually abused.

Read the full article here.