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We Need To Talk About Safe Sex

Every year, millions of adolescent girls around the world become pregnant. Whether it was their first time having sex or they were sexually active on a daily basis- the reality of pregnancy is daunting. Being kicked out of their home, left by their boyfriend, or isolated from their peers are only a few fears that plague a pregnant teenager’s thoughts. Worst of all, girls are forced, often alone, to decide to either keep their baby or have an abortion.

Making this choice is easier said than done. We all have a vague idea of what we’d do if we were pregnant, but a mental prediction cannot compare to the actuality of pregnancy. It’s a life changing choice. What if it was one we didn’t have to make?

In recent years, the rate of teenage pregnancy has been getting lower and lower. While this is a positive change, it’s not because of abstinence. It’s becoming apparent that the key to preventing teenage pregnancy is sufficient sex education.

More schools, health clinics, and even parents are acknowledging that sex is a common occurrence amongst teenagers. Abstinence is always the smartest option for a developing teenager, but a portion of the youth chooses to have sex, based on their own principles. In this case, it’s important to provide them with the necessary knowledge on pregnancy and STDs/STIs while in high school.

Increasingly modern ideas on sex have called for a new approach to how we teach and talk about it. Instead of teaching students solely about abstinence, teach them about protected sex, birth control, and the value of waiting. Safe sex doesn’t just mean condoms, there’s a whole world of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy- the pill, the patch, the ring, the shot, the sponge- I could go on for hours. Give them the direction to make a conscious decision on what birth control option best suits them. Regardless of when they have sex, whether they are still in high school or years later, this information will aid them at the time they choose to do so.

Do these words sound foreign? Are they more confusing than last week’s Spanish test? It’s not a surprise that these terms weren’t mentioned in health class.

Many schools, especially those that cater to a specific religion or conservative demographic, have chosen to shun the safe sex talk in favor for the worn-out abstinence speech. Coincidentally, these are the areas with the highest rates of teenage pregnancy.

Southern states, such as Arkansas and Mississippi, have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the United States. At around eighty pregnant adolescents per one thousand pregnancies, their quota is much higher than their densely-populated Northern counterparts.

By failing to provide teenagers with an adequate sex education, such states, and areas like them, are consciously choosing for unplanned pregnancies to become a common occurrence. It shouldn’t be considered the norm to see multiple pregnant sixteen-year-olds be forced to drop out of school due to pregnancy. In an effort to adhere to their old-fashioned values, these school systems allow teenagers to undergo unnecessary suffering and stress that could’ve been easily prevented.

What’s a kid to do, but seek their information elsewhere? Teenagers aren’t likely to browse certified websites with accurate information. They watch porn or refer to what they’ve seen on TV and in movies. Porn portrays a faulty image of sex. It’s not accurate. Neither are the steamy sex scenes you see in movies. How often does the male put on a condom?

Sure, we can self-educate. We can look up unfamiliar sex terms on Urban Dictionary or spend hours deciphering a PhD student’s thesis on birth control, but why should we have to?

It’s come time for our educators to hop off their high horse and accept the world around them. It’s changing. Sex is changing. Many teenagers are choosing to have sex, but not taking precautionary measures to protect themselves against STDs/STIs and pregnancy. They need the proper information and resources. Educators, it’s your job to give them that.

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Sarah Kearns is a New York City-based 17-year-old writer and photographer. She's passionate about politics, film, art, and literature. Sarah plans to study journalism in college next year. You can contact her by emailing

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