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What Do We Want? Sex Ed! What Do We Need? Sex Ed!

What Do We Want? Sex Ed! What Do We Need? Sex Ed!

By Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | January 2, 2019
Senior Editor, ETR

If you’re reading this post, there’s an excellent chance you’re a supporter of comprehensive sexuality education in schools. After all, you’re interacting with ETR, an organization that does education, training and research on sexual health. 

But beyond that, just by virtue of being an American, chances are high that you’d like to see effective sex ed programs in schools. In July, we offered a post from Amelia Holstrom of Planned Parenthood about their survey of likely voters. Overwhelmingly, people of all political persuasions supported school-based sex ed. Americans agree that young people need to know the facts about sexual health.

Healthline recently shared a different take on Americans’ attitudes about sexual health, one that adds persuasive power to the Planned Parenthood survey. They joined up with the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) to ask adults whether they’d received sex ed. Then they had respondents answer some pretty basic questions on sexual knowledge and health.

Knowledge Was Poor

Get out the wah-wah trombone and a sad face. Only a third of 18-29 year olds reported receiving formal sex education in school, and that proportion was even lower with older adults. The lack of sexuality education shows. Participants had a lot of misinformation.

For example, almost half believed HIV could be spread by saliva. Now. Today. It’s 2018, and the fact that HIV cannot be spread by saliva is information we’ve known for more than 30 years.

More than a third believed emergency contraception could cause infertility. And 93% were unable to identify how many days after intercourse emergency contraception is effective.

I wholeheartedly agree with Jennifer Driver, State Policy Director at SIECUS, quoted in the Healthline post: “We can increase sexual health knowledge for people of all ages by simply treating it like any other aspect of health. We should positively affirm that sexuality is a fundamental and normal part of being human.”


Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES, is Senior Editor at ETR. She can be reached at

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