What’s important about sex ed?

Yesterday a teenager at my church (Wildflower UU Church) told me that she didn’t really care about sex education, and nor did her friends really care about it. She didn’t seem to be trying to be rude – on the contrary, she was quite apologetic about it. Pointed out that it wasn’t because she or her friends disliked me personally. They just weren’t really interested in sex ed.

I didn’t take her comment personally. However I do think she misunderstands what sex education is about – just as many parents misunderstand what sex education is about. She (and many parents) think my goal is to push some “sexuality agenda.” Be it condom use, abstinence, or polygamy, most people who talk about sex to teenagers have a very definite goal for that teenager’s current and future sex life in mind.

And I guess I do have a goal too – I want the teenagers I talk with to figure out sexuality for themselves, in a safe, non-dogmatic environment. I certainly have opinions about condoms, abstinence, and polygamy. But my opinions aren’t necessarily your opinions. And so long as teenagers have all the information about those and other sexuality issues, they can and should discover their own opinions within the context of their family and cultural morals and history. My job is just to get them the information and provide them with a safe place to sift through it.

(And for the record, I think condoms should be used unless everyone involved has been tested for STDs and both parties want to bring a baby into the world, I think abstinence is a fine personal choice for people of all ages if they are able to make it dogma-free, and I think polygamy has historically disadvantaged women and maintained the patriarchy, although I don’t think it necessarily has to do that.)

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Goodness, Crystal! It looks like a post on oral birth control is in the making…so keep tuned in, and I’ll pull together answers for your questions.

  2. I think that anyone who uses oral birth control should appoint a very close friend or relative to monitor her personality for signs of depression.

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