May 2024
Sexual Health
Hedda Fay

The Importance of Sex Education

Sex is an important part of our health. It is physical, spiritual, emotional and can be an important part of bonding and development. Education is necessary for youth and adults alike.

Sex education is important for young people because it teaches them about their bodies, how to develop boundaries, bodily autonomy, reproduction, puberty, sexually transmitted infections, and more. Here in Yavapai County young people can learn about sex from parents, trained educators, the internet, smartphones and predatory people. It’s important to have trained, responsible, engaging health professionals teach sex education using age-appropriate curricula. Having responsible people provide comprehensive sex education prevents unwanted births, sexually transmitted infections, and the cost of these burdens on people and society. Sex education teaches young people about their reproductive health, related organs, puberty and sexually transmitted infections.

It’s been a while since I experienced puberty; it was tumultuous time in my adolescence. With butterflies in my stomach and DD breasts, I had a lot of unwanted attention, some from adults around me. How do young people navigate this hormonal and pheromonal landscape without guidance? How many of you had productive sexual-health education from your parents growing up? Did they educate you on changes in your body, the feelings you may experience, sexually transmitted infections, how to prevent them? Be honest. Did you learn all you needed to know at home about sexual health? Would a curriculum, age-appropriate of course, have helped you navigate the landscape? Yep, that’s what I thought.

We know that sex education has positive effects on young people, including increasing their knowledge and improving their attitudes and choices. The National Institutes of Health found that comprehensive sexual education that addresses gender and power in relationships is five times more likely to reduce sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy rates than programs that do not address those topics. Did you know that the teen birthrate in the US is high compared with other industrialized countries, at 16.7 per 1,000 females? Youth programs have successfully reduced the risk of teens participating in unprotected sexual activity by up to 25%, with declines in both the amount of sex and frequency of sexual activity with youth. The cost of teen pregnancy in the US is estimated at $9.4 billion annually in healthcare and welfare spending. Sex-education courses educate teens about building healthy relationships, which helps prevent teen dating violence. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 2019 revealed that approximately one in twelve students experiences physical or sexual dating violence.

One of the best prevention methods is when teens can recognize unhealthy, controlling and antisocial behaviors. Sexual-health education also teaches young people about healthy communication and decision-making, and how to make informed choices without caving to peer pressure. Oh, the pressure we all faced as teens! They learn about abstinence, social-emotional intelligence and how to engage in positive, supportive communication with peers. Education on sexually transmitted infections helps reduce rates of infection, sexual activity and sexually risky behavior. The American Association of Pediatrics has information for parents and adults raising young people on the importance of comprehensive sex education in The Importance of Access to Comprehensive Sex Education (

A recent television documentary called Quiet on Set exposes sexual assault and abuse perpetrated on actors working for the Nickelodeon Network. These popular teen actors were abused by people they worked with. There were warning signs that were ignored, and denial among professionals. It’s horrifying what some of these young people were exposed to.

Sex education also helps protect young people from predation. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that Child Protective Services substantiates evidence of new claims of child sexual abuse every nine minutes. One in nine girls and one in 20 boys under age 18 experience sexual abuse or assault. 82% of sexual-assault victims are females under age 18. Females aged 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault than the general public.

Sex education can help prevent teen exploitation and victimization. Comprehensive sex education can help young people who sit and suffer in silence find their voices and stop what’s happening. The young people of our community need it. This education can come to them from parents, social-media videos or predatory adults, or from trained, educated professionals in an educational setting. All the curricula being taught in Yavapai County public schools are vetted through public hearings and parental consultation. It is an involved, responsible process.

This is Hedda Fay encouraging you to think about your youth — did your parents  cover everything, did predatory adults harass you, would some education and support have benefited you during your adolescence? Support our local educators covering this vitally important, unnecessarily controversial topic. Sex is everywhere — TV, music, magazine ads and, yes, predators looking for easy targets. Talk to an educator, you may learn something from them. I do!

Hedda Fay, the Community Outreach and Program Manager of Northland Cares, answers your questions about sex and sexual health.