10 reasons sex education has nothing to do with vulgarity

Published: January 15, 2013

Parents are not interested in bearing the awkwardness of gathering their sons and daughters at the family table, and giving them the dreaded ‘birds and bees’ talk. PHOTO: AFP

While it is truly comforting that Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif – among many others — is taking such lively interests in our students’ moral upbringing, he may have mistaken ‘sex education’ for ‘vulgarity’.

Here’s what he may be missing.

1) Sex education does not encourage illicit activities

Does having an airbag in your car make you feel like driving your Honda off a bridge? Is my plane more likely to crash if the cabin crew shows me a flight safety instructions video before take-off?

An examination of 73 studies on the subject has revealed that comprehensive sexual education does not make students more sexually active than they already are. It neither hastens one’s first sexual experience nor does it increase the frequency of sexual activity.

It’s only a moralist’s greatest fear, therefore, it has no scientific leg to stand on. These programs are designed strictly to educate, not titillate.

2) Somebody has to tell them

Let’s face it. Parents are not interested in bearing the awkwardness of gathering their sons and daughters at the family table, and giving them the dreaded ‘birds and bees’ talk.

Teenagers are left with two options: Learn about safe sex from a qualified teacher or learn from other neighbourhood kids who just happened to stumble upon some ‘information’ they weren’t supposed to know.

I strongly recommend the first option.

3) Its happening, whether you teach it or not

Our current approach to the problems related to sexual health, is that of an ostrich, refusing to discuss the matter and pretending that it makes the problems go away.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It’s not an easy discussion but that doesn’t make it not worth discussing.

4) The human body isn’t ‘vulgar’

Your natural physical form isn’t sin turned flesh. Just as it’s important for us to learn about the functions of our brains, livers, hearts, stomachs and limbs, it is important to learn about the sexual organs and the possible disorders that may afflict them.

5) It helps prevent Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

This is a no-brainer but its significance is repeatedly downplayed.

We teach young students the importance of washing their hands before eating and bathing regularly, avoiding mayonnaise that has been left out of the fridge for too long and getting vaccinated.

But we happily gamble with their sexual health, rolling the dice and hoping they’d learn the do’s and don’ts on their own somehow. The odds of that happening, regrettably, are too low for comfort.

In one study conducted in Faisalabad, nearly 80% of the STI patients had either never used condoms, or had not heard of them. The lack of use, or even knowledge, of the single most basic barrier available to the population for safe sex is alarming. It is living proof of the fact that we cannot rely on sheer chance to have this information disseminated to the public. Active steps must be taken.

6) It helps avoid unwanted pregnancies

Pregnancies among teenagers who are neither psychologically nor socially equipped to handle them can, and does, destroy lives.

In Pakistan, where termination of pregnancy is not legal except for very specific circumstances, accidental pregnancies translate into an additional problem of back-alley abortions. These involve extremely unsafe procedures that can cause permanent harm and even death.

In Pakistan, studies have revealed that as high as 18% of all maternal deaths are attributed to these abortions. A reduction in the commonness of teenage abortions could bring down the number of illegal abortions too.

7) Sexual imagery is everywhere, sex education isn’t

When one’s senses are constantly bombarded by the latest Bollywood item songs, sultry advertisements and suggestive jokes and stories, it can easily warp one’s understanding of the dynamics of a mature sexual relationship.

If not supplemented with proper education, the effects can be catastrophic. It is virtually impossible to eliminate this imagery from our lives but it is possible to add lessons on sexual health in class curriculum.

8) It encourages healthy discussion on sexual health

In a country where it’s taboo to talk about breast lumps or disorders of the reproductive cycle, it helps tremendously to provide the students a safe academic environment to share their concerns in.

We cannot outsource even the most basic information on sexual health to healthcare professionals, who are often already overwhelmed by the patient load. One doesn’t queue up outside the doctor’s office to learn about the benefits of hand-washing, therefore one doesn’t need to do that to learn about condoms either.

9) “Past generations survived without it. Can’t you?”

Older opponents of sexual education like to point out how they managed to learn about sex without the help of a teacher and so can the new generation.

I imagine people also got by without penicillin or know-how on disease prevention for the longest time, or we wouldn’t be here to discuss this matter today. But maybe the incident rate of unwanted pregnancies and diseases was higher and the quality of life lower?

10) Denying education is immoral

Sex education has been proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies and curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The only thing here that can be definitively classified as ‘vulgar’, is denying our young people the opportunity to educate themselves about sexual health.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sami

    Your article is spot on. Actually the word Sex is a taboo in Pakistani Society so anything associated with this word is actually cringing for the most population. But you raised very good points and i hope somebody in high ups will listen . But with the passage of time we will learn in my view.
    Also Shahbaz Sharif have many advisers and one of the prime advisers in Punjab is Hina Parvez Butt and send her this worthy article. Hopefully she will puts your voice before the Chief minister as well.
    Twitter:: @hinaparvezbuttRecommend

  • -SHAGY-

    Excellent article and I love the way you have explained this stuff. If only this can be translated in Urdu and published in Urdu newspapers so the major part of our population can read this. Thank you!Recommend

  • Haris Javed

    May i take the liberty of sharing the following link on above subject

    http://www.dawn.com/news/1079186/cm-punjabs-admirable-moves-against-vulgarity

    Mr. Nadeem F Paracha has written a superb satire on this.. .

    PS: Mr. Faraz i do not intend to deviate traffic from your blog; i agree with you on your ten points. 1+Recommend

  • Babylistenurdady

    If I am not married and I am not going to be married near future. Getting that knowledge means I am going to utilize it for adultery or fornication..(Jis shaher jana nahee us ka Pta kyoo poochay) Education should be provided that how big this sin is and what Islam Quran and hadith says about this… If some one is really interested he or she should consult doctor who can provide every detail….Recommend

  • Saad

    Good on you, author. Speaking on a religious point of view, sex education is not taboo in Islam. People have created this barrier and don’t bother getting around it.

    I learned ‘sex education’ in school, not in class but through other students. I would have appreciated it if my parents approached me first…Recommend

  • http://imransahir.wordpress.com/ Imran khan Sahir

    Sex is an overrated thing in a society
    like ours but the more you hide something the more it goes public through “back-alley “ nicely put together.Recommend

  • Leila rage

    Well done! If only more people would read this and actually think about things, rather than just seeing vulgarity every whereRecommend

  • Mehar Mehru

    Great effort by writer.i agreed on all 10 points.its a great initiative for youth.Recommend

  • Nadir Shah

    we have to stop rapes and harassment, rather than spreading safe sex and encouraging scoundrels wear condoms before rape and make it safe rape. Only strict punishment is the solution.Recommend

  • Fanarl

    It’s haram and forbidden in Islam. It’s punishable by death!Recommend

  • TTV

    I think you’ve commented on the wrong blog. This one’s about sex education, not the persecution of minorities.Recommend

  • raj

    who said that… where is it written ?? reference pleaseRecommend

  • raj

    proper education is important to give moral values. Crimes are different thing.. this education is for individuals seeking what is right and what is wrongRecommend

  • raj

    its not.. its made taboo by people.Recommend

  • Bingo123

    The way I see it I have to agree with you that someone has to teach them. The human body isn’t vulgar. Yes, of course it isn’t. Sex imagery is haplessly common. Kids are bombarded with the latest Bollywood item songs. People have STDs because of no or less education. Unfortunately, yes. And all these things have to stop. That’s where I have to agree with you ! SEX EDUCATION IS MUST ! Not in schools though.

    The end is to prevent STDs, pregnancies and rape cases. But do you really think teaching kid of 6 or 10 class “Use condom while doing sex with a stranger or an affected person” wouldn’t lessen the number of virgins in the society? WHAT? Are you inspired by those Western states who provide a condom with their regular course books? Seeing most of the teenagers enjoying first-safe-sex during their school life? Yes of course they wouldn’t have unwanted pregnancies and STDs If they use condoms. Is that what you want? Don’t make an already westernized state to a complete vulgar state.

    WHY DON’T WE END THIS PROBLEM FROM THE ROOT? These safe-sex campaigns would only make Pakistan a free-sex state like other countries these policies are being taken from. We being Muslims have some moral ethics that Islam gave us. Although we are far, very far from them. You want zero STDs in the country? So do I but this isn’t the only option we have. Rather than teaching them to use condom while having sex, build a strong moral character of children. Right from the start. Educate parents to do their best to not to ‘bombard their children’s eyes with the latest Bollywood songs and movies’. Educate them to how to keep a check on their children what sort of messaging they have on their phones. Say no to Hollywood movies or at least be selective in watching movies. Do whatever they can to reduce their sexual activity at such small an age. And not to mention most importantly, educate parents to ‘bear the awkwardness’ of discussing this topic with their kids. And yes of course, Islam doesn’t forbid that.Recommend

  • Maham Hayat

    you article was just execllent.being a teenager and studying in a co- university ..still it is difficult for the teachers and professors to discuss such matters. you are very right. the problems we are facing today can only be solved through education :)
    thumbs upRecommend

  • Faraz Talat

    I’m an admirer of NFP, and it would cause me no disappointment to lose a little bit of traffic to him.

    I figured that while he makes his point through his brilliant satire, we also needed a few articles that cover the issue on a serious note and delve into the science of it.Recommend

  • Mukhtaran

    Sex education has spoiled new generations of Americans and they have started to realize it. But our educated liberal class in Pakistan wants to enjoy it. Is there any common sense left with our liberal class? I can understand you guys want to enjoy but plz don’t be illogical.

    http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/21-signs-that-u-s-public-schools-have-become-training-centers-for-sexual-deviancyRecommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Not in class 6 perhaps, but by class 10, students already start finding out about sex from extra-academic sources; often in far more graphic (and frighteningly inaccurate) detail than we need them to know.

    A formal course in sex-ed would only correct the gross misconceptions they have about sexual relations, and impress on them the dangers of unprotected intercourse.

    And like I said in point 1 of the article, sex-ed does not encourage people to have more sex. It would not make Pakistan a “free-sex” state. We have scientific evidence to back this claim.Recommend

  • tungi

    why need sex education when pre marital sex isnt that much common in our society!a man and a woman have their first encounter after marriage, why not keep it like that!i didnt get sex education i learnt it being a doctor!so do many others through many outlets!its a natural thing to understand!shud be taught in secondary school biologyRecommend

  • gp65

    well written. agree with every single point.Recommend

  • gp65

    you are forgetting about consensual safe for which this information is targetted -not for the rapistsRecommend

  • spellings please

    “Sex education does not encourage elicit activities”
    Did you mean illicit instead of elicit?Recommend

  • Anthony

    Great, timely blog. Also, ‘illicit’, not ‘elicit’. Cheers and keep up the good work.Recommend

  • mfka

    I have attended Sex Ed. for my kids in 3rd, 5th, 7th grade before they attend the class. Girls and boys are told their about their own reproductive system and it’s health, diseases, precautions and value of their own life than sex(in two separate rooms) by YMCA uniformed contract teachers(Regular teacher declined to be even in the room, it’s Ok) here in U.S. It’s totally up to the parents here to send or not send their kids for the education class. There is no compulsion by the govt or school.Recommend

  • Necromancer

    Yeah well that advice should have been for INDIA Recommend

  • Necromancer

    Hilarious (I totally hope you hold a Phd in Islam) or even Phd is also haramRecommend

  • Saad

    Umm..kinda what I was implying, that it is not taboo in Islam

    Not sure if you’re confirming my statement or mistakenly correcting itRecommend

  • Unknown

    Shameful article. In Pakistan children do not live alone like in western countries. They require sex education but copy pasting their education into our system is wrong. Here in Pakistan, children live with their parents even after marriages. Here in Pakistan, parents stop and educate their children from going toward illegal sex but this post is telling “Use condom” . There is absolutely no need of a western sex education in Pakistani schools.I know when you will teach them they will like to see a practical demonstration as well. Stupid article.Recommend

  • Prof

    “Not in class 6 perhaps, but by class 10″

    Unfortunately, abuse of children under 6 does happen and I think that some form of sex-ed needs to be provided to small children so that they know how to stay safe. Things like: ‘only mama and baba can dress you and if any one else tries you run/scream and let us know’ etc. These things must be taught to children otherwise they are likely to suffer in silence.

    We must teach them simple things that help them recognize (potential) predators and inform their parents/guardians so that the parents, can keep them safe.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    who will explain this to our so-called guardians of moral and religious values especially the gentleman who is fond of sniffing out so-called vulgarity every where. We all know who that is! Did you know one of the reasons why Pakistan has a large number of deaths due to Breast cancer is the women are too ashamed to talk about their bodies . As a result they usually go to the doctor at the last stages. What’s most staggering is there husbands who are in most cases aloof and disinterested in their well-being some even divorcing their wives as they are no longer useful to the on the other hand wives take care of their husbands even Philandering, Abusive and neglectful husbands. I have never seen any husband doing that and if a woman dumps this man then she is ostracized even killed and has acid flung on her face. After all a famous columnist defended a man flinging acid on his wife’s face cause she divorced him and married a financially stable younger guy. However no woman has ever done it to her cheating husbands some of whom don’t bother divorcing their wives before marrying pretty young things. ET mods for the sake of sanity in our society don’t censor please let it pass through.Recommend

  • Nobody

    I felt like I was writing this blog myself. Perfectly on point.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Sex education has diddly to do with spoiling new generations of Americans.
    Pakistanis are putting too much importance on micro managing people’s morality rather than educating them on subjects that EVERYONE has to deal with sooner or later (i.e. sex). While I agree a 5 year old may not need a crash course on where he/she came from, a child approaching a normal age of curiosity, 10, 11ish should be taught these things from a biological stand point. Leave the morality to the parents/guardians. I grew up in the American school system from nursery school onward and learned about sex in grades 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, each time more detailed than the previous year. It didn’t push me to engage in “immoral” or vulgar behavior. It DID answer any and every possible question I could have about male/female anatomy, sex, sexuality, sexual health, etc. My parents were in charge of teaching me morality as a child, not my biology teacher.
    Being illogical is wanting to keep people ignorant about something we all have to deal with and should know about.
    Cheers.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Just noticed that. Thanks.Recommend

  • Saad

    pre marital sex isnt that much common in our society? you need to get out of your house more oftenRecommend

  • tungi

    im not talking about the top 10 million ppl!what abt the rest of 190 million?Recommend

  • tungi

    even if it is ,its nothing to be proud of losing one’s virginity!there are many things in which west needs to be emulated!this isnt one of them!Recommend

  • abubakar

    Don’t worry about it, it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon! It’ll take centuries to change the mindset of our people even with stern effortsRecommend

  • gp65

    well said. I grew up in India in an earlier generation than yours and I wish we had such education then (we did not). There is no way my parents would have had the conversation with me. It is a month before I was getting married that my mother took me to her ObGyn for a ‘talk’.

    Let me say that for those who wanted to ‘do’ stuff – the lack of education did not prove to be a barrier. As you rightly pointed out it is the upbringing in the home that determines behavior in these matters.Recommend

  • Bingo123

    What would you tell them in sex-ed? Harmful effects of masturbation? The sinful act of watching porn and stuff? That will be much appreciated but If you’re going to teach them that “Children ! If you want to have sex with your girlfriend do not do it without a condom”, then I don’t see any good side of it.

    P.s The situation isn’t that worse in our society.Recommend

  • fifi

    goooood jooooobbbbbbbbbRecommend

  • Nobody

    Yeah because women are never raped in Pakistan right. They’re put on pedestals and showered with flowers….. Recommend

  • Nobody

    Thanks!It baffles me that people paint the very word ‘sex’ as dirty, even from an educational standpoint. However, my presumption is India is farther ahead in terms of educating students on the subject. The sword of Islam hanging over people’s head in Pakistan (and wrongfully so might I add because Islam does NOT prohibit one from an education) and is being used as an excuse to remain ignorant on relevant matters.

    Haha and believe it or not, my own mom was shy to have the talk (only with her own kids because otherwise she wouldn’t hesitate if asked) so she had my Khala explain the whole deal to me when I turned 11 because she felt it important for me to have questions answered.

    And so true; youngsters have a natural curiosity and barring locking them up and throwing away the key, you can’t stop them from exploring sexually a bit and leaving them uninformed does not work as a deterrent. It in fact makes the situation worse.
    Cheers!Recommend

  • abdul rafay

    i agree with you and your topic is too much important for youth of pakistan but unfortunately we must admit that the new generation know such thing before their time of gaining such knowledge and it causes a sexual abuse in them.
    the main thing is to inform and update that environment where childs are grooming and update them with sense of positive instead of doing enjoy of such job.
    the parents must first guide if they don`t info their children then they may commit such a sexual relation.
    a father told his sons and a mother told her daughterRecommend

  • Leila Rage

    The reaction to sex education is the same as the reaction to women’s rights;

    “Oh my God, sex education? That means that everyone will suddenly turn into sex-maniacs!!! We can’t let immorality spread!”

    “Women’s rights? Making prosecution of rapists easie? Admitting DNA evidence for raper? Noooooooo, please! Then every other woman will accuse every man of rape for any petty revenge”Recommend

  • rage

    Sex education doesnt explain the mechanics of sexual activity like an X-rated film- instead its much more like what you would have studied as a doctor, how the reproductive system works, about avoiding STDs etc. There is nothing wrong with knowing this. This won’t encourage pre-marital sex, instead when people get married at least they will have a bit of knowledge about contraception and biologyRecommend

  • sane

    Sex is a reality since human existence. Why not there was sex education some hundred years before too. Rather say 50 years back this was not an issue. If not, then what problems occurred then? This is totally west propaganda (not a conspiracy theory) to which we are carried away without using our minds. They (west) want if they have no morals then the whole world should be like this specially Muslims.Recommend

  • Samar

    i’ve not read this article in detail and it does make sense. LHW (lady health social worker )? already working on this guidelines.
    my worries are slightly different, if we live in our defined Islamic way do we still need to follow this ? can we not have a good culture which mostly based on Islamic teaching ?.. indeed we are detracted from Islam as it become materialistic ….. it good to have a knowledge to avoid embarrassment in society rather then having a fear of our faith. don’t mind me I’m a non Muslim according to Pakistani constitute (and we are Alhamdullah are OK..Recommend