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Religious Tolerance logo

Human sexuality:

Conflicts and consensus
on youth sexuality

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Conflicts related to youth sexuality:

Many interrelated topics concerning youth sexuality are being hotly debated. The positions that people take are often influenced by their religious beliefs. Some "hot" topics are:
bulletWhere should information about human sexuality be taught to youth: at home, at school, at religious institutions, or at some combination of the above.
bulletWhether methods of prevention of pregnancy and/or STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) should be included in sex-ed classes .
bulletWhether abstinence should be taught alone or in addition to disease and pregnancy prevention.
bulletWhether condoms should be supplied to students in schools.
bulletWhether information about sexual orientation (particularly about homosexuality and bisexuality) should be taught in class.
bulletWhat beliefs about minority sexual orientations should be taught. Almost all gays, lesbians and human sexuality researchers believe that a person's sexual orientation is fixed, not inherently sinful, and not chosen. Most religious conservatives believe that homosexual behavior it is changeable, sinful, and chosen.

Conflicts mostly occur at the local school board level, where more heat is often generated than light. There is no magic solution that everyone will find acceptable. There is probably not even a compromise on the above items that will satisfy the majority of parents and other adults.

Consensus does exist in some areas:

There are a number of factors which are provable or which most people agree with:
bulletHuman sexuality is an important part of life.
bulletUnder optimal conditions, sexual activity is an overwhelmingly positive experience.
bulletThe best way for a child to learn about sexuality is in the home, from knowledgeable parents who are able to teach it in a relaxed manner.
bulletMost parents give little information to their children; those who do often lack sufficient knowledge and/or feel awkward when talking about this subject.
bulletYoung people often go through a "superman/superwoman" phase when they feel immune from pregnancy, cancer and STDs.
bulletYouth pregnancy rates, STD rates and abortion rates vary greatly among different countries. the U.S. rates tend to be higher than those of western European nations.
bulletA woman who engages in penile-vaginal intercourse risks contracting HPV (genital human papillomavirus). This can lead to cervical cancer. The risk is much higher for women who became sexually active earlier in life, and for women who have had many sexual partners. Condoms can prevent the transmission of HPV.
bulletIndividuals who engage in anal, vaginal or oral sexual intercourse without a condom run a high risk of contracting HIV (which leads to AIDS), chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, human papillomavirus [genital warts], syphilis, trichomonas, and other STD's if their partner is infected with one of these viruses or bacteria.
bulletSome STDs are not curable.
bulletCondoms (if used) greatly reduce the chance of disease and pregnancy. (Some religious conservatives teach that condoms are almost totally useless)
bulletA heterosexual couple engaged in penile-vaginal intercourse without contraception once per week will typically be pregnant within a few months.
bulletThe chance of transmission of HIV from an infected partner during a single sexual encounter ranges from perhaps 1 in 10 (for anal sex) to possibly 1 in many hundreds of thousands of encounters (for oral sex). The transmission rate depends upon the exact sexual act, the way in which it is performed, whether a latex barrier was used, and whether the individuals have genital scarring from previous STDs.
bulletAnal intercourse without a condom is the highest risk sexual activity.
bulletSexual activity is most enjoyable if it is done between an enthusiastically consenting, committed couple. Many people feel that it should be restricted to married couples.
bulletMany young people are manipulated or pressured into sexual activity before they are ready. This often causes a great deal of emotional pain.
bulletIn excess of 95% of  heterosexual young people become sexually active before marriage.
bulletMost heterosexual couples live together for an interval before marriage.

Consensus appears impossible in some areas:

bulletSome adults, particularly religious and social conservatives, believe that the most important sexual message for youth is that they should delay sexual experience until marriage.
bulletOthers believe that it is acceptable (and even beneficial) if sexual activity is engaged in after the couple enters a committed relationship.
bulletSome adults want abstinence taught exclusively, without any mention of STD and pregnancy prevention; they often feel that to talk about both chastity and condoms delivers a mixed and confusing message to youth.
bulletOthers feel that abstinence should be promoted, but that disease and pregnancy prevention are important topics for the majority of youth who choose to become sexually active before marriage.
bulletStill others suggest that all the facts be explained in class about abstinence and prevention, and that students be left to make their own decisions.
bulletSexual orientation:
bulletSome adults want homosexuality and bisexuality taught as degenerate lifestyles -- unnatural and abnormal -- which are a personal choice and can be changed at any time.
bulletOthers want them taught as alternative sexual orientations that are healthy, natural, unchangeable and normal for the individuals concerned.
bulletSTD protection:
bulletPublic health groups generally promote the use of condoms as a very effective method of preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Religiously conservative groups often teach that condoms are either useless or largely ineffective when used to prevent STDs.
bulletA new vaccine has been approved "... to prevent cervical cancer and other diseases in females caused by certain types of genital human papillomavirus (HPV). Its availability has produced a conflict among many religiously conservative groups. More information.

Copyright © 1996 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1996-JUN-6
Latest update: 2007-JAN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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