Holland’s communication-based sex education is more effective in lowering birth, abortion and STI rates than America’s just-say-no approach.
There is no federal mandate for sex education in the United States, but the U.S. government spends millions of dollars per year subsidizing sex education programs nationwide. Under the Trump administration, these federally-funded programs are increasingly rooted in an abstinence-only framework.
The cornerstone of this approach is risk avoidance and, as such, these programs disproportionately emphasize the health-related risks associated with being sexually active — namely spreading and contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs). With the spotlight focused intently on teaching students about the potential risks of sex, there is precious little time left to teach sexual communication skills other than “just say no.”
This approach is not serving us well. The U.S. continues to lag behind other industrialized nations with respect to teen birth, abortion, and STI rates. However, we can improve teens’ sexual health, while also laying the foundation for happier and healthier relationships and marriages, by flipping the script. Emphasizing sexual communication skills over the risks and dangers of sex is something the Dutch have been doing for decades — and it seems to be working.