Young people who have sex within a committed relationship don't suffer academically or in other ways, says the results of a new study, according to Time Magazine today:
Presented on Sunday at the American Sociological Association conference in Atlanta, the results found that if students have sex within a committed relationship, there is no resulting effect on grades. However, if students simply "hook up" and have casual sex, their grades do tend to be lower, according to the Associated Press. Researchers say the type of relationship matters, since a close relationship also provides emotional support, while having casual partners may increase stress.
The study also found that:
Teens in serious relationships did not differ from their abstinent counterparts in terms of their grade-point average, how attached they are to school or college expectations. They were also not more likely to have problems in school, be suspended or absent.
On the flip side, the Family Research Council (FRC) apparently issued a statement urging caution when it comes to using this information as a "green light" for comprehensive sex-education in schools. Because, you know, we wouldn't want to actually use this information to help young people, right? If we know that more than half of all high school students are sexually active and we have evidence to suggest that being sexually active does not necessarily have a negative impact on young people's lives, why not share our knowledge with young people that sex with someone you care about and enjoy can be an amazing experience?
The FRC opposes sharing age appropriate, evidence based sexual health information, even as we know that our young people need it and want it. The researchers want this information shared. Of the FRC notion that this study (or presumably others like it) should not pave the way for comprehensive sex-ed in schools around the country, according to the Associated Press,
University of Southern California sociologist Julie Albright disagreed. She said it might be time to revamp sex education to "emphasize the importance of relationships and spell out the consequences of casual sex."
The study dispels the notion that all teen sex is bad, said Marie Harvey, professor of public health at Oregon State University.
"The type of relationship really matters. When it comes to sexual behavior, it takes two to tango," said Harvey, adding that safe sex should be practiced to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
In the real world we know that there is more nuance, as Amanda points out in her podcast this week, when it comes to young people, sex and relationships. High-school aged young people can fall in love as anyone can; why would we deny that sexual attraction and sexual activity is a part of said relationship? Bristol and Levi can have a baby, parent and decide to marry, but young people aren't capable of learning about and understanding their own sexuality and sexual natures? Young people are not only not immune to love and sexual desire, they are not immune to pregnancy and STIs. Bristol and Levi were clearly learning on the job, folks. It doesn't mean all young people must.
Adopting a measured, evidence-based and age appropriate approach to sex ed sounds like an incredibly dry and passion-less way to impart knowledge to young people about passion, sex, sexuality, love and health. But, hey, think about poetry and music. What's behind the lilting lines of your favorite love poem but imabic pentameter, rhythym created through meter? Or that music that makes your bones rattle and heart swell, with its basis in mathematics; a ticking metronome, giving structure to the communication of heart and soul?
This study is one more reason for us to consider how leaving our young people to wade through love and sex and passion without guidance leaves them open to more pitfalls than any of us want. If teens in committed relationships, who are sexually active, are not open to any more of those pitfalls than other teens, the message is becoming clearer - it's not the sex that's the issue; it's the relationship between people that matters most.