On April 29, the Maine Republican Party set out its platform during their state convention. Included on the ambitious list was “banning sex education.” Doing so would be a grave misstep, though their desire to do so is not surprising.

Students who receive age-appropriate, medically accurate and inclusive sex education on the whole, are less likely to have sex, contract a sexually transmitted infection or become pregnant. AwesProduction/Shutterstock.com

I am currently writing a book about the history of sex education, which means I think, talk and write about sex education more than the average person – and what my research, along with the research of countless experts, has taught me, is that sex education in public schools is, on the whole, a good thing.

Not all sex education is created equal, however. Abstinence-only “sex education” has been consistently proven ineffective at delaying the age of “initiation of sexual intercourse,” and seems to have no effect on rates of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. In addition, these courses are often shame-based, religiously motivated and homophobic.

Comprehensive sex education, on the other hand, is required to be age-appropriate, medically accurate and inclusive – and while it teaches about abstinence, it also includes information about contraception, along with a whole constellation of other topics, like gender, consent and dignity. Students who receive comprehensive sex education, on the whole, are less likely to have sex, contract a sexually transmitted infection or become pregnant.

American sex education is a scrambled mess, with each state left to its own devices in determining laws about sex education mandates. If sex education is mandated in a state, then each school is often left to decide which particular curriculum to use.

In Maine, schools are required to teach a “comprehensive family life education” course, in which sex education is taught. That sex education is, according to SIECUS, a sex education advocacy group, not required to be comprehensive, not required to include information about sexual orientation or gender identity, and it must emphasize abstinence. It has to include information about consent, and thankfully, it must be medically accurate.


Sex education in Maine is, therefore, something of a mixed bag, with various requirements that seem to come from various motivations. And as SIECUS puts it, “mandating local control over sex education presents unique challenges that have resulted in a glaring disparity regarding the quality of sex education that students receive.” Sex education in Portland, therefore, may look very different from sex education in Presque Isle.

In all, though, caring adults who hope to see young people physically well, empowered, knowledgeable and comfortable in their own skin should seek the expansion of comprehensive sex education programs in our state.

If Maine Republicans want young people to be healthy, to delay the age at which they have sex and to prevent sexually transmitted infections, they would be wise to keep comprehensive sex education in our public schools. It is clear, however, that this is not what Maine Republicans want – and on that, their platform speaks for itself.

The desire to ban sex education is not a new one – it’s as old as the subject itself – and we are seeing more of it around the nation on behalf of the Republican Party. As we see other parts of the country become subject to horrifying extreme abortion bans, transgender people denied health care, and Roe v. Wade in peril, we would do well to remember that sex education is part of the reproductive justice conversation too.

And here in Maine, where we can count ourselves lucky to be free from these cruelest measures, we should jump at the chance to protect sex education while we can, especially while we have the political bandwidth to do so.

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