There are vast differences between SRA and CSE. The major distinction is how each approaches teen sexual activity.
SRA teaches that primary prevention of high risk sexual behavior is to avoid all sexual activity, and the discussion empowers teens to make the healthiest sexual decision, regardless of their previous sexual experience.5 SRA curricula gives teens all of the vital information about contraception—the health benefits as well as the limitations, including the varying effectiveness against different types of STDs. Classes also demonstrate how high-risk choices can potentially have an impact on different aspects of a teens life beyond just the physical. SRA education empowers teens to make the healthiest choice for their lives—explaining how to some risks can be reduced, but emphasizing how teens can avoid risks completely by delaying sexual activity.
By contrast, CSE assumes that it is unrealistic to expect teens to avoid sexual activity, and that high risk sexual behavior is simply ‘unprotected sex’, so much of their time is spent talking about sex and the use of condoms and other forms of contraception.6 This approach does not take into consideration the possible high-risks of STDs that are less impacted by the use of condoms and can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. It also ignores the possible influence that sexual activity can have on the emotional, mental or social well-being of students.
The most frequently used CSE curricula does include the concept of ‘abstinence’ in the texts, however, the concept rarely warrants anything more than a passing mention. In fact, a review of CSE curricula show that, on average, about 5% of their time is devoted to avoiding sexual activity7 and, rather than clear guidance, the definition of ‘abstinence’ is often subjectively defined by the student. Students are sent nondirective and confusing definitions for abstinence that are filled with risk.8 Alarmingly, CSE curricula present sexual risk avoidance and condom use as equally “safe” options, promoting dangerous and medically inaccurate information to teens.9
The focus of SRA is to empower teens to avoid risk by making good health decisions, regardless of their sexual history. In contrast, CSE sets the bar much lower, assuming teens will engage in sexual activity and focuses merely on reducing the risks of that behavior.
5 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Trends in the prevalence of sexual behavior. National YRBS: 1991-2009. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYauth/yrbs/trends.htm.
6 US Department of Health and Human Services & the Administration for Children and Families (2007, May).Review of Comprehensive Sex Education Curricula.
Martin, S & Pardue M. (2004, August 10). Comprehensive Sex Education vs. Authentic Abstinence: A Study of Competing Curricula. Heritage Foundation.
8 Taverner, B, Montfort, S. (2005). Making Sense of Abstinence. Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey.4.
9 National Abstinence Education Association. (2007, June).Straight from the Source. Analysis with direct quotes from the most widely recommended comprehensive sex education curricula.