Abstinence-only sex education is nothing new, but one school is taking its aversion to sex to a whole new level. The college has instituted a ban on “intimate relationships” to prevent students from getting accidentally pregnant and discontinuing their education.
According to a huge neon banner hanging outside Golden Heritage Polytechnic College in Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines, a “love affair will surely destroy the life of a young lady student” — because girls are the only people responsible for pregnancies, right? The banner goes on to say that the school prohibits intimate relationships between male and female students and reminds students that “true love waits.” Anyone caught violating the ban will reportedly be expelled from school.
It’s unclear if the ban only includes relationships in which both students attend Golden Heritage or if students are prohibited from dating, period. It’d be pretty impossible to enforce a complete ban, but unless officials are attempting to police all love affairs — including off-campus dating — how effective do they really think this “policy” is going to be?
No one wants pregnancy to derail a young person’s education, but it’s safe to say this attempt at romantic prohibition is going to fail in spectacular fashion. Forbidding young people from falling in love with each other pretty much never works (hasn’t anyone ever read Romeo and Juliet?), and it’s been proven time and time again that sex education and easy access to contraception are way better than abstinence at preventing unwanted pregnancies.
A 2011 study by the National Institutes of Health found that teens aged 15 to 19 who received comprehensive sex ed were 50 percent less likely to experience an unwanted pregnancy than teens whose education was abstinence-only. That’s a huge difference, and it’s worth it to confront the issues of pregnancy and STDs head-on rather than shying away because we’re uncomfortable with the idea of young people having sex.
Sexual curiosity is a normal part of young adulthood. We tend to get puritanical about it because we don’t want teens and young adults having babies before they’re ready or contracting an STI. But anyone who’s ever been a hormonal teen or college student knows that trying to ban young people from dating and being attracted to one another is like trying to prohibit a newborn from crying. It just isn’t going to happen.
If we really want to encourage high school and college-age kids to be responsible about sex and relationships, we have to start by accepting that they’re going to get romantically involved no matter what we say. Then, we have to teach them how to navigate those relationships in a healthy way, what’s required to have safe sex and how to balance their romantic desires with everything else going on in their lives.
It’s not weird or inappropriate for young people to be romantically interested in one another. What’s weird are the hoops, rules and policies we put in place to try to vilify totally normal attractions and interactions between sexually curious young adults.