What the Dutch Can Teach Us About Sex Education

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This past summer, I taught a study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands. We covered a lot of ground in this class, including an in-depth look at what a legalized prostitution system looks like and the implications of it for the mental and physical health of Dutch sex workers. In addition, we spent a lot of time talking about differences in sex education in the Netherlands compared to the United States. It turns out that these countries have radically different approaches to sex ed, and there’s a lot we can learn from the Dutch.

This is the subject of my latest column over at TONIC. In this article, I review the sorry state of sex education in America and its implications for teens’ sexual health (we have among the highest rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, and STIs in the industrialized world). Americans across the political spectrum agree that we have a major problem here and want things to change. Indeed, surveys reveal that both Democrats and Republicans are on the same page about this and want to provide kids with more comprehensive school-based sex education.

So what does effective comprehensive sex education look like? This is where we can learn a thing or two from the Dutch because they’ve got it pretty well figured out. Instead of focusing on abstinence more than anything else, they teach students what they really need to know about sex, including diversity in sexual practices and relationships, how to communicate effectively with a sexual partner, and how to establish healthy sexual relationships. The results of this approach speak for themselves because Dutch teens (who, incidentally, don't start having sex any sooner than American teens) have among the best sexual health outcomes in the world.

Check out the full article for a closer look at the Dutch model of sex education and what we can take away from it. 

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