Common sense dictates that when we know that something is bad or disadvantageous to us, we avoid that situation or action. However, just as many people know that smoking is dangerous to one’s health, many do still smoke heavily and without concern for its possible ill-effects. Sex education have been an integral aspect of the secondary school system, educators feel that if only teenagers knew of the disadvantages of irresponsible sexual behavior then teenagers would stop doing it. The question is therefore, do teenagers lack common sense or are they like the smokers who despite the repeated warnings still puff on their favorite brands.
The answer is that, teenagers do not lack the common sense to realize that irresponsible sexual behavior is bad, but sexual behavior per se is attractive to the adolescent and the rewards of engaging in it compensates for the ill-effects of the behavior (Tapert, Aarons, Sedlar & Brown, 2001). Take for example, an unpopular high school junior who is courted by the star athlete, the girl’s status immediately increases and she is now considered popular. Having sex with her boyfriend also places a stamp on her desirability score to the opposite sex and it again increases her popularity while the athlete also increase his status as a stud.
Which in actuality is the one thing that the girl did not have before and which the boy is trying to maintain; the trade-off was the possibility of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases which statistically is less likely to occur even without the practice of safe sex methods. Thus, engaging in irresponsible sexual behavior is the medium with which teenagers gain popularity, belongingness, esteem and even notoriety for those who need to feel that they are not invisible. The rewards are immediate while the risks are perceived as a possible situation in the future which adolescents are not conscious about.
To decrease irresponsible sexual behavior is a gigantean task; educators must look at how sex is perceived by teenagers and what they associate sex with. It is only then that they would be able to design a strategy that would really bring the serious consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior to the consciousness and awareness of adolescents. A form of sex education programming that educators could use is to have teenagers play an interactive game wherein they will control and manage a group of adolescents who displays all the common behaviors and activities of teenagers.
They are to decide whether a couple engage in irresponsible sexual behavior or not, the game however has to be programmed in such a way that every risky behavior is followed immediately by the appropriate consequence. This would lead the adolescent to differentiate responsible from irresponsible sexual behavior and since they decide on the actions of the characters in the game, they know that they have to make the right choices and be responsible for the fate of their characters.
Thus, they are learning vicariously that irresponsible sexual behavior has its consequences and they need to thin about it as they become more sexually active. In the past, information campaigns against sexual behavior have carried with it the element of fear; adolescents are threatened with the possibility of contracting diseases or becoming pregnant which may have worked at some point.
However, sexual behavior has become social construct that adolescents value and perceive favorably as it is accepted as part of the norm of the adolescent’s life. Hence, any action to change irresponsible sexual behavior must be directed at changing the way adolescents feel and thin about sexual behavior.
Tapert, S. , Aarons, G. , Sedlar, G. & Brown, S. (2001). Adolescent substance use and sexual risk taking behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 28, 181-189.