The prevalence of divorce and the slow manner in which the American family is becoming a thing of the past is a depressing reality. But what is leading to such a dramatic shift in the family structure? Well, it’s simple—sex. Sex is everywhere, as is evident in the way it pervades every aspect of American culture. If we’re not talking about it, we’re doing it, and therein resides the problem.
So, what does sex have to do with family? Well, everything of course. For the most part, people are fine with sex running rampant in the media, but bring it up in normal conversation and the mood goes limp, so to speak. Since people are so afraid of sex education and birth control, they are single-handedly undermining the family structure. It is the lack of comprehensive sex education that causes many teenage girls to end up with unwanted pregnancies and relationships.
It’s hard to get someone pregnant—if you’re smart about it. Get on the pill, make sure he uses a condom and go wild. However, that’s easier said than done and that’s exactly the problem. When you restrict access to contraceptives, you affect the foundation of strong families. According to a recent National Public Radio report, nearly 750,000 teenagers will become pregnant this year and three out of every 10 American girls will get pregnant at least once before they hit their 20th birthday. That’s a lot of teen pregnancies.
On top of all that, there are also sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to worry about. MSNBC recently reported that 65 percent of all contracted STDs occur in kids under the age of 24. Also, people under 22 will contract 25 percent of all new HIV cases. So, how can we expect kids to understand the effects of unprotected sex if they are not taught about it? People say teaching abstinence would reduce the problem, but they fail to realize that you can’t stop people from having sex—you can only educate them.
People aren’t going to stop having sex. MSNBC reports that 66 percent of American high school students will have sex by their senior year. At the current rates, that means a lot more unplanned pregnancies. So what do you get? Couples that may not love each other are joined together by an accident. The archaic and chivalric ideal that a man who impregnates a woman must step up and marry her still exists. As a result, couples who are not ready for marriage, let alone ready to raise a child, pretend they’re all one big happy family. Then six or seven years down the line, one of the parents can’t fake it anymore and splits. Is it because they couldn’t work out some marital difference?
The answer is no. There just shouldn’t have been a marriage in the first place. Look at poor Levi Johnston, the boyfriend-turned-fiancé of Bristol Palin, the daughter of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. One can only hope to Buddha they’re in love because with her pregnancy, it’s likely he has little choice but to marry into the Palin family. If Bible-toting, God-fearing Sarah Palin had let her daughter go on the pill, then maybe her campaign would look a lot less ridiculous (doubtful). Instead, we get a story that is all too typical: an underage pregnant girl marrying her boyfriend of little over a year, all before graduating high school.
It is unfortunate that many people mistakenly believe that the more you denounce sex the less likely kids are going to do it. Instead of exacerbating the problem, a fundamental shift needs to happen. If people are better educated about sex and have more access to birth control, then it is likely there would not only be a substantial drop in unwanted pregnancies, but also in divorces. If young people want to have sex, then let them—just let them do it responsibly. It’s ironic that those who rally the most against sexual education are the very same people who often oppose abortions. Instead of trying to get to the root of the problem, they’re more willing to side-step the issue for some ideological crusade. And the funny thing about crusades is that they tend to end with no real winner.

Drew McCarroll is a fifth-year political science major. He can be reached at amccarro@uci.edu.

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