The Netherlands: A Place where Sex Education Actually Prepares you for Sex

If you're anything like me, the only thing that you learned from your sex education class is that abstinence is the answer to everything and that STIs will most certainly kill you. If your sex education class gave you this overall message, then congratulations - you are from the United States, the country that has the highest teen pregnancy rate, respectively, in the entire Western world. I felt extremely helpless in my own sex education classes when I was in high school. I was well aware that my 45 minute abstinence lesson from the high school gym teacher was not preparing me for love, sex, intimacy, ect, but I was at a loss as to what to do about it. I turned exclusively to close friends and the internet, which at the time was really all that I could do. I couldn’t turn to my parents because I knew that they would be awkward talking about sex, and I certainly couldn’t turn to my teachers because I knew from the sex education classes that they were terribly misinformed about sex!

 

Many US teens experienced the same struggles that I did regarding sex education, and I really want to stress the word struggle here. To be a teen that is well prepared for sex in the US, you really have to take that on yourself because your sex education classes certainly aren’t cutting it. I can only think of ONE friend that has actually said to me “Sex education prepared me for sex,” and that was my Dutch friend. This friend had a really positive experience with sex education, and I never really understood how that could be until I started researching sex education in the Netherlands, which I only started researching because of a sexuality class that I am currently taking. Let me say, the difference between sex education in the US and the Netherlands is astounding. The Dutch have a very different approach to sex education, an approach that starts when the child is just a wee kindergartener. The five-year-olds are by no means learning about the intricacies of sex, rather they are learning about respect, intimacy, and safety. They learn simple, but effective ways of communicating, like whether or not they enjoy being hugged, touched, or kissed. By the time they are in third grade, Dutch students are able to properly name and identify genitalia. Dutch students learn about sex at a gradual, slow pace, so that by the time they are teenagers they are well prepared to maturely discuss sexual desires (both homosexual and heterosexual) and orgasms very openly.

 

The Dutch approach to sex and sexuality is a very holistic approach, one that encourages self-reliance, respect, and responsibility. With that being said, it’s really no surprise that the Netherlands has the lowest rate of teen pregnancy in the Western world. Their sex education curriculum, through years of subtle lessons, has well prepared them to handle sex in a very mature way. By mature way I mean, talking about contraceptives openly with their partner, openly communicating boundaries/pleasures, talking openly about relationships with parents, ect. Being able to talk about sex in a mature way doesn't happen overnight. For Dutch teens, this process takes nearly a decade, sometimes even longer; it is also important to note that sex education isn’t the sole cause of sexual maturity in the Netherlands, but it does play a pretty big role because it helps normalize questions/concerns that young teens have. I think the US could really benefit from the Dutch approach to sex education, lowering the number of teenage pregnancies in the process.