Honorable mention — Grad student essay contest: Samaya Shuput

Lack of sex ed stems from the bible

FFRF awarded Samaya $200.

By Samaya Shuput

Some of my backstory: I am a graduate student studying to become a clinical pharmacist, and I am passionate about healthcare, community service and infectious diseases. I am also an ex-Muslim and an atheist. I am not familiar with bible-specific passages, but the Qur’an has similar verses (many ideas copied from the bible), so I have a good idea of the societal problems that stem from both of these books. Many religious verses promote baseless, unscientific viewpoints. One example: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:2. This bible verse, among others, frustrates me immensely. This verse implies that sex before marriage is immoral. It implies that abstinence is the only permissible sexual state unless the individual is married as a heterosexual. It is not inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, adolescents and teenagers, or even unmarried sexually active individuals. These ideas are harmful for many reasons, however, I would like to address two reasons that are related to healthcare: First, in the areas where abstinence-only education prevails, research has shown that sexual risk is higher, leading to an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Second, abstinence education can be correlated to higher amounts of both teen pregnancies and birth rates.

Abstinence-only sex education does not deter the rates of sexually transmitted diseases.

Research shows it likely increases sexual risk among adolescents. Many of the United States government’s current policies and procedures are not rooted in scientific reasoning. Since the 1980s, the government has continued to fund abstinence-only education to try to prevent STDs. Although sexual abstinence is 100 percent effective at preventing STDs, many people will choose to be sexually active. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 20 million new cases of STDs yearly. I believe that abstinence education is more harmful than helpful, and that safe-sex education should be the forefront of combating the spread of STDs. Abstinence should not be a part of the equation of STD preventions. The heart of the issue is how to stop the diseases from spreading when people choose to be sexually active.

Currently, the most effective method is practicing safer sex, such as using a condom. Additionally, the promotion of regular STD testing for sexually active individuals could shift the mindset of preventing STDs. Only honest, scientific and informative sex education and discourse could help to reduce the number of STDs in the United States.

Abstinence-only education does not avert teen pregnancies; instead, rates of teen pregnancies correlate to states that promote it. Additionally, there are currently nine states with no mandatory sex-ed at all. Five of those states — Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana — are not only allowed to omit sex-ed but are teaching abstinence-only education. These states are leading in the highest teen pregnancies per 100,000 people. Furthermore, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the most women at risk for unintended pregnancies (18 percent) who are not using any contraceptive methods are between the ages of 15 to 19. Again, I believe this event can be attributed to the absence of evidence-based sexual education. Statistics provided by the Guttmacher Institute show that contraception is often used inconsistently, which causes it to be highly ineffective at preventing pregnancy. Only 5 percent of unintended pregnancies occur when contraceptives are used correctly. Health care providers and public health educators should be teaching their communities on how to properly use contraceptives.

I believe that some biblical passages aim to control a person’s sex life. This leads to policies that will not allow for proper information on sex in fear of implying that a person can choose to be sexually active if they are responsible. I believe the strongest tool we yield for societal change is our knowledge. We can teach our communities that they can choose to be sexually active and they can avoid consequences if they are responsible. We can teach our adolescents that they can have low-risk sexual encounters by getting tested, using contraception, and receiving appropriate vaccinations. We can teach our students that they can have sexual freedom without fear mongering. As atheism is not a religion — it is lack of religion. Abstinence- only sexual education is not education — it is a lack of education.

Samaya Shuput

Samaya, 29, is from American Fork, Utah, and attends Roseman University of Health Sciences where she is working toward a doctor of pharmacy degree. She is an ex-Muslim who separated herself from her family when she was 19. She is passionate about the health sciences, community service, animals, and environmentalism.