The U.S. has the highest rate of teen pregnancy among developed nations, with an average of 52.8 pregnancies and 33.8 births for every 1,000 15-to-19-year-olds. We also have the highest rate of STD infections in the industrialized world.
And as John Oliver recently pointed out, there's no national standard for what kids have to learn about sex in U.S. schools, so what we learn -- or whether we learn anything at all -- can differ wildly depending on what state we live in.
As a result, a recent study found that one in four U.S. high school students had received abstinence education without getting any instruction about birth control, and 75 percent of teens reported that they knew little or nothing about the Pill. Given those numbers, it's no surprise that states with abstinence-only education also tend to have the highest rates of teen pregnancy.
It isn't like this everywhere though -- in many other countries, sex-ed focuses not just on the physical mechanics of how sex works, but also on teaching students what a healthy relationship looks like, what it means to explore your sexual orientation, and how to practice safe sex, and students start sex-ed as young as kindergarten. Those countries also have significantly lower rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.
Here are six countries we could seriously learn from -- with some amazing, moving and hilarious sex-ed videos that prove why:
This video, which is both highly educational and highly NSFW, aired on government-funded Nordic public television to teach kids ages 8-12 about puberty, French kissing, hickies, sex, and masturbating using tomatoes, a vacuum cleaner and anatomically correct models. The school-based sex-ed curriculum is comprehensive and mandatory. Students in Norway are encouraged to discuss a wide range of topics related to sex, anatomy and relationships in the same honest, not-even-a-little-bit-embarrassed way this video does.
Teen birth rate: 9.5 babies for every 1,000 teens
Canadian provinces are able to decide how and what they cover in sex-ed classes, much like states in the U.S. are, but most provinces follow a similar model. Earlier this year, Ontario announced the first updates to their curriculum since 1998, which includes coverage of topics like masturbation, sexting, bullying, gender expression, consent and LGBTQ relationships.
Teen birth rate: 16 babies for every 1,000 teens
This video, which features dancing, animated penises and vaginas, was aired during a public television segment aimed at 3-to-6-year-olds to help teach children about their bodies. Sweden has had compulsory sex-ed in all schools since 1956, whereas in the U.S., only 22 states have mandatory sex-ed, and only 13 of those require it to be medically accurate.
Swedish students learn about everything from consent and condoms to challenging racial and gender-bias in the ways they think about in relationships. "To have fun with sex, to be a person who really wants to be alive and can say yes, and can say no, you have to know quite a lot about this, about how your body works,” one Swedish sex-ed teacher explained to the Guardian.
Teen birth rate: 2.7 babies for every 1,000 teens
Sex-ed in schools is mandatory, and covers a wide range of topics, including LGBT relationships, contraception, and occasionally even the path to orgasm -- for students as young as 5. Public nudity, or "Free Body Culture" is also super common, and not at all considered taboo in Germany.
Teen birth rate: 8.2 babies for every 1,000 teens
Sixty years ago, Denmark and the U.S. had similar rates of teenage pregnancy but in the 1960s, the Danish government became the first country in the world to grant everyone access to contraception and sex-ed information as a right, regardless of age. Recent studies have found that most Danish teens wait until they're almost 17 to have sex, and 80% of them use contraception during their first sexual encounter.
The overall birth rate for the country is so low that they've recently expanded their sex-ed curriculum to start covering not only how to avoid pregnancy, but also how to enjoy sex and intentionally get pregnant -- once the time is right, of course.
Teen birth rate: 4.5 babies for every 1,000 teens
Dutch students start a series of comprehensive sex-ed courses when they're just 4 years old, beginning with conversations centered around respect, intimacy and safety. At age 8, they learn about self-image and gender stereotypes, and at age 11, they cover sexual orientation and birth control.
The Netherlands instituted their "Long Live Love" sex-ed program in response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. It encourages teens to go at their own pace and own their own sexuality, while also teaching them about the importance of safe sex. An ad for the program states, "In addition to the transmission of knowledge about safe and unsafe sexual behavior, the curriculum stimulates a positive, responsible attitude toward sexuality."
Teen birth rate: 9.3 babies for every 1,000 teens
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