Sex Ed: Parents Just Don't Understand

Survey shows that local parents overestimate their influence on teens' sex ed

Sex Ed: Parents Just Don't Understand

Nearly half of parents of Austin teens say they are their children's primary source of information about sex. And a good number of parents say also that the topic of sex is a "regular part of family conversation." Unfor­tu­nately, according to teens, that ain't so – by a long shot. According to a new survey on teens and sex conducted by Austin LifeGuard – the abstinence-only education program provided by Austin LifeCare, a Christian, faith-based crisis pregnancy center – 47% of parents surveyed say they are the primary provider of information regarding sex, and 43% say they have these conversations regularly; meanwhile, however, just 24% of teens say they get most information from their parents, and just 7% say sex is a regular topic of conversation at home.

Austin LifeGuard has been providing abstinence-based sex ed since 1989 and until this year was on the Austin ISD list of "approved speakers" for district sex education classes – that meant, according to district officials, that while the program was not on the "approved district curriculum," individual teachers were free to bring LifeGuard in as a guest speaker. LifeGuard Program Director Amanda Brown said the group will use its findings – based on surveying 223 teens and 142 parents representing 13 Austin high schools – to beef up its sex ed curriculum.

Indeed, a little beefing-up might be in order: A review of the LifeGuard curriculum earlier this year revealed some misinformation in what the group was teaching in Austin schools, including that condoms have "no proven effectiveness" in reducing the risk of human papillomavirus infection and that "mutual masturbation and 'outercourse'" can result in pregnancy. The LifeGuard curriculum also teaches that there are "differences between [sexual] arousal in males and females" – a concept the program illustrates with the reminder that "men are like microwaves and women are like crock pots," according to professor David Wiley, one of two Texas State University health educators who wrote a comprehensive report on Texas sex ed that was released earlier this year by the Texas Freedom Network. (A little beefing-up of the curriculum is also likely in order since federal funding for ab-only sex education has been replaced with funding for "comprehensive" sex ed programing – which has a lot of ab-only providers rebranding themselves as "abstinence-based," though few actually are, argues Wiley.)

Among the LifeGuard survey's other findings: A majority of parents and teens agree that abstinence isn't "really about being religious" (65% and 58% respectively) and that abstinence is the "safest measure" to avoid "health risks associated with sex" (83% and 65%).

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More sex education
Austin Schools Ask Parents When and How to Talk About Sex
Austin Schools Ask Parents When and How to Talk About Sex
Birds do it, bees do it, ISDs do it

Austin Sanders, Dec. 14, 2018

House Shoots Down Medical Accuracy
House Shoots Down Medical Accuracy
Failed amendments to Senate Bill 283 would have – God forbid – mandated that sex ed be medically accurate

Jordan Smith, May 29, 2009

More by Jordan Smith
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
'Chrome Underground' Goes Classic Car Hunting
Motoreum's Yusuf & Antonio talk about the biz and their reality TV debut

May 22, 2014

Eighth Inmate of the Year Set to Die
Eighth Inmate of the Year Set to Die
Eighth inmate of the year set to die

May 9, 2014


sex education, abstinence-only sex education, Austin LifeGuard, Texas Freedom Network, Austin LifeCare, AISD

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle