Are European Sex Ed Campaigns More Effective?

Cristen Conger

Condoms and Europe go together like America and football. (© 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation)

Europe approaches sex a bit differently than the United States -- probably not a big surprise there. A Slate slideshow of American and European public sex ed and contraceptive ads demonstrates how countries abroad treat teen sex, STD prevention and condom use in a much more straightforward, honest and possibly more effective way. Whereas American messaging and imagery about safe sex and teen sex often focus on fear tactics ("Don't get screwed with and STD!" one ad warns), European campaigns tend to portray sex as a natural part of maturation that should be enjoyed wisely ("Give the gift of love" says a German ad showing a picture of a condom). So while teens start having sex around 17 years old on both sides of the Atlantic, the U.S. has far higher teen pregnancy and STD rates.

Here are a few statistics from the slideshow that point to a sexual health gap between the U.S. and Europe:

  • Germany's HIV rate is six times lower than the U.S.
  • U.S. teen pregnancy rates are three to six times higher than in Wester European countries
  • U.S. gonorrhea and chlamydia rates are 20 to 30 times higher than in the Netherlands
  • Sixty nine percent of American girls say they wish they had waited longer to have sex, compared to 12 percent of Dutch girls.

Although I haven't tracked down any hard data quantifying how public sex ed campaigns and prophylactic ads impact people's sexual decision-making, it sure seems like the Europeans are on to something.

Follow Cristen & Molly from Stuff Mom Never Told You on Twitter and Facebook.