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Posts tagged ‘Abstinence-only sex education’

This is a post about premarital sex

Last week there was a sudden spree of posts about premarital sex. They have inspired me to write my own post concerning the same topic.

First of all, premarital sex is extremely common and it has been for an extremely long time. “Extremely long time” does not mean since the mythical 1950s, but rather since before then. Indeed, premarital sex has been the normative behaviour for much of the past eighty years. In the 1930s, 70% of men and women had premarital sex (cite). Similarly, today 95% of Americans have had premarital sex (cite). And the 1950s are of a mythical view. In her book The Way We Never Were, Stephanie Coontz refutes the idea that the 1950s were some sort of pure “family values” period. Back then a majority of people still had premarital sex. Indeed, she sums it up succinctly: “The 1960s generation did not invent premarital and out–of–wedlock sex.”

Clearly then, the religious right’s wrong’s promotion of abstinence ignorance–only sex (mis)education is not only an attack on women and an attack on public health, but is also an attack on reality.

A few of the posts in the recent spree mentioned supposed “negative consequences” of premarital sex. As I will show, those supposed “negative consequences” ought to be considered irrelevant and furthermore, the things tied to opposition to premarital sex have sinister and bad effects.

More discussion is after the jump.


Abstaining from the truth

From the Huffington Post (emphasis in original, links removed):

Texas lawmakers cut sex ed from two six-month courses to a single unit of “abstinence only” education. But early indications showed that the program wasn’t working. In fact, teens in almost all high school grades were having more sex after undergoing the abstinence only program. By 2007, Texas had the highest teen birth rate in the nation.


The results [of Texas’ sex miseducation]? Teen pregnancy in Texas went up — higher than before “abstinence only,” and more than 50 percent higher than the national average. Even more troubling was that repeat teen pregnancy went up — to the point that it, too, led the nation. It turns out that Texas kids thought that “if birth control doesn’t work, why use it?”


But none of this seems to matter to Gov. Rick Perry. When confronted with the dismal statistics during an October 15, 2010 televised interview with Texas Tribune reporter Evan Smith, Perry’s response was to reaffirm that “abstinence works.”

The audience laughed and Smith pointed out the state’s abysmal teen pregnancy rate. “It works,” insisted Perry. “Maybe it’s the way it’s being taught, or the way it’s being applied out there, but the fact of the matter is it is the best form of — uh — to teach our children.” Smith asked for a statistic to suggest it works, and Perry replied that “I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works.”

Hat tip to DAMMIT JANET!

Ignorance–only to be abstained from

Two Democrats, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Representative Barbara Lee of California have introduced a bill that would permanently cut off funding streams for the disaster known as ignorance I mean abstinence–only sex education (hat tip). As the United States midterm elections are imminent, I’m doubtful this law will actually get passed. But nevertheless, it is the right move. Abstinence–only has done nothing but cause unsafe sex, increase the teen pregnancy rate, and deprive young people of the knowledge they have every right to know.

Brilliant study supporting abstinence–only? Not quite

Social conservatives, wingnuts, and sexophobes are using a new study to wave the flag about discredited, abstinence ignorance–only sex education. In reality, they are misrepresenting the nature of the study. I also have serious doubts about whether the study actually means anything.

The form of abstinence–only sex education in the study differed significantly from the most common form of abstinence–only sex education. From a  Washington Post article on the study (emphasis added):

Several critics of an abstinence–only approach said that the curriculum tested did not represent most abstinence programs. It did not take a moralistic tone, as many abstinence programs do. Most notably, the sessions encouraged children to delay sex until they are ready, not necessarily until married; did not portray sex outside marriage as never appropriate; and did not disparage condoms.

“There is no data in this study to support the ‘abstain until marriage’ programs, which research proved ineffective during the Bush administration,” said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth.

This is different from Bush–style ignorance–only. Telling people to abstain from sex until they are ready to have sex is a completely different thing from moralizing and telling them that premarital sex is evil and lying about contraception. Being married and being ready to have sex are different things. There is nothing wrong with telling people to wait to have sex until they are ready. There is also nothing wrong with two consenting people having sex, whether they are married or not. Indeed, social conservatives and wingnuts are so against premarital sex that the joke is really on them regarding this study as they are beating the drum of a study that did not discourage premarital sex!

Indeed, the form of abstinence–only used in the study was different enough from Bush–style that it would not have qualified for funding because it was not based in Bronze Age morality that discouraged premarital sex and did not discourage contraception (cite).

In addition, there are issued with what this study has actually determined. Echidne raised issues with how truthful the participants might have been, and I agree that this might be a concern. In addition, the abstract (see the first link in this post) does not provide information about secondary outcomes, such as pregnancies or STD infections. This is mainly because the average age of participants was 12.2 months, with the follow–up lasting two years. It is entirely possible that the participants might delay having sex for a bit longer, but once they do start, they will still have sex in an unsafe manner. In this sense, the study won’t really mean anything; causing people to have unsafe sex when they are 17 years instead of when they are 16 isn’t really making a difference.

This post uses information provided by Hullabaloo and Echidne of the Snakes.

Ignorance education makes the children parents

A new report from the Guttmacher Institute has shown that the teenage pregnancy and abortion rate in the United States started going up in 2006. This reversed a steady decline that had been going on for several years.

The teen pregnancy rate rose 3% in 2006,while the teen birth and abortion rates rose 4% and 1%, respectively. Put in percentage terms, in 2006 in the United States, about 7% of teenage girls became pregnant.

The cause of this disturbing rise in teen pregnancy? To what I am sure will be to absolutely no one’s surprise, the increase is caused by abstinence–only sex education Abstinence–only became extremely popular during the Bush administration. Abstinence–only sex education classes are legally forbidden from discussing contraception, except to mention failure rates.

This study is yet more evidence that abstinence–only sex education is about as effective as “just don’t shoot” gun safety education.

Via Feministing.

Debunking the “But we don’t show kids how to use drugs” argument

There is an argument against comprehensive sex education that basically argues that since we do not teach young people how to use drugs safely, we should not teach them how to have sex safely/use contraceptives/etc and instead should focus on abstinence alone. This argument fails for several reasons.

Humans are animals, are biological organisms. Humans have a natural, evolutionary tendency desire to have sex; indeed, if we didn’t, we’d be extinct. Do humans have a natural, evolutionary tendency to do drugs? Certainly not tobacco and cocaine, as those are native to the Americas.  Similarly, cannabis is native to central Asia north of the Himalayas. Basically, do not have any biological need to use these drugs. (Medicine does not count; is is possible, although painful, to never use a painkiller, for example.) Alcohol may be a partial exception, as light consumption may have some beneficial effects, but otherwise biology does not make us have to do drugs. Basically, people normally have a sex drive, but do not normally have a “drug drive”.

Similarly, there are different things involved in using drugs versus having sex. How does one go about, say, obtaining marijuana?  One can grow it, or buy it from someone. For heroin, one has to buy it. The same applies for other drugs. This allows multiple means to go about and prevent drug use. Besides telling people not to use it, one can also go after suppliers, dealers, and the like. One cannot do that with sex. All one needs to have sex is someone else willing to do it with you. The only way to the same to sex as is done to drugs would be to prevent people from spending time with others. In short, there are generally more steps involved in doing drugs than in having sex.

Finally, most drugs (caffeine is a notable exception) are illegal, and alcohol and tobacco are age restricted. Although there is an age of consent for sex this is not the same thing. Once one reaches the legal age of consent it is legal for them to have sex with someone else willing to and who is also of the age of consent. Even if there is a blue law banning non-marital sex, such laws are unenforced (the government has better things to do than control people’s sex lives). Hence, even if they are de jure illegal, they are de facto legal. This is not the same as people getting away with drug possession. Even if most people who smoke marijuana are not caught, people are still charged if found to be in possession of it. The same happens for other illegal drugs.

Hence, for these reasons, the “we do not teach young people how to use drugs safely” argument against comprehensive sex education does not work.

The Eyes of Texas are blindfolded

There is yet another study out showing that abstinence ignorance-only sex education does not work (hat tip). The money quote: “[Young people in Texas are] well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behavior[.]”

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