Abstinence, what a load of crap!
Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Gets an 'F'
December 7, 2004
by Susan Yudt
What would you do if your math teacher told you that 2 + 2 = 5? Or your geography teacher said that the earth was flat?
Now imagine that your teacher told you that HIV gets transmitted through tears and sweat. Or that touching another person's genitals can result in pregnancy.
As it turns out, many teens are learning just that.
On December 1, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a report (PDF) about the state of abstinence-only sex education. He found that more than two-thirds of government-funded abstinence-only programs contain misleading or inaccurate information about sex.
Only comprehensive, medically accurate sex education has been proven to prevent pregnancy and infections.
What Is Abstinence-Only?
Abstinence-only programs promote abstinence from all sexual activity until marriage. It's true that abstinence is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. But many studies have shown that teaching abstinence alone is not effective. Only comprehensive, medically accurate sex education â€” which includes information on both abstinence and birth control â€” has been proven to prevent pregnancy and infections.
Many teens in abstinence-only programs are already sexually active and need information on safer sex to protect themselves. The abstinence-until-marriage platform excludes sexually active straight teens and all LGBT people, no matter how old they are. (Gay marriage is illegal in 49 states.) It implies that gay people should either marry straight people or go without sex for the rest of their lives. According to abstinence-only programs, even unmarried heterosexual adults should not be having sex!
In 2005, the federal government will dedicate $170 million in funding to abstinence-only programs, while comprehensive, medically accurate sex education will receive no dedicated funding.
Fiction and Fact
Here are some other incorrect statements from abstinence-only programs that were reviewed in Waxman's report:
Misconception: "A pregnancy occurs one out of every seven times that couples use condoms."
The Truth: Condoms are up to 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly.
Misconception: "'In heterosexual sex, condoms fail to prevent HIV approximately 31 percent of the time.'"
The Truth: Condoms offer excellent protection against HIV. Most studies show that for couples in which only one partner has HIV, the correct and consistent use of condoms is more than 99 percent effective.
Misconception: "'Women gauge their happiness and judge their success on their relationships. Men's happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments.'"
The Truth: We are all very different people, with different opinions and values. Gender stereotypes are misleading and insulting.
Misconception: "5 percent to 10 percent of women who have legal abortions will become sterile."
The Truth: Abortion is a very safe procedure and side effects, such as sterility, are very rare and only occur when there are complications â€” which are much more likely when abortion is illegal and unsafe.
People who oppose comprehensive sex ed incorrectly say that teaching teens about preventing pregnancy and infections encourages them to have sex, but this has been scientifically disproven. In fact, a recent study by Columbia University researchers found that while teens who took virginity-until-marriage pledges were abstinent longer, they were less likely to use condoms when they stopped abstaining â€” which most are likely to do before marriage.
If you're not happy with how sex ed is taught at your school, you can take steps to create change. Talk with your parents or other trusted adults, and let them know what you're learning and why you think improvements are needed. You could also get together with other students and present your case to the school board. Students have had great success with this in the past (see "Protecting Texas Teens," below). On a larger scale, you could write to your local, state, and federal legislators and make your voice heard. You may not to be old enough to vote yet, but the future is already in your hands!