"Abstinence plus" education gets a grade of STD+

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Google News shows nearly 200 news stories covering a study recently published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The story the mainstream media seems so anxious to report is summed up in the Tulsa Whirled's headline: "Virginity pledges are ineffective in curbing teen STDs, study finds." The story in the Whirled is actually out of the Washington Post, where it bears the slightly more balanced headline, "Teen Pledges Barely Cut STD Rates, Study Says."

How could this possibly be? It appears to hinge upon what teens are taught and made to understand about the meaning of abstinence:

Although young people who sign a virginity pledge delay the initiation of sexual activity, marry at younger ages and have fewer sexual partners, they are also less likely to use condoms and more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex, said the researchers from Yale and Columbia universities.

"The sad story is that kids who are trying to preserve their technical virginity are, in some cases, engaging in much riskier behavior," said lead author Peter S. Bearman, a professor at Columbia's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. "From a public health point of view, an abstinence movement that encourages no vaginal sex may inadvertently encourage other forms of alternative sex that are at higher risk of STDs."

Now what kind of "abstinence movement" would focus on vaginal sex to the exclusion of other kinds of sexual activity? Churches certainly aren't going to tell teenage girls that as long as your hymen is intact all is well. "True Love Waits," the Southern Baptist Convention's abstinence pledge initiative, deals with the broader issue of sexual purity, pointing to Jesus' words about lust in Matthew 5:

Until you are married, sexual purity means saying no to sexual intercourse, oral sex, and even sexual touching. It means saying no to a physical relationship that causes you to be "turned on" sexually. It means not looking at pornography or pictures that feed sexual thoughts.

And surely it's intuitive to kids that if even one person's genitals are involved, it's sex of some sort. Who would teach teens otherwise? Who could it be?

Could it be an organization that teaches that anal sex is a way to preserve a girl's "virginity"?

I wonder how much federal money designated for abstinence education is finding its way into the hands of Planned Parenthood and other organizations who have repackaged their "everyone is doing it so use a condom" sex ed programs into "abstinence plus" -- the same stuff as before with a brief nod to abstinence. A Heritage Foundation report says that this is happening:

In recent years, parental support for real abstinence education has grown. Because of this, many traditional safe-sex programs now take to calling themselves "abstinence plus" or "abstinence-based" education. In reality, there is little abstinence training in "abstinence-based" education. Instead, these programs are thinly disguised efforts to promote condom use. The actual content of most "abstinence plus" curricula would be alarming to most parents. For example, such programs typically have condom use exercises in which middle school students practice unrolling condoms on cucumbers or dildoes.

The footnote to that paragraph says, "Major programs with this type of activity include 'Focus on Kids,' 'Becoming a Responsible Teen,' and 'Be Proud! Be Responsible!'"

Yet another reason to keep an eye on local government. Your assignment: Find out what's being done with abstinence education funds in your local school system. If it's going to Planned Parenthood for "abstinence plus" education, then your tax dollars are paying for mixed messages which will encourage children to experiment in ways that make them vulnerable to STDs, as well as the spiritual dangers of sexual activity outside of marriage. Worse yet, your tax dollars are being used to teach children that they cannot exercise self-control.

Let's lay the blame for this "failure of abstinence education" where it belongs -- on phony abstinence programs concocted to keep Planned Parenthood on the government-funding gravy train, and on the local school officials who aren't paying attention or who actively support these programs.

Abstinence works every time it's tried. And real abstinence education -- education that teaches the value of sexual purity -- will not only reduce STDs and unplanned pregnancies, it will help teens learn self-discipline, a character trait that will yield benefits in every aspect of their lives.

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» Sexual Purity from NOTES

Batesline, primarily a political blog, challenges the reader to get involved in local schools/government and make sure your money is going to real abstinence programs. Good idea. But, let's take it one step further. Are we as parents, particularly... Read More

1 Comments

Ron said:

It's all a case of twisting and stretching around definitions and common sense so kids can placate their desires. I've encountered it time and time again -- kids think anal sex and bl--jobs aren't the same as having sex, so they're not breaking any rules. In other words, they're acting like typical, rebellious teenagers.

Having been at the extremes of both sides of the argument (i.e., long periods of abstinence and then periods of safe-sex promiscuity), I can now say through the lens of experience that a balance between the two is best.

Moderation in all things is a good thing.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 19, 2005 4:48 PM.

Witness at the vigil was the previous entry in this blog.

Benefit of the doubt is the next entry in this blog.

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