Abstinence-Only: Stop the Madness!

I received a letter from the Director of Health Services of the school district my son attends. The title of the memo read as follows:

Fifth Grade Maturation/AIDS Education Program

In the body of the letter, however, it refers to “maturation and abstinence education”. I wanted to clarify this, to find out if it is an abstinence-only program. Well, sure enough, it is. She said that they teach the kids to avoid pregnancy and STD’s by abstaining from sex “until marriage”. What? I take issue with this on several different levels:

1. It’s completely absurd and unrealistic. We know that, and anyone who doesn’t in this day and age must be trying very hard to remain ignorant – research has shown time and again that children taught abstinence-only are still likely to have sex before the age of 15, and three times more likely to have sex without birth control pills or condoms, more likely to get pregnant, more likely to get STD’s, including AIDS.

2. These children are also less likely to come to their parents with questions about sex, or for help if they find themselves in a predicament. These parents stop them in their tracks by saying, “No sex. End of discussion.” Besides shutting down communication, I would think it causes them to feel ashamed about their sexual development. How sad!

3. Abstinence-only programs are thinly-veiled religious programs. There is no basis for teaching kids not to have sex until marriage, other than religion. I challenged her to give me one and she couldn’t. Can you?

I explained that I am not opposed to abstinence but to teaching abstinence only. We need to teach children that there is no shame in what is happening to their bodies, and that our sex drive is a normal, healthy part of human development. The only time abstaining until marriage even factors into this is within the context of religion – something which has no business being in public schools.

I could allow my son to attend and teach him alternatives myself, but I don’t think I will: by signing this consent form I am encouraging, supporting, and helping to promote a program which is ineffective, counter-productive, and dangerous to our children’s health and well-being.

Besides, I don’t want him getting mixed messages or being made to feel that sex outside the bonds of “holy matrimony” is something shameful. The idea goes against the grain for me.

Those who oppose sex education in public schools often say that it’s a private matter which should be taught at home, at the parents’ discretion. I say likewise to abstinence/religious programs, which are people’s personal, religious opinions and moral views regarding marriage and relationships, and have nothing at all to do with facts about sex.

To take it a step further, a stronger argument could be made for teaching sex education in school and leaving abstinence-only to be taught at home by parents. After all, we know for certain that our children will develop a sex drive, and as responsible, intelligent adults, we have to acknowledge how powerful the human sex drive can be. How else would we have kids?!

What we don’t know for sure is that our kids will some day marry, or that they will even want to. Why force the idea on them? Why shame them into believing that sex is acceptable only within marriage?

As parents and educators, we have a duty to teach our children realistic ways of taking responsibility for their newly-developing sex drives. Telling them to ignore it until they find someone to marry (which they may never do, or even want to do) is unrealistic and irresponsible. Not to mention the message it sends to gay and lesbian teens – that their sexual feelings will never have an acceptable outlet; yet another religious/moral opinion being promoted by public schools that endorse these programs.

We must stop burying our heads in the sand, pretending that if we tell them enough times to “just say no”, their hormones will magically stop racing. It’s absurd. To continue taking this approach is a grave injustice to these children who are in desperate need of mature, responsible guidance.

Sex is a normal, natural, and healthy part of human development. Let’s keep it healthy by teaching our kids the facts about it, and leave the marriage/religious aspect at home or in church. Let’s teach them to embrace and care for this aspect of their lives, rather than insisting that they neglect, ignore, or feel ashamed of it.

And keep in mind: it is just as easy to require parental consent for one as for the other.

I am going on record as stating that I will not give consent for my child to attend any abstinence-only program. To do so would be to condone it, and assist in promoting an unhealthy and potentially dangerous approach to addressing our children’s budding sexuality. I will take no part in that.

Abstinence-only sex education – Wikipedia:

Abstinence-only education has been criticized in official statements by the American Psychological Association,[15] the American Medical Association,[16] the National Association of School Psychologists,[17] the Society for Adolescent Medicine,[18] the American College Health Association,[18] the American Academy of Pediatrics,[19] and the American Public Health Association,[20] which all maintain that sex education needs to be comprehensive to be effective.

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27 responses to “Abstinence-Only: Stop the Madness!

  • Eric Smith

    Yes – I’ll give you a couple of outstanding reasons for teaching abstinence that has nothing to do with religion.

    First of all, having babies and dealing with the emotions and everything else that goes with it – is something best handled by someone who has reached adulthood. No one with a brain would dispute that. Therefore teaching kids to wait on engaging in behavior that can lead to pregnancy and parenthood is a great reason to teach abstinence. I think most kids are smart enough to understand that.

    Secondly, condoms have a known failure rate of 12% – even if used correctly they have a 3% failure rate. So when you’re talking about contracting a disease that could either kill, or dramatically alter a child’s future, or even the risk of pregnancy – whose child would you like to play Russian roulette with?

    Not mine, thank you.

  • Lottie

    Yes – I’ll give you a couple of outstanding reasons for teaching abstinence that has nothing to do with religion.

    First of all, thank you for commenting.

    First of all, having babies and dealing with the emotions and everything else that goes with it – is something best handled by someone who has reached adulthood. No one with a brain would dispute that.

    I couldn’t agree more. Which is a perfectly sensible reason to teach kids about birth control.

    Therefore teaching kids to wait on engaging in behavior that can lead to pregnancy and parenthood is a great reason to teach abstinence. I think most kids are smart enough to understand that.

    As I stated, I have no problem teaching abstinence along side teaching about condoms and other forms of birth control.

    Secondly, condoms have a known failure rate of 12% – even if used correctly they have a 3% failure rate.

    This would also mean that condoms have an 88% success rate, and 97% if used correctly – all the more reason to teach kids how to use them properly.

    So when you’re talking about contracting a disease that could either kill, or dramatically alter a child’s future, or even the risk of pregnancy – whose child would you like to play Russian roulette with?

    Not mine, thank you.

    And not mine. Which is precisely why I will personally see to it that he has all the information on every option available to help prevent it.

    Back to your opening statement:

    Yes – I’ll give you a couple of outstanding reasons for teaching abstinence that has nothing to do with religion.

    Given all the facts about sex and the failure statistics on these programs, can you give me a reason for teaching abstinence only until marriage that has nothing to do with religion? That was, after all, the question.

    Teenagers have sex, regardless of how often they’re told not to, and despite the many risks. If they didn’t, this would be a non-issue. No one with a brain would dispute that, I’m sure.

  • Eric Smith

    You asked for a reason to teach abstinence that didn’t have anything to do with religion – I gave you two.

    You kind of contradict yourself with the condom use blurb. Teaching them correct condom use, that has at least a 3% failure rate, is still risky at best – making “safe sex” a myth. I’m guessing you believe in complete “abstinence” when it comes to gun control? Why not teach people how to use guns safely instead?

    Personally I’ve dealt with enough teenagers who didn’t save sex until marriage to know that the hurt and regret they feel is very real. There isn’t a condom for your conscience.

  • Lottie

    You asked for a reason to teach abstinence that didn’t have anything to do with religion

    I will repost the question for you:

    “There is no basis for teaching kids not to have sex until marriage, other than religion. I challenged her to give me one and she couldn’t. Can you?”

    While I appreciate and welcome all comments, please do not come to my blog, restate my question to suit your purpose, and then pretend you’ve answered it. It’s dishonest, and plain rude.

    I gave you two.

    You gave me two reasons to abstain and I agreed with you. But that was not the question.

    You kind of contradict yourself with the condom use blurb. Teaching them correct condom use, that has at least a 3% failure rate, is still risky at best – making “safe sex” a myth.

    I’m not sure how you think I’ve contradicted myself.

    Teaching kids that condoms are ineffective decreases the likelihood that they will use them at all (why bother if they don’t work anyway) but does not decrease the likelihood that they will have sex – 97% more risky than a mere 3% condom failure rate.

    Personally I’ve dealt with enough teenagers who didn’t save sex until marriage to know that the hurt and regret they feel is very real.

    Probably because they’ve been taught that sex is wrong, bad and shameful. I choose to take a healthier, more realistic approach to the very natural, and not at all shameful human sex drive.

    There isn’t a condom for your conscience.

    And there it is: the all too typical shame game that I’ve been talking about. And it only took two comments and less than a half hour to start.

    I will not make my son feel ashamed of something as natural as sex.

    However, my conscience would certainly bother me if my son were to contract a deadly disease because I had deliberately withheld information from him that could have prevented it.

    But thanks for providing such a perfect example of exactly the sort of thing I’ve been talking about.

  • Eric Smith

    Yes, this was your question:

    “There is no basis for teaching kids not to have sex until marriage, other than religion. I challenged her to give me one and she couldn’t. Can you?”

    I gave two reasons to teach abstinence that had nothing to do with religion.

    You said:
    “Probably because they’ve been taught that sex is wrong, bad and shameful.”

    No, not at all. Sex is a very wonderful thing in its proper context. The kids I’ve talked to felt the hurt and regret for sex to soon in life because they weren’t ready for the it emotionally, nor for the responsibility it brings. They also regretted now having to take memories of other sexual partners into their marriage bed with their future spouse.

    You said:

    “However, my conscience would certainly bother me if my son were to contract a deadly disease because I had deliberately withheld information from him that could have prevented it.”

    Wouldn’t you feel equally as bad for telling him to go ahead and have sex with proper condom use and he still contract a disease?

    That mentality is illustrative of social liberals who choose to blame others rather than take responsibility themselves for the problems they find themselves in.

    But I’m pretty sure at this point you have both fingers in your ears saying, “la-la-la-la”.

  • Lottie

    You clearly have reading comprehension problems or trouble understanding context. Or perhaps you are the one with your fingers in your ears.

    I am not going to continue repeating myself to someone who clearly has no intention of actually engaging in civil discussion, or even reading the actual words I’m writing. This is not a debate forum, and I find you to be quite rude, as well as dishonest – something I find particularly abhorrent, especially in people who also claim the moral high ground.

    For the reasons stated, I have but one thing left to say to you:

    Try reading all the words.

  • Eric Smith

    LOL…rude and dishonest? That’s truly funny as I’ve been neither – nor have I claimed any moral high ground here. Perhaps you should re-read point number three in your original post.

    Again – you wrote:

    “There is no basis for teaching kids not to have sex until marriage, other than religion. I challenged her to give me one and she couldn’t. Can you?”

    Not sure why you are missing what you wrote right there.

    I simply gave you two reasons for the basis of teaching kids not to have sex before marriage that DID NOT include religious reasons.

    Apparently you don’t like those reasons – but they are true, and reasons none-the-less to teach kids saving sex until marriage without teaching them “religion” as you say.

    Perhaps you should read all of my words.

  • Lottie

    I have read all your words, and they do not answer the question.

    Perhaps you should read points one and two again.

    If you honestly believe that a marriage contract prevents unwanted pregnancy, magically prepares people for parenthood, or protects against STD’s, you truly have your head in the sand.

    You gave good reasons to abstain. I’ve given you that. But those reasons do not disappear simply because two people stand in front of a preacher or magistrate and say, “I do.”

    So you have yet to answer the question – why abstain until marriage, aside from religious doctrine?

  • Eric Smith

    “So you have yet to answer the question – why abstain until marriage, aside from religious doctrine?”

    This is getting rather comical – I will rephrase my two previous reasons for kids to abstain in order to hopefully help you understand my answer.

    From my first comment above – why kids should abstain:

    1. Sex can lead to adult responsibility. Part of our problems in this society is “babies” having babies. Sex is not a ‘responsibility free’ exercise. Dealing with the emotions and responsibility that having sex brings is something best handled by an adult.

    2. Condoms break – even if you have Dr. Ruth there to administer the procedure. Because they break, pregnancy and disease can and do still occur with condom use. Abstinence is a great way to guarantee you won’t get a disease or have a baby before you are ready to have one.

  • Eric Smith

    …left this important part out – the reason for waiting for marriage, I thought was self-evident in my answer about adult responsibility –

    however, marriage is a great waiting point to have kids because it shows that both partners are making a long term commitment to each other – translated – stability for a child, usually financial stability as well. Another scourge on our society is fatherless children, or absentee dads. Marriage provides a more stable environment to raise children in.

    If the birth control method fails for a couple who is married – it’s not as devastating as it would be for a 13 year old girl.

    Psychologists studies have proven that children do better with a mom and a dad in the home. That’s a great reason to wait until marriage to have children.

    I think that answers your question

  • Eric Smith

    One last comment then I’m done – the reason you perceived my answer as “not answering your question” is quite simple – we have two vastly different world views. I automatically equate abstinence with saving sex until marriage – and value that as being the right thing to do. You obviously don’t. Thus, the confusion.

  • Lottie

    1. Sex can lead to adult responsibility. Part of our problems in this society is “babies” having babies. Sex is not a ‘responsibility free’ exercise. Dealing with the emotions and responsibility that having sex brings is something best handled by an adult.

    You make a very good point. This is a good reason to abstain until adulthood. But the question which you have yet to answer is: why abstain until marriage?

    2. Condoms break – even if you have Dr. Ruth there to administer the procedure. Because they break, pregnancy and disease can and do still occur with condom use.

    You are absolutely correct. And a marriage contract does not prevent condoms from breaking or protect against pregnancy or disease. So, why abstain until marriage, aside from religious doctrine?

    Abstinence is a great way to guarantee you won’t get a disease or have a baby before you are ready to have one.

    Yes it is. I have never denied or disputed this. But, once again, marriage does not create a barrier to disease or prepare people for parenthood.

    You have given many good reasons to abstain from sex. But you have not given one logical reason to abstain until marriage. And I do not believe you can.

    In closing, please tell me if you think the following two questions are the same:

    Why abstain until marriage?

    Why should kids abstain?

    My answer would be “no”.

  • Lottie

    …left this important part out – the reason for waiting for marriage, I thought was self-evident in
    my answer about adult responsibility –

    Actually it wasn’t. As I have already pointed out, you gave good reasons to abstain until adulthood. That is not the same as abstaining until marriage.

    however, marriage is a great waiting point to have kids because it shows that both partners are making a long term commitment to each other – translated – stability for a child, usually financial stability as well. Another scourge on our society is fatherless children, or absentee dads. Marriage provides a more stable environment to raise children in.

    With the divorce rate what it is today, I do not believe this is necessarily true. And parents who stay together solely for the children end up miserable, and make their children miserable as well.

    If the birth control method fails for a couple who is married – it’s not as devastating as it would be for a 13 year old girl.

    I would tend to agree with this statement. You seem to keep forgetting that I totally support teaching abstinence. I don’t think most teens are prepared for sex, and the responsibilities surrounding it. However, the fact remains that the reason we are even having this discussion is because teenagers do have sex. Telling them not to, and warning them of the risks involved does very little to prevent it from happening. If you deny this, you are simply lying to yourself.

    I would rather teach teenagers how to protect themselves against pregnancy and disease should they choose to have sex – and they most likely will – than to tell them not to, cross my fingers and hope they do as they’re told.

    Psychologists studies have proven that children do better with a mom and a dad in the home. That’s a great reason to wait until marriage to have children.

    I would be interested in seeing these studies. I do not believe that it’s as clear cut as you are presenting it. Even if it is, moms and dads don’t have to be married to live in the same home, so this would not be an argument for marriage, but for people who have children to live together, married or not.

    I think that answers your question

    Actually, it doesn’t, for reasons stated.

  • Lottie

    One last comment then I’m done – the reason you perceived my answer as “not answering your question” is quite simple – we have two vastly different world views. I automatically equate abstinence with saving sex until marriage – and value that as being the right thing to do. You obviously don’t. Thus, the confusion.

    I have never been confused at all. You have not answered my question. You may have answered what you thought the question was, or what you wanted it to be. Nevertheless, it was not my question, and I am not the one confused about it.

    The reason you are confused and perceive that you have answered my question, is exactly as you have stated: we have two vastly different world views. You automatically equate abstinence with saving sex until marriage, and value that as being the right thing to do. I do not.

    And why, Pastor Eric, is it the “right” thing to do? Because sex outside of marriage is a sin? Is there any other reason that abstaining until marriage is the “right” thing to do? Is there a source besides religion, faith, or whatever you choose to call it, that makes this same claim?

    In this simple and startlingly accurate statement, you have made the exact point that I have been making all along. You have supported and helped strengthen my argument – inadvertently, I’m sure.

    So we are right back where we started, much to the kind Pastor’s credit:

    Marriage factors into this issue only within the context of religion. Thank you kindly, Pastor Eric, for your invaluable contribution.

  • wellfedgirl

    I have to say I agree on all points in your post. Particularly in our society today where we bombard young adults with conflicting messages. They see sexualized music videos and advertisements and the like, and then they’re taught “save it for marriage.” It doesn’t make any sense.

    I remember my school days, where even in a Catholic school I was taught about sex ed. Of course, there it was imperative that it be in the context of a marriage, but we still got the actual facts about how things work in fifth grade up.

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  • waltzinexile

    Okay, as frustrating as that had to have been for you, it was a pleasure watching you take the pastor to task for trying to twist the argument to fit his agenda. Thanks for the laugh; I wouldn’t have thought there could be anything so funny about “abstinence-only ‘education.'”

  • Lottie

    Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I certainly did. 😉

  • rubyeliot

    hahaha lol. This subject is so funny. Lottie. Are you going to teach your son also, that if he gets a woman pregnant to make sure he is a father figure in that child’s life for the rest of his own life? Are you going to teach him to take responsibility for one night stands? Are you going to have these discussions with him?

    I hope you will.

    Marriage does protect from disease. Theoretically, if both partners come to the marriage with no prior sexual partners– then there aren’t any STD’s to be worried about.

    Theoretically, if everyone practiced abstinence before marriage, then would we have aids? (while sex is certainly healthy and natural, aids and stds are not)

    I agree, it’s hard to get kids to listen and a preventive measures should be discussed– but abstinence is definitely the most healthy choice for kids.

    I commend Eric for being willing to respond to your ridiculous run around the mulberry tree.

  • Lottie

    hahaha lol. This subject is so funny. Lottie. Are you going to teach your son also, that if he gets a woman pregnant to make sure he is a father figure in that child’s life for the rest of his own life? Are you going to teach him to take responsibility for one night stands? Are you going to have these discussions with him?

    Nah, I thought I’d just hand him a box of condoms, point him toward the nearest brothel and wish him the best of luck.

    Seriously, though:

    Are you going to teach your son also, that if he gets a woman pregnant to make sure he is a father figure in that child’s life for the rest of his own life?

    Absolutely! In fact I’m already having these kinds of discussions with him.

    Of course, my son will be in a better position to avoid an unplanned pregnancy than kids whose parents lie to them and (knowingly) withhold vital information about condoms and birth control.

    Are you going to teach him to take responsibility for one night stands?

    Well, technically, a one-night stand, by definition, precludes taking responsibility. That’s kind of the idea.

    But, seriously, I intend to discourage one-night stands altogether, emphasizing the increased risks but still giving him all the information he needs to protect himself and his partner. I won’t be there for the rest of his life to help kill the mood, after all, and if he ever does get caught up in the moment (as humans are prone to do) I’d much rather he go in (so to speak) with a condom and the ability to use it correctly than without any protection at all.

    Marriage does protect from disease. Theoretically, if both partners come to the marriage with no prior sexual partners– then there aren’t any STD’s to be worried about.

    You could change that to read, “[i]f both partners come to the relationship with no prior sexual partners– then there aren’t any STD’s to be worried about”, and it’s still true. So it’s not marriage that protects against STD’s, it’s the prior abstinence which I have never disputed.

    Theoretically, if everyone practiced abstinence before marriage, then would we have aids?

    I don’t know, since sex isn’t the only way to get AIDS. But you can talk “theoretically” till the cows come home and the reality is that we do have AIDS and teenagers do have sex. So while you’re living in a fantasy world where everyone is as terrified of sex as you are and teenagers either don’t develop powerful sex drives or do exactly as they’re told all the time and never make mistakes, I’ll stay right here in the the real world and do everything I can to prepare my son for it as well. It’s the only world he will ever actually live in, after all.

    I agree, it’s hard to get kids to listen and a preventive measures should be discussed– but abstinence is definitely the most healthy choice for kids.

    Absolutely! I have never disputed this. I have agreed repeatedly that abstinence is the safest and healthiest choice for kids. As I said before, I am already discussing sexual matters with my son, encouraging open, honest communication, and I stress abstinence first and foremost. But I refuse to bury my head in the sand and pretend that there is no possible chance that he will have sex anyway, and I certainly don’t want the consequences of that to be a baby in high school or an STD. So I will give him all the information he needs to protect himself against those things.

    I commend Eric for being willing to respond to your ridiculous run around the mulberry tree.

    Run around the mulberry tree? You mean insisting that he answer the question that was asked and support his claims? He never did respond to the question I asked and you haven’t either. Pastor Eric failed to explain the magic of marriage in regard to preventing unwanted pregnancy and STD’s, and so have you.

    But feel free to try again.

  • waltzinexile

    Oh, dear. I’m afraid she followed me here from the [redacted] beetlebabee blog, where your post is up as a “possibly related” one. I’m sorry about that (but nowhere near sorry to have watched you task yet another dogmatic.)

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  • Lottie

    Waltz,

    No apology necessary. It was my pleasure. In fact, it inspired a brand new post. Hope you enjoy that one too!

  • waltzinexile

    Oh I’m enjoying the hell out of myself, thanks 🙂

  • V.E.G.

    Save sex until marriage! It bears repeating, there is no such thing as safe sex! People should not use safe sex and tell people funerals are expensive!

  • Lottie

    Sorry I haven’t been paying attention for the past couple of years. I was busy buying my son condoms and driving him through the red-light district. 😆

    I started to delete the above comment, but then decided that it was worth allowing and responding to. Lots of holes there, but I’ll just plug this one for now:

    V.E.G. — If there’s no such thing as safe sex, then what’s the point of saving it for marriage?

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