Dispatches from the Creation Wars

More Abstinence-Only Insanity

I saw this post on Volokh the other day and intended to comment on it, but it got lost in the shuffle and I forgot. Thankfully, a reader sent me the link, wondering why I hadn’t written about it. It seems the Bush administration has changed the standards for the funding of “abstinence-only” sex ed curricula. Not only do they require that the courses not even mention contraception except to talk about failure rates, they’ve now gone even further and required that the courses demand that students pledge to forego all sexual activity until marriage and to exclude gay sex entirely:

Abstinence curricula must have a clear definition of sexual abstinence which must be consistent with the following: “Abstinence means voluntarily choosing not to engage in sexual activity until marriage. Sexual activity refers to any type of genital contact or sexual stimulation between two persons including, but not limited to, sexual intercourse.”

[And later:] Throughout the entire curriculum, the term ‘marriage’ must be defined as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as a husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” (Consistent with Federal law)


Any sexual stimulation at all? I’m surprised they didn’t actually say “no getting to second base”. No sexual stimulation at all until marriage, and since gays can never get married, they can never have any sexual stimulation whatsoever in their entire lives. Well that’s realistic. Because that whole celibacy thing has worked out so well for the Catholic Church, hasn’t it?

If kids took such a curriculum seriously – and they won’t, even if they initially claim that they will – it would have one certain effect: it would drive down the average age at which they get married. That age has been going up steadily lately and that’s a very healthy thing. Couples that get married older tend to be more stable and they also tend to be better parents for a wide variety of reasons. If you look at the states with the highest divorce rates, you’ll also find that they have the earliest average age for getting married; that’s not a coincidence.

They also tend, ironically, to have the highest rates of teen pregnancy. This whole plan is destined to backfire. The rates of teen pregnancy will be higher with such programs, even if they do manage to get kids to wait a bit longer before having sex, because they have offered them no education at all in the use of birth control. Likewise the rate of STDs will rise for the same reason. And the divorce rate will likely go up. That’s a perfect trifecta of craziness.

Comments

  1. #1 Roger Tang
    April 25, 2006

    Figures.

    This administration believes in security through obscurity. It fits their attitude and effectiveness on security elsewhere.

  2. #2 Soldats
    April 25, 2006

    I think it would work perfectly to produce a disenfranchised, uneducated, cheap labor force within our own borders so we don’t need to worry about Mexicans doing jobs that Americans won’t. Of course, that will be about 20-30 years from now, but it never hurts to plan ahead.

  3. #3 Matthew
    April 25, 2006

    What’s with the evangelical hatred of sex?

  4. #4 Treban
    April 25, 2006

    I think it would work perfectly to produce a disenfranchised, uneducated, cheap labor force within our own borders so we don’t need to worry about Mexicans doing jobs that Americans won’t.

    What they are producing with this bullshit is not a source of cheap labor, though that is a side effect, they are producing a future prison population – and “warrior” class.

    Of course, that will be about 20-30 years from now, but it never hurts to plan ahead.

    With bush’s messianic complex I honestly don’t think he believes there will be a 20-30 years from now.

    – – –

    The lunacy of this administration is boundless. Abstinence pledges are bloody useless. I and many kids I know took them in the early nineties. I was far from alone in breaking it. Thankfully we had two or three days of sex ed and my dad insisted, over my mom’s objections that I take part. Even so, with my parents both avoiding discussion of the issue, my most meaningfull sex talk came from the brother closest me in age – his take was that condoms are the best way not to get a gal pregnent. With the many partners I had before I really clued in on safe sex it is a miracle that I never got any nasty diseases. The thought of kids getting less education about sex than I got is scary as hell.

    I was listening to Frankken yesterday and he was talking with the mayor of Buffalo NY. Apparently as a city councilman he had a number of discussions with kids about where they got sex ed from. The vast majority of kids listed television and periodicals. Most of the girls said they really learned the most about sex and “safe” sex from their boyfriends – most common way to avoid pregnancy listed was; hold your breath when climaxing.

  5. #5 Soldats
    April 25, 2006


    What they are producing with this bullshit is not a source of cheap labor, though that is a side effect, they are producing a future prison population – and “warrior” class.

    Well, short of re-instating a draft, what better way is there to recruit able bodied people into the military than cutting off other options while the reproductive rate replenishes the numbers lost to wars?

    As for your personal anecdote, that’s all it is, an anecdote and not data. People are so comfortable abrogating their responsibilities to their offspring by shoving it on the state, that they should reap the rewards of their negligence. If you are so concerned with sex education for children, you might consider starting an organization that provides such services to parents who do not wish to do the talking themselves but who will hire someone else to do so. I, for instance, have the family doctor do the neccessary sex chats with my kids and fill in other gaps as neccessary. If parents don’t see it as their responsibility to educate their children on safety with respect to sex, no amount of coersion is going to solve that problem.

  6. #6 Alcholasia
    April 25, 2006

    This is part of a huge conspiracy to not only dumb down future generations, but to ensure that they multiply in vast amounts. To me this all stems from the catholic church and its efforts to ensure that each generation be bigger than the previous, because 10% of zero is, well you get the point. Thats why they got so stringent on birth control, abortion, and homosexuality. What do all of those have in common…no offspring. To me that blows apart any current argument for the abolition of those lifestyles, if you will. Its has been and always will be about $$$.

  7. #7 Alcholasia
    April 25, 2006

    This is part of a huge conspiracy to not only dumb down future generations, but to ensure that they multiply in vast amounts. To me this all stems from the catholic church and its efforts to ensure that each generation be bigger than the previous, because 10% of zero is, well you get the point. Thats why they got so stringent on birth control, abortion, and homosexuality. What do all of those have in common…no offspring. To me that blows apart any current argument for the abolition of those lifestyles, if you will. Its has been and always will be about $$$.

  8. #8 Mumon
    April 25, 2006

    Any kind of “sexual activity?”

    Such as the inadvertant erection a teenager gets?

    What kind of guilt-producing asininity is that?

  9. #9 Gretchen
    April 25, 2006

    I would suggest that, given these changes, the term “sex education” no longer applies. They should call it “sex obfuscation.”

  10. #10 Blake Stacey
    April 25, 2006

    Well, I’m pleased to see my home country continuing to deteriorate into medievalism. Yep, fleece the people and keep ‘em stupid.

    It’s so easy to find an absurdum to which we can reductio the abstinence-only position. At the age of twenty-two, one of my friends decided to swear off cigarettes. He was able to do it without too much trouble, but he did experience one rather remarkable side effect. “For about a week, at completely random times,” he told me, “I had more and longer-lasting erections than I’d had since I was thirteen.”

    Or take Bill Hicks’s great example: sexual arousal while riding on the bus. “Pants are too tight. . . Rockin’ just right. . . Whoops!” If you include the bus driver’s role, I think this has to count as sex.

    Insecure teenagers should take heart, however, for it is much easier to lose one’s virginity according to these definitions. Think how much sooner America’s little boys will feel grown up, now that “any type of genital contact or sexual stimulation between two persons” counts for the whole deal.

  11. #11 josefek
    April 25, 2006

    As for your personal anecdote, that’s all it is, an anecdote and not data. People are so comfortable abrogating their responsibilities to their offspring by shoving it on the state, that they should reap the rewards of their negligence.
    The problem, and I admit to not having an answer for it, is that people are not abrogating their responsibilities to the state… that’s putting the cart before the horse. The truth is that parents are simply shirking their responsibilities altogether, creating a societal need for someone or something, like the state, to step in and handle a necessity that they will not. Which, of course, leads us to the reality that it’s far from just the parents who stand to “reap the rewards of their negligence.” Society as a whole suffers.

  12. #12 SkookumPlanet
    April 25, 2006

    .
    Oh, ye of the reality-based community understandeth not. Seeketh knowledge in their holy book of prophecy, the true book of the true reality-community.

    Almighty Laissez Faire bequeatheth us a nation, leader among nations, nation of all nations since nations began.

    Armageddon may cometh, or cometh not. Oil may cometh, or cometh not. Temples may cometh, or cometh not. Laborers may cometh, or cometh not. Abstinence education may cometh, or cometh not. Teenagers may cometh, or cometh not. It all mattereth not.

    Distract them with manna, deliver them their dreams, deny them relief of fear, decieve them with false promise. Doeth thusly and the nation will be thine. Then the other nations of the Earth shall trembleth prostrate before thine power.

    And Great Strauss prophesized, “Doeth thusly and the faithful voteth, hallelujah, and voteth again, hallelujah, and voteth again, hallelujah, and voteth again, hallelujah, and voteth again, hallelujah, and on down through the Great Chain of the Ballots of the Holy Booths. Hallelujah!

    “So speaketh the Great Strauss,” sayeth Rove, and the Second Bush listeneth and then speaketh, “So shall it be done.”

    Verily the words of Leo the Great Strauss came to pass.

    Holy Straussian Plan for the Republic
    Second Book of the Second Bush
    Chapter of Rove
    Verse 2005|0425|3:38pm
    [Great Synod of Lubbock authorized ver., revised, 2237.]
    .

  13. #13 Treban
    April 25, 2006

    People are so comfortable abrogating their responsibilities to their offspring by shoving it on the state, that they should reap the rewards of their negligence. If you are so concerned with sex education for children, you might consider starting an organization that provides such services to parents who do not wish to do the talking themselves but who will hire someone else to do so. I, for instance, have the family doctor do the neccessary sex chats with my kids and fill in other gaps as neccessary. If parents don’t see it as their responsibility to educate their children on safety with respect to sex, no amount of coersion is going to solve that problem.

    Personaly I am sick of dealing with the results of so many parents not educating their kids about sex and the schools not doing it either. I, have no problem with talking to my kid about it but to many parents don’t – the result is that society is stuck dealing with the results. And for teh record, while anecdotel my story is far from uncommon. Abstinence pledges are absolutely useless. At best they encourage undereducated children to engage in felattio, anal sex or dry humping through their underwear. All of those activities can spread std’s and the last two can lead to pregnency – even though they are activities that a sizable percentage of youth don’t think any of them are sex.

    While I would be thrilled if the best people suited for sex ed, a childs parents, would actually do it, most just avoid the subject. Thus many girls, at least in Buffalo, find themselves being educated about “safe” sex from their boyfriends who have no interest in their safety – excepting rare cases. Thus why we have the abortion rate we do. Thus why we have so many unwanted pregnencies. Thus why we have huge rates of STDs including a still growing rate of HIV and AIDS. It would be great if parents took up the standard – or at least in your case foisting it off on their doctors – unfortunately too many don’t and society pays the price. At least if they get some education about it in school it takes a bite out of the problem.

    And your suggestion about getting parents to pay an organization to teach their kids about sex is just plain silly. The largest segment of society afflicted by undereducation about sex are in the lower income range where people can’t afford such services. What I am doing is getting involved with my childs school system and you can bet your ass I will be involved in the discussion about sex ed standards which are reviewed regularly in our system. Of course he’s only in preschool now but I believe in taking an active role. And I won’t foist any of my parenting responsabilities on my doctor.

  14. #14 Soldats
    April 26, 2006

    Well Treban, that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? What do you do when more people want the schools to teach abstinance and thus your desire to get a comprehensive sex-education gets outvoted by the school board and their masters in higher levels of government? Of course, I can see why you feel the need to make such education vital because the lower income ranged people with the highest birth rate end up being the biggest drain on welfare and your tax dollars, so you have a vested interest in the matter. Yet, my question stands, what do you do for the people who are numerous enough in number to outvote you when it comes to sex-ed in school and who won’t teach their children sex-ed at home or elsewhere? How do you intend to coerce them when you are in the minority?

    As for your cheap shots at my utilizing a doctor for it:
    1. He’s more knowledgeable about transmission of diseases and about cases where prophylactics do not affect the transmission of STDs than I could ever be,
    2. I can afford it,
    3. The kids also get the drug talk from the doc as well.

    As my kids are aware by now, I don’t have the answers to everything, but I can sure help them find the answers, which is why they still come to me with questions and I can show them the process by which to pursue and research answers. Not to mention when it comes to the drug talk, I can see one of my kids going into school and saying their dad thinks it’s aok to smoke pot and cigars and drink alcohol before 21 and despite me qualifying it with “as long as it’s done moderately in a controled manner” I’m pretty sure I’ll still have the department of childrens services knocking at my door the next day.

  15. #15 Ginger Yellow
    April 26, 2006

    It’s so easy to find an absurdum to which we can reductio the abstinence-only position. At the age of twenty-two, one of my friends decided to swear off cigarettes. He was able to do it without too much trouble, but he did experience one rather remarkable side effect. “For about a week, at completely random times,” he told me, “I had more and longer-lasting erections than I’d had since I was thirteen.”

    I’m perpetually amazed that instead of all the variants of “Smoking kills” warnings on cigarette packs, which smokers address with gallows humour, they don’t just use the “Smoking causes male impotence” one. It would be far, far more effective, for men at least.

  16. #16 Treban
    April 26, 2006

    Where pray tell did you get the impression I am in the minority? There is a very vocal minority in the “christian” right that beleive in abstinence only education and object to educating kids about prophylactics. The problem is not that most people don’t believe in some, not neccesarily comprehensive, sex ed in the schools, it’s that most people don’t care or don’t pay attention to what’s happening in the schools.

    My apologies for the cracks abuot your doctor. If you are balancing it with conversations between you and your kids, which I’m guessing you do, it really is probably quite reasonable. While I believe it is important to get this conversation from health class in school, they can only do so much. Parents getting into the conversation is the best way to drasticaly reduce the chances of a child practicing unsafe sex or using drugs.

    I forget sometimes that not everyone has taken the interest I have in safe sex and the effects of drug use in young people. I have a few friends with HIV/AIDS and many more with Herpes. I felt it important to learn a lot about how to avoid both – I used to be very sexually active. I also used a lot of drugs and felt inclined to learn as much as possible about substances I was putting into my body – and discussing them with my doctor. Being a mentor for a couple of kids in my church and a parent I have been making a strong point of keeping up my knowledge of whats happening with diseases and drugs. Slamming you for using your doctor as a resource was uncalled for and I do apologize.

    Ultimately our educational system ih this country is broken in far more ways than sex ed and if all of the poblems aren’t addressed many of the problems of sex ed won’t matter so much. And as much as I love to blame things on our current regime, the problems with our educational system are as much, if not more, the fault of liberals as they are the fault of the pseudo-conservatives in power now. The biggest problem with education though, lies squarely with the apathy of parents. And like a lot of commercials pointed towards AIDS prevention say, apathy is lethal. That includes the apathy of parents.

  17. #17 Soldats
    April 26, 2006

    Treban,
    What gave me the impression that you were in the minority is the following sequence of events:
    1. The fed is funding an abstinance only sex-ed curriculum.
    2. AIDS based funding to developing countries by the fed is now tied to an abstinance education formula.
    3. The current fedgov was elected by a majority.
    4. Hence, the proponents for a full and well rounded sex-ed curriculum are in the minority when compared to the apathetic and abstinance only ones. To alter a much bandied about MLK quote, it’s not the apalling silence of the good people but that of the apathetic ones.

  18. #18 Monado
    April 26, 2006

    One of our provinces taught abstinence-only sex education. It also had the highest rate of teenagers getting pregnant.

  19. #19 Monado
    April 26, 2006

    Has anyone commented yet on the FDA apparently suggesting that “Plan B” emergency contraception could give rise to teenage sex cults?

    http://www.newsday.com/business/ny-bzfda0423,0,5604733.story?coll=ny-top-headlines

  20. #20 Treban
    April 27, 2006

    I would daresay that it is likely that the tides have changed for the current fed gov. They made it into power by a slim – arguably stolen – margin. Now they are at record lows in the polls. The re-election of the president had nothing to do with his mandates for abstinence only sex ed policies, except as it rallied his lower income “base,” the “christian” right. I would in fact argue that his “re-election” was in spite of – not because of his abstinence only policies.

  21. #21 Ginger Yellow
    April 27, 2006

    Monado, both Digby and Amanda have written good posts on the subject.

  22. #23 SkookumPlanet
    April 27, 2006

    Treban’s emphasis on parents is right on, though it’s likely more complex than only apathy. What exactly, I don’t know.

    My original comment [attempted humor] was that such abstinence focus, as Treban mentioned, is pushed for a tiny audience. Their votes provide the winning margin for the far right.

    It’s beyond Dub, per se, except for Rove’s pathfinding at visualizing demographics. So, Treban, it’s sorta the opposite of lunancy. Dub and the right could care less about the kids, or public health. They see long-term votes — constituency development. Conservative evangelical voter mobilization is a strategy the far right’s been incrementally succeeding at.

    Why risk bad press and bad-mouthing from physicians screwing with the CDC and FDA over abstinence programs, abortion sequalae research , etc., Is abstinence a major public health issue for Dub? Votes, votes, votes, votes, votes, votes, votes, or in a word, power.

    Such crap [like the new leftie hand-wringer, nuking Iran] is stopped by keeping amoral panderers out of office. The code words, the cross on their convention lectern, and hundreds more snippets, are clues to electoral strategy which, with 24/7/365 campaigning, means governing strategy.

    Rove’s shown how to ignore the “reality-based community”, which concern about abstinence-only-ed’s practicality makes one a member of. Faith brings good outcomes. Research otherwise is finessed — the faithful don’t read biomed — and defunded long-term. Whipping wisps of smoke into war shows a facility that sees abstinence as a few fibs. They rip off twenty such before lunch every day.

    Plan B teenage sex cults illustrates my point beautifully. The radical right is capable of driving the U.S. right off a cliff, and getting away with it!

    [I, of course, have volunteered to go underground and investigate these nefarious sex cults. I’ll report back, probably exhausted.]

  23. #24 Ginger Yellow
    April 27, 2006

    You’re right about Bush, although Bush has put into the relevant positions (heads of and staffers in HHS, FDA, USAID, for example) true believers as part of his pandering. The problem is the amoral panderers and the nutters they install will only be kept out when we have a press that is willing to call an amoral panderer an amoral panderer and a nutter a nutter. Even that may not be enough – look at Blair’s success (although we’ve pretty much escaped the nutter side of things in Britain), despite completely different press conventions.

  24. #25 Nebogipfel
    April 28, 2006

    What’s with the evangelical hatred of sex?

    I guess insecure, guilt-wracked people are easier to keep in line.
    IngSoc had the same idea in Nineteen Eighty-Four
    Ironic, isn’t it?

  25. #26 Elizabeth Ditz
    April 28, 2006

    Position paper from the Society for Adolescent Medicine

    [snip]There is broad support for abstinence as a necessary and appropriate part of sexuality education. Controversy arises when abstinence is provided to adolescents as a sole choice and where health information on other choices is restricted or misrepresented. Although abstinence is theoretically fully effective, in actual practice abstinence often fails to protect against pregnancy and STIs. Few Americans remain abstinent until marriage; many do not or cannot marry, and most initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual behaviors as adolescents. Although abstinence is a healthy behavioral option for teens, abstinence as a sole option for adolescents is scientifically and ethically problematic. A recent emphasis on abstinence-only programs and policies appears to be undermining more comprehensive sexuality education and other government-sponsored programs. We believe that abstinence-only education programs, as defined by federal funding requirements, are morally problematic, by withholding information and promoting questionable and inaccurate opinions. Abstinence-only programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life.

    The study documents how abstinence-only has failed. But Our Leaders in Washington will stick their fingers in their ears, squint their eyes shut, and continue to bleat, “it works! it works!”.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.