Archive for the ‘SPP Debate Club 10’ Category

Ultimately, Sex Education Belongs at Home

Friday, December 11th, 2009

I appreciate all of the comments and discussions brought up by my previous post.  I would first like to clarify.

The ideal would be for sex education to occur only at home, starting young.  We would not then need sex education in the schools taught by parents.  I realize to get to the ideal will take work.  I am not proposing that tomorrow we stop all sex education in the schools and leave it to parents – that would be a mess.  But I do propose that parents begin to step up to their duty, so that someday, sex education would no longer need to be in the schools.

The schools do well in educating students about some aspects of sex – human reproductive anatomy, puberty, sexually transmitted diseases, etc… For me at least, my sex education was a weeklong unit during my health class in high school.  It was not a focus, the teacher could have cared less to teach it and to answer questions; and I remembered leaving the class with tons of questions!  Learning about sex should not be limited to a 50 minute class for five class periods; it is a lifelong learning process.  So while I may have learned some basics about sex; my options became 1) go home to watch MTV, read Cosmo and Google something like “how to use a condom” or “how to talk to your parents about sex” or 2) actually talk to my parents about sex and the questions I had; which would have been much easier to do if my sex education began when I was young, not in school that day.  Obviously, the present teenage pregnancy and STI rates reveal that something is not working with the current sex education system.  A key part of this is that students aren’t learning what they need to know in the schools, and are resorting to Google, Cosmo and MTV.  This can be solved with open sex education at home, with parents as sex educators.

Sex education is something that most parents hope to never have to deal with.  Most don’t ever want to think of their children having sex.  This is again where the taboo of sex comes in.  We have to realize that our children will have sex someday; and when they do, it should be safe and healthy for them.  It is a parent’s duty to educate their child, to prepare them for the big scary world, to talk to them.  Yes, I realize some parents are busy, but that doesn’t mean at all that they can’t take some time to educate and talk to their children.  Actually, the way that sex education at home would work isn’t that difficult or time consuming.  It is not one big sit down talk, but instead answering questions accurately as they arise, making your children comfortable with their bodies, relationships and intimacy.

Sex education is something that needs to begin early.  Opportunities arise all the times with young children to teach them about sex.  The Mayo Clinic is an excellent resource for parents on educating young children about sex.  Young children have questions; and it is your duty, as their parent, to answer them.   During bath time, teach your children the proper names for their sex organs, discuss with them unwanted touching and privacy.  Also, young children are very curious about self stimulation; here is an opportunity to not discourage them about their bodies, but to tell them it is completely normal, but private (   As children grow continue discussing love, relationships and respect over ice cream.  Talk about dating, consequences and reasons to wait, healthy choices, birth control, etc… These are life lessons that parents have an obligation to teach to their children.  Why should parents wait for schools to get on top of things and begin sex education in the teen years!?  Sex education is a learning process; and beginning it in the teenage years may be too late.

Karen does make some good points on abstinence only education.  At one point, though, she questions: “Besides some religious organizations, there is virtually no institution anymore that promotes the idea of abstinence.  And with this constant bombardment of sex (from the media, their peers and even their role models) what are kids to think in this world?  How are they to even know that abstinence exists as an alternative option to sex?”  I am almost positive that most parents (these same parents who cringe at the idea of their babies having sex) hope to teach their children to abstain from sex, at least until a serious commitment like marriage.  Children and teens who are able to sit down with their parents and discuss sex on a regular basis will know that abstinence is an alternative to sex.  In a survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, “nearly 9 out of 10 (88%) teens say it would be easier for them to avoid sexual activity if they were able to have more, and more open conversations with their parents” (Albert).  It is important for teens to learn morals and values relating to sex from their parents; not from a textbook. 

I would also like to bring up that a key division on the debate over abstinence only vs. comprehensive sex education in the schools has a lot to do with whose morals are going to be instilled in these children.  It is important to realize that no one’s morals are ever going to match up!  People have different beliefs and values; we cannot expect the schools to cater to everyone’s belief system.  The beauty of sex education at home is that beliefs consistent with the family’s are what will be instilled into the child.

To sum up; we cannot rely on the schools to teach everything.  It is a parent’s obligation and duty to teach their child some of life’s more difficult things; sex included.  This may seem like a daunting task; but really sex education at home is embedded in children’s questions, casual conversations, Friday night movie night!  Parent’s just need to take these opportunities.  Again, the BBC News: Health Survey showed that “just 9% of parents believed schools should be the main source of advice about sex and relationships … [and] while 90% of parents believed sex education was best done by them, many are embarrassed and uncomfortable to tell their children the facts of life” (BBC News).  Perhaps, then, all that is needed is the realization that sex isn’t scary, and that talking about sex isn’t hard to do within your family and home (or at the ice cream place if you wish).


Albert, Bill. America’s Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy: An Annual Survey. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2007.

Comprehensive Sex Education in the schools

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Both Karen and Leah presented strong arguments for their approach to sex education, but there are some important pieces of information that were left out.

Referring back to Karen’s first post, she questioned why the Obama Administration would end the grant for abstinence-only sex education, but it is clear that it did not fulfill one primary purpose of sex education—educating students how to prevent STIs and pregnancy. As the ten state study showed, the implementation of abstinence-only sex education resulted with none of the states demonstrating evidence of long-term success in delaying sexual initiation, and even resulted in some negative impacts on teen’s willingness to use contraception (Advocates for Youth: Five Years… 4). What other evidence is necessary to prove that this approach is not worth funding?

While one concern about comprehensive sex education is that teens will have more sex or become sexually active, it is FALSE.  Studies have proved that providing teens with the necessary tools in preparation (not encouraging sex) for if they have sex has had the opposite effect. Some sex and HIV education programs have been shown to delay the onset of sex, reduce the frequency of sex, or reduce the number of sexual partners (Abstinence Only v. Comprehensive Sex Education, 9), so why wouldn’t we implement comprehensive sex education?

But what exactly would this approach look like? It would be an abstinence-plus program, including information about sexual anatomy, abstinence, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and contraception to reduce STIs and/or pregnancy rates, including condoms, dental dams, and birth control. Information about Plan B and abortion would also be included. To address Kaitie’s statement that pregnancy information would be irrelevant for gay and lesbian students, I would have to argue that all the topics covered would not pertain to every student, for example those choosing abstinence or pro-life students. But simply because some topics are not relevant to every student, the broad range of discussed topics would relate to a variety of students.

Although some parents would not agree with the program, there would not be an opt-out option because it is important information for every youth to learn and it would be nearly impossible to regulate what parents are teaching their children. Sex education does not ban parents from talking about sex with their children. Parents can discuss their beliefs, opinions, and expectations of their children regarding sex if they are concerned that they will forget their morals. The primary goal of sex education is to educate them about safe sexual behavior if they do become sexually active, not about encouraging youth to have sex.

One interesting idea Karen proposed was that schools are essentially encouraging youth to break the law by educating them about something that is currently illegal for them. But don’t youth learn about things all the time that they aren’t legally old enough to engage in these activities? While Keisha stated that the DARE program is not a logical comparison to sex education, the topics of alcohol and driving are similar to this issue. Even though teenagers may not be legal driving age, they take courses that educate them about the ways to safely drive a car. Can you imagine teenagers driving without any prior knowledge? Or look at drinking on our campus. There is a specific program—the Peer Assistants—that creates alcohol workshops primarily for underage students to learn about safe drinking behaviors if they decide to drink. Programs educate students how to engage in safe drinking behavior and how to prevent dangerous situations that alcohol could lead to, but the workshops do not encourage or state that they should drink. If the school eliminated educational programs for underage students about safe drinking behaviors, how well do you think students’ drinking behavior would be? More high-risk drinking behavior would most likely occur. Similarly, not educating teens about safe sexual behavior will lower contraception use, as the ten-state study found (Advocates for Youth: Five Years… 4).

One aspect of this debate that deserves more attention is why sex education should remain in the schools. Several commenters proposed moving it out of the classroom and did not believe it was the best place for youth to receive sex education. If you consider one of the primary goals of sex education in schools to reduce the number of HIV and STIs, we must meet the needs of the youth at the highest risk. The Collins article explained that the youth at an increased risk for these infections are the sexually experienced, sexually abused, homeless and runaway, and gay and lesbian young people (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 11), but removing sex education from school would be harmful.

If sex education is taken out of the schools, can we cannot ensure that teens are learning accurate information. By leaving sex education up to the parents, as Leah proposes, many students would be excluded. What are working-class families where the parent(s) work long hours or work shifts when their children are home after school supposed to do? Assuming parents have the time to teach their children, how would they attain the necessary information? If they were expected to search the internet, only those with a computer and internet access would benefit. Not only are the minority groups listed above at elevated risk, but young lesbians, gays and bisexuals are more likely to have left or been abandoned by their families (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 11), so how would they be taught? By taking sex education out of the schools, we would only be perpetuating the problem of not guiding the high-risk youth. Why only accommodate those who are already privileged when they are not the youth at highest risk?

Yes, abstinence works 100% of the time to prevent STIs and pregnancy. And yes, condoms do break and The Pill doesn’t work every time. But those facts do not eliminate the reality that teenagers are having sex and that condoms and The Pill work the majority of the time when used appropriately. The argument that we should not educate teens about contraception because it is not 100% effective is like telling students to not wear their seatbelt because seatbelt use does not save lives 100% of the time.

We cannot ignore the numbers supporting comprehensive sex education nor can we remove sex education from the classroom due to the amount of students that would be lacking access to adequate information about sex.

Advocates for Youth, “Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Education: Assessing the Impact”

Chris Collins, Priya Alagiri, Todd Summers, “Abstinence Only vs Comprehensive Sex Education”

A New Look at Abstinence

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

I’m certainly glad that at the very least, my argument could make Megan giggle. Coincidentally Megan is quite correct; like some of you who have commented on my debate I also am skeptical of the effectiveness of abstinence-only sexual education and I realize that my argument is the “underdog” here. In spite of this, Keisha very objectively and wisely points out that “We cannot ignore the variety of effective abstinence-only sex education programs simply because we personally support comprehensive sex education. We must actively search for supportive data from both sides to be truly informed about the effectiveness of different sex education programs”.

Thus I am continuing the fight for abstinence-only sex-ed, and defending the legitimacy of this argument.  In doing so, I am speaking on behalf of the worried mother, who sees how her middle-school-aged son is starting to get “serious” with his girlfriend; on behalf of the confused teen in a broken family with no role-models to tell her about the dangers of pregnancy, and how by abstaining from sex she has a better likelihood of graduating from high school; on behalf of the boy on the football team who feels daily pressure from his friends to have sex when truthfully he wants to wait until marriage; and finally on behalf of our society in general and what type of people we ideally want our impressionable youth to grow up into.

Like I said in my initial argument, many abstinence-only advocates worry that comprehensive sex-ed could be putting such a strong emphasis on the likelihood of becoming sexually active that it might actually pressure teens in that direction. As I found in an article from the Heritage Foundation entitled “The Case for Maintaining Abstinence Education Funding”, the comprehensive theory “presume[s] teen sexual activity and convey[s] that protected sex is a safe and acceptable alternative to abstinence” (Bradley, Kim).  Abstinence-only education, on the other hand, not only ensures that youth know they can choose abstinence over sex but also teaches “life and relationship skills and help[s] lay the foundation for personal responsibility”.

What’s more is that it teaches them invaluable decision-making skills.  If a young teen has the education, practice and training to say “no” to sex, they will be more likely to have the courage and confidence to turn down other harmful things like drugs and alcohol.  The moral fiber it takes to avoid becoming sexually active in such high levels of peer pressure and amidst such a heavy influence from the media would inevitably help these teens in any difficult situation as they grow up (even into their adult life).

Multiple people who commented on my debate implied that abstinence-only education doesn’t fit the current trends of teen behavior, and therefore we should just succumb to this change in attitudes and convert to comprehensive sex-ed.  But this is basically sending young teens the message that they should just “go with the flow” and not stand up for their morals.  It is saying that the majority (yet again) wins and that since “everybody’s doing it” even school programs should promote the ideology of the masses.  How is it beneficial to society’s future as a whole if we don’t encourage kids to stand up for themselves and to have personal integrity?  What kind of people are we raising?

Education is supposed to shape our young individuals into productive and respectful adults.  So when we look at the “effectiveness” of the various types of sexual education (comprehensive vs. abstinence-only), we shouldn’t ONLY be looking at statistics and numbers, but also at the behavior and values of our youth.  Not only does abstinence prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs, but it also imbues a strong sense of dedication, loyalty and commitment in people.  I realize that one could argue that condoms essentially have the same results regarding the prevention pregnancy and STDs as abstinence, but does the act of putting on a condom require the same internal resolution and fortitude as vocalizing one’s values?  Beside that, condoms break.  The Pill doesn’t work every time.  As stated in the Collins, Alagiri and Summers article, many abstinence-only groups point out that “condoms are not fool-proof in preventing pregnancy or STIs”.  Like I said previously, abstinence is the only way to be 100% fetus/STD-free.

I will admit that the strength in Colleen’s argument for comprehensive sex-ed comes from the numbers and the fact that there have been many studies showing that comprehensive education results in fewer teens getting pregnant and getting STIs.  However, I would like to point out that not enough time has elapsed to truly evaluate the long-term success of abstinence-only sexual education, because it is not all about the numbers.  Of course they are critical, but these studies don’t take into account the fact that abstinence is about more than just decreasing STIs and pregnancy, but also about instilling in individuals a sense of self.  Thus in this response, my argument has focused less on the numbers and more on the ideals and goals of our society.

Alagiri, Collins, Summers.  “Abstinence Only vs. Comprehensive Sex Education: What are the arguments?  What is the evidence?”  Progressive Health Partners, 2002.

Bradley, Kim.  “The Case for Maintaining Abstinence Education Funding.”  The Heritage Foundation.  (July 2009)  <>

Better Sex Education at Home!

Monday, December 7th, 2009

There is no doubt that the U.S. needs better sex education for its youth; the statistics prove it.  “Each year, U.S. teens experience as many as 850,000 pregnancies, and youth under age 25 experience about 9.1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  By age 18, 70 percent of U.S. females and 62 percent of U.S. males have initiated vaginal sex” (Advocates for Youth, 1).   The Brook Advisory Service found in their research that “more than half of young people believed Chlamydia only affected women; a similar proportion didn’t realize emergency contraception could be used up to 72 hours after sex. Almost a third believed you could catch a sexually transmitted infection from a lavatory seat.  [This] study also revealed that only a third of sexually active young people use condoms consistently” (

The debate over what type of sex education will best reduce these sexually related risks has largely been focused on what the schools should do: to teach abstinence only or to teach comprehensive sex education, when to begin teaching sex education, how much depth to go into, etc…  However, a fundamental and primary educator in a child’s life is ignored in the sex education debate: a parent or caregiver.  Parents and caregivers have relinquished much of their responsibility over their children’s education to the schools.  “When young people are polled about where they want to get information from, the most popular choice is their parents. Parents who leave sex education to schools are leaving a lot to chance” (  I propose that sex education is placed back in the hands of parents! 

The ultimate goal of education (presumably sex education) could be defined as acquiring knowledge and skills to make rational decisions regarding sex.  It seems logical right of the bat, then, that abstinence only education is out the door.  Abstinence only education neglects to provide a student with information about contraception or condom use, information on abortion, etc… (Collins, 1).  The student, therefore, cannot make an informed and enlightened decision about sex.  Comprehensive sex education does provide this information to a student and it begins to help students make decisions based on what they have learned.  So while comprehensive sex education is a good start; it is by no means the end. 

Take for a minute this example:  a student learns the basics of sex in their sex education class: biology of the sex organs, that there exist these things called the pill and a condom, the current STI rate, that sex causes pregnancy (or maybe it’s that pesky fertilized ovum!), etc…  They come home after school, grab a snack and sit down to watch MTV with their January 2010 edition of Cosmo while simultaneously searching the internet for the unanswered questions about sex they have.  These students have no continuation of their sex education at home.  They have some of the basic knowledge about sex, but no support in talking about and making decisions regarding sex.  I’m pretty sure they continue their math and history education at home with their parents… why not their sex education?  We accept that our children will learn algebra, but we have not yet accepted that they will be having sex. 

Society has made sex taboo; and we need to overcome this taboo.  It won’t be easy; but we need to start someplace.  Parents need to sit down with their children and have an uncomfortable and awkward conversation about sex!  A survey done by BBC News: Health revealed “just 9% of parents believed schools should be the main source of advice about sex and relationships [and] that while 90% of parents believed sex education was best done by them, many are embarrassed and uncomfortable to tell their children the facts of life” (BBC news).     

The main consideration with at home sex education is that parents are going to educate their children about sex according to their bias (religious and moral beliefs).  This bias may not be a problem; as long as students still get a basic sex education in their school and know what is available to them.  For example; a child’s parents may believe strongly in abstaining from sex until the child is married and may try to educate their child according to these beliefs.  The child will then have both the knowledge of abstaining as well as contraception available to make their own decision.  What is crucial between a parent and child is the open dialogue that will result from this education.  Not only is the parent helping their child to acquire knowledge at home, they are becoming a resource for their child if they ever needed help (getting birth control, an abortion, etc…).

Another consideration is the education and training of parents in sex education.  Many parents may not have had a solid sex education or open dialogue with their parents and are unsure of their ability to answer the questions their child has accurately.  However, there are so many resources available to parents to help with this: helpful tips on talking to your child about sex, reliable medical and sexual health websites with accurate information on sex, groups, forums, etc…  Really, all parents need now is Google and maybe a library!

“There is evidence that positive parent-child communication about sexual matters can lead to greater condom use among young men and a lower rate of teenage conception among young women” (  This may be because “the sex education offered in many school today deals mostly with reproductive biology and sexual health,” perhaps in an attempt to avoid having to discuss abstinence or not.  “Parents need to supplement this by talking to their teens about morality and sexual ethics,” about relationship, intimacy, the nitty gritty details, etc… (

I think that Colin Wilson, a father of two middle-schoolers puts it well, “both parents and teachers can play a part.  It’s good for kids to learn sex education from others as well as from their parents.   And some children may take advice from their school more easily than from mom and dad.  Some parents may feel more comfortable having someone else raise these issues with their children” ( 

It is essential that these youth get the knowledge and support that they need.  Parents can and should provide this education for their children.  They are a primary source for information and support in a child’s life.  Sex education should start early (before adolescence) and continue through the teenage years.  Parents are a constant source of education in these children’s lives.  It seems right (and simple enough) that they should be their children’s primary sex educator!


Chris Collins, Priya Alagiri, Todd Summers, “Abstinence Only vs. Comprehensive Sex Education”

Advocates for Youth, “Effective Sex Education”

Comprehensive Sex Education: the BEST approach

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

“A mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 1).”

But while parents, adults, teachers, and society attempt to promote this belief to the country’s youth, the reality of youth sexuality does not align with this statement. According to a 2005 study, by age 18, 70% of U.S. females and 62% of U.S. males have initiated vaginal sex (Advocates for Youth: Effective Sex Education, 1). Not only are teens more sexually active than many adults would like, but the teen pregnancy rate is the highest in the developed world, with about a third (34%) of young women becoming pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 (Kaiser Family Foundation). In comparison to other countries, the pregnancy rate in the U.S. is at least twice that in England, France, Canada, and Sweden, and 10 times that in the Netherlands (Planned Parenthood, 4).

Unfortunately, pregnancy is not the only concern for teenagers. Currently, there are more than 20 prevalent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), infecting an average of more than 15 million individuals every year. Three million teens contract an STI each year, and two-thirds of all STIs occur in people who are 25 years of age or younger (Rector, 2). So how do we reduce these numbers?

With the various statistics showing the current trends of our youth, comprehensive sex education is the best approach to reduce STIs, unintended pregnancy, and the need for abortion. Through various studies, the comprehensive method has been proven to have long-term impacts including lower STI and/or pregnancy rates (Advocates for Youth: Effective Sex Education, 1).

Through different surveys, it has been overwhelmingly clear that adults and parents approve of comprehensive sex education for teenagers. In a 2004 study, 94 percent of adults and 93 percent of parents said that sex education should cover contraception (Advocates for Youth: Effective Sex Education, 2). Another survey discovered that 84 percent of adults agreed with the statement that whether or not young people are sexually active, they should be given information to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 3). And it is not only adults that support comprehensive sex education; students have desired more information. According to a national survey of teenagers, 51 percent say they need more information about how to get tested for HIV/AIDS and 30 percent want more information on how to use condoms (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 3). If one of the primary goals of sex education is to reduce the number of HIV infections and STIs, shouldn’t the curriculum meet the needs of our youth?

Even with adults, parents, and students desiring comprehensive sex education, they may not be knowledgeable about the best approach to teach youth about sex. But they do not stand alone in rejecting abstinence-only sex education; every reputable sexuality education organization and well-known health organization including the American Medical Association, have denounced abstinence-only sexuality education (Planned Parenthood, 4). But, you may be asking “why have they denounced this approach?”

Abstinence-only sex education has not been proven effective to lower sex initiation or increase contraception use. While Rector claims that abstinence-only programs have reduced early sexual activity, several other studies have proven otherwise. In a ten state study where abstinence-only sex education was implemented, none of the states demonstrated evidence of long-term success in delaying sexual initiation, and even resulted in some negative impacts on teen’s willingness to use contraception to prevent sexual health effects related to sexual intercourse (Advocates for Youth: Five Years… 4). Although there are promoters of this method, the programs’ emphasis on contraception failure rates has left teens hesitant to use them. By denying teenagers a broad spectrum of information regarding human sexuality, abstinence-only education fails to provide teens with the necessary information needed to protect their health and well-being (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 14).

In contrast to abstinence-only sex education’s ineffectiveness to lower STI and/or teen pregnancy rates, comprehensive sex education has been proven to have a positive result in reducing these statistics. Several specific studies have demonstrated positive outcomes from comprehensive sex education by displaying delayed initiation of sexual activity, increased condom use, and decreased number of sexual partners (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 9). While abstinence-only promoters fear an increase of sexual activity from other approaches, the Surgeon General has explained that, “evidence gives strong support…that providing information about contraception does not increase adolescent sexual activity (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 14). Over the past decade, California, the only state that has not accepted federal abstinence-only money, has experienced more than a 40% drop in the teenage pregnancy rate, which is something the government should further examine (Planned Parenthood, 4).

Despite few, if any, positive results with abstinence-only sex education, the government has continued to fund it. From 1998 to 2003, states implemented abstinence-only-until-marriage programs using almost half a billion dollars in state and federal funds to support the Title V initiative, but unfortunately failed to yield positive results from representative samples of 9th through 12th graders throughout the country (Advocates for Youth: Trends…1). Through the analysis of these samples, it was determined that sexual activity among high school students declined significantly from 1991 to 1997, prior to large-scale funding of abstinence-only programs, but changed little from 1999-2003, with federal funding of these programs (Advocates for Youth, 1).

Results of the studies showed the percentage of students that had had sexual intercourse decreased significantly by 11 percent from 1991 to 1997, but there was no statistically significant decline from 1999 to 2003 (Advocates for Youth, 2). Similarly, the prevalence of multiple sex partners decreased by 14 percent from 1991 to 1997 but there was no statistically significant decline of the frequency of multiple sex partners from 1999 to 2003 (Advocates for Youth, 2). These programs improved teens’ attitudes toward abstinence, but were least likely to positively affect students’ sexual behavior. However, even with no evidence of effectiveness behind abstinence-only sex education…funding increased by nearly 3000% from 1996 to 2001 (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 4).

With the lack of effectiveness that abstinence-only sex provides and the rates of teen sexual behavior, we must ask ourselves, is abstinence-only really the best method to meet the needs of our youth?

Advocates for Youth, “Trends in Sexual Risk Behaviors Among High School Students”

Advocates for Youth, “Effective Sex Education”

Advocates for Youth, “Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Education: Assessing the Impact”

Chris Collins, Priya Alagiri, Todd Summers, “Abstinence Only vs Comprehensive Sex Education”

Planned Parenthood, “Abstinence-Only Sex Education”

Robert Rector, “The Effectiveness of Abstinence Education Programs in Reducing Sexual Activity Among Youth”

U.S. Teen Sexual Activity.”Jan. 2005. Kaiser Family Foundation: Your Resource for Health Policy Information, Research and Analysis. Web.

Standing up for Abstinence

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

It is an undeniable truth that young teens are having sex.  Brainwashed by dishonest and sex-charged propaganda in the media, kids start believing at a young age that their futures as young adults must necessarily include promiscuous sexual behavior. Without even realizing it “the average kid today is immersed in sexual imagery” (Masland, MSNBC).  In fact, CBS News released an article which found that youth exposed to high levels of media are more than twice as likely to engage in sexual intercourse (Lagorio).

Think about it; almost every popular song on any contemporary radio station has a provocative message.  Practically every movie that is targeted for teens includes some allusion to (or explicitly shows) teens having sex.  Magazines created for American youth carry graphic articles and advertisements that beguile the young reader into thinking that rampant and reckless sexual activity is merely the natural and expected behavior of people their age.   And one musn’t underestimate the power of peer-pressure; think of the insanely cliché but still-relevant stereotype of high schoolers loosing their virginity on prom night.  In light of the philosophies that our youth hold, sometimes the concept of refraining from sex is ruthlessly ridiculed in these settings.

Besides some religious organizations, there is virtually no institution anymore that promotes the idea of abstinence.  And with this constant bombardment of sex (from the media, their peers and even their role models) what are kids to think in this world?  How are they to even know that abstinence exists as an alternative option to sex?

For this reason, schools need to be the place where kids hear about abstinence. The programs that they endorse should be based on abstinence-only sexual education.  While the governmental administration between 1998 and 2003 put a large quantity of federal dollars (250 million in fact) towards the Title V initiative which promoted abstinence (Advocates for Youth 1), the current Obama administration did not renew this grant in the 2010 budget (Kliff, Newsweek) and our nation’s children are at risk of losing this last, sex-free safe haven. For the good of our youth in a poisoned society, this cannot happen.

There is currently little congruence and conformity regarding nation-wide sexual education; it varies between school districts and states.  While some kids sing songs about abstinence and talk about ways to date without having sex, other kids (myself included in this latter category when I was a tot) are handed a banana and a condom and are shown how to put it on. What these pubescent, hormonally-uncontrollable teens need is NOT the know-how and the necessary tools to go wild (one could say that’s like giving a drug addict a needle and then asking him or her not to use it), but rather a consistent emphasis on waiting for sex until they are actually physically, mentally and emotionally ready for it.  And all schools should be promoting this uniform mentality; the fact that comprehensive programs out there are sending mixed signals to kids is what could potentially undermine the impact of abstinence-only education.

You may be thinking but most would agree that abstinence-only education is ineffective.  This is not true; the undisputed fact remains that the most certain way to stop STDs from spreading and from teen pregnancy occurring is by abstaining entirely from sex. The Planned Parenthood Website states that “used continuously, abstinence is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. It also prevents STDs.”  Like I said earlier, the key to its success will be promoting it in a collective and organized way.  But how is abstinence only education going to benefit those who are already sexually active? you say.  It would be entirely wrong to presume that these students would not be positively affected; the article by Collins, Alagiri and Summers states that “some students choose abstinence after initiation of sexual activity with about one in four student who report having had sex also reporting current abstinence.”  If anything, abstinence-only education can only benefit all young individuals.

Perhaps you are thinking but what about the facts; numbers and statistics show that thousands of teens out there get pregnant and contract STDs to which I say “Indeed, let’s look at the facts”…

According to the article “Abstinence Only Vs. Comprehensive Sex Education”, The U S. has the highest teen pregnancy and STD rates in the developed world (Chris Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 2); there are up to 850,000 teen pregnancies every year (Advocates for Youth: Effective Sex Education 1).  Additionally, “the great majority of the 10,000 annual new HIV infections among people under 22 occurs through sexual activity” (Collins, Alagiri, Summers 1) and 3 million teens contract STDs each year (Rector 1).

These numbers, rather than hurt my argument, show exactly why abstinence is so important.   “Abstinence  education  programs  for  youth  have  been  proven  to  be  effective  in  reducing  early  sexual  activity…[and] provide  the  foundation  for  personal responsibility” (Rector 1).  In this same article, the author brings up the point that besides just eliminating those astonishing statistics, abstinence also prevents youth from incurring severe emotional and mental injury, and simultaneously reduces their likelihood of engaging in other high-risk activities.  The article also evaluates the success of such programs as Virginity Pledge Programs, Not Me, Not Now, Operation Keepsake, and Postponing Sexual Involvement.  When schools offer these supportive resources, and encourage youth to seek alternative activities to sex, abstinence-only education is both beneficial and effective.

For those of you who still aren’t quite convinced, and that think that comprehensive sex-ed is a good idea, consider the ‘age of consent’ law (recall that this is a state’s legal age limit of when youth can engage in sexual activity).  The youth below this age who are receiving comprehensive sex-ed are essentially being encouraged by the school to break the law. If sex is illegal at this point in their lives, why should they even be talking about it?  Rather, abstinence only education is the only way to comply with this regulation.

Thus, it is for many reasons that schools should be using abstinence-only education programs; if not to provide youth with alternative options to intercourse in a sex-ridden society, to halt the STD epidemic and reduce teen pregnancies.  After all, “True abstinence education programs help young people to develop an understanding of  commitment, fidelity, and intimacy” (Rector  8 ) which will positively affect all aspects of their lives.

Collins, Alagiri, Summers.  “Abstinence Only vs. Comprehensive Sex Education: What are the arguments? What is the evidence?”  Progressive Health Partners, 2002.

“Effective Sex Education”.  Advocates for Youth

Kliff, Sara.  “The Future of Abstinence”.  Newsweek Oct. 2009 <>

Lagorio, Christine.  “Media May Prompt Teen Sex.”  CBSNews  April 2006 <>

Masland, Molly. “Carnal Knowledge: the sex ed debate.”  MSNBC News 2009

Rector, Robert E.  “The Effectiveness of Abstinence Education Programs in Reducing Sexual Activity Among Youth.”  http://www.

SPP Debate Club 10: 12/6 – 12/11

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Leah Howard
Colleen Peterson
Karen Wiessner

Commenters: Keisha B, Colleen J, Ali M, Megan M, Kaitlyn O, JaNaye S, Jeri W, Martin B

What Approach to Sex Education Offers the Best Way to Reduce STIs, Unintended Pregnancy, and the Need for Abortion?

Reproductive health advocates have long maintained that the availability of birth control information and condoms in the schools is one of the best ways to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS infection, unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion. They argue that teens have always been sexually active, will continue to be so, and, in an age of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, that “just say no”, just isn’t enough and doesn’t work. Under the Bush Administration’s leadership, Congress appropriated more than $350 million for abstinence-only education programs. Supporters herald this support for abstinence-only programs because they blame comprehensive sex education for increases in teenage sex and pregnancy and credit abstinence-only programs with improvements in these areas. Recent studies raise questions about the efficacy of the abstinence-only and abstinence-plus approaches to sex education.

  • Advocates for Youth, “Trends in Sexual Risk Behaviors Among High School Students”
  • Advocates for Youth, “Effective Sex Education”
  • Advocates for Youth, “Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Education: Assessing the Impact”
  • Chris Collins, Priya Alagiri, Todd Summers, “Abstinence Only vs Comprehensive Sex Education”
  • Planned Parenthood, “Abstinence-Only Sex Education”
  • Robert Rector, “The Effectiveness of Abstinence Education Programs in Reducing Sexual Activity Among Youth”