December 22, 2008

Of Two Minds on Abstinence

Justin Katz

An interesting juxtaposition of "role-model" attitude appears in Bob Kerr's column from yesterday. On one hand:

The kid eagerly raised his hand at the back of the room at the Lincoln Middle School. He had the answer.

"A condom," he said.

Right he was. A condom is the safe way. Abstinence is probably not going to work for most people, Scott Mitchel told the class.

"You can make a choice," he said.

On the other:

He started, as he always does, with "HIV101." He talks of the virus attacking the immune system, of T-cells and how their numbers are a barometer of health or sickness. He points out there are four bodily fluids — blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal fluid — that can transmit the disease. Tears, saliva and sweat cannot. And taking the risk of injecting drugs with a needle is just too stupid to consider.

There are vast differences, of course, between sex and syringe-based drugs, but the difference in this HIV-positive speaker's attitude is striking. "Most people" (Kerr's paraphrase) can't be abstinent — and monogamy is apparently hardly worth mentioning — but injecting drugs — whether with shared or clean needles — is beyond stupid.

I'd suggest that the first step toward making abstinence a feasible for middle schoolers is for adults to tell them that it's something that they can conceivably accomplish.

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Abstinence can be taught in a method that also builds kids' self-confidence. We should tell kids they don't need to give in to the sexual pleadings, demands, entreaties, whatever of their predatory peers (which these days are just as likely to be girls as boys).
That will reach the kids who tune out the hoary moral browbeating (that's one area where kids haven't changed).

Posted by: rhody at December 23, 2008 11:04 AM

"A condom is the safe way. Abstinence is probably not going to work for most people"
--- Someone really said that to school children? Scary. How about "condoms reduce risk, abstinence is 100% effective". I don't agree with excluding forms of birth control from sex education but to ignore abstinence is also irresponsible for anyone serious about reducing HIV or teen pregnancy.

Posted by: msteven at December 23, 2008 12:12 PM

I'm with msteven, abstinence is 100% effective. If abstinence doesn't work, it's no longer abstinence. I have first hand knowledge that abstinence works, and also that it can be practiced.

Posted by: bobc at December 23, 2008 7:49 PM
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