February 2, 2010

Abstinence as Good Decision

Justin Katz

Having challenged the premises (and the math) of naysayers of abstinence-only education, I don't find these results surprising:

Billed as the first rigorous research to show long-term success with an abstinence-only approach, the study differed from traditional programs that have lost federal and state support in recent years. The classes didn't preach saving sex until marriage or disparage condom use.

Instead, it involved assignments to help sixth- and seventh graders see the drawbacks to sexual activity at their age, including having them list the pros and cons themselves. Their cons far outnumbered the pros. ...

Two years later, about one-third of abstinence-only students said they'd had sex since the classes ended, versus nearly half — about 49 percent — of the control group. Sexual activity rates in the other two groups didn't differ from the control group.

The bottom line is this: Safe-sex education gives children knowledge about how to do something — and tells them that it's "safe." Effective abstinence-only curricula help them to understand why they shouldn't act on that knowledge.

Such programs should involve lessons in self esteem, in decision-making, in life decisions, in cultural expectations, and so on. What our society must learn, above all, is that sex is not the be-all-end-all of human existence, and that at a young life can be much better spent than dealing with the obstacles, discomforts, and obsessions that typically follow sexual activity outside of monogamous adult relationships.

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Right on, Justin. Abstinence works every time it is tried.

Posted by: BobN at February 2, 2010 6:56 PM

I was raised on abstinence only programs because I was brought up in the Catholic school system. There was more for me to think about than just the teachings of Catholicism or the abstinence only programs.

I had parents. Yup, parents that not only loved but were clearly the authority figures in my life and I never wanted to disappoint them.

Fear of punishment? Nope, that wasn't the motivator. Fear of disappointing them was enough.

Posted by: Roland at February 3, 2010 12:42 AM

I'm also a product of the Catholic school system (13 years), and I can you tell you a tale: returning for Thanksgiving after my freshman year in college, I learned that at least a half-dozen high school classmates had already knocked up their girlfriends. They ran the gamut, from top students to guys that barely made it through.
I can assure you Frank Caprio was exposed to the same Catholic curriculum I was. Even he stumbled.
Sex ed's no magic bullet, but neither is abstinence ed. I've seen people as smart or smarter than I am stumble.

Posted by: rhody at February 3, 2010 11:51 AM

Speaking of Catholic colleges, I recall an elderly Jesuit's prescription to the freshman lads as the perfect contraceptive for their girlfriends to use:

One aspirin.

Held firmly between the knees.

Worked every time.

Posted by: brassband at February 3, 2010 12:31 PM

I quess they didn't teach that lesson to the altar boys.

Posted by: David S at February 3, 2010 7:42 PM

You cannot truly say 'yes' if you cannot say 'no'.
A key to sex-education, is 'age appropriate'.
It makes a great deal of sense to teach our children how to discern good relationships from bad, good offers from bad. It will help them avoid 'Drive your new car today--no money down!!!' as well as unwise sexual invitations.
But setting up a false opposition between abstinence and age-appropriate honest information about biology and birth control is political, and not in the best interests of our children.
Part of good sex education is assertiveness, and not giving in to pressure to do what is not good for you.

Posted by: Nancy Green at February 3, 2010 8:19 PM
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