Sunday, April 30, 2006

Abstinence Education = dangerous for Teens

In my perfect world, our government and schools would advocate "abstinence based education" There is nothing wrong with advocating abstinence – especially for teenagers. Showing respect and restraint is something to be admired. While I love the show Sex and the City, I would never advocate Samantha’s lifestyle for any of my friends. Young people -- are receiving far too many irresponsible messages about sexuality. Sex is cheapened in our culture today yet at the other end of things, the abstinence-only movement is making a fear campaign of our human sexuality.

Abstinence-only education is simply a moral movement thinly disguised as a public-health campaign. They like to quote alarming statistics about high STD rates, teen pregnancies and talk about scary emotional scarring. Take for instance the picture of the duck. Several abstinence-only groups use the example of duct tape in their teaching.

I have read of this example in Ariel Levy’s book “Female Chauvinist Pigs” and also in an online debate that is well worth reading. Here is an exerpt:

When speaking, the Abstinence Clearinghouse sometimes gives students a mental picture about premarital sex using duct tape. We stick duct tape to someone's arm as though they were my sexual partner to represent the bonding associated with sex. The first time it sticks very well. Then, we break up.

As we break up, the tape is ripped off his arm along with several arm hairs. When I find my next boyfriend and sexual partner, I can stick the duct tape to his arm, but it won't stick as tightly as the first time. The tape sticks less and less with each sexual escapade and eventually will not stick at all.

The bonding can't be as special or powerful, and with each relationship you carry the garbage from the past right along with it. Would you call that a healthy, loving relationship? I most definitely would not.

The deep bonding and "emotional expression" that only sexual intimacy creates must be limited to marriage. One cannot be deeply bonded with many people. That would contradict the very definition of intimacy. Do you think that prostitutes have many deeply bonded friendships just because they have had sex with so many people? It is this faulty bonding and "emotional expression" that leads to increased divorce and abandoned families.

How charming. Their motto, “Sexual attraction is like duct tape. It sticks really well the first time, but if you peel it off it doesn't stick so well the next time. After five or six go 'rounds, it hardly sticks at all...”

Promoters of abstinence also use analogies of fire.

Story 1: You are coming home from school on a cold afternoon and you walk in your house to the warmth of a fire in the fireplace. You feel warm and cozy and can‘t wait to get closer to warm your hands. As you sit by the fire you unwind you begin to relax from a hard day at school. You talk with your parents about your day, drink hot chocolate and listen to the crackle of the fire in the comfort of your own home. You continue to feel safe as you nestle by the fire.

Story 2: You are coming home from school on a cold afternoon and you notice a fire is burning on the hill beside your house. You drop your backpack and start screaming for help. Your heart is pounding and the look of terror is on your face. The fire is blazing down the hill just yards from your home.

Ok. Two stories about fire. Two completely different feelings going on in your mind. You see fire is really nice and warm; pretty to look at and great for relaxing on a cold day, WHEN IT IS IN THE FIREPLACE.

However when a fire is not in the fireplace and is about to destroy your house, the fire isn’t so pretty and enjoyable.

Abstinence education is insulting. Many people are not virgins on their wedding day and most do not regret this decision. To insist that sex is immoral and profane when outside the bounds of marriage is narrow-minded. Plenty of people can have a sexual relationship before marriage that is healthy, spiritually moving, and can heighten the emotional and physical intimacy of the relationship.

Refusing to have an adult conversation that recognizes the complexity of sexual exploration is patronizing at best and frankly, endangers the rights of adolescents.

I recently learned that someone very dear to me was molested as a child. So tell me what happens when someone like her enters an abstinence-only sex education program? We tell her, “it’s too late, you’re a used up piece of duct tape because you’ve already experienced sex outside of marriage. People who are virgins on their wedding day are really happy and loved in the eyes of society and God because they are pure clean pieces of duct tape.”

And I’m sure it’s pure coincidence that these religiously based moral groups say “sex is only for marriage” and homosexuals can’t get married. Pure coincidence.

Abstinence education is a cruel thing to impart on teens who deserve real discussion on how to respect their partners and how to be as safe as possible to protect themselves from pregnancy, disease, and any sort of sexual manipulation (pressure, molestation, and assault). Abstinence should always be encouraged since it is safe and promotes respect for sex. But it shouldn’t be trumpeted as the only way to educate on sexuality.


Midge said...

My school's version of sex ed was in ninth grade we were given the option to read 'Chapter 13' in our health books and take a quiz for extra credit. I think maybe 6 of us did, and it was all stuff we all ready knew: 'The egg travels down the fallopian tube' etc. Not exactly anything to prepare us for the social pressures of human sexuality.

Hunter said...

Apparently abstinence promoters don't have much fire in their heads either... just smoke.