Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ab-O: The Program That Keeps Failing and Failing and Failing

TEENS: Abstinence Is Cool!!

(Nina Funnel - Sydney Morning Herald)

In the US and Britain, girls as young as 10 are being invited to attend dances known as "purity balls" where, escorted by their fathers, they sign contracts promising to remain virgins until their wedding nights. In return, the fathers also sign a contract, pledging "as high priest in the home", to protect and provide for their daughters, on the provision that they remain virgins.

For thousands of years, telling teens to abstain from sex is talking to the proverbial brick wall. How dense do some people have to be to stop from banging their heads against that same wall? And how stupid are parents who think that their teenagers will stick to abstinence-only programs, take "The Pledge" and rely on their parents to tell them all they need about sex? When will we get to the point that, the day after the wedding the bride's father exhibits the bloodstained sheet in the public square?

In her book Princesses And Pornstars, the feminist author Emily Maguire claims that by bowing to economic pressure, many US schools may end up mortgaging the health and safety of students.

Citing numerous studies, Maguire argues that while there is no evidence to suggest that abstinence-only programs succeed in reducing the likelihood of teenagers having premarital sex, there is significant evidence to suggest these programs reduce the likelihood of sexually active teens practising safe sex.

The problem is that students given the "abstinence-only" line often miss out on vital information regarding contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Not only does this place teenagers at a much greater health risk but it also contributes to a culture of ignorance and secrecy about sex.

Sounds a lot like the United States, where rates of teen pregnancy were dropping steadily until abstinence-only sex ed became all the rage. Now study after study shows that while such programs may help kids put off losing their virginity for a little while, it makes them much less likely to use birth control when they do start having sex, thus increasing the risk of pregnancy and the spread of disease.

I'll have more about Rick Warren and Africa in the next post.

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