Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Abstinence Education Works

This morning the Washington Post reported, surprisingly to many, that abstinence education works. Link here.

Children who received abstinence education were significantly less likely to become sexual active during adolescence than were children who were merely offered classes in safe sex.

Of course, we are talking about the age of the onset of sexual intercourse. If we were merely talking about various forms of pre-coital stimulation there wouldn't be a need to mention condoms.

In the study, one group of children was told that they could choose between abstinence and sexual activity. Another group was told that they could choose between safe and unsafe sex.

The first approach assumed that children, even adolescents, have a choice about whether or not to engage in sexual intercourse. The second approach assumed that they were going to do it anyway, thus, that the issue was whether or not to use a condom.

I find it strange and perplexing that so many people believe that the fundamental moral issue about sexuality is whether or not to use a condom.

Anyway, the abstinence approach is not the province of right-wing zealots and repressed Puritans. When it comes to teen-aged girls-- the target audience of this indoctrination-- most parents would be more than happy that their daughters not rush into ill-considered sexual adventures, even with a condom.

Most parents of teen-aged girls, especially most mothers, are horrified at the prospect of their daughters engaging in advanced sexual experimentation during early adolescence.

The second approach, the condom-based approach-- is the province of most self-appointed experts. Unfortunately, these experts are motivated less by science and more by their own cultural imperatives.

Their ultimate goal is to trump parental authority, the better to induce children to ignore their parents and follow the lead of these Pied Pipers. This will help alienate children from the dominant culture and help turn them into countercultural warriors.

The experts often base their argument on an assumption that they take as self-evident but that is pure nonsense. They begin by saying that all teenagers are going to do it anyway-- cosi fan tutti, as they used to say-- and therefore that we do them a service by explaining how not to get pregnant or sick.

Call it cultural indoctrination masquerading as hygiene.

Rest assured that children pay close attention to experts. When it comes to sex, especially, they are avid to learn.

They are prone to accept the word of experts as truth, not necessarily about what is good or bad but about what is normal and cool.

They will from their safe sex lessons that adolescent sexual experience is normal, and that if they are not having it they are abnormal.

And yet, the notion that all adolescents at all times and in all places have sex is patent nonsense. All adolescents have burgeoning sexual desires and impulses. All of them are somewhat overwhelmed by these hormonally-induced impulses. They all need time to sort out their feelings and to make an informed decision about how they should live their sexuality.

Being incipient adults adolescents do have a choice. And it is appalling to allow them to believe that if they decide to abstain for a time from random sexual encounters they are abnormal or uncool.

They cannot make an informed decision if the only real choice is whether or not to use a condom.

I am sure that the safe sex approach pays lip service to love. But when it assumes that adolescents are going to be sexually active it leaves little place for the fundamental moral issue concerning sexuality: doing it with the right person at the right time in the right place under the right circumstances.

Everyone gets it wrong from time to time. When you get it wrong you will experience a trauma. Adults have usually developed the emotional skills to deal with such traumas.

Teenage girls most often have not. They are the ones most likely to be traumatized by ill-considered sexual adventures. And they are the ones most prone to adapt self-destructive behaviors in an attempt to deal with painful emotions.

If they have heard that sexuality is a normal and beautiful part of human being they will not understand why they feel so badly. And they will feel even worse about themselves for as much.

To encourage them to incur such risks is simply irresponsible.

(Because great minds think alike, here's a link to Neo-neocon's comments on this topic. Link here.)

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