Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says

There was a recent article in the Washington Post about some of the inaccuracies found in abstinence-only education programs. “Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says.” According to the article:

“Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person’s genitals “can result in pregnancy,” a congressional staff analysis has found.”

It horrifies me that federal tax dollars are being used for these programs. Aren’t the realities of sex in our society scary enough without adding any lies? Not to mention that abstinence-only education doesn’t work, and will never work as long as humans have hormones.

“Nonpartisan researchers have been unable to document measurable benefits of the abstinence-only model. Columbia University researchers found that although teenagers who take “virginity pledges” may wait longer to initiate sexual activity, 88 percent eventually have premarital sex.”

There’s a shocker.

“Bill Smith, vice president of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a comprehensive sex education group that also receives federal funding, said the Waxman report underscored the need for closer monitoring of what he called the “shame-based, fear-based, medically inaccurate messages” being disseminated with tax money. He said the danger of abstinence education lies in the omission of useful medical information.”

I’m glad that Mr. Smith at least appears to have a brain in his head. What I wonder is, why does it take a report from a Committee on Government Reform to get people to have common sense? Why are the moral values of our current administration being used to push (in public schools) educational programs that are scientifically inaccurate?

I know the answers, sadly. As the recent presidential election indicates, it’s because enough people don’t mind making decisions based on morals instead of facts.

That is why, “Some course materials cited in Waxman’s report present as scientific fact notions about a man’s need for “admiration” and “sexual fulfillment” compared with a woman’s need for “financial support.” One book in the “Choosing Best” series tells the story of a knight who married a village maiden instead of the princess because the princess offered so many tips on slaying the local dragon. “Moral of the story,” notes the popular text: “Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess.” “

Kids are being taught this sort of thing in textbooks purchased in part by my tax dollars. This makes me so angry, I could almost cry. Must be because I’m a woman.

31 thoughts on “Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says

  1. That is why, “Some course materials cited in Waxman’s report present as scientific fact notions about a man’s need for “admiration

  2. Abstinence works until someone falls off the wagon. At that time the course graduates are probably unprepared to practice safe sex. One of the things that they teach in those courses is that condoms fail 30% of the time. Hey, what’s a factor of 10 to the truth impaired.

    Our Government structured the Global AIDS Bill such that most of the money goes to abstinence only education. That kills people, more correctly that doesn’t prevent aids as much as a more comprehensive program would. Here is an article at Planned Parenthood.

  3. that has a history of successfully fostering abstinence

    Yawn. Someone else warming up stale stereotypes. Thanks, Trotsky.

  4. Par for the course from this misadministration. We have the Faith based war on Terror, better not eat any dates, Ha-Ha. And the Faith based reform of the Pension system, or, I got mined who gives a fuck about you. And of course the Faith based Save Iraq from the terrorists, or 3,500,000 pounds of super high explosives that can’t be detected by most scanners are missing, but the Iraqi people will greet us with flowers and open arms, not.
    So what if Johnny and Mary catch STD, they’re born again so its right with God. Cough, cough,  don’t go complaining on me now BettySue or I am going down to the Coffee shop and talk to SueAnn she don’t give me no huff. A mans gotta do what a mans gotta do, praise the Lord.

  5. red face Beats the shit out of what they are saying Slick!!!!  Anyone with half a brain knows when the partner is right, the time is right, you don’t stand a change in hell of saying NO THANK YOU!

  6. I have a friend that teaches a course called Sex and Society and about once a semester I go in talked about pornography and literature.  I find it interesting the number of eighteen year olds that can’t even say penis.  Do we really want a future society where people go to the “doctor says it hurts down there” because we don’t have the balls to teach young people the truth?  Inform them, love them and accept their choices, respect them enought to tell the truth.

  7. This is ridculous.  It’s like they’ve institutionalized all those rumors my best friend in 1st grade told me about sex.

    It’s a sad day when a parent can’t rely on educational institutions to teach her children and has to resort to teaching them herself.  Much as I am critical of home schooling, this article is making me think twice.  I may not have kids yet, but when I do, I’ll be damned sure they aren’t having this crap crammed down their throats!

    That is why, “Some course materials cited in Waxman’s report present as scientific fact notions about a man’s need for “admiration

  8. Much as I am critical of home schooling, this article is making me think twice.

    Shana, there is another reason you may want to seriously consider home schooling. There is a $20M item in the HHS budget that could eventually lead to psychological screening for all children in school and preschool (plus the school staff.) Currently there is no provision for parental consent. This program is advocated by the President (his concept document did include consent) and is an outgrowth of the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP).

    There was some controversy when Pennsylvania ran a pilot project of their own. This is from a Jun 21 WorlNetDaily article.

    But the Texas project, which promotes the use of newer, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, sparked off controversy when Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General, revealed that key officials with influence over the medication plan in his state received money and perks from drug companies with a stake in the medication algorithm (15 May, p1153). He was sacked this week for speaking to the [British Medical Journal] BMJ and the New York Times.

    The Texas project started in 1995 as an alliance of individuals from the pharmaceutical industry, the University of Texas, and the mental health and corrections systems of Texas. The project was funded by a Robert Wood Johnson grant – and by several drug companies.

    Mr Jones told the BMJ that the same “political/pharmaceutical alliance” that generated the Texas project was behind the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission, which, according to his whistleblower report, were “poised to consolidate the TMAP effort into a comprehensive national policy to treat mental illness with expensive, patented medications of questionable benefit and deadly side effects, and to force private insurers to pick up more of the tab” ( AllenJonesTMAPJanuary20.pdf).

    Larry D Sasich, research associate with Public Citizen in Washington, DC, told the BMJ that studies in both the United States and Great Britain suggest that “using the older drugs first makes sense. There’s nothing in the labeling of the newer atypical antipsychotic drugs that suggests they are superior in efficacy to haloperidol [an older “typical” antipsychotic]. There has to be an enormous amount of unnecessary expenditures for the newer drugs.”

    Here are two links.

    and another, which includes the first two articles plus a third.

    Anececdotally I have heard that in Florida if the med is prescribed, the kid has to take it or not attend school.

    It just gets better doesn’t it?

  9. It should be clear that both Repulicans and Democrats are trying to push society back into the 50’s before the 1960s “Sexual Revolution”.

    And the religious extremists are using the same sort of “ends justify the means” kinda statement, which I think does work sometimes, but not in this sort of situation. God I hate this country. At least I don’t pay taxes (yet).

  10. @ Momma:  They didn’t actually tell me that.  That was a joke.

    They DID tell me that masturbation causes erectile dysfunction though, that gave me a chuckle…  smile

    @ shana:  The bit you quoted reminds me of the ‘Women in the Workplace’ video in the “I Am Peter, Hear Me Roar” Episode of Family Guy.  LOL

  11. I have a niece turning 16 today. I’ve known her for the 10+ years I’ve been with my husband, and watched as her fundamentalist Christian parents brought her up in their carefully crafted reality, vigilantly censored of anything and everything they considered “ungodly,” such as Disney films and Allegra’s Window, with church, Sunday school and Bible Study a mandatory fact of life.

    Needless to say they were horrified by my own rather slap-dash religious identification, which I called “super-eclectic neo-paganism,” a period I look back upon now and realize was (and remains) simply an indulgence in my love of mythology and ritual on their own merits – beautiful art that can be quite enjoyable without requiring sentient invisible friends in attendance.  Worse still, to them I am raising a “godless” child.  In fact, my child has access to information about literally thousands of gods, and in her 13 years of life we’ve discussed any number of them, and many of the belief systems in which they dwell.

    Above all, I’ve never been less than honest with my child about sex, her own body or the bodies of the others.  Sadly, there have been a few teen pregnancies in my family over the course of my life, and I have sworn to myself for as long as I can remember that I would do everything in my power to arm children with whatever information was required to live safely in the current REALITY.  Morality and the fear of God are insufficient weapons against the rage of pubescent hormones; IMO fear of the REALITY of pregnancy, parenthood, a nasty STD or AIDS are much more effective and anyone who’s not giving these kids the cold, hard, medical truth and the knowledge they require is out of their fucking mind.

    So yesterday morning my niece called to inform her uncle and I that she’d be having a baby, and keeping him, in April.  Although inside my head I was screaming, “What the fuck is wrong with you people?” wink I assured her that although I was bitterly disappointed that she’d be caught in this situation, I still loved her and hoped things would work out.  Then I asked her “What the hell were you THINKING?”  She replied that she just wasn’t… and I pointed out that she was not alone in checking her brain at the door in this tragically bad decision that will prove so very costly.  Her own childhood has ended, period.  To her credit, the girl has stepped up and been responsible enough to deal with the consequences as best she can – starting with having to personally inform all her relatives, knowing none of them would be particularly happy about a 16-year-old having a child.

    My husband didn’t keep his head quite as well when he talked to her.  He asked pointed questions, and ended up making the poor kid cry hysterically. He gave her a dose of unsugared reality, along with a few questions (in my view, inappropriate) about what her parents could possibly be thinking to entertain the notion of her having, and keeping, a baby.

    It’s difficult for both my husband and I to look at this pregnant girl and see anything but a catastrophic failure on the part of her parents to properly educate her in REAL and important things, like how not to get knocked up and severely lessen her chances of achieving more than they did.  In their zeal to secure a perfect afterlife for themselves and their children, they’ve ignored THIS life – to the detriment of their own child.  It’s heartbreaking, and my own moral code of allowing people the right to believe as they’d like is all that stops me from saying that allowing faith-and-“morals”-based sex education to be taught at ALL should be, goddammit, a criminal offense.

    I fully intend to engage my niece in a conversation and find out exactly what she WAS taught about sex; at home and at school.  How can we know what we should be doing, and when, with regard to educating these kids properly to avoid all the pitfalls of sexual activity if we can’t pinpoint the breakdown that causes them to make such bad decisions with lifelong consequences?

    Talking AT them clearly doesn’t work.  We must talk TO them, no matter how embarrassed we or they might find ourselves.  In an ideal world, there’d be no more snickers at the words “penis” and “vagina” than there are at “elbow” or “kneecap.”  When the human body is treated as the organic machine it is, instead of a mysterious vessel for miraculous spiritual hoo-ha, I think we’ll have far fewer sexually ignorant teenagers becoming parents.

  12. You rock, OB.

    What really saddens me is that this girl will probably be made to feel incredibly guilty and at fault for this, when it’s really the result of criminal negligence on the part of her parents.  Can you sue someone for “wrongful life” if they cause someone to get pregnant by withholding vital information from them?

  13. Well, Brock… I’m damned glad to be sharing the planet with the likes of you and the other folks here, too!

    This subject, as I said, has long been one I feel quite passionately about.  I put my money where my mouth is, too, donating monthly to Planned Parenthood, as well as on a more occasional basis to any charity that helps educate teens about the responsibilities and consequences of being sexually active.

    My niece’s situation has brought me to more closely dissect how I feel about unwanted pregnancy in general, and teen pregnancy in particular.  I am staunchly pro-choice, although I’m sure that like every person on either side of the question, I’d be overjoyed if the day came where abortions would be rare, and only necessary in medical emergencies.  However, at the moment that’s unrealistic.

    I’ve come to realize that I’ve got an “order of preference” as to the problem of keeping my own daughter out of the same horrible situation.

    1. Pregnancy prevention; whether through strict abstinence (the only 100% sure method), or consistent use of contraception.  Regardless of the contraceptive aspects, the practice of safe sex in all cases.  There’s simply too much information and technology at our disposal NOT to utilize it and encourage it strenuously.

    2. Should contraception fail (and here’s where I’m sure I part company with a great many people), the very first option I would strongly suggest to my own daughter, or any other teenager, would be to terminate the pregnancy as soon as possible – within the first trimester.

    3. Having and keeping the child, but only in the instance of having the full commitment and cooperation of the immediate and extended family to support and help out so that the teenager can finish school and get a secondary education.  No one should have children they can’t support, and the chances of giving a child a decent life are severely limited in the event that the mother remains uneducated and unskilled.

    And lastly, only in the most dire circumstances…

    4. Giving up the child for adoption, either within the family or to qualified adoptive parents.

    My husband and I disagree on the order of preference, and I’m not sure if that’s due to his not being able to relate to how very cruel it seems to have a girl endure pregnancy and birth only to end up with no child; or if perhaps he just doesn’t have as much of a problem with giving away a member of one’s own bloodline, but in his view letting a teenager have and keep a baby should be the last resort.

    If nothing else, my niece’s (IMO) tragic circumstance has made me think much more seriously about what I think and why… and has made me that much more committed to pulling no punches with my own daughter about her body, her sexuality and the dire consequences inherent in any sexual activity that isn’t a solo affair!

  14. OB, for what it’s worth I agree with the order of your preferences. Once a teenager gets pregnant, the choices are usually limited to a range from bad to worse.

    I also agree that moral teachings take second fiddle to a solid technical grounding. Teenagers and good senses are often incompatible, but at the very least it helps if at least one of the participants understands what putting tab P into slot V can lead to.

    Our daughters are still a few years away from That Age, but I do wonder how to make sure that they will understand then that saying No in the face of peer pressure is an acceptable thing. I suppose it always helps if they can plausibly blame a denial on their parents…

  15. According to an article I read today since sex ed has been taught in schools there’s been a decrease in teens having sex and an increase in condom use.  Those are both good things (well I guess unless you’re a catholic and say no to condoms) I don’t know why people say no to sex-ed.  If I remember correctly, when I was a teenager, much of the reason I slept around as much as I did was because it was somewhat of a mystery and the sense that I shouldn’t be doing it made it that more exciting.  If there’s less mystery and greater acceptance, kids wouldn’t be having sex for such silly reasons (that’s not to say that no kids would have sex, I think with all the hormones shooting around someone’s bound to get it on).

  16. OB- When Ronald Reagan was governor of California (yes, I’m that old), his solution to teenage pregnancy was “Just say No”.  Of course, he also said that trees were the main source of air pollution.

    I join Brock and GeekMom: kudos.  I’m glad your daughter has a mom who tells her the truth, and your niece an aunt who will love and support her.

  17. Our daughters are still a few years away from That Age, but I do wonder how to make sure that they will understand then that saying No in the face of peer pressure is an acceptable thing.

    I’ve told mine, time and again that a woman is never more sure to remain in control of her own heart and mind than when she is saying, “No.”  As soon as she gives in, she becomes vulnerable; not only to any number of physical ramifications, but to serious emotional upheaval as well.  Sex is and should be adult behavior, because it makes it so damned easy to truly mind-fuck another person.  I can’t imagine school sex-ed addresses the psychological effects of sex, but it’s crucial information that these kids should have. 

    Again, I know that sort of discussion might be anything but comfortable to a lot of parents (especially those who feel ashamed of some of their youthful fuck-ups and have never told their kids even a fraction of what they were REALLY like as teenagers – which is a mistake, IMO).  My kid takes what I say pretty seriously, because she knows I won’t lie to her… even dear old Mom made some stunningly stupid mistakes as a kid (and still does) – but has fortunately survived to say, “Don’t let this happen to YOU!”

    Thanks for the words of support, all.  I’ve taken quite a bit of grief now and again for being so “hardcore” and “blunt” in raising my child, but I think it’s much more important to raise a SMART girl than one who’s society’s idea of “good.”  We do our children no favors by sheltering them to the point that they are completely unarmed with the information necessary to survive in the real world, in the 21st century.  It’s nice to know I’m not alone. 😀

  18. I seem to remember a couple of years ago a story stating that plenty of girls here dont even consider a head-job to be sex! – sounds like the sort of yarn a horny lad might spin to get sex.What chance have young girls got?

  19. I think that the most effective tool we could give girls against pregnancy is SELF-ESTEEM.

    A lack of self-esteem is what leads a girl to give in to the demands of the boy she can’t live without.

    A lack of self-esteem is what causes teenagers in certain cultures to get pregnant on purpose, because they feel it’s the only way they can make themselves worthy and prove they’re a grownup.

    A lack of self-esteem makes a woman get pregnant to keep the man she’s afraid she’s going to lose.

    A lack of self-esteem leads women into abusive relationships.

    I intend to teach my daughters how to recognize this self-esteem problem within themselves, how to recognize when someone might be a potential abuser, and how to get out of a situation without completely blowing it up.

    Oh yes, and I intend to teach them that putting tab P ANYWHERE near slot V can lead to pregnancy.

    Even then, I don’t hold out much hope that it’ll work.  The teenage years are just too hard.

  20. Let me see.

    None of this “letting down gently” shit. A reputation as an arrogant bitch may just be the best contraceptive.

    Apropos, put them on the pill and stock their purses with condoms? As in preventive damage mitigation?

  21. GeekMom and elwed- both of the above.  Our daughter is well equipped with self-esteem and contraceptive knowhow, and we’re not grandparents yet.  On the other hand, too much self-esteem and they argue with you when it’s their turn to do the dishes…

  22. Hell, zilch, ours argues with us even without the dishes as an excuse! grin

    My mom got me the pill when I turned 18.  I’m very glad she did.

  23. Just a bit to encourage all you awesome parents:

    From the kids’ POV, I am SO GLAD that my mom talked to me about sex.  I was an unplanned pregnancy (largely because my mothers’ parents did not talk to her about sex), and my mother made a point from day one to never shy away from talking to me about sex.  I am eternally grateful for that resolution.

    I started getting curious in the first grade because all my friends were telling me tall tales about what sex was and such, and because I found my fathers’ nudie magazines in the upstairs closet.  (And strewn around his sleeping body on the floor at times after late nights; needless to say, my parents are divorced.)

    I just kept bugging my mom and one day she decided it was a good time to tell me.  I was seven years old.  The p and v bits did not weird me out at all—I knew they were involved, but I wasn’t sure what you did with them.  What got me was that it made a baby!  How could two such disparate things be connected?!

    Anyway, because she made such an effort to be open from day one, talking about sex has never been awkward.  I still discuss my experiences with her as a 25 year old.  To date, her advice has always been the best.  I waited until I was 19 to have sex, and I have never regretted it.  Almost all my sexual experiences have been positive (and the negative points have been mostly out of my control, and not nearly as negative as they could have been).  I’ve not been pregnant nor caught an STD.  My attitudes about sex and sex information are so much better developed than those of many of my peers.  I feel more comfortable with my body and with talking about sex.  So I want to tell you all, thank you for being wonderful, open-minded parents, too.  If you ever feel doubts about your decisions, just remember that you are making the right choices and your children will thank you for it.  Maybe not today, but someday.  You rock.

    I also want to offer some new articles from the Washington Post that I read today, which prompted all my thinking on this:

    A live discussion on abstinence ed


    A discussion of how abstinence ed is not really abstinence ed, and how much it sucks

    This comment from the live discussion really struck me:

    It now grosses me out to think that my most serious boyfriend of almost five years had slept with more than 25 people, which means that I’ve slept with all of those people’s partners, too, and so on…

    When I read this quote, I wanted to break things. I remembered being taught this tripe in middle school, along with the “rose analogy”—that your virginity is a rose and each time you have sex, it’s like pulling off a petal.
    That is a total guilt message! Did anyone else experience this crap?
    If we buy into this stuff, then we’re basically saying that having sex once can make you promiscuous. The truth is, that reader did not choose to have sex with 26 people herself—quite a different thing altogether. And what if she had? If she felt good about her decision and took the proper precautions, why would having sex with 26 people be bad?  You can’t teach a child to have positive sexual experiences by making all sex guilt-ridden.  Thank God I had a mother to teach me that.  (PS, she’s a Christian!)

    A quote I liked from the other article:

    …health educators can’t “work backwards.” That is, they can’t begin with a preconceived notion of what is the right course of action for every person under every circumstance and then create curricula designed to meet that end. An approach such as abstinence-only education—which dictates the correct answer even before the first question is asked—is antithetical to the educational process.

    That is SO TRUE.  This is also the problem with intelligent design.  It’s completely unscientific and logically faulty.  I agree with the author when she says that it should be called chastity-advocacy education.  Abstinence implies choice, but there is no choice encouraged when you’re cramming a religious ideology down someone’s throat and providing only one option.  Let me borrow from the Mormons on this one:  Choose the Right.  Education should be about reviewing all the information and then making the choice you know is right.  The best teachers I had in any subject followed that philosophy.  And if we don’t raise children to make good decisions now, then how will they make good decisions later?  the answer is that they won’t.  They will just follow whatever conformist message is crammed down their throats.

    Sigh…looking for a good conclusion here but I just feel frustrated with this type of sex-ed.  Thank God there are parents out there who take sex-ed into their own able hands.

  24. If I may quote my religion book from school…

    Contraception, masturbation and pornography all violate the seventh commandment because they do not respect the sexuality that God has given us

    WTF? (In case you don’t know, the sixth commandment is “you shall not commit aldultery”). I honestly don’t think most of the 10 commandments have any application in today’s world.

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