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Abstinence-Only: It’s Baaack

Abstinence-Only: It’s Baaack


Written by Andy Kopsa

Reproductive-health experts breathed a sigh of relief in 2009 when President Barack Obama did away with over a decade of abstinence-only sex education funding under previous administrations (which had added up to more than $1.5 billion over ten years). But now, abstinence-only education looks to be back on the conservative agenda.

Under Bush, ab-only sex ed had become the norm in most U.S. schools, even though study after study [PDF] had revealed its ineffectiveness in reducing the number of teen pregnancies and reducing the spread of disease. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, virginity pledges–a staple of abstinence-only programming–not only failed to decrease teen STD rates, but actually resulted in pledge-takers avoiding medical attention once infected, leading to increased chances of transmission. So it appeared science had prevailed when President Obama’s 2010 budget swapped out all federally funded ab-only programs for comprehensive sex ed.

That is, until abstinence-only funding reared its ugly head again when Republicans sneaked up to $50 million per year through 2014 into the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. And just last weekend, conservatives in Congress pushed through an additional $5 million for ab-only funding in the federal 2012 appropriations bill.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin is considering a bill–SB 237–to kill comprehensive sex-ed in the state and reinstitute abstinence-only-until-marriage programming. The bill has already passed the state senate and will certainly pass the majority-Republican assembly come January.

This should worry Americans. In addition to their ineffectiveness, abstinence-only programs have also come under fire for questionable instructional methods and regressive curricula. Periodic in-depth reviews of abstinence-only programs by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) regularly find that the programs often rely on messages of fear and shame–directed almost entirely toward girls–and promote biased views of gender, marriage and pregnancy options.

Take the Denver, Colo.-based WAIT (Why Am I Tempted?) Training, now known as The Center for Relationship Education, an abstinence-only group that has received over $8 million in federal funds since 2005. During an assembly in a Colorado high school, a WAIT/CRE motivational speaker told her audience:

  • “This (holding up a waffle) is (like) a high school boy’s brain…we use waffles because waffles have all these little compartments … You guys have very cool brains. You can stick stuff away in your thinking … Guys can tuck stuff away. Girls aren’t like that.”
  • “Girls’ brains are like spaghetti noodles. If I pull these noodles up, what do the noodles touch? Everything. So girls, when you have sex with a guy what does it affect? Everything.”
  • “As soon as a guy gets an erection you have viable sperm at the end of your penis. You do not have to have intercourse to get her pregnant, you just have to get that viable sperm close to her vagina and she turns on the little Hoover vacuum, because girls are very, very fertile.”

Such messages don’t just reinforce regressive gender stereotypes–they are also extremely heteronormative. According to a study [PDF] by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network):

A significantly greater portion of students in schools that used an abstinence-only curriculum reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and gender expression—64.8 percent of these students felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation compared to 57.3 percent of all other students.

WAIT/CRE is but one example. They don’t even scratch the surface when it comes to outing the legion of discriminatory, shaming and worst of all, medically erroneous, abstinence-only programs. It is time to end this funding once and for all. We must stop lying to our kids about their sexual health, shaming our young women, stigmatizing our LGBT youth and padding the pockets of ab-only hucksters.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine.


Related Stories:

One in 10 Texas 6th Graders Has Had Sex

Teens Today Postponing Sex, Using Condoms

Study: Majority of Young Evangelicals Have Pre-Marital Sex


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7:45PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

“As soon as a guy gets an erection you have viable sperm at the end of your penis. You do not have to have intercourse to get her pregnant, you just have to get that viable sperm close to her vagina and she turns on the little Hoover vacuum, because girls are very, very fertile.”

And you see the results of this kind of moronic "teaching", if you can even call it that. The mind boggles.

7:38PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

All religious-fear based. A shame to undereducate our children, because teen desire is real, the hormones are pumping, and things WILL happen to a lot of them. It's good to teach kids that sex is special, and to want to save it for a special guy, is good training ... but it's also good to be prepared with info, in case one decides not to "wait till marriage." I have read SO often, that the stats show that states that teach abstinence-only, have more teen pregnancies and STDs.

4:15AM PST on Jan 17, 2012


I mean, you already try to call it useless just because you search & pick out a few cosmetic inconsistencies. Yet you accept huge glaring untruths in other books & by other people who also present no evidence to support their claims. Then when the flaws are exposed,you try to minimise them as being acceptable. Not that I have anything against science. My lifework is science. But because I work with it I know its limitations & I know its boundaries.

Finally, because you cannot find something do not mean that it is not there. Nor do it mean that the event never happened. What I notice about you is that you take the failings & the inefficiencies of modern man & technology & translate them into evidence that bibical events are false. Aesop fables. The fox & the grapes. You cannot achieve something so that means that it is no good.

4:13AM PST on Jan 17, 2012


But how can you say that they are not there. Do you know if anyone looked? And I am not saying that the the bones & artefacts are not preserved. I am saying that they are buried under 3000 years of rock, sand & soil. It would take a very expensive & major expedition to look for them. Do you know if there were any digs in that area?

Also I was not speaking only about forensic technology. My point was that I have to deal with many aspects of technology & ALL of them are not what we are led to believe. We are not as advanced as you think that we are, & you put too much trust in those in authority who most of the time are just as clueless as anyone else. A lot of these studies that you base your opinions on are very simplistic & usually prove nothing. But those who are paid to do the work have to find a means of justifying the money spent & so they act as tho what they are saying is so factual.

The bible is much more consistent with what it presents than any other book out there with the exception of the dictionary. Your excuse is that the other scientific books are finding out new things & so are changing. That is actually the bull definition "for scientific books keep realising that they are wrong & so they have to keep changing". If the Bible was to use that same principle you would call it useless. I mean, you already try to call it useless just because you search & pick out a few cosmetic inconsistencies. Yet you acce

8:29AM PST on Jan 16, 2012

@ Vernon C. Yes some forensic evidence is faulty, but you have to have the evidence in the fisrt place, which was my point. 2 million people wandering 40 years in the desert until all that generation save Joshua & Caleb dies, and a small desert at that, leave no trace? No bones, no broken pottery, no anything. The climate at Sinai was no different then than it is now, arid which aids in preserving artifacts and bones, so where are they?

8:16AM PST on Jan 16, 2012


It is all about patterns & guesswork. You put too much confidence in science despite the fact that 90% of it is always false & only 10% is factual. Use your commonsense & stop deciving yourself because the only prson that you are harming is yourself. As I said before, God do not give one hoot about if you believe he exist or not.

8:15AM PST on Jan 16, 2012

Have you ever seen a desert? That is a rhetorical question because you are a military man who I believed travlled extensively. The desert is huge. A group of 1 million people can hide in the desert & not be found. Also, a day after the million people pass, every track that they made would be hidden just by the ind blowing the sand. Do you think that it would be easy to find evidence in a desert of people who lived thre 3000 years ago? Impossible.

For you, heresay without corroborating evidence may be useless, but not to many other people who knows the truth. This technology which you place such faith in only existed 50 years at most. Tho you may think that today we know & can do so much, in reality we are just only trying to understand this thing. Most of the evidence that "support" a lot of heresay is just guesswork.

As a person who deals with telecommunications technology in the Govt, I also have to work with forensics & a lot of other technology, & I can tell you that a lot of this evidence that you believe in is highly faulted. What usually happens is that because of the authority of certain jobs, the public expects a certain amount of reassurance & we give them that authoritive assurance. But if you knew just how many mistakes are made & how much lies are told you will be surprised. We are not anywhere close as to being technologically advanced as we make out to be. And the same is true about psychiatry. It is all about patterns & gues

8:50PM PST on Jan 14, 2012

@ Vernon C. look at the time that the Biblical occurrences happened, a time wrought with superstition. Where is the evidence of the exodus, or what David or Solomon did? Hearsay without corroborating evidence is useless. Writings, years after the fact, with no corroborating evidence is useless. Israel was alleged to have wandered in the Sinai desert for 40 years until that generation was consumed, save for Joshua & Caleb, where is the evidence of that 40 years, in an arid climate there should be a lot of debris & the bones of the dead even mummified bodies, where are they?

3:21PM PST on Jan 14, 2012


...conflicts between the various religions.

3:20PM PST on Jan 14, 2012


...we know that Egypt enslaved the Isaelites at the time of Moses, we know that the Isralites were freed around the same period but tension persisted, we know about the droughts in Egypt, we know that there were kings called Solomon & David. We know that these kings were religious, we know that Rome occupied the Middle East around the time of Jesus, we know that ALL the disciples & Paul were real...and there is so much more too numerous to list here.

And by the way, how did these disciples became known? You do not doubt the fact that the disciples are real, but you doubt Jesus. Maybe the disciples made him up, right? The only reason someone makes up something is for personal gain. But not these disciples. They made up Jesus because they preferred to live in fear for their life & to be beaten & tortured & murdered.

But the reason why the disciples became known is because after Jesus died, they started making waves. Fighting & preaching to churches who recorded them. They became noteworthy. While Jesus only spoke on the streets to the masses & avoided the churches, the disciples did not. They established christianity & forced Constantine to implement the law that ALL religions are equal, which exists to this very day in democratic countries. Constantine did not create any christian rules as some people love to believe. He was a politician & he legislated what was popular at the time so as to avoid the conflicts between the

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