Success of Abstinence-Only Sex Education

Despite the willingness of the media to play along, and the study coordinators to champion the results of their abstinence-only sex education as being the first sign this approach works, I’m not necessarily sold or convinced this is the way to go.

First, I should say, in this particular study it was a relief to read “the instructors did not take a moralistic tone, did not disparage condom use and encouraged students to wait to begin sexual activity until they were ready — but not necessarily to wait until marriage.”

That’s the good, and many people would have you believe the results of the study were also good.  In a sample of 662 sixth and seventh graders, “33% of the students from the abstinence-only program, 52% from the safer-sex course, 42% from the comprehensive program and 47% from the control group had started having sex.”

And so yes, the results are promising, however, what strikes me as curious is the follow up was only two years after the study was conducted.

So at most, the kids were in 8th or 9th grade.  Just before the cusp of real sexual activity (seems like 10th grade is when everything explodes).  In other words, regardless of sex education, at that age only a small sample of students will be truly sexually active anyways.  It would be different if there results were applicable to 12th graders, etc.

So my question is what happens when those abstinence-only students begin having sex in 10th or 11th grade?  The goal of having them delay having sex seems disingenuous to me because at some point they will have sex. Will that sex be safe? Loving? Tender? Will it be meaningful? Will it result in teenage pregnancy because they don’t know how or are uncomfortable using birth control?

And none of those things ever seem to be addressed by sex education in this country, but particularly in abstinence-only education.

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