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current events, Dating Mating Sex and Reproduction, Politics

Bush’s Sex-Ed Fails Miserably

A recent article in the UK Guardian reports that the evangelical Christian approach to sex education — Abstinence Only — has been an abysmal failure.  It’s not as if there wasn’t already evidence, but this latest report by the CDC has added a punctuation mark to the argument for comprehensive sex education with readily available contraception, as practiced in many European countries.

The details are not pretty:

In a report that will surprise few of Bush’s critics on the issue, the Centres for Disease Control says years of falling rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease infections under previous administrations were reversed or stalled in the Bush years. According to the CDC, birth rates among teenagers aged 15 or older had been in decline since 1991 but are up sharply in more than half of American states since 2005. The study also revealed that the number of teenage females with syphilis has risen by nearly half after a significant decrease while a two-decade fall in the gonorrhea infection rate is being reversed. The number of Aids cases in adolescent boys has nearly doubled.

The CDC says that southern states, where there is often the greatest emphasis on abstinence and religion, tend to have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs.

In this clear example of the danger of faith based morality, theists’ lack of reality check is rearing its ugly head:

But supporters of abstinence-based education said that the new report shows that there is too little not too much emphasis on discouraging sex before marriage.

Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for American Values, which describes itself as a supporter of traditional marriage and “against liberal education and cultural forces”, said the abstinence message is overwhelmed by a culture obsessed with sex.

Let’s make sure we appreciate the full picture here.  Here are the empirical facts:

  • There is voluminous data showing conclusively that no matter how emphatic abstinence only education is, the rates of teen pregnancy and disease transmission do not decrease.  Instead, they often increase, sometimes drastically.
  • Comprehensive sex education including readily available contraception has been shown to be effective in many European countries, where rates of pregnancy and disease transmission are as little as half those in the most Christian states in the U.S.

There have been no peer reviewed studies contradicting these facts.  Indeed, it is quite clear that the only possible objection to teaching young people the truth about sex is a religious objection.  In typical fashion, theists refuse a reality check.  They use their faith based conclusion that sex is bad unless it is in monogamous marriage, and they insist that in light of their profound failure during 8 years of near theocratic government, the solution is more preachers preaching abstinence.

Theism defies reality checks, and that is why it is so dangerous.

Here is real, concrete human suffering directly caused by what can only be described as a faith based religious agenda.  While the rest of the post-industrial world moves forward with the acceptance that young people can and will engage in safe sex practices if properly instructed and encouraged, the United States continues with its dogged insistence that sex is bad and that the less young people know, the better off they will be.

Kudos to President Obama for his immediate action in ending federal funding for this failed religious agenda.  But the work is not done.  There are still some 40% of Americans or so who are teaching their children this nonsense.  Until the media gets on board and church leaders are publicly ridiculed for their absurd beliefs, we’ll still have a problem.  We’re still the only modern country in the civilized world where nearly half the population believes in creation, after all.  We freethinkers should be appalled that it seems like a victory that the government finally realized it shouldn’t fund religious nonsense in public schools.  It’s a victory we should never have needed to hope for.  We should be pressing our advantage now, so that when the next election comes around, we might live in a country that prefers results-based methods for preventing teen pregnancy and disease transmission.  Otherwise, we’re likely to end up right back where we started.



7 thoughts on “Bush’s Sex-Ed Fails Miserably

  1. Nicely done Hamby. I’m lucky I was a late bloomer, I went to Catholic school and would probably have been a mother of 10 by the time I was 20!

    Posted by Sarah Rean | July 21, 2009, 8:58 pm
  2. If only the fundamentalists were affected by reality… *sigh*

    This kind of thing drives me nuts, as I’m sure it does many, many of your readers. As the father of an 8-year-old daughter, I can honestly say that, when the time comes for her to learn about sex, the more information she has, the better.

    Also, as a father of an 8-year-old daughter, I scream in terror at the thought. LOL!

    Posted by Dan Gilbert | July 21, 2009, 10:22 pm
  3. So true what you’ve written. I was given proper, religion-free sex education at school (I’m from Scandinavia), and in no way did that make me behave sexually irresponsibly or make me more inclined to start having sex as a teenager (or anyone else I knew for that matter, really). Quite the opposite – being aware of the physical and emotional consequences having sex could possibly have, I decided to stay care-free longer than most. And when I did then start having sex, I always felt confident enough to tell exactly what I want and how I like it.

    Posted by misswolfson | July 22, 2009, 12:56 pm
  4. A friend of mine recently said something about the ‘abstinence is 100% protection against pregnancy!’ line of unreason that I really, really liked:

    Abstinence is a 100% guarantee against pregnancy like not hitting a car while going down the road is a 100% guarantee against being in a vehicle accident.

    Abstinence is not an action a person can take or a set of guidelines they can follow. It’s just an incidental state of being. Abstinence-only education isn’t just a flawed approach; it’s not even a coherent concept. Abstinence isn’t a skill that can be taught – it’s just a condition.

    Anyone who wants to challenge the notion that abstinence is not a teachable subject essentially needs to demonstrate a program that a person could follow that would, at it’s conclusion, retard their own sexuality. To say the least, beyond offering teenagers some bizarre and probably hazardous hormone regimen, it would be about as easy to design a program that would teach a person to fly by yanking upward on their shoelaces.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | July 23, 2009, 2:47 pm
  5. hambydammit, you’re an intellectual, and I’m more a pop culture sort of girl, but let me say this: I will not accept the moral authority of any group that it plagued by sex scandals/hypocrisy. I do believe in God, some of the time, and have found solace in the rituals of my Catholic upbringing, but the sex abuse scandal in Boston, where I live, shook me to the core, and caused my then-teenage kids to renounce the church forever. And who could blame them?

    From my own research, I know that the incidence of anal sex is climbing rapidly, and that’s about half attributable to guys watching porn, and half to virginity pledges. Yup, young women take the pledge and proceed to have anal sex to preserve their virginity. Again, the hypocrisy is staggering.

    There is something foul about the evangelical approach to sex ed and morality in general. I have to say, getting back to the pop culture reference, that in the most recent episode of True Blood on HBO, the evangelical minister’s wife steals into the bathroom to provide a guest with a hand job. Writer Alan Ball is no evangelical; the scene is delicious in its twisted morality.

    Posted by Susan Walsh | July 25, 2009, 11:02 pm
  6. Thanks for the comments, Susan. I’ve been digging into your blog over the past few days, and I have really enjoyed the pop-culture spin you’re bringing to responsible sexuality. I am a pop-culture illiterate in many ways, so I like being able to learn a little about what’s going on in the world of dating. My articles on dating, mating, and sex are about the permanence of human nature. I leave it to the reader to point at something happening in the world and say, “AHA! Now I understand this current fad… it’s because of this part of human nature!”

    In the past few months, I’ve kind of gotten away from my normal pursuit here. I don’t think of myself as blogging against Christianity so much as blogging for rational living and thinking based on what science tells us really works. Maybe it was the election. I dunno. I’ve been pretty obsessed with pointing out severe problems with the things Christians are peddling — especially their sexual morality.

    Luckily, I just got a stack of great books from Amazon specifically dealing with evolution and sex. I’m working up to a series of articles about what men and women really want in relationships, and more importantly — why they want what they want. I’ve been getting a lot of inspiration reading your blog and the responses from your readers.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I knew a 28 year old Catholic girl about… um… I guess fifteen years ago or so. She claimed to be a virgin, which seemed odd to me since half the guys I knew claimed to have fucked her. I am not good at subtlety sometimes — I just asked her point blank if the five or six guys I knew were all lying or if she was lying. She told me that she was a virgin. No penis had ever entered her vagina, but she had had anal sex with a lot of guys. (Eventually she told me she’d had anal sex with over 30 guys!)

    If you needed any other proof that Christian sexual morality will fuck you in the head… or is it fuck you in the ass…

    Anyway, it’s hard for me not to feel terribly sorry for women like her.

    Posted by hambydammit | July 26, 2009, 2:12 am
  7. Kevin R. Brown: “Anyone who wants to challenge the notion that abstinence is not a teachable subject essentially needs to demonstrate a program that a person could follow that would, at its conclusion, retard their own sexuality.” O.K. I have one: Take Prozac. I guarantee that for most people that this will retard their sexuality. I’m kind of joking. Although my above statement is true, it would be dangerous and stupid to start giving people Prozac en masse for this purpose.

    Susan Walsh is absolutely correct about what is happening in the public school system. My husband works for a public school system. They are well aware that (1) kids are having anal sex in order to somehow “get around” the virginity or pregnancy problem while making the adults very nervous about the kids’ health in the Age of AIDS and (2) that a huge number of high school and junior high school girls have had babies which can be directly attributable to this ignorant abstinance-only sex ed. The school officals are about to tear their hair out about this. I can’t blame them. Also, what kind of parents are such idiots that they don’t EXTREMELY encourage their high school and junior high school pregnant daughters to get abortions? This is trouble that little girls don’t need. Society doesn’t need it either.

    Posted by Valerie Kelley | August 8, 2009, 3:27 am

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