Abstinence education: like intelligent design, teaching abstinence in place of sex education is the Christian right's way of injecting religion into our education system. They promote abstinence as the only true way to avoid pregnancy and STDs and the ultimate evil, abortion. And you know what, they're right.
But just like communism and all the other ideas that sound good on paper, reality has a funny way of proving how wrong you really are. Abstinence-only education is no exception.
Anyone who has ever been a teenager or currently is one, knows full well that the idea of abstinence is about as realistic as jumping from here to the moon in a single bound. Bodies are primed and ready, hormones are going crazy and the urge to merge is flying right in the face of society's man-made age of consent and social mores. We want to protect our children, so what's the best way to do that? Is it to tell them simply, just say no and that's final? I suppose this is the sexual equivalent of "because I'm your mother and I say so".
Is that simple prohibition enough to override the forces of nature, peer pressure, human curiosity and the first feelings of love and attraction? Let's take a look.
As expected, the answer is no. A study in the American Journal of Health Behavior was conducted to analyze the sexual behavior of more than 2000 students in the Cleveland area. Researchers led by Elaine A. Borawski, Ph.D., in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, found that after going through the program, teens reported significant increases in their HIV/STD knowledge, their personal beliefs about the importance of abstinence and their intentions to remain abstinent in the near future.
That sounds nice.
But the program did not affect students' confidence to avoid risky sexual situations, and sexually inexperienced and female students actually reported a decrease in their intent to use condoms in the future.