May 24, 2024

What Does It Mean to Be Abstinent?

A beautiful girl in a savage worldMethinks that for all of the talk about teaching abstinence as the best policy in “comprehensive sex education” somehow is failing:

Study shows CA teens perceive sexual intercourse and oral sex as “abstinence”
96% of California public schools teach comprehensive sex education

The NAEA applauds the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation for its detailed study of how teens interpret abstinence and sexual activity. The report appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Children ages 12 to 16 from throughout CA were asked their perceptions on sexual behaviors. According to the study, 12% of the children interviewed believed that they were abstinent if they were engaging in sexual (vaginal) intercourse. Anal sex was considered abstaining for 14% of the respondents. More than 44% consider genital touching an abstinent behavior, with 33% oral sex constituted abstinence….  (National Abstinence Education Association)

Huh?  You’re abstinent if your engaging in sex?  And you wonder why people that believe in teaching abstinence are incredulous when those that want comprehensive sex-ed start talking about how they cover abstinence:

“In CA, 96% of schools teach comprehensive sex education, and according to a recent report in the CA Journal of Health Promotion, there has been 1.1 million new STD cases reported in Californians ages 15 to 24. A careful review of the most popular comprehensive sex education curricula reveals that it leaves definitions for abstinence up to the discretion of the individual student. It is not surprising that teens loosely define the term, and end up acquiring an STD as a result.”

In June, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report saying comprehensive sex education spends little time promoting the value of abstinence, but does teach children as young as 13 that “showering together” and “cuddling naked” are appropriate “abstinence” activities. That same HHS report noted that commonly used comprehensive sex education programs have little or no effect on delaying the onset of a teen’s sexual behavior.

Looks to me like Comprehensive Sex Education does just what we pro-lifers say it does– it causes people to get into situations where they’re spreading STIs and STDs and it’s hurting our young people.  But at least their getting free condoms, right?

(Hat tip: Jill Stanek)

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18 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to Be Abstinent?

  1. That is so terribly heart breaking, my gosh, these poor misguided kids!

    We, as parents, have a responsiblity to teach the truth and the dangers of premarital sex. I know that I am going to do my best and teach my boys to wait for marriage.

    I don’t want them to die of AIDS or have an eternal disease.

  2. Um…methinks somewhere along the line the little minds full of mush have made an assumption that because the word abstinence is used in conjunction with discussion on sex it must mean sex.

    They probably think abstaining from alcohol means getting really drunk, too.

  3. That’s really sad. Either we have lots of dumb kids in this country (great possibility) or the programs have some serious design flaws (also a great possibility).

    Abstinence means abstinence: refraining from any sexual activity. The curriculum needs to say just that, not allowing kids to determine their own definition. IF, and that’s a big if, the curriculums have been designed with the non-definition of abstinence being implemented, we really have no idea how effective these curriculums are. Redesign with a good definition of abstinence and let’s see how the results change a few years from now.

  4. Dorothy, if you look at STD rates in North America as compared to the rest of the world, we rank the lowest, and have for a very long time. Obviously something is working to keep our rates as low as they are. Check out World Health Organization for stats.

  5. Abstinence only programs don’t work either. And if you don’t teach about contraception, pregnancy rates soar. In my opinion, abstinence is an outdated and frankly repressive idea, which frankly doesn’t work. Sex and sexuality are natural and beautiful things, and to say you have to just somehow suppress those God-given, powerful urges until you are married doesn’t work. Tell a kid not to do anything and they will do it. Our culture’s repressive and misplaced ideas about sex are causing the problems. Ironically it’s perfectly fine to show movies and tv show’s that depict murder, violence, and torture, but put a scene in there with real love making, and it’s censored. Europeans think we are nuts. It’s just the opposite over there. They know that violence begets violence, love begets love.

  6. I have to wonder what you mean by “work” Martha. Obviously, the comprehensive education that they gave in California didn’t “work” when it came to properly defining sexual terms. Also, it’s unfair to judge a program simply on what is taught in the classroom. There are too many factors involved in the decision of when to start having sex (parents being the major one) that any success it has in delaying the onset of sexual activity should be lauded.

    Abstinence from sexual activity until marriage is repressive in the same way that anti-smoking, anti-drugs and dieting is repressive. They are all meant to help you to live healthier lives. It is statistically proven that those that wait longer to engage in sex are less likely to come down with a damaging or life threatening illness. They’re not going to get pregnant. Should we cease having people tell kids not to smoke, drink or do drugs because “they’re going to do it anyway?”

    There are thousands, if not millions, of people that stayed virgins until their wedding night, and many over the history of the world that died only having one sexual partner. So, saying it doesn’t work is false.

    We tell kids to suppress urges all the time. “Don’t talk with your mouth full.” “Don’t steal from the store.” “Don’t call your sister names.” “Don’t eat a snack, we’re just about to have dinner.” “Hold it until we get home.”

    These are all natural urges that we tell them not to do (with varying degrees of success, I will give you), but we expect them to obey these more trivial things that will not give them a deadly disease, give them a disease that may change their life, totally alter a relationship, or bring a new life into the world. Why is it that we can expect them to curb their natural impulses in the small things but not the big things?

    If you look at Africa, take a look at what’s happening with HIV over there and the comparative programs. You’ll see that the one country that has a positive abstinence message is the one that’s making the most headway against the dreaded disease.

  7. “If you look at Africa, take a look at what’s happening with HIV over there and the comparative programs. You’ll see that the one country that has a positive abstinence message is the one that’s making the most headway against the dreaded disease.”

    Considering they are still #1 in regards to HIV infection, you’re going to have to provide some proof to this claim.

  8. I’m sorry for the confusion, Musicguy. I was writing from memory and without the time for specifics. The “one country” in Africa that I was referring to is Uganda:

    A United Nations Aids researcher had read it, failed to understand its significance or to credit it and, Epstein recounts, wrongly concluded that an increase in condom use was responsible for the decrease of the HIV rate in Uganda. In reality, according to three later analyses of Ankrah’s study, the primary reason for the decline was completely different: substantial numbers of Ugandans had ended affairs and remained faithful to one partner. [Emphasis mine]

    You see, I think we all think in a bubble– that the U.S. is the barometer for the world, when it’s not. What’s working to stem the tide of HIV in Uganda? The U.N. wanted to say condoms, but it’s the opposite. It was abstinence before marriage, faithfulness inside of it.

  9. Interesting study. I wonder if it has been replicated in the last decade and a half. (Here’s my peer-reviewed public service announcement again)

    I couldn’t find the word “abstinence” one time in that article. That’s quite a leap you make.

    I don’t think anyone is going to argue about partners being faithful in a relationship.

  10. Somehow… I don’t understand what is worng with this generation. I am a Photographer ( ) and 40 years old. I am originaly from Brazil… and I don’t remember have ever had a “sex education” class.
    But if you going to teach something to the kids.. is how to protect themselves from wrong sexual experiences and not how to avoid sex.


  11. Once again the powers of the world fail to imitate Christ and Christian morality.  How shocking.

    Arthur’s last blog post..Debating the Atheist – Dinesh D?Souza

  12. The point of sex education isn’t to teach kids how to HAVE sex, which most will do with or without the course before marriage. Sex ed is to teach kids about how to be safe about it and how to avoid complications such as STD’s and pregnancy, thus lowering the amount of cases of teenage pregnancy. It also puts sex out in the open and not as taboo. For some wierd reason people seem to want to do what they’re not supposed to. (for example, during the period where they banned alchohol in the u.s. they had a lot more people buying the alchohol than when it was legal)

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