Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Opinion: Abstinence Education

Abstinence education has had a new wave of movement in the world mainly due to the rise of right-wing Christian evangelical movement which has swept throughout the United States and the world over the past 10 years. Most of the pressure for abstinence education is in the United States where the right-wing evangelicals have political sway due to the up to 2006 Republican Congress and, until today President George Bush who is very openly born again. Due to this political control sex-education has mostly been toward abstinence education.

Abstinence education teaches that the best way to go about keeping someone safe is to not have sex until monogamous marriage where the partners can be free of problems such as STIs and unwanted pregnancy. Which for some people is a very good and viable choice however, the problem is generally abstinence education enforced as the only form of sexual education. This policy has been forced on developing countries especially African countries who are looking for international aid to help for AIDS funding. Uganda for example was making a large amount of progress on AIDS due to their ABC's abstinence, be faithful and, use a condom. In order to get funding from the United States however, for AIDS the US demanded on a purely abstinence program. This has resulted in AIDS exploding again in Uganda.

The abstinence movement here in Canada is much weaker, but US organizations such as Focus on the Family have moved north to join with the small amount of right-wing evangelicals in Canada. South of the border however, in order to teach this abstinence education a growing wave of "Purity balls" have been spreading. During a purity ball daughters get dressed in fancy dresses or even wedding dresses and go to the ball with their father. Their fathers give them a ring and they pledge their purity and abstinence until marriage to their father.

Many of these organizations will even lie to say that condoms are unsafe and not effective. Which unless you are putting them on incorrectly or poking holes in them this is entirely untrue. Not to mention the organizations often are homophobic and teach nothing about any type of sex other then heterosexual vanilla sex. Leading to those who do engage in other forms of sexuality as both dangerous position because, they don't know how to protect themselves not to mention the feeling of guilt for going against the will of your family, community and, religious faith.

It has been studied by the American Psychological Association that comprehensive sex education is overwhelming better then abstinence-only education. To quote:
Based on over 15 years of research, the evidence shows that comprehensive sexuality education programs for youth that encourage abstinence, promote appropriate condom use, and teach sexual communication skills reduce HIV-risk behavior and also delay the onset of sexual intercourse.
Not only does it protect people in them having safer sex it actually delays the onset of sex which abstinence-only programs are trying to do. They go on to say that abstinence-only programs increase the risk of pregnancy and HIV infection.

Promotion of abstinence-only programs is in my opinion reckless and dangerous. It prevents youth from knowing how to properly keep themselves safe when having sex. It should also be noted that having sex is a natural and enjoyable act. I say its about time we as society see sex as sacred instead of shameful. Teach about how it can be enjoyable and most importantly teach how to truly be safe.

Image of a Purity Ball from SCWC.

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Blogger Beijing York said...

Excellent and concise post Jade. Rather timely too given VP nominee Sarah Palin's position on this issue.

Although the religious right that has taken a significant hold on Republican politics has more sway in the US, I see the movement seeping into Canada at an alarming pace (especially since Harper got elected).

The anti-choice private member's bills, the censorship clause in C-10 and the heavy-handed arts and culture cuts are evidence of what Harper has in store for us. Should he get re-elected, I am sure his social conservative tendencies might very well extend in the direction of abstinence only education. It may start off quietly such as gently forcing CIDA to only fund overseas health/AIDS initiatives that promote abstinence and/or strongly suggesting that Health Canada start an outreach campaign promoting abstinence among youth. That how he and his ilk work... sneaking in changes without public scrutiny.

8:00 p.m.  
Blogger Jade said...

The nomination of Sarah Palin and the talk about her daughter was actually one of the things that spurned this.

I do agree that social conservatism is holding more political sway in Canada then it used to. I am however, unsure that Harper would unleash social conservatism to that extreme however. This is more due to his political savy in realizing that its the social conservatism that scares many Canadians away from the Conservative party. He has censored the extreme social conservatives in the past. If however, they got a majority... I'd be worried.

10:57 p.m.  
OpenID angou-kohaku said...

This is an issue which touches me deeply. It was how I was taught. It left me woefully unprepared for the real world. Thank you for reporting on it. It's about time we started talking about this issue instead of taking a "head in the sand" stance on sexual education.

Not only this, but I feel this underlying current of shame being foisted on the bodies of young folks today. A current that stayed with me until I found my first partner and found out that my previous sex-ed was all nonsense.

I feel that abstinence education is instilling in us a sense of dissociation with our bodies. This is dangerous and unhealthy. My wife and I were just discussing today how our health had gone downhill without our noticing it due to just such attitudes.

Abstinence education today is basically telling us "Don't look at bodies. Don't touch them, don't think about them, don't try to understand them. Most of all, don't enjoy them." This leads to us not taking care of ourselves, even in non-sexual situations.

Thanks again for your report.

11:30 a.m.  

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