Friday, September 23, 2005

Abstinence Education Redux

by Kyle Michaelis
My new friend Roger Snowden just replied to a post from several weeks back on the outbreak of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Omaha and the general foolishness of abstinence-ONLY education.

Roger asserts:
Your comment, "The Republican Party is imposing ignorance here in Nebraska and across the country, and no one is willing to stand-up to them on it." left me laughing....

The article and it's related article on "How well do condoms work against STDs?" make it quite clear condoms are hardly a good solution for STD prevention. And condoms are presented as the only solution available.

Not true at all. Abstinence is demonstrably 100% effective.

First, thank you for your response, Roger. I hope you don't mind my pulling it from the archives to make my own retort.

While true that condoms are not without fail at preventing STDs (or unwanted pregnancies), it is silly and fallacious to hold-up abstinence as a more "effective" sex practice. It is only effective in the same sense that teaching a child never to go in the water is the surest way to prevent drowning.

Of course, we could just teach kids to swim - not that they have to or SHOULD be swimming right now - but just so they know how if they ever do decide to go into the water. Not giving them that knowledge and power of self-determination is to cripple them needlessly with fear.

The simple fact of the matter is that nothing in life is without risk. Sex has risks, but - with proper education on the choices available and a more complete understanding of the human body - these risks can AND SHOULD be minimized...and that includes risks within the confines of a loving marriage where such couple should be empowered to start their lives together and their family in the manner they see fit.

The purpose of sex education is more than the prevention of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. These are certainly benefits, yes, but the purpose of sex education is to investigate and seek understanding of this incredible biological - for many, spiritual - function from which all life flows and in which so many human motivations lie. To neglect this study is to shy away from one of the fundamentals of existence.

As a matter of science, young people should understand that abstinence is likely the safest choice to protect their physical and mental well-being. But we have a concurrent responsibility as a society to prepare them for a day of their choosing - that will come whether we like it or not - to explore this mysterious aspect of their own lives. We should hope to get them to this point without fear but with understanding of the risks, without embarrassment or shame but with courage and, I dare suggest, enthusiasm.

From there, ones understanding can be informed by the individual's faith and morality as it will.

At least, that's my perspective on this whole matter. I welcome whatever debate it might elicit, straying somewhat from this site's usual Nebraska-focus...but, damn it, I'm advocating comprehensive sex education ("abstinence-plus") here as well.


Blogger Roger Snowden said...


Thanks for the gracious comments. It is rare to be able to debate a controversial subject in a civil manner, and your tone is appreciated.

I agree with much of what you say, although I might suggest a slightly different analogy. Rather than simply teaching kids to swim, we ought to simultaneously teach them to avoid dangerous water. It's essential to be able to swim, but swimming in the Missouri River is downright foolish.

Better yet, think of the flood water of the past few weeks in New Orleans. Swimming might save your life if you fell in, but casually taking a dip in that water might be suicidal.

The article to which you linked seems to suggest abstinence education is a failure. I stand by my assertion the only sure way to prevent STD, as well as pregnancy, is abstinence. But, I also agree many kids will have premarital sex. Hormonal-driven behaviour-- however irresponsible-- has been a human characteristic for as long as our species has existed.

However, casual sex carries a life-threatening risk that was not nearly such a problem 30 years ago, much less 300 years ago. So, to meekly succumb to social trends with the idea casual sex is inevitable is irresponsible itself.

So, I think we might possibly agree, even if we come from different perspectives. Casual sex may be more common now than ever, especially at the very youngest years, but is also more dangerous than ever. So yes, accurate and complete education is critical. But so is moral guidance.

It's not really one versus the other, is it?


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