Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex: Abstinence and the Preachers of Doom

I've talked about my research on the Quiverfull movement on this blog before, but I haven't gone into one of the more tangential areas related to it--abstinence education. The reason this is on my mind today is a) I just finished a paper a few weeks ago on born again virginity, and b) I'm watching The Education of Shelby Knox on Netflix. Shelby Knox is a documentary about a high school girl in Lubbock, Texas who fought the school's abstinence only policy to try to lower the pregnancy and STD rates there, which were some of the highest in the country. The filmmakers interviewed Ed Ainsworth, a True Love Waits speaker and abstinence proponent; during the course of this interview, AInsworth commented that while he talked about STD's in detail in his presentations, he would never demonstrate how to put on a condom. Then he compared this to showing kids how to use guns.

Okay, first of all, let me say that I am well aware that the only 100% effective way to prevent STD's and pregnancy is abstinence; that is a no-brainer. However, it is incredibly naive to believe that all teenagers are going to save themselves for marriage, and let us not forget that since we in the LGBTQ community cannot, for the most part (depending on where we live), get married, this is effectively saying that we should live completely celibate lives. Neither is realistic. Yes, it would be a perfect world if all teenagers (and adults) for that matter were more careful with their sex lives. STD's, like AIDS, would not be as widespread, and there wouldn't be as many teen and unplanned pregnancies. BUT this is not going to happen. It simply isn't, but these "abstinence warriors" do not want to admit this.

I am not saying that kids should be told that as long as they use protection, it's free love for everyone. However, they should be taught the proper way to use protection, the risks involved in multiple partners, how their bodies function, what STD's are and what they do to you. Unfortunately, many kids don't know the first thing about any of this. Abstinence only proponents claim that if this sort of education were available, there would be more teen pregnancies and STD's, but the evidence shows otherwise. In schools, such as Lubbock, where abstinence is the only line, the rates are much higher than in schools with accurate sex education. Many say that it should be left up to the parents to teach kids these things. Maybe in a perfect world, yes, it should, but the sad fact is that many parents are either unwilling or unable (being products of the same close-mouthed systems as their kids) to provide the education that kids need. As I said in my Mr. Rogers post, kids are exposed to a lot of things, and parenting should be one of those. It is a sad fact that this is not the case, and yet these same parents who are neglecting to tell their kids anything are the ones screaming that parents should have the final line on sex ed at home. Make up your mind. Either parent or allow the school to do it for you, but don't leave these kids to their own devices with no information available. That is dangerous.

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