Last week, President Obama released his 2017 budget proposal, which eliminates a $10 million grant for abstinence-based sex education and includes a legislative proposal that would nix $75 million that would go towards “abstinence only until marriage” education. Additionally, the proposal calls for budget increases to the Office of Adolescent Health’s and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.
This is an excellent, evidence-based move towards protecting and educating our youth. Whether or not they are given an abstinence-only sex education, teens are going to have sex. About half of all high school-aged youth reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. Contrary to what conservatives would want you to believe, states where abstinence-only education is emphasized have a higher teen pregnancy rate.
It’s no surprise that the more you tell youth “don’t do it,” the more likely they are to engage in the behavior you’re trying to discourage. In fact, research suggests that more control can lead to more rebellion.
Controlling parenting has been associated with lower levels of intrinsic motivation, less internalization of values and morals, poorer self-regulation, and higher levels of negative self-related affects. (Source)
Abstinence-only education is a disservice to our youth. It encourages things such as “virginity pledges,” which are laughably ineffective. Teens who make such a pledge are just as likely to engage in oral or anal sex and have similar STI rates. Virginity pledges don’t work and actually increase the likelihood of risky sexual behavior.
In reality, abstinence-only sexual education has its roots in promoting faith-based beliefs. Not only that, but it shames sexual behaviors and can even lead to confusion for those questioning their sexuality in the first place.
Most adults overwhelmingly support comprehensive sex education.
If anything, abstinence education should be a part of comprehensive sex education that discusses puberty and sexual health. We need to be honest with youth and treat them like young adults when it comes to sex education. While it might be awkward for adults to talk about, you are the product of two people having sex. It’s important that our youth be informed and educated so if they do decide to have sex, they have information to help them do so safely.