Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Abstinence is like...like um... Unrealistic

As my boyfriend can attest to, abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education turns me into a raving lunatic.

Seriously, I’m surprised I don’t start foaming at the mouth. It’s that bad.

Under the Bush Administration, funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs rose from $97.5 million in 2000 to $215 million in 2008.

The funding has just kept rising and rising even though numerous studies, including a federally funded evaluation, have shown that these programs are ineffective. Yet since the churches are all for it, congressmen are reluctant to do anything about this enormous waste of spending (the democrats are just as much to blame here).

As most people capable of rational thought, I figured this would not be an issue in the Obama administration. Unfortunately, based on the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill $94 million will be given to these failed programs. $94 million dollars.


I want to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, and one observer suggested it was too late to remove funding for abstinence-only from the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 appropriations bill, but it's hard to when this is clearly such a waste.

Just look at Texas.

The Texas Freedom Network just released a study that shows, “classrooms are perpetuating a “conspiracy of silence” that robs young people of the reliable information they need to make responsible life decisions. Even worse, the information students do receive about sexuality and health is often grossly distorted or simply wrong.”

Regardless of one’s personal opinions about sexuality education, we should all be able to agree on this point: students should not be taught incorrect information in school. Unfortunately, the numerous examples of blatantly incorrect and misleading information in classroom materials make clear that many Texas public schools fail this most basic test.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Texas leads the nation in federal abstinence education dollars and has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the nation.

Or what about the report that found teens in Florida, a state that relies on abstinence-only programs, who believed drinking a can of Mt. Dew would prevent unintended pregnancy, or drinking a capful of bleach would prevent HIV/AIDS?

Then there’s my personal favorite, the Ohio program Abstinence ‘Till Marriage’s Party Room.

If you haven’t heard, after you enter the “Party Room,” you learn the story of Rochelle, Jason, Monica and Tanner. Each person tells their perspective about what happens during and after a party one night that pretty upholds the idea that if women aren’t saintly, then we shouldn’t believe them when they’re raped since they obviously deserve it.

Amplify your voice wrote a great post about it here.
Rochelle tells how she drove her drunken friend Jason home after the party, and then is raped by him. Jason denies that the rape happened, saying their sex was consensual. Monica and Tanner observe that Jason was being a drunken idiot the entire night, with Monica (Jason’s ex) adding her opinion that Rochelle has a reputation for “putting out” and being a “slut”.

The site then asks the question: “Based on all accounts, whose story sounds the least credible?”

Guess who is the “correct” answer? Rochelle.

Why, you ask? Because she “made several questionable decisions”, “she had a motive to lie” and, lest we forget, “she’s been pinned reputation (sic) for being ‘loose’”

It’s hard not to overemphasize the sickness in this “correct” answer. Rochelle is not be believed. After all, she drove in a car with a boy. And she’s actually had sex before, or at least people say that she has, which is apparently the same thing and equally worthy of disbelief after you’ve been raped.

The site then asks if we know that a rape occurred. The “correct” answer says that we don’t know, emphasizing again that Rochelle has a "motive to lie", and that:

“Unfortunately, we are left judging (Rochelle’s) honesty by her character and her actions"... “Monica implied Rochelle had a promiscuous reputation and the whole school seemed to know it.”

Ah, yes. Her “character”. They once again remind us that “sluts” aren’t to be trusted. Why should we listen or care about them, right?

The site then goes a step further, adding a degree of sympathy for the actions of the rapist: “Also, alcohol makes people less inhibitive. Jason was extremely vulnerable to his circumstances”.

Vulnerable? Less inhibitive? What exactly are they saying here, that rape is a “less inhibitive” behavior? That alcohol made poor Jason “vulnerable” to being a sick rapist asshole? Seriously, I’d like to know what the hell their point is on this one.

Perhaps the sickest aspect of this organization and their website is the fact that our tax dollars are funding it. To date, they have received $1.8 million dollars, and are set to receive another $1.8 million in the next three years. Yes, we are subsidizing rape culture. And this is just one example of the many ridiculous abstinence-only until marriage sex education programs that we have wasted $1.5 billion in federal money on in the last decade.

This is America, not some backwater county that still think witches are to blame for droughts. This behavior is reprehensible. (Abstinence 'Till Marriage had to drastically change the text due to all the outrage this post caused. Way to go Amplify Your Voice!)

Since 1996, the U.S. government has poured more than a billion dollars into abstinence-only education programs. They are so ineffective and dangerous that seventeen states have refused funding.

That should say it all right there.

The real test of this administration will come at the end of February when President Obama is expected to release his first federal budget request for the 2010 fiscal year. President Obama has publicly stated he supports comprehensive sex education and wants to cut wasteful spending so this is pretty much a no brainer.

But just in case, here's a link to send President Obama a letter urging him to fund comprehensive sex education.



  1. Sex Ed in Texas made headlines at http://detentionslip.org !

  2. I agree, abstinence doesn't work, but school tend to teach a lot of things that no one uses, like math and frog-dissection.

  3. You know, I was very surprised to find out that abstinence-only education was employed in Florida schools since I went to high school in Florida and had FANTASTIC sex ed (though thinking back, it makes sense, since Jeb Bush was not yet governor when I was in high school).

    It makes me really sad, because I really did have amazing sex education. And it wasn't until I worked at an adult toy store that I realized how good my sex ed had been compared to most other people. I knew about condoms and safe sex, but I also knew what spermicide (which we now know is bad, but at the time we didn't and thought it was helpful) and dental dams were. I didn't realize that most people didn't know what these things were.

    Abstinence-only education helps no one. As Bristol Palin, daughter of abstinence-only education advocate, proved, it doesn't work. And teaching kids incorrect information (i.e. 1 in every 7 times you have sex with a condom you will get pregnant) makes it worse. Because while you are teaching kids about condoms, you are teaching them that they are ineffective, making them less likely to use them. And that is unsafe and a waste of everyone's time.


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