Monday, June 16, 2008

Stop Making 'Sex Seekers' Out of Youth

Article from
The Centers for Disease Control has released the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Report (YRBS). This report shows the numbers of youth risk behaviors, including sexual risk behaviors, which shows a slight increase in the number of sexually active teens. "While opponents to sexual integrity education blame abstinence programs for these numbers, I think it's high time they took a look in the mirror," said Leslee Unruh, founder and president of both the National Abstinence Clearinghouse and the Alpha Center, a crisis pregnancy center operation in Sioux Falls, SD.
Studies show that abstinence education is far out-funded by condom-only education and others confirm this fact showing that condom education is taught in more classrooms than abstinence education. Most parents are actually shocked to learn that the programs promoting sex outside-of-marriage out-fund abstinence-until-marriage programs by a rate of nearly $12 to $1.
Yet, these programs promoting sex outside-of-marriage continue to be funded with little oversight or peer reviewed evaluations to demonstrate their effectiveness. "I challenge condom and contraceptive programs to conduct the same rigorous studies of their programs as abstinence programs do," said Leslee Unruh.

Opponents to abstinence education like Dr. Laura Berman blame the increase in sexual activity on, "kids learning skewed messages about what sex is," and "they are confused about what virginity means," and "I think part of the problem honestly is the abstinence only model." So they blame the increase in sexual activity on abstinence programs that promote sexual integrity through teaching self control while their programs promote teaching youth graphic sexual messages at an even earlier age. Why is this so confusing for them? You teach youth how to have sex and they will become sexually active. You teach them how to abstain, and reinforce that message consistently, and they will abstain.
"The only skewed message our youth receive is the one that teaches them they have no self-control, teaches them how to have sex and ultimately puts their lives at risk. We need to stop making 'sex seekers' out of youth," according to Leslee Unruh.
Unruh concludes, "Abstinence education teaches love; condom only education teaches lust. Let's do the right thing for youth by raising the bar for their sexual health from lust to love. Let's provide them the tools they need for self-control, to withstand the pressures, reject sexual advances, form healthy relationships and protect their bodies and their minds 100%."

1 comment:

inciteinsight said...

I think, perhaps, the point you're missing is that comprehensive sexuality education programs teach abstinence as the only sure way to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies. They also aim to inform students about the health risks associated with all sorts of behaviors that teens may not realize "count" as sex. Growing up in a conservative Christian family, I was taught that sex = penis in vagina; it's where babies come from; and is also for pleasure within the context of marriage. I know that I was not alone in believing (mistakenly) that physical relationships were safe as long as we abstained from vaginal penetration. When Ms. Unruh talks about teaching teens how to abstain, she is not describing the content of the prominent abstinence-only curricula. These materials teach participants how to say "no", but fail to address specific behaviors to which they should be saying "no". Several studies demonstrate the confusion youth who have completed abstinence programs have over what constitutes abstinence and/or virginity.

The $12 to $1 funding to which she refers does NOT apply to school-based programs. The ONLY federally funded, school-based sexuality education programs in the United States MUST teach abstinence only. They may refer to condoms only to mention failure rates. As a result, youth who participate in abstinence-only education programs are less likely to use condoms when they do become sexually active.

The rigorous program evaluation to which she refers has never been published in any peer-reviewed academic journal. Under President Bush's 2001 mandate adjusting guidelines for evaluation of abstinence programs, they must measure measure only the proportion of participants who “indicate understanding of the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from premarital sexual activity”. There are no behavioral goals. Numerous studies, however, have demonstrated the failure of abstinence-only programs to impact the sexual behaviors of their participants. The most comprehensive of these studies, conducted by Mathematica Inc and published in 2007, found no significant differences between students who receive abstinence-only education and those who do not. Both groups were equally likely to be sexually active and to engage in unprotected sex. They shared the same mean age at first intercourse and did not differ in their numbers of sexual partners. Last year federal spending on abstinence-only education reached $113 million, and no school-based comprehensive sexuality education programs received federal support. It should be noted that the Bush administration has not only manipulated evaluation criteria in order to elicit more favorable results, but has also pressured Centers for Disease Control (CDC) researchers to endorse abstinence-only policies. A prime example of this coersion is the termination of their “Programs that Work” project. This project identified effective sexuality education programs based on scientific evaluations. Of the five programs identified in 2002, none were abstinence-only. Under pressure from the Bush administration, the project was dismantled and the results removed from the CDC website.

I am not familiar with the "condom only" education to which she refers. To my knowledge, there is no such program, nor is any organization working to make "sex-seekers" of our youth. Biology has already taken care of that. Puberty and hormones make sex-seekers of us all. While we are not slaves to our natures, we are wired for procreation. The fact that we live in a sex-saturated environment is less a cause of sexual desire than it is an effect.