Abstinence Only? Does it Really Work?

Shelby Knox is one of my biggest heroes!

Who is she? She was a Lubbock, Texas high school student (she’s now in college as of this writing), a church attendee, and comes from a conservative home. Knox was also the subject of the PBS series “P.O.V.” called “The Education of Shelby Knox” where she is the focus of her four years in high school and her fight to bring comprehensive sexual education to her school. Why would someone like her be leading a fight like this?

The Prophet

Like any good “prophet” she saw her people—classmates—suffering form increasing teen pregnancy in her school and others in Lubbock and the spread of STDs. She challenged the Lubbock School Board several times but to no avail; in her journey she realizes places like Lubbock and other areas in the country need to give teens the tools needed to help them to make informed choices when being intimate with another person.

Knox is one of my heroes because she was willing to step outside of her comfort zone and ask the tough questions needed to be asked. Her example helps me to write what I write and ask those tough questions the church and Christians are afraid to ask. I also share her passion over ending the abstinence only teaching in most country and start teaching a through sexual education program around the country and the world.

Choose abstinence for the right reasons

Don’t get me wrong; abstinence is not a bad thing to decide to do for your sexual health. I remember taking my human sexuality course and the instructor taking a sheet of paper and drew a line through the page.

On one side, the risk of being abstinence, the other side, the risk of being sexually active was on the other side of the sheet. While the risk on the sexually active is evident—STD, pregnancy, emotional issues, etc.—those who stay abstinent avoided any of those possible pitfalls. Now proponents supporting the latter view will smile, give high fives, and point at me saying, “see, I told you so!”

Real world issues

However, lets look at the real world shall we? We are human beings, but we are many different parts that make us who we are. We are spiritual beings with the need to be connected with the divine. We are social beings with the need to connect with other people around us. We are sexual beings because, I believe, God made us with the great power to enjoy our sexuality and create life.

With such a great power and responsibility, shouldn’t the final say of how it is used be left to us? The Spiderman geek in me harkens to the mantra created by Stan Lee:“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Give them some credit

I think the main reason why we see such a push for the abstinence only program is they—religious leaders, politicians and moralist– don’t think young people and adults don’t have what it takes to handle the great gift of sexuality with care. Funny.

We trust them to make a decision to give their life for their country, take a drink at a bar, vote, and drive a vehicle. God forbid if they are given the right keys to take control of their own body and to make choices concerning their sexual lives.

The Christian community has done everything from pushing school boards to teaching their view about sexuality to our kids to forcing state and federal governments to spend billions of dollars to quell the rampant sexual drive. Truth is, it doesn’t work.

The better alternative

What a waste to spend all the money, time, and sermons to scare the devil out of kids touching themselves (or each other) when you can save money and talk about ways to treat your potential interest with concern and care.

What a waste of time to avoid people even seeing a condom—let alone knowing what to do with one when you open the foil—when you can show the guys how to put the darn thing on and the benefits of preventing pregnancy and the risk of contacting an STD.

Why abstinence only isn’t working

One fact stuck out to me was how after years of declining rates in teen birth rates in 2007 saw a jump:

The difference between these two approaches, and their impact on teen behavior, remains a controversial subject in the U.S. Teenage birth rates had been dropping in the U.S. since 1991, but a 2007 report showed 3% increase from 2005 to 2006. –CDC National Center for Health Statistics Dec. 12, 2007.

This despite efforts by leaders to show this line of defense alone will curb the tide. Some figures show in some places around the country there was little to no signs of real change. But the hidden toll is the silence from those who either have taken these courses at school or took some sort of pledge of abstaining from sex in their churches (i.e. “The Silver Ring Thingy”).

For the few who succeed in achieving their goal of being “pure” those who are active sexually must feel like failures not just to themselves but to God. Is this what we want to produce in our children?

Not everyone can live up to the ideals of Paul the apostle or the ideas of many in our society so wouldn’t it make sense to give people tools to help them better address the problems young people face than to go into a relationship with a wing and a prayer?

My advice is to take the money making sex a foe and make it a friend and ally. Install respect for this great power, prepare for our young people the possible, and hope the things we teach them will help them make better decisions in the bedroom.


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