Abstinence-Only Sex Education Will Not Work

Rant 56

sperm and eggThe state of Mississippi has the nation's highest teen pregnancy rate. And until this year, Mississippi allowed schools to forgo sex education. A new state law passed mandates that school districts adopt either abstinence-only or abstinence-plus sex education policies. Before this law, any district that taught sex education had to teach abstinence-only. Under the new law, a majority still chose to teach abstinence-only.

Did I mention that Mississippi has the nations highest teen pregnancy rate?

It's great that Mississippi is trying to be proactive and get a sex education policy on the books. But it's ridiculous that so many are opting for abstinence only. Not because I am against abstinence, mind you. I was the poster child for abstinence. Catholic girl with a Latino daddy ... hello!

But let’s be honest. How often does forbidding anything work with children? I don’t care if it’s babies or teens, it doesn't work. Hell, if I'm forbidden something I want it that much more -- especially if it's something that's just sprung on me after years of having the forbidden item. (See failed diets.)

It would be so much better if parents had open, honest dialogues with their children about sex education at an early age -- rather than when their daughter comes home pregnant or their son comes home with gonorrhea. Abstinence is a moral teaching that we should impart upon our children. It is not the school’s responsibility to raise our children with ethics and codes of conduct.

Parents should encourage abstinence by explaining the concept of respecting themselves, having the maturity to make the choice like an adult, which includes taking responsibility for any and all consequences. Abstinence is truly the only 100% effective way to prevent pregnancy or STDs.

But coming in at the teen years and trying to teach only abstinence without the moral reasoning, is like trying to avoid cancer by not going to the doctor for check-ups. It’s a day late and a dollar short.

Sex education should be primarily the responsibility of the parents. If schools are going to teach sex education, they should educate students about the proper way to take safety precautions as well as on all the possible consequences. Students need to be educated to make informed decisions.

Whose responsibility do you think sex education is?

Image via Asiatic League/Flickr

sex, safety


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Caera Caera

It worked fine for my family. Possibly because I also have a mother who gave a shit and talked to us first. No matter what they teach (or don't teach) in schools, until the parents pull the wool off their eyes and check back in to their children's lives, nothing will help. Instead we'll have a bunch of stupid elementary and middle school aged kids who think they have an inkling about the consequences of sex, safe and otherwise.

HKing01 HKing01

I am from Mississippi. I agree with the first comment. It shouldn't be up to schools, it should be up to parents. They need to do their job and be there for their own children and know what's going on in their kids lives.

jhslove jhslove

Well, I really think it's the parents' responsibility, not the schools'. Truthfully, I don't think the schools should be in the position of teaching sex ed--I see it as one more example of schools being expected to do what should really be the parents' job. But the problem is that a lot of parents don't teach their kids about contraception, sexual responsibility, etc., and then when the kids don't get it in school either, it doesn't end well a lot of the time.

I used to teach high school in a district that used abstinence-based sex ed, and the pregnancy rate at this school was THROUGH THE ROOF. It was amazing. Meanwhile, I went to school in a district that taught about contraception, etc., and the pregnancy rate was very low. It seems to make sense to me.


nonmember avatar myself

I spent 7, 8,9th grade in AL with abstinence only and in each grade there were multiple classmates who got pregnant, 7 total. Spent 10, 11, 12th grade in NM with contraception teachings and in three years I saw one classmate get pregnant. I made it til 22 until my accident, lol, but I'm in a loving respectful relationship and we adore our now 2 year old daughter

nonmember avatar kaerae

@HKing - And the kids whose parents don't or won't are just out of luck, huh? Health and science are supposed to be taught in school, and reproductive education and sexual health are a part of that. These subjects save lives, and ALL students have a right to those things, not just the ones with good parents.

wamom223 wamom223

Why not start with educating parents on how to educate their kids?  Listen I agree that kids with better educations make better choices, but pregnancy isn't my only concern.  I am a visual person, and my mother knew that so she showed me A LOT of awful STD pictures and talked to me a lot.  She answered every question I had, talked to me as a peer and told me if I wanted birth control to ask and I would get it no questions asked.  I was a virgin until I was twenty.  It was a big deal to me and I knew what was at risk so I made the right choice.  My mother did not do the same and both my sisters were sexually active before they were 15.  They went to schools with great sex ed. programs and one was pregnant at 18 and the other had dealt with STD's before she was old enough to drink.  My mom had it right with me, every time a guy tried to talk me into bed I would hear my mothers voice saying, if you don't want him to be your babies father should you really want him inside your body.  The funny thing is when my mother and I talk about it now and I ask her why she didn't treat us the same she looks like a deer in headlights and says I don't know.  I just don't think the answer to this is cut and dry.

Sarah... Sarahbeth7

UGH! I hate this debate. While I understand the need for kids (yes kids!) to be educated on this topic, it is NOT the school's responsiblity...its the parents!!!

AliNo... AliNoelle

Unfortunately there are a lot of parents who DON'T talk to their kids about sex at all. I fully believe that comprehensive sex education in schools is very important. If you don't want you're children to learn it in school I think you can opt them out. But please teach then the truth at home.

Heather Duso Johnson

I don't remember anything in school about sex ed, besides a special session on AIDS.  I swear growing up fearful of AIDS had more to do with why I stayed a virgin until I was 22, practically 23, than anything else ever taught to me.  And yeah it should be up to the parents but we all know how well that works.

Venae Venae

For crying out loud - w/the internet and t.v., how can you NOT know how to prevent making babies?  This is not 1940 - there are many, many forms of birth control and all ya gotta do is google it to find out how to not get pregnant.  

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