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Abstinence Only Sex Education:

17 February, 2009

Still Does Not Work.
But It Does Cost Millions.

Feministing.com has a fantastic article about, once again, the failure of abstinence-only sex education.  The writer points out the sickness of one of the lessons of ATM (Abstinence ‘Til Marriage) — blame the girl who gets raped because she’s a slut and put herself in a bad situation.  I really cannot add much.  But I did notice other absurdities in the ATM website.

First, the name of the program — Abstinence ‘Til Marriage.  They keep abbreviating it as ATM.  In the realm of adult entertainment, ATM is shorthand for “Ass To Mouth” — anal sex directly to oral sex.  Considering the number of children subjected to AOSE who choose to have unprotected anal sex (referred to as saddlebacking) because the girl wants to maintain her virginity and has been told that condoms are useless, this is a really unfortunate connotation which just adds to the oddness’ factor.

Second, the program outright lies  to the students (big surprise, right?). 

Abstinence ’til marriage is 100% effective in eliminating teen pregnancies, STDs and reducing the probability of cervical breast and prostate cancer later in life.

Technically, they are almost correct that abstinence prevents teen pregnancies;  the only exceptions being divine conception and accidents resulting from frottage.  But they do not point out that children taught AOSE, to the exclusion of all else, engage in sexual activity at about the same rate as those receiving comprehensive sex education, but are far less likely to use condoms to prevent pregnancy or STDs.  Nor does the program’s site point out that many students taught exclusive AOSE are more likely to engage in other risky behaviours — unprotected anal and oral sex — and are more likely to be infected.

The part about decreasing cervical and breast cancer rates?  I’ve seen studies showing that women who have more babies are less prone to certain types of cancers (which would seem to argue for earlier activity and pregnancy, not abstinence).  A studyof the lies included in Illinois AOSE programs points out that the increase in cancer is slight, and is only associated with certain forms of the human papilovirus (which can be prevented through inoculation).  I have noticed, though, that government studies seem to show much less increased risk than any of the studies funded by groups providing AOSE.  Big surprise.

For my children, I have recommended abstinence but, if they choose to engage in sexual activity (and it really is their choice), I insist that they use protection.  Don’t, but if you do, be safe.

The good news, the ATM program does have an adult resources page.  Well, I thought it was good news.  Turns out it does not have information to help parents decided what education their child receives.  Nor does it have information about the program, or and disclaimers.  What it does have, though, is commitment rings.  Silver rings stamped either with “True Love” or “Vow of Purity.”  I’m sure that is very helpful.

The Abstinence ‘Til Marriage program is snake oil. The program (and all (repeat all) programs like it) does not work.  It does not reduce sexual activity.  It does not reduce pregnancy rates.  It does not reduce rates of STD infection. 

And it is snake oil with dangerous impurities.  It actually increases the chances of pregnancy and infection while filling the little moppets heads with the idea that condoms do not work. 

This is faith-based education.  The faith part has nothing to do with religion, rather, it is a program created without study but with an idea that, if we only believe enough, it will work.  Never has, never will.  It is merely a vehicle by conservative politicians to pander to conservative voters.

And the absolute worst part of this program in Ohio?  Amplify Your Voice says it far better than I can:

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. 

Please send a message to Barack Obama to zero out funding for faith-based programs, especially the fatally flawed Abstinence-Only-Sex Education programs.

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39 comments

  1. AOSE has been a pet peeve of mine for some time. I’m also jealous because studies show these kids are doing everything but traditional sex because they think that’s not sex since, you know, they’ve never been educated. So the kiddies are engaging in oral and anal like handshakes. I had to wait until college for my first BJ. It’s not fair. My high school years would have been much more enjoyable, damn it!


  2. […] entertainment, ATM is shorthand for Ass To Mouth anal sex directly to oral sex…. source: Abstinence Only Sex Education:, (((Billy))) The […]


  3. Philly: Yeah. There were always rumours of bad girls who did such things, but near as I can make out, it really didn’t happen. Now rainbow parties, saddlebacking and such are, if not commonplace, at least done.


  4. That’s one thing I have never, ever understood. The willingness to ignore reality and put your children in danger, rather than educate them about the facts of life.

    If you really want to decrease abortions and teenage pregnancy, then you have to allow your children to have sex education. The two goals of no abortion and no sex education are opposites.

    My parents (orthodox religionists) pulled me out of two different sex education classes in Jr. High, and would probably have pulled me out of Health Class in HS, had I told them it was a sex ed. class. (Of course, it was all straight sex ed., and not a thing was mentioned about gay sexuality). So not only did I not get any education about sex until I was 16 (and only then because my parents didn’t know), but they never said a single thing to me about sex, except that it’s a sin, and masturbation is a sin, and looking at porn in a sin, blah blah blah. Not a terribly helpful attitude.

    Not wanting to (ever) have sex with women was rather lucky for me, I guess, because I’m not sure I would have used a condom.


  5. Craig: I think a lot of it has to do with wanting people to suffer if they do what the skydaddy proscribes. If children are taught, “Don’t do it, but if you do, here’s how to be safe,” then there are minimal negatives involved in premarital sex. If they are told, “Don’t do it, and we won’t tell you what it is,” then if they do it (and, let’s face it, were talking about teens, here), get in trouble, get an STD, then the authoritarian godbots can smugly say, “We told you God would punish you.” It is about power and control, not education.


  6. heart sex……First, the name of the program — Abstinence ‘Til Marriage. They keep abbreviating it as ATM. In the realm of adult entertainment, ATM is shorthand for “Ass To Mouth” — anal sex directly to oral sex. Considering the number of children subjected to AOSE who choose to have unprotected anal sex (referred to as saddlebacking) because the girl wants to maintain her virginity and has been told that condoms are useless, this is a really unfortunate connotation which just adds to the oddness’ factor.you visit

    http://www.free.eonlinetask.com


  7. Crap. Apparently, my throw-away paragraph about the alternate meanings of ATM are attracting lots of autolinks from porn sites. Oh, well.


  8. @(((Billy)))

    Yeah, it’s totally about punishment and control, and self-righteousness. Mormons (the religion of my parents, and the one I was raised in) absolutely LOVE to bandy about the “wages of sin”. The more unprepared they make their kids for the consequences of partaking of “sins” like sex and alcohol, and the worst the result (because the kids didn’t have the tools or information to have sex and drink responsibly), the more convinced they are that they need to shield their kids from reality, and the more convinced they are of correctness of their black/white view of morality.

    That’s the real problem – the irrational belief that everything can be divided into two (and only two) totalitarian categories, “good” and “evil”. Sex education is “evil” so no matter the reasons and logic behind sex education, no matter what positives can result from it, it is “evil” (because it doesn’t discourage against sexual activity, but discusses it in a neutral, fact-based way), and so is dismissed out of hand.

    Same thing with abortion, gay rights, etc. “Evil” is always “evil”, and will never change (well, except that it constantly does, just not fast enough for the religious to realise it), and besides, God hath spoken! (To whom or where god spoke about sex ed or abortion or human rights is unclear).


  9. Over the years I have heard people upset because contraception made it easy for people to “avoid the consequenses of sin”, that is be able to boink without the “punishment” of pregnancy.

    My wife had some vague idea, and was, in fact quite ignorant of “process” until the day we married. And she was a college grad!

    Luckily, her matron of honor (five months pregnant at the time)set her straight about things before the ceremony, and that was all she ever knew until that day.

    She made sure our sons knew the straight skinny.

    Actually, they came over to me when the oldest was eight and the youngest was six, and petitioned for this knowledge. I referred them to certain illustrations they’d seen in rest rooms, and asked if they knew what boinking was. They did, discribed it to me (and I WAS a bit surprised at their accuracy)and I told them that’s how babies were made.

    The oldest one turned to his brother and said, “Ah, c’mon. He doesn’t want to tell us”.

    It’s silly to get young’uns to promise something that they might (probably) can’t fight against, and declare all forms of self gratification as “sin”.


  10. AOSE is a pet peeve of mine as well, very disappointing to see the government is funding it, but then you’ve had God Bothering Bush for the last 8 years.

    Billy, obviously you have a dirtier mind than me, when I read the first ATM in your post I thought Automated Teller Machine. Now, thanks to you, I’m going to have a severe problem telling people “I’ve got no cash, I need an ATM”. What will they think I’m talking about!! <:0


  11. […] the original:  Abstinence Only Sex Education:   Tags: attempts, barack-obama, Breast Cancer, children, culture, education, godbot, marriage, […]


  12. I’ve always liked the analogy of safe sex to underage drinking. You don’t want your kids drinking, but you would much rather they call you for a ride at 2 in the morning than drive drunk and get themselves killed.

    Same with sex, better they break the rules and stay safe then break the rules and have to live with some serious and potentially deadly consequences.


  13. It is all about power and control. Plain and simple. But hey, if Bristol Palin thinks abstinence education is unrealistic, then who am I to question her?

    When I talk to my (future) kids about safe sex, I might have to discourage them from sleeping with Christians when I talk about how to prevent STD’s.


  14. Sarge: So the pregnant maid of honour gave your bride advice about how not to get pregnant?

    Oz: Glad to help. I initially thought of the automated teller, but then I remembered an article I read at Salon about pornography (written by a woman who has been in many films) and once the connection was made, that was it.

    Kate: When I was in school, SADD had an agreement which the parents and student would sign which basically said, “If I get drunk, you will come pick me up, no questions asked, and we’ll discuss it the next day when I’m sober and the parents have had time to think about it.” It worked too well, so now it has changed to Students Against Destructive Decisions (at least at my kids school) and has become abstinence-only for alcohol. And, big surprise, doesn’t work.

    DB: Not a bad idea.


  15. As a matter of fact she did. Poor girl was sick, miserable, looked like she’d been rolled in broken glass and iodine a while back and was getting ready for another session. That pregnancy was (I’m told) planned.

    My new wife took her contraceptive advice to heart.


  16. Now Bristol Palin says AOSE is “unrealistic”. Nice

    Also interesting how she insists that having the kid was her “choice”, her “decision”, and that her mother’s opinion didn’t matter. There’s a sound byte for the pro-choice movement.


  17. Sarge: Why did she look like she had been rolled in broken glass and iodine? Abused? Or is this a euphemism of which I am unaware?

    Philly: As long as she makes the choice her mother and pastor want, she is free to make a choice. If she chooses abortion, then she is a child who is not allowed to make a choice. What part of this is confusing?


  18. What’s interesting to ponder is why do those who subscribe to a religion which claims free will is so precious that they use it as an argument for excusing their god for allowing evil to exist, always are so actively against anyone exercising their free will? Why always out trying to ban so many things?


  19. Philly: Mayhap it is a way for men with undersized sexual apparatus to feel powerful. Telling others what they can and, more to the point, cannot do is a powerful stimulant.


  20. No, she wasn’t abused, she’d just had a rough pregnancy. She was puking her gizzard out, uncomfortable, exhausted, and just generally miserable.

    I should have clarified: she had a HAUNTED look, as if she’d been rolled in broken glass and iodine and was contemplating a second helping. And not looking forward to it one bit.

    My wife’s first pregnancy was very much like hers, and we both agree, that for girls, anyway, watching a weeks worth of that would definitly make them think long and hard about contraception or abstinance. Make a teenaged guy hang around with women in that condition, take care of them for a week, it might make the “big” head outthink the “little” head without all the socialogical/religious rigamarole or pledges.

    Still, we had two kids, but ONLY two.


  21. Sarge: Thanks for the clarification. I was confused. (((Wife))) had really bad morning sickness. And afternoon. And evening. I think she threw up on every New England state, plus half the mid-Atlantic. And she was still willing to get pregnant a second time. I’m always amazed that any woman willingly gets pregnant twice.


  22. My daughter-in-law was the same way. They had their second child within a year after the first because she figured if she thought about it for a while it would be no-go.

    I think they call “morning sickness” like that something else now, they say it’s a different thing than normal barfing.

    Those were heady days! One day it was my fault the sun was hot! Such power I had…


  23. Sarge: I remember my wife wanted a pickle. Not just any pickly, a garlic dill pickle from the pizza place at the food court in the Emerald Square Mall. We drove up there. She had the pickle. Before we were out of the parking lot, she said, “Pull over.” I pulled over, she opened the door, and vomitted into the map pocket of our Subaru station wagon (which we traded in about two weeks later). Ah, the good old days.


  24. PhillyChief 17 “…engaging in oral and anal like handshakes.”
    Best. Walmart greeter. Ever.

    Craig “The two goals of no abortion and no sex education are opposites.”
    Ah, but they tend to see things as good/bad, black/white, either/or, absolutism/relativism, rather than the messy pragmatism of harm reduction. Where we would treat alcohol with drinking ages, liquor licences and the like, they (as they did in the 20’s) run straight to prohibition.

    “Not wanting to (ever) have sex with women was rather lucky for me…”
    Dude, you should try it. It’s awesome.

    “That’s the real problem – the irrational belief that everything can be divided into two (and only two) totalitarian categories…”
    Or “God” and “everything else”.

    {{{Billy}}} “It is about power and control, not education.”
    For some, perhaps, but I’ve had discussions with ab-only parents, and they’re the same as us. They just try to protect their kids in a different (and generally ineffective) way. Incidentally, when they say “Well, my kid won’t do ‘it'” they get remarkably offended when you reply “Try to act surprised when your daughter gets knocked up” or “Try to act surprised when your son pees fire.”

    “Sarge: Why did she look like she had been rolled in broken glass and iodine? Abused? Or is this a euphemism of which I am unaware?”
    If I may butt in, it was probably the wedding mosh pit. Those maids of honour are tough. They’re like bikers, but in pink frilly dresses.

    Kate “I’ve always liked the analogy of safe sex to underage drinking.”
    Really? I’ve always likened safe sex to wrestling a bear. Ideally, both should result in a trip to the ER. But that’s just me. Apparently.

    Sarge/b> “No, she wasn’t abused, she’d just had a rough pregnancy. She was puking her gizzard out, uncomfortable, exhausted, and just generally miserable.”
    My story was better. You should go with that one.

    …and to top of my meandering and useless comments, my take on abstinence-only, written many moons ago, but still timely:
    UnNews:Kids still fucking (warning: may contain offensive words. Like “fucking”. Seriously! I shit you not.)


  25. Pah! Damn you, lack of preview!


  26. MO: Hopefully, failure to close tags is not your normal MO.


  27. @Modusoperandi

    “Ah, but they tend to see things as good/bad, black/white, either/or, absolutism/relativism, rather than the messy pragmatism of harm reduction.”

    If you notice, I made that selfsame point in my next paragraph.

    “Dude, you should try it. It’s awesome.”

    Seriously, no thanks. But feel free to try sex with men. It’s probably just as awesome as you say sex with women is.


  28. For my children, I have recommended abstinence but, if they choose to engage in sexual activity (and it really is their choice), I insist that they use protection. Don’t, but if you do, be safe.

    That’s pretty much the approach we took with our sons.


  29. Chappie: Why are authoritarian personalities always so surprised that honesty works?


  30. An analogy (that has been brought up, but I shall expand upon it): I was allowed to drink at home before I was of age (19 here in Ontario). Back when I was in university, one could always tell the kids who were allowed to drink at home and those who weren’t: we were always carting the other kids’ drunk asses home after closing time.

    Actually, that analogy goes for pretty much anything once the kids hit post-secondary. The biggest sluts (male and female) were the ones all but cloistered at home; the biggest druggies were the ones whose parents never talked to them about it, and so on.

    It honestly surprises me that anyone who was a teenager believes that AOSE works in any way, shape or form.


  31. Rally: In high school, the kids whose parents were absolutists when it came to alcohol were the ones drinking to get drunk. Those of us with honest parents, who let us try alcohol at home, drank because we enjoyed the taste, or enjoyed the mild buzz. Again, makes you wonder what conservatives and authoritarians have against honesty.


  32. (((Billy))) “MO: Hopefully, failure to close tags is not your normal MO.”
    Normally, I hit “preview” first, but in this case I chose not to. This is because I’m both a rebel, and there is no preview.

    Craig “If you notice, I made that selfsame point in my next paragraph.”
    I did. I wasn’t disagreeing with you. Instead, I was agreeing, poorly. That’s my forte. That, and mixing metaphors, poorly.

    “Seriously, no thanks. But feel free to try sex with men. It’s probably just as awesome as you say sex with women is.”
    Point taken. Still, I stand by my earlier assertion that sex with women is awesome.


  33. MO: Somehow, I don’t think Hollywood will produce a movie called, “Rebel Without A Preview.” Just won’t sell.


  34. But “hipsters” would “dig” it simply for the “irony” (what with the previews before the film and all). Then the movie would get popular and they’d have to abandon it. It must be a tough existence having to give up things when people that aren’t “hip” discover them.


  35. MO: Beats me. I’m so unhip, it’s amazing my legs dont fall off.


  36. Hip is overrated. Square rules! Woo! Go square!


  37. Nice post! Keep it real.I have looked over your blog a few times and I love it.


  38. You guys are awesome 🙂 keep up the good work.


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