Well Being

Abstinence-Only Sex Educators Think They’re Teaching People To ‘Say No’; They’re Wrong

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As anyone who has a teenager knows, telling them not to do something is more like giving them an invitation to do it. This is particularly true for sex education. Preaching to “just say no” does not work. And now there's research to prove it.

In a new study published by the University of Georgia, researchers examined teen pregnancy rates in 48 states and compared them with the sex education curricula. Surprisingly enough, states that use an abstinence-only model had “significantly higher” rates of teen pregnancy. On the other hand, those states which taught a more comprehensive sex education that included information on sexually transmitted diseases and birth control along with abstinence had lower rates of teen pregnancy.

At first glance, the explanation for this might seem to be based on a person's socioeconomic status–not necessarily their level of sex ed. But researchers took factors like education, income and ethnicity into account and still came up with the same findings: Abstinence-only education does not work.

David Hall, study author and assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College says not only does abstinence-only education not work, it may even backfire:

This clearly shows that prescribed abstinence-only education in public schools does not lead to abstinent behavior. It may even contribute to the high teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries.

In a country where 75% of boys and girls have had sex by their late teens, it's completely unrealistic for parents and educators to continue sticking their heads in the sand and pretending that “my” child doesn't do that. I know how hard that is–I have a 15-year-old. So admitting that there is a good chance that he will become sexually active very soon is scary. But what's even scarier is the thought that he could get a girl pregnant and become a father at a very young age, or he could contract a dangerous STI–both of which could force him to deal with some very adult-like issues that he is not emotionally equipped to deal with. Yes, I wish he would wait until he was like 31 and married, but that's simply not realistic. So, go ahead, educators, teach my child about safe sex. Teach him how to use a condom. And teach him about abstinence too. Arming our kids with all the facts is our responsibility.


Photo: dangerousintersections.com