The abstinence only campaign, OR how to get an education, a family, and happiness

My favorite blog of the moment, Feministing, reports today on the Bush administration’s national abstinence campaign, which is apparently in full swing, despite heaps of evidence proving that abstinence-only education doesn’t work. From a related entry on ThinkProgress:

"...this 'information' is not grounded in science. A recent federal report concluded that abstinence-only programs have had 'no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.' Yet the latest public service announcement by 'encourages parents to talk with their kids about waiting to have sex.'"

Watch the above video and try to resist the wide-eyed youngsters, pleading: “Tell me what you want from me - an education, a family, happiness,”  because apparently those things are only available for the abstinent.  Personally, my only proof that abstinence-only teachings don’t work is anecdotal: I attended a strict, all-girls Catholic high school in Baltimore, where they literally tested us on this stuff, i.e. “Sexual intercourse is for (fill in the blank).”  The blank, as you might guess, was something along the lines of  “a woman and a man who are married.”  These tests were administered in religion classes, which nearly every student passed, most with A’s or B’s, and yet none of my friends were abstinent. And, on average from freshman year to senior year, at least two members of my 125-student class became pregnant per year.

This week’s This American Life takes a different approach. With the theme “How to Talk to Kids,” host Ira Glass talks to students who write and edit a publication and website called Sex Etc. (with the warning that he’s not going to be sexually explicit, but he is going to acknowledge that kids have sex), a place for teens to find information about safe sex, consult sexual health experts anonymously, find out where to get tested for STD’s, or where to turn in a crisis. Visit the website here (on TAL the students were quick to warn that it’s - other standard URL endings lead to pornography).  Download the TAL podcast here, and listen through to the end - there’s a fun little segment by Dan Savage, and it’s (surprisingly) NOT about sex.

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