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Austin Cline

Abstinence Programs Lie to Teens

By December 2, 2004

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Abstinence programs are very popular with the Bush administration and his Christian Right base - if sex is going to be mentioned in schools, it's only going to be mentioned in a manner that discourages it. Unfortunately these abstinence programs seem to be teaching all kinds of lies and myths in order to get the message across.

The Washington Post reports on an analysis of curricula from more than a dozen abstinence projects:

In providing nearly $170 million next year to fund groups that teach abstinence only, the Bush administration, with backing from the Republican Congress, is investing heavily in a just-say-no strategy for teenagers and sex. But youngsters taking the courses frequently receive medically inaccurate or misleading information, often in direct contradiction to the findings of government scientists, said the report

[Students have been taught] that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found.

Among the misconceptions cited by Waxman's investigators: A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person." HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears. Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse. One curriculum, called "Me, My World, My Future," teaches that women who have an abortion "are more prone to suicide" and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.

Aside from falsehoods, there were other interesting things as PZ Myers notes:

Women gauge their happiness and judge their success by their relationships. Men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments.

Men tend to be more tuned in to what is happening today and what needs to be done for a secure future. When women began to enter the work force at an equal pace with men, companies noticed that women were not as concerned about preparing for retirement. This stems from the priority men and women place on the past, present, and future.

Just as a woman needs to feel a man’s devotion to her, a man has a primary need to feel a woman’s admiration. To admire a man is to regard him with wonder, delight, and approval. A man feels admired when his unique characteristics and talents happily amaze her.

Yes, this is the sort of thing that President Bush's faith-based abstinence programs are trying to teach to America's public school students. This isn't from the 1950s, this is from today.

Here's some more:

One book in the “Choosing the Best” series presents a story about a knight who saves a princess from a dragon. The next time the dragon arrives, the princess advises the knight to kill the dragon with a noose, and the following time with poison, both of which work but leave the knight feeling “ashamed.” The knight eventually decides to marry a village maiden, but did so “only after making sure she knew nothing about nooses or poison.” The curriculum concludes: Moral of the story: Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess. [emphasis added]

One curriculum teaches that men are sexually aggressive and lack deep emotions. In a chart of the top five women’s and men’s basic needs, the curriculum lists “sexual fulfillment” and “physical attractiveness” as two of the top five “needs” in the men’s section. “Affection,” “Conversation,” “Honesty and Openness,” and “Family Commitment” are listed only as women’s needs. The curriculum teaches: “A male is usually less discriminating about those to whom he is sexually attracted… . Women usually have greater intuitive awareness of how to develop a loving relationship.”

The same curriculum tells participants: “While a man needs little or no preparation for sex, a woman often needs hours of emotional and mental preparation.

President Bush's abstinence-only pastors want to show teens their love, I guess.

As awful as all of this is, there is one fact that must be repeated over and over:

Nonpartisan researchers have been unable to document measurable benefits of the abstinence-only model. Columbia University researchers found that although teenagers who take "virginity pledges" may wait longer to initiate sexual activity, 88 percent eventually have premarital sex.

There is absolutely no good evidence that abstinence-only education accomplishes what supporters claim or that it does any real good. Supporters don't push such programs because of scientific evidence that the programs are effective; they push such programs because of their prior commitments to religious ideologies that say that such programs are necessary. They also seek to promote their religious ideology via these programs, as the quotes from Myers demonstrate. The federal government is, then, pushing "education" programs for the purpose of furthering the Christian Right's religious ideology, regardless of whether the programs are good or not.

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