Yet another study confirms what we’ve known for a long time, abstinence education doesn’t work:
The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge,” but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.
“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,” said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.”
This study follows many others which found similar results, but improves on those studies by accounting for students’ pre-pledge views on sex. As the author notes, “somebody who decides to take a virginity pledge tends to be different from the average American teenager. The pledgers tend to be more religious. They tend to be more conservative. They tend to be less positive about sex. … So comparing pledgers to non-pledgers doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Comparing people with similar backgrounds showed that pledgers were just as likely to have sex before marriage, and had the same average number of sexual partners, but that pledgers were much less likely to use condoms.
Earlier studies found that teenagers who took virginity pledges were more likely to engage in anal sex than those who had comprehensive sex ed. And, lo and behold, anal sex is on the rise:
For instance: A new study out of the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center found that “anal sex is on the rise” among straight teenagers and young adults. According to a heavy-breathing report from ABC News, straight kids are having butt sex “to please a partner, to have sex without the risk of pregnancy, or to preserve their virginity.”
Dan Savage, a widely syndicated sex columnist (who, as will become clear, happens to be gay) then resorts to language saltier than I usually use on this blog (on the off chance that a child would stumble onto it). Then again, anyone old enough to be reading about virginity pledges is old enough to know what’s at stake, so I’ll continue below the fold.
I’m old enough to remember when getting fucked in the ass was considered a sex act, something that virgins, almost by definition, shied away from. But that was before kids were subjected to religious indoctrination masquerading as sex-ed. Abstinence “educators” emphasize the importance of virginity—but they only talk about vaginal intercourse because they figure if we don’t tell kids about anal sex they’ll never figure out what brown can do for them. But they do figure it out. And lacking accurate info, kids aren’t just concluding that anal sex isn’t really sex. (“Otherwise it would’ve been covered in our sex-ed classes, right?”) Kids are telling researchers that anal intercourse, unlike the premarital vaginal intercourse they were warned about (STDs! Pregnancy! Eternal damnation!), carries no risk of disease. (I can’t wait to tell all my dead friends!)
I wanted to scream and yell about this study … but then I figured, you know, fuck it. I’ve been ranting and raving about the idiocy of abstinence education for 10 years. Obviously I can’t beat ’em, so I might as well join ’em. All my life I’ve had to listen to fundamentalist Christian bigots like Pat Robertson and Rick Warren—Rick Warren, Obama?—fume about all the terrible, no good, really bad sodomy gay men get up to. But I haven’t been sodomizing the boyfriend all these years! I’ve been preserving his virginity.
I’ve been preserving the shit out of my boyfriend’s virginity for 14 years now. If my boyfriend ever decides to marry a woman—miracles can happen!—he’ll be able to wear white at his wedding. Hell, he’s so pure he can wear Saran Wrap at his wedding. And his wife will have me to thank for delivering him to her with his virginity intact. (Unfortunately, the boyfriend can’t preserve my virginity. As a teenager, I had actual vaginal intercourse, under duress, with an actual female’s actual vagina.) But until the boyfriend meets the right girl, I’m going to keep preserving the living shit out of his virginity. His virginity isn’t going anywhere—not on my watch.
There’s a great deal to be said for simply parodying the absurdity of abstinence-only sex ed. The problem is, that it’s putting kids’ lives at risk. While this logic may even allow Rick Warren to decide that banning gay marriage doesn’t actually force gay couples to live in sin (since they aren’t, by definition, having sex), it leaves kids in a dangerous position, and leaves the new Congress with a clear choice:
“This study again raises the issue of why the federal government is continuing to invest in abstinence-only programs,” said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “What have we gained if we only encourage young people to delay sex until they are older, but then when they do become sexually active — and most do well before marriage — they don’t protect themselves or their partners?”
Exactly. Anyone who continues to push abstinence-only programs is encouraging teenagers to have anal sex, and should face intense questions about that radical position.