Teaching "abstinence only" to girls leads to higher pregnancy rates and rape victims feeling like chewing gum
Abstinence-only education in schools is driven by the Christian population and the politicians they help elect. There are a couple upsides to this type of teaching, but they by no means outweigh the downsides. Teaching teenagers abstinence helps them value their sexuality. In most cases, the idea is to not have sex until marriage.
Of course abstinence only works for those who listen and as we all know, teens listen to everyone. Christian girls and boys do have sex, usually in secret to hide their sinful behavior and it often results in unwanted pregnancies.
Teaching abstinence also exempts any sex education from being taught such as anatomy, birth control options and what to do in situation when someone, especially a female, needs to say no. How and when does someone know how far is too far? When a young adult starts to date and be attracted to the opposite sex, what are they supposed to do?
Some extremist Christian groups promote promise rings worn by the likes of the Jonas Brothers and Jessica Simpson. We know where that has led, just by watching the media show the serial dating and relationships these individuals have had. Now, Jessica Simpson whose father was a pastor has had one child out-of-wedlock and is pregnant with her second even though she touted being a “virgin” until being married to her first husband.
Elizabeth Smart, the Mormon woman who was abducted at age 14 and repeatedly raped for nine months before being found recently spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum. She said she was raised in a religious household and recollected a school teacher who once spoke about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.
“I thought, oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away. And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
Elizabeth Smart was raised in the Mormon Church. What happened to her could cause her to be excommunicated from her church and the Mormon faith completely. What matters though is how worthless she felt after being violated for so long.
Her comments to the media through her interviews express how individuals, specifically women who have been violated, raped, or went along with a passionate situation has led to shame, low self-esteem and outrage.
Smart suggests that parents and educators may better serve children by teaching them that having sex, particularly being raped, does not make them worthless. She states that children should be told that they “will always have value and nothing can change that.”
There has always been a right-wing push to teach abstinence only in public schools rather than regular sex education where students learn about anatomy, pregnancy, venereal diseases and birth control.
Speaking to several teens about the subject, some teens told me they felt abstinence training and education was useless while a few said that a balanced approach would be helpful. To value their bodies, not give in to passionate situations that lead to sexual intercourse and to wait until they are in love to have intercourse, but it has nothing to do with the Christian tenet of waiting until marriage.
One young male adult, age 24, said that he was taught abstinence at home by loving parents who valued their own relationship and were honest about their own mistakes. He has only had sex with two people in his life. He was taught these values at home but did receive sex education in 7th grade as well as high school. He learnt about safe sex and what situations can lead to unwanted sex, especially statutory rape.
Another young adult I spoke to told me that abstinence training through their church led him and his friends to rebel. He said there were more kids sexually active at their youth group at church than at public school.
The amount of children being born out-of-wedlock has led to this issue becoming bills in Congress as well as mandates in public schools. Sex is a normal part of life, but deciding who is the right person and when to have it is a personal decision and isn’t something that can be dictated.
If Christians want to teach their children abstinence, it is probably a value that should be taught at home, not through the public school system which right-wing Christian politicians want to administer instead of sex education. Planned Parenthood is thought of as an “abortion clinic” when they offer a multitude of services for young adults and grown women including free birth control.
Crisis Pregnancy Centers are a Christian organization for unwanted pregnancies. Christian churches working together decided to start an entire organization for women who didn’t obey abstinence orders. These centers are nationwide and usually convince women who have become pregnant not to abort, but to give it up for adoption. Once the child is born and the mother chooses to raise the child on her own, the mother is then vilified within her family, church and her peers.
If kids were taught to have safe sex, use birth control, and to value their bodies instead of being told that sex was like chewing gum, perhaps the number of unwanted teenage pregnancies would start to drop. It’s no coincidence that the states that teach abstinence only also have the highest teenage pregnancy rates.