Fueling the Sex Ed ControversyJune 11, 2008
With the huge increase in gas prices these days, I’ve been wondering about the impact on dating. Wait, I digress — “fueling” in this case refers to the news from a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study examining risky sexual behavior in teens, as described in the National Partnership’s Daily Women’s Health Policy Report. To quote from our own public policy e-newsletter, Washington Update, the article confirms that “one possible contributing factor to the lack of increase in condom use may be abstinence-only education.”
It seems like there has always been controversy about sex ed. When I was a girl, I remember hearing my parents discussing what they should say to my older siblings who were being taught sex education in school. Of course, I was eavesdropping and, now that I think back, I probably didn’t even know what “sex” was. Not that I would have admitted it, given the aura of forbidden secrets — or more accurately, misinformation — surrounding the topic when it was whispered about in school hallways.
But let’s get back to the latest news on the topic: The National Abstinence Education Association has launched the “Parents for Truth Campaign,” which is committed to getting 1 million parents to support abstinence – only education within 3 years. The federal government has supported abstinence-only education for over 25 years, funding it to the tune of more than $1.5 billion since 1996.
What’s AAUW’s position? We oppose federally funded programs that limit young people’s information and choices by promoting only abstinence. We advocate for comprehensive sex education emphasizing abstinence as well as including medically accurate and age-appropriate information about prevention of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. And unlike the $1.5 billion mentioned above, there is currently no federal funding stream for comprehensive sex education.
As I did a bit of research on this issue, I ran across other articles highlighting a parallel universe to this issue. Bloggers here, here, and here have been discussing Kmart’s recently launched (or what some are calling) “Abstinence Only Pants,” sweatpants for teen girls with the words “True Love Waits” across the … well, across the backside. The New York Times recently did an article on “Purity Balls,” and yes, I did a double take on that story as well.
A recent story here on the AAUW blog, “List of States Rejecting Abstinence-Only Funding Grows,” is a good one to review if you didn’t catch it earlier. Our position paper on abstinence-only education is also worth the read. What’s the ultimate goal? The truth is, we all just want the best in health, self-esteem, and well-being for our teens.