Fueling the Sex Ed Controversy

June 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.

Christy Jones, CAE By:   |   June 11, 2008


  1. Tamra says:

    The statement made that comprehensive sex ed does not get federal monies is false. They have been getting federal monies way before abstinence programs. The monies are trickled through state and city agencies and through organizations such as Planned Parenthood which historically was started as an organization to legalize the sterilization of minority women, mainly African American women.

  2. Ruth Wahtera says:

    I received a request for action from Advocates for Youth about this issue.

    “When it comes to sex education, it’s hard to put a lot of faith in the U.S. Senate right now. After all, this is the group of “leaders” who have failed to pass the REAL Act and failed to end Title V abstinence-only programs when they had the opportunity.

    Apparently, they’re at it again.

    Now they’ve reached a new low. On Thursday, June 12 the Senate will vote on an 18-month extension of Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding in its new Medicare funding package. In a bill that has nothing to do with sex education Senate Democrats decided to authorize abstinence-only-until-marriage funding through the end of 2009.

    TAKE ACTION NOW: No back-door extensions for abstinence-only programs! Tell the Senate to remove the Title V extension from the Medicare package.

    We’ve been told that they’re trying to save the next president from the “controversy” of sex education.

    Let’s save future officials the trouble and just end all funding for these failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs!”

  3. christyjones christyjones says:

    Tamra: Thank you for your comment. You bring up something very important to mention – every state and locality have different approaches to whether or not comprehensive sexuality is appropriate for their schools. Currently, if a state would like to offer comprehensive sex ed they have no option to fund it with federal money dedicated to sexuality education. All federal money dedicated to sexuality education is dedicated to abstinence only sexuality education.

    Many states do believe, though, that comprehensive sex ed is best, as does AAUW, and so they fund their schools with state money for comprehensive sex education programming and they look to organizations, local and national, to provide the best, medically accurate and age appropriate sex education for their schools. Those groups receive their funding from a myriad of places but still receive no federal money dedicated to comprehensive sex education.

    We know that abstinence only education does not work, and so AAUW has taken the stance that there should be federal money dedicated to comprehensive, age appropriate, medically accurate, sex education.

    For an additional source of information, refer to: http://www.siecus.org.

  4. Karen says:

    Well, after reading the blog post, I had to see the article in question myself. Imagine my surprise when the link to KMart’s page returned this notice:

    You have reached this page because the product you selected is no longer available on our site, or is temporarily out of stock due to high demand.

    I wonder whether KMart was embarrassed enough to pull the product or these crazy pants are selling like hotcakes. Let’s hope it’s the former.

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