Thursday, May 5, 2005

Abstinence—Real Scary, Kids!

The latest Web site from SIECUS, Planned Parenthood's partner in its efforts to attack abstinence-only programs in favor of abortion-positive, anti-heteronormative "comprehensive sexual education," includes a brochure called "COMMON CHARACTERSITICS [sic] OF FEAR-BASED,
(PDF file).

Yep, that abstinence ed is pretty scary.

The brochure leads off with the most terrifying examples its authors can find of "FEAR-BASED" abstinence curricula. For the sake of honesty, I will quote these examples in their entirety, even though the language on a couple of them is awkward, and one of them—assuming it's quoted accurately and in context—is downright embarrassing. The important thing to keep in mind that these are the most disturbing examples that SIECUS could find of the unspeakable terror that is abstinence ed.

The brochure's author writes by way of introduction:

In recent years there has been a proliferation of curricula used in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Many of these curricula are designed to control young people’s sexual behavior by instilling fear, shame, and guilt. They are often rooted in specific religious beliefs and portray premarital sexual activity as immoral and universally harmful. Fear-based curricula typically rely on negative messages, distort information, and promote stereotypes and biases. The following are examples from some of the curricula available to schools and programs across the country.
Here are the examples SIECUS cites, in their entirety:
* “Teenagers who are sexually active in high school will find that their schoolwork suffers.”
Reasonable Reasons to Wait (Student Workbook, p. 41)

* Question: “What are the risks of being sexually active?”
Answer: “Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, low self-esteem, loss of reputation, feelings of being used.”
Choosing the Best PATH (Teacher’s Guide, p. 6)

* “Illustrate how repeated sexual encounters make it difficult to begin and
maintain lasting relationships because the ability to bond emotionally is destroyed.”
Choosing the Best PATH (Teacher’s Guide, p. 6)

* “These are simply natural consequences. For example, if you eat spoiled food, you will get sick. If you jump from a tall building, you will be hurt or killed. If you spend more money than you make, your enslavement to debt affects you and those whom you love. If you have sex outside of marriage, there are consequences for you, your partner and society.”
Sex Respect (Student Workbook, p. 11)

* “How do you think you would feel watching someone you love get AIDS and die?”
Heritage Keepers (Student Manual, p. 97)
The brochure's author adds:
This focus on consequences is clearly designed to scare students rather than educate them. There is no scientific evidence to support the assertion that premarital sexual intercourse leads to everything from a loss of reputation to an inability to bond emotionally.
Do we need scientific evidence to show that premarital sexual intercourse leads to a loss of reputation? As for its effect on teens' ability to emotionally bond, I don't need research at hand to tell me how sex outside marriage trains people to skip steps that are necessary for forging a long-term relationship.

The brochure continues with examples of how abstinence curricula "instill[s] shame to motivate behavior." Again, I am reproducing all the brochure's examples:
* QUESTION: “Why could a sexually active teen tend to have lower self-esteem?”
POSSIBLE ANSWER: “May feel dehumanized or worthless, weak or powerless if partner is selfish or controlling.”
Choosing the Best LIFE (Teacher’s Guide, p. 8)

* “Why is it hard to have self-respect if you’re sexually active, especially if the relationship ends?”
Reasonable Reasons to Wait (Student Workbook, p. 103)

* “Each time a sexually active person gives that most personal part of himself or herself away, that person can lose a sense of personal value and worth. It all comes down to self-respect.”
Choosing the Best PATH (Teacher’s Guide, p. 7)

* “Many young teens who have been brought up with principles and values may have already decided they want to save sex for marriage.”
Sex Respect (Student Workbook, p. 36)

* “Why is it likely that weak people would choose risky behaviors, like
drugs, alcohol, sex outside of marriage, or violence?”
Heritage Keepers (Student Manual, p. 98)

* The emotional consequence of premarital sex: “You know people talk about you behind your back because you’ve had sex with so many people. It so empty too (sic). Finally you get sick of it all and attempt suicide.”
FACTS (Middle School, Teacher’s Edition, Appendix, p. 98)

* “Even if you’ve been sexually active, it’s never too late to say no. You can’t go back, but you can go forward. You might feel guilty or untrustworthy, but you can start over again.”
Game Plan (Student Workbook, p. 45)
The brochure's author complains:
Forty-seven percent of all high school students have had sexual intercourse. It is inappropriate and potentially harmful for education programs to imply that these teens lack values and self-respect. It is equally wrong for programs to tell parents, teachers, or teens that sexually active students are less worthy of love, trust, and respect.
Nobody said that such teens are "less worthy" of love, trust, and respect. That is the lie of the "tolerance" crowd, who would have us believe that condemning a person's behavior is equal to condemning their humanity. Responsible parents do not want their children to be browbeaten—but neither do they want their children to be in an environment that condones behavior that is inherently harmful to them.

Look carefully at the examples above and ask yourself, however awkwardly or unfortunately worded some of them might be, what is so "frightening" about them? What responsible parent could possibly object to their underlying message? The powers who oppose abstinence education do so precisely because the time-honored message of such programs—that children are too valuable to give their bodies away—is deeply offensive to them, interfering as it does with their vacuous, self-centered, and hedonistic way of life.

NOTE TO COMMENTERS: Please limit your comments on this post to discussion of the points raised above. The link that I have offered lead to SIECUS information about various abstinence curricula, some of which, if SIECUS is to be believed, contain medically inaccurate information. Not every "comprehensive sexual education" curriculum is accurate either. Take the Montgomery County, Md., sex-ed curriculum—please. So I ask that you save your debate on the accuracy of the rest of sex-ed curricula for another time, and comment here only about the topic at hand. Off-topic comments will be deleted at my ultra-capricious whim. Thank you for your cooperation.