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05/26/2005

(Oh, and it's "retarded," and that's a nasty thing to say no matter how much Jesus loves you.)

wow, you are rediculus. i dont even have time to waste explaining how absurd it is to say that (essentially) abstinance is useless. you are retarted, but i pray for you...

Um...thanks...I think.

It's hard to know where to start with this comment on an old post of mine about abstinence pledges for teens. The fish-in-a-barrel approach — I'll cop to being "rediculus," but "retarted"? The keep-your-laws-off-my-body-and-your-prayers-off-my-booty approach? The not so sporting but oh, so satisfying post-the-commenter's-damningly-specific-IP-address approach? The you're-not-gonna-believe-what-this-character-was-Googling approach?

You know, I think for once I'll play it straight.

No, really.

I want to be perfectly clear: contrary to what our learned friend above asserts, I think abstinence is just dandy. I think it's a real and respectable stance for anyone of any age, but particularly the subset of teenagers who aren't prepared to deal with the consequences of sexual activity. It's the institutionalization of abstinence that concerns me.

It should surprise no one to learn that I have a tremendous problem with the notion of foisting abstinence pledges on teens. Aside from any philosophical qualms I might have about the religious underpinnings of any such programs deployed in the public schools, and any sputtering rage I might (okay, do) feel at the fact that my tax dollars are funding the fundies, there's the indisputable fact that public virginity pledges simply don't work.

It's been demonstrated that teenagers who take these virginity vows are almost exactly as likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases as teens who don't. Plus, while they may delay vaginal intercourse longer than other teens, they're more likely than the overall teen populace to engage in other risky sexual behavior. Pledges may work for kids who live up the them, but the vast majority — a staggering 88% — don't. And these teens who don't plan to have sex don't have condoms at the ready (PDF file) when they break their pledge.

Isn't an organized push to urge teens to take an abstinence pledge worth it, if even 12% will benefit? Well, no, not when the result — ignorance and avoidance of contraception and STD prevention — is so damaging to the rest. I'd suggest that those few teens who do stand firm are predisposed to self-knowledge and good judgment; they're likely also to have made a private commitment to themselves out of personal moral conviction. It seems obvious to me that because of their intrinsic values they'd make the same decision not to have sex if they were presented with facts instead of, um, lies so breathtaking I'm surprised I can't smell the pants burning from here.

If public virginity pledges worked, the groups that sponsor them might legitimately claim that their efforts are inspired by a concern for public health rather than a drive to save souls. But the pledges don't, and the sponsors can't, despite any frantic scramble to strip the religion out of their message in the face of public scrutiny. True public health advocates agree that promoting abstinence is an important facet of helping teens stay healthy, but insist that access to unbiased information about sexual health is every bit as critical, a stance that virginity pledge programs categorically oppose.

It's a fact: teens are having sex. It's not just the heathens, either. Teens who take public virginity pledges are having sex, too. And a lot of those would-be virgin teens are putting their health at risk. Why? Because they haven't been given solid information about how to protect themselves. Because they're discouraged from taking a pragmatic look at the best way to take care of themselves. Because their normal desires and behaviors have been driven underground in the face of faith-based pressure.

Their well-being is being compromised because some religious organizations find it more important to look after their souls than to educate them about their bodies.

Is it "rediculus" to be upset about this?

Fine. I guess I am "retarted."

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