The Blind Leading the Blind: Is Abstinence-only Education to Blame for Parents Who Can’t Say “Penis”?

From Mean Girls (2004)

From “Mean Girls” (2004)

Abstinence-only education does not exist in a vacuum. There is an important history in the United States in which certain laws and federal funding began supporting fear-based curricula. This stems from the belief that if you tell students the biological consequences (i.e, STIs, unwanted pregnancy, death) and social consequences of sex (i.e., specifically for girls, loss of purity and respect) it will encourage student to delay sexual activity. But studies show this is not the case. Despite all abstinence-only efforts, teens are not engaging in less sex, and the prevalence of STIs among 15-24 year olds remains high.

As sex educator, JoEllen Notte points out in this article, avoiding fact-based approaches to sex and sexual relationship education only leaves students ill-equipped to make safer choices.

In this article, she makes a strong argument that abstinence-only sex ed has produced a generation of parents today who are not only incapable (or unwilling) to discuss sex in a healthy, positive manner with their own children, but who also have not established a positive relationship to sex for themselves. Hence the need for more adult sex education to undo the damage and shame instilled by the abstinence-only model.

Here are important points to take away. Be sure to read through the entire article as there are some juicy links within:

  • Abstinence-only teaches girls that their value is based on their “virginity”.
  • Abstinence-only promotes the myth that condoms don’t work and that “sex” is limited to penis-vaginal intercourse.
  • People, parents and children alike, are unclear about terms of consent. We need to teach it!
  • Sex education does not stop after high school. Parents need it too. They need guidance about how to talk to their children about sex in a way that does not shame or reinforce misinformation.

This article was originally published on theRedheadBedhead.com

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

A couple weeks back there was a rash of stories about a baby doll that had some parents all up in arms. Why, you ask? Was it unsafe? No. Racist? No. Prohibitively expensive? Not that I’ve heard. The big problem? It has a penis. You know, like a human. People were PISSED. The ire was vented in the now-common manner- facebook posts- where folks are declaring that the “company makes me sick” because little girls “don’t need to know about anatomy” etc, etc.

Barely a week later a petition started circulating demanding that the Fremont Board of Education remove a book called “Your Health Today” from schools. Parents were outraged (outraged!) that the book: “exposes youth to sexual games, sexual fantasies, sexual bondage with handcuffs, ropes, and blindfolds, sexual toys and vibrator devices, and additional instruction that is extremely inappropriate for 13 and 14 year-old youth.”

All accounts indicate that while the book did, in fact, indicate that sex can be enjoyable , none of the information was prevented in a salacious or provocative manner. In fact, Slate describes it as “the most boring prose imaginable” including lessons explaining that students should only ever do what “they are comfortable doing”. But that wasn’t enough to keep parents from freaking out. My favorite complaint is the one that is about one of my favorite parts of the book: Parent Asfia Ahmed, fretted to the San Jose Mercury-News, “There’s a section that tells you how to talk to your prospective partners about your sexual history, how does that relate to a 14-year-old kid? I don’t see it at all.” *

I wish this August was some kind of sex-negative anomaly but it’s not. Earlier this year, there was a similar wave of discussion in reference to teaching children the proper anatomical terms for their body parts. That’s right. People have been getting upset because their children were given factually correct information about their bodies- they were, for example, exposed to words like “vagina”.

So, what gives? How did people become convinced that accurate education was heinously inappropriate and something to shield their children from lest their innocence be destroyed.

I have a theory.

I blame abstinence-only education.

But not the education of this generation. I think this generation of parents who thinks they can shield their children from their own genitals and that they shouldn’t talk to their teenagers about sex, lest they get ideas is the result of the previous generation- the first one that was highly likely to be presented with abstinence-only education in their schools.

Let’s take a quick history break: Abstinence-only education started receiving limited federal funding in 1982 through the Adolescent Family Life Act. After the passing of the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, which included a mandate that 50 million dollars yearly be allocated to abstinence-only education, it spread rapidly as cash-strapped schools decided that receiving the funds was more valuable than, you know, teaching kids anything about sex.**

exposed to similar nonsense in schools. We need to be the antidote to abstinence only education. Right now, there is a generation of parents who, when it comes to teaching their kids about sex, are basically like the blind leading the blind and, as educators, let’s be their guide.

Continue reading at The Redhead Bedhead.

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JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting