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Just Say Yes…To Sexist Stereotyping?

From the Ms. Editors: Despite doubts about the efficacy of abstinence-only sex education,  U.S. tax dollars are still funding it. Conservatives earmarked $250 million for such programs under the Affordable Care Act, and last month, the Obama administration controversially green-lit the Heritage Keepers abstinence-only curriculum to receive funds reserved for evidence-based sex education. The excerpt below, from Katherine Stewart’s recent book, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children, takes a detailed look at the problems posed by abstinence-only education.

Abstinence education posits the idea that the proper way to educate adolescents about sex is to instruct them to refrain from sexual activity until marriage. The way to avoid contracting an STD or an unwanted pregnancy, a typical program tells its students, is follow a few simple rules: “Respect yourself. Choose friends who are positive influences. Go out as a group. Get plenty of rest.” Doug Herman, a popular abstinence-until-marriage speaker at public high schools across the United States, sums up the message this way: “If the sun doesn’t touch it, nobody else’s son ought to be touchin’ it either!”

The typical abstinence program, however, is not against sex per se. Abstinence instructors often make a point of telling teenagers that they know how hard it is to refrain from sexual activity. Sex is wonderful, it is incredible, it is mind-blowing—if you are married. The principal goal of most such programs, in fact, is to imbue childrern with a certain view about the proper relationship between sex and marriage. Sex within marriage is a source of fulfillment and even ecstasy; sex in all other contexts is degrading and shameful.

Abstinence educators frequently promote this view by representing all sex that occurs outside the marital bed as harmful. Premarital sex is dangerous and dirty, they say—a gateway to decadence, depression, broken lives, and an early grave, especially for women. If you have sex outside of marriage, says Pam Stenzel, a nationally recognized “abstinence proponent” who delivers talks to public school students around the country, “then you will pay.”
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TAGGED: DISHONESTY, EDUCATION, RELIGION, SCIENCE, SOCIETY


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