The Real Reason Behind Abstinence-Only Sex Education

abstinence only


Robert Reich has an interesting article from, pondering the real motivation behind abstinence-only sex education in Texas, given the fact that it consistently and demonstrably leads to worse health outcomes (higher numbers of teen pregnancies and STDs, which one might think policymakers would wish to avoid).

Reich posits that it has a lot more to do with punishment – removing any protection from the potential consequences of their actions so that teen girls feel the pain and shame of their “immoral” ways – than it does with any sincere belief that abstinence-only is in any way an effective method of sex education:

It’s not that the Christian fundamentalists who dominate state politics in Texas wouldn’t prefer young people, at least the girls, to remain abstinent and then get married off at 19, passing them seamlessly from parental to spousal control. They’re always happy in those rare cases when that successfully happens. The question is what happens to the 95 per cent of us who are dissenters and go ahead and have sex without being married first. The main concern driving these policies is that sexually active, unmarried women will get away with their behavior without being punished. That’s why there’s obstacles such as parental notification between girls and access to contraception. The idea is that if a girl tries to escape her due punishment of unintended pregnancy, she should at least have to endure being grounded for her slatternly ways.

In examining the logic behind the policies, you have to conclude that proponents of abstinence-only sex education are either stupid (because they want teen pregnancy and STD rates go down, but are unable to see that the implementation of their policies are having the opposite effect), or mean (because they know full well that their policies are causing higher rates of pregnancies and STDs and are glad of it, because these young people need to be punished for their slutty ways):

If you start with the assumption that social conservatives agree that the problem is STDs and teen pregnancy and not sex itself, you’re inevitably going to conclude that their insistence on programs that seem to keep the STD and teen pregnancy rate high must mean they’re stupid. Incredibly stupid, on the can’t-tie-their-own-shoes level. And that seems a bit unfair. Fundamentalists can be annoying and pig-headed, but they’re not measurably stupider than the rest of us. Because of this, the only fair conclusion is poor sexual health outcomes is the point, because they believe that if kids won’t stop having sex, they should at least be doing the time for their “crimes.” If you start with the assumption that sex is sinful and it should have negative consequences for those who disobey your sky god’s orders, then really, the Texas anti-sex policies can be considered a smashing success.

It’s kind of like a parent letting their young child pick up a few bumps and scrapes while playing so that they learn to play carefully. Except that the “parent” in this case is the benificent state of Texas, the “child” is the millions of kids in the Texas school system, and the “bumps and scrapes” are highly infectious sexually transmitted diseases (caught because the adolescents were not taught about the dangers of unprotected sex), babies being born into unprepared, unwilling families (and in some cases suffering harsh childhoods as a result), or babies being aborted for the same reasons.

Great parenting job.

One thought on “The Real Reason Behind Abstinence-Only Sex Education

  1. fieara June 22, 2012 / 9:02 PM

    I always suspected this of Santorum specifically and of abstinence-only politicians.


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