Does Sex Education Focused on Abstinence Work?

Is sex education the only thing that works for abstinence? Abstinence-only sex education programmes were funded by the United States government for a nine-year, seven million-dollar research to see if they are beneficial. It is the goal of abstinence education to get young people to postpone having sex until they are married. It was a goal of the Bush administration to see how many of these programmes were implemented around the country and how effective they were. Those who engaged in abstinence-only education programmes were just as likely to engage in premarital sex as those who didn’t participate. Abstinence-only advocates will be disappointed by this. It leaves one to ponder what the best method is for teaching kids about sexual behaviour and its implications. I enlisted the help of a few high school kids to get some answers.

Most high school students believe that sex education is too late for them. In elementary school, abstinence should be the only topic of discussion. It seems that most sixteen-year-olds are already sexually active, according to the students I spoke with in high school. Anyone trying to instil the virtues of abstinence in them will be met with a hostile response.

They don’t like it when they’ve been instructed exactly what to do. If abstinence-only programmes advise students “don’t have sex,” they’ll ignore them, they claim. You need to give teenagers the data and figures they need. If you’re concerned about the long-term consequences of having sex before marriage, you can inform them and then let them decide if they want to abstain.
The biggest issue, according to several high school students I spoke with, was a lack of communication between most teens and their parents. In today’s society, many parents are too busy with their careers and social life to spend much time with their children. Pre-marital sex can be harmful to children if their parents are not available to teach them about it. To some youths, investing millions of dollars to train adults how to parent is more important than teaching youngsters how to abstain from alcohol and tobacco.

Teens, according to one astute young woman, do only those things that are socially acceptable. Parents and grownups are to blame for their children’s misbehaviour. Young people are being taught that it is acceptable to “sleep around.”

As many of the pupils I spoke to reminded me, kids don’t like being told what to do, particularly by adults. It may be possible to get kids to listen to a sex education programme that doesn’t cram a rulebook down their throats. One girl told me she had decided to abstain from pre-martial sex but not because of a sex education program. Hearing her mother’s story was all it took. Her mother had made mistakes when it came to sex that the girl certainly didn’t want to emulate.

A thoughtful adolescent opined that religion should have a larger role to play. Because of their religious upbringing, a lot of young people, he explained, believe they should abstain from sexual relations until after their wedding day. In his ideal world, more religious organisations would openly endorse abstinence as a healthy lifestyle choice.