Does Abstinence Only Education Work?

Today, there are reports that teen births are at record lows and so I must wonder, does abstinence only education work?  Is it responsible for the decline in teen births?

I have to say, even asking this question gives me great pause.

I think abstinence only education is immoral.  I’m not opposed to sex ed that stresses abstinence as a free and easy sure-fire way to prevent pregnancies and STDs, but I think, like all forms of birth control, there’s a predictable failure rate and not giving kids the information they need to keep themselves safe when such failures occur, when, with certain STDs, it can be a matter of life and death, is immoral and evil*.

But you know what I’ve come to realize?

South Park is right.  Most people are idiots.

Worse than that, they’re smug and self-righteous in their idiocy. 

So, you know, what the fuck do I know?  Maybe treating teenagers like they’re idiots who can’t make informed decisions and who, if they had real knowledge about how their bodies worked, would be out fucking it up more than they do now.

Just whoring around, ruining America.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the way we run around cluck cluck clucking like prudish Chicken Littles about how the sky is just crashing to earth over every little thing.  Even Keith Fucking Olbermann’s show tonight (with his little chick stand-in) had one story about girls in skimpy outfits doling out coffee in Seattle and how woo-woo naughty that was, and another story about how scandalous it was that Prince held his guitar in such a way that it suggested a penis.

You would think all the red-light, green-light we play about sex would give us whiplash, but I guess not.  Sex, sex, sex, but by god, don’t fuck.

Maybe it works.  What the fuck do I know?

Here’s what I learned as I was trying to figure out how you’d even begin to judge whether abstinence only education was responsible for declining birth rates.

In Mississippi, in 2004, twenty-nine percent of kids under 18 live in poverty, followed by Louisiana at 27%, New Mexico at 24%, Texas, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Alabama at 23%, Kentucky and Arizona at 22%, South Carolina and New York at 21%, and Oklahoma and Tennessee at 20%.

If you look at the percentage of the general population living in poverty, it’s 19% in Mississippi and Louisiana, 17% in New Mexico, 16% in Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas, with Tennessee, South Carolina, Arizona and New York coming in at 15%.

It’s useful to compare numbers.  In Mississippi, there are 549,224 people living in poverty; 212,865 of them are under the age of 18.  Here in Tennessee, there are 876,763 people living in poverty; 278,719 are children.

I mention this because when we look at the birth rates for teenage girls, you’ll see some familiar folks at the top of the list in 2000:

Nevada with 113 per 1,000, Arizona with 104; Mississippi and New Mexico with 103; Texas with 101; etc.

This is a blog, not a term paper, so you can look for yourself.  The point is that in places where there is a tremendous amount of poverty, we also find high rates of teens giving birth.  It takes no genius to see this as a self-perpetuating cycle.

Did I have a point?

Ah, yes, it was how I’d given up on you fuckers, left you to wallow in your own meanness, figuring, what the fuck?  You’ve got your ways I just don’t understand.

But you know, then my heart gets the best of me.  In Georgia, for instance, 1 out of the 386,095 kids out of the 1,006,329 people living in poverty is my nephew.  He’s ten.

If he starts having sex the same time his dad did, my brother could be a grandfather in four years**.

That’d be pretty dumbass, considering how hard his mom and dad’s lives have been.  But fourteen year old boys have a tendency to be pretty dumbass.  If they live through it and don’t end up in jail, it’s pretty funny later.

My point is that I’d like to leave y’all to rot in your own stupidity, but I’m stupid, too.  And so are the folks that I love.  And they, we, all of us, deserve compassion and understanding.

Which maybe doesn’t have anything to do with what’s responsible for lowering teen birth rates***, but it’s keeping me from driving out Highway 70, just punching random people.



*Is it just me or is that, perchance, the longest sentence I’ve ever written?

**Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.  If my oldest nephew takes after his mom’s side of the family, the recalcitrant brother could be a grandfather before I even have kids!

***Though I’m going to guess two factors: the widespread appearance of the home computer, so that kids whose families can afford them, can look up birth control information they’re not getting at school and the thoroughness with which our culture has been saturated by AIDS awareness.

16 thoughts on “Does Abstinence Only Education Work?

  1. That’s what I love about you, Exador: your willingness to admit that the most telling trate of conservatism is thinking that people are miserable fucks who don’t deserve my time.

  2. Dude, you crack me up. You’re tall, good-looking, have shoulders that make me grin just to think about them, and you have that certain Dean Martin-esque delight in women that makes girls want to get in your way.And you want everyone to know you have a great penis?Are you trying to ruin it for all the other guys?(How was that?)

  3. Perhaps in some circles, i.e. religious circles where you get a heaping dose of guilt to go along with it, abstinence-only education works for awhile. Of course, then you get a bunch of adults with sexual hangups who then end up going off the deep end to over-compensate. Furthermore, I agree with you, B, that abstinence *only* education is immoral (your word) in the way that it teaches kids how to rebel rather than have some balance in their life. And again, that can lead to some pretty dysfunctional effed-up adults.imho, adolescents and teens should be taught that abstinence is an excellent option, but not the *only* option. It’s a gray area…not so cut & dry like the proponents would like to make it. Again…it’s all about balance, baby.

  4. Just read something on teen pregnancy rates 1990-2002 from the CDC, which says "In 2002, an estimated 757,000 pregnancies among teenagers 15-19 years resulted in 425,000 live births, 215,000 induced abortions, and 117,000 fetal losses. The overall teenage pregnancy rate was estimated at 76.4 pregnancies per 1,000 females aged 15-19 years, down 10 percent from 2000 (84.8 per 1,000), and 35 percent lower than the peak rate in 1990 (116.8 per 1,000). The 2002 rate is an historic low for the Nation. Rates for young teenagers declined relatively more than for older teenagers throughout this 12-year period." So that still plays into your question about abstinence-only education. On the other hand, the report says that "Despite the continuous declines, the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate is still among the highest among industrialized nations." Regardless, I can’t support abstinence-only sex ed, because I think it’s fundamentally wrong to deny information and hope for the best. We don’t do that with heart disease. We shouldn’t do it with sex.

  5. Hee, Rachel, I should have turned to you for proper statistical analysis.But I guess I’m just not convinced that abstinence only education is the reason for the decline. We need those guys who wrote Freakonomics in on this, but I do wonder if it has to do with the advent of the internet, which means that kids can get contraceptive information in spite of what their parents and schools think are best.I’d be interested to see data on condom sales to kids, if that’s increased, and I’d love to see if there’s a similar increase in the number of girls on birth control.Ginger, I agree. Balance.

  6. Pssssst…. did you guys here about Exador? Apparently he got out his giant penis and showed it to B right there in that strip club.

  7. I am late to the game here, but I am willing to bet that the poverty/pregnancy rate has a very simple relationship.Alcohol costs money; drugs cost money; sex is free. Out of the bored entertainment options which would you choose? Add in a little peer pressure, some ignorance and a culture where lots of other people around you have done the same thing (mom, cousins, friends) and you’ve got an easy choice.I can even take out the poverty part of the equation and look at the patterns of people in situations with nothing else to do (snowstorms or other isolating events) what better way to kill time and comfort each other than sex? You know you’ve rationalized a little bit of risky, unprotected behavior at some point.On the rumor front: it’s a shame there aren’t any penis freckles out there. Then we’d get pictures.

  8. Oh, Slartibartfast, on a side note, I was so delighted by your calling this a sledge-hammer approach that I added it to my "about" page.Check it out. Only you, grandfille, and Sarcastro have the honor of being quoted there, though you can bet the second Exador sends me photos, I’m putting one there, just to make the guy-oriented folks jealous.

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