In a classic case of missing the point, public health officials and their stenographers in the media are blaming the spread of sexually transmitted diseases on sex education that promotes abstinence. “American squeamishness about talking about sex has helped keep common sexually transmitted infections far too common, especially among vulnerable teens, U.S. researchers reported Monday,” Maggie Fox wrote in an article that Reuters distributed on November 16, 2009. “Latest statistics on chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis show the three highly treatable infections continue to spread in the United States.”
Outside of activities such as prayer breakfasts, such “squeamishness” is becoming harder and harder to find in the United States every day. She must have really done some digging to unearth such reticence.
“The administration of President Barack Obama has signaled a willingness to move away from so-called abstinence-only sex education approaches promoted by his predecessor, George W. Bush, and conservative state and local governments,” Fox writes. “Several studies have shown such approaches do not work well and that it is better to encourage abstinence while also offering children and teens information about how to protect themselves from diseases as well as pregnancy.”
Actually, something has to be tried first before it fails. As Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council points out, 17 states refused funding for abstinence education programs.
Meanwhile, a study from the University of California at Berkeley, not a hotbed of religious fundamentalism, shows that voluntary abstinence does indeed coincide with fewer STDs. None of the immediately above is acknowledged by Fox or her source—John Douglas, director of the division of sexually transmitted diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Indeed, parents, and even their skeptical children, may find his conclusions well short of responsible. “Douglas said children and teens need to know about condom use, and should limit their number of sex partners and avoid sex with people who do have many other sex partners,” Fox reports.
Fox gives no indication that she asked Douglas what he thought a good, round number of such acquaintances might be.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.