Academics Abstain from Abstinence

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Apparently, some academics have discovered an oath they like even less than David Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights, namely—the pledge taken by increasing numbers of teens to abstain from sex. “For if preaching abstinence to adults is ludicrous, targeting teenagers with abstinence-only propaganda is downright dangerous,” Evergreen State College professor Stephanie Coontz writes on “Indeed, it often backfires.”

“Look at the teen virginity pledges promoted by many of the very same religious groups pushing abstinence-only sex education programs.” Yes, let’s look at them.

Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at Evergreen, also directs the Council on Contemporary Families from the college in Olympia, Washington. Based just on the link that she provides, her conclusions may be, pardon the expression, premature.

“Teenagers who take virginity pledges—public declarations to abstain from sex—are almost as likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease as those who never made the pledge, an eight-year study released yesterday found,” Ceci Connolly reports in a story in the Washington Post that Dr. Coontz links to. “Although young people who sign a virginity pledge delay the initiation of sexual activity, marry at younger ages and have fewer sexual partners, they are also less likely to use condoms and more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex, said the researchers from Yale and Columbia universities.”

Polls show that 90 percent of parents endorse a delayed initiation for teens. Perhaps the 10 percent that don’t are professors. Meanwhile, another study found that “making a private pledge or promise to oneself to wait to have sexual intercourse until one is older reduces the likelihood that adolescents will engage in sexual intercourse and oral sex.” The lead author on that study is Melina M. Bersamin of Berkeley, not widely recognized as the home of the abstinence education movement.

“The effect persists even when controlling for socio-demographic variables,” Bersamin and associates write. The authors nonetheless noted that “Making a formal pledge did not appear to have an effect on sexual behavior.”

The study appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health last year. “The findings raise questions about the effectiveness of formal virginity pledges in preventing adolescent sexual behavior,” the authors concluded. “The findings suggest that sexual health programs may be more effective if they encourage young people to make a personal commitment to delay the onset of sex, foster social norms supportive of delaying sex, and raise awareness of how early sexual initiation may threaten future plans.”

“In parsing the data, the researchers concede that ‘a positive association emerged between all three sexual behaviors [genital play, oral sex, and sexual intercourse…and formal contraceptive education,” the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society observed of the study. “Indeed, the researchers admit that ‘adolescents who received information on condoms were twice as likely to have participated in genital play, oral sex, and vaginal intercourse as those who had not received formal contraception education.’”

“(The researchers—probably chagrined by their findings—are eager to point out that, though persistent, the linkage between formal contraceptive education and heightened levels of sexual activity does not cross the threshold of statistical significance in multi-variable analyses that account for various social and psychological characteristics, including parents’ attitudes toward teen sexual activity.)”

If they are chagrined about those findings, Ivory Tower types are really going to go on the warpath when they see what the latest research shows about the relation between abortion controls and STDs. “According to a new study, abortion notification and consent laws actually reduce risky sexual behavior among teenagers,” a report in the AFA Journal reveals. “The finding is the result of data collected from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and examined by Jonathan Klick, Florida State University College of Law professor, and Thomas Stratmann, economics professor at George Mason University.”

“The men used gonorrhea rates as an indicator of risky sexual activity and compared them to parental notification laws that were in place at the time,” the article explains. “By doing so, they discovered that teen gonorrhea rates decreased by an average of 20% among Hispanic girls and by an average of 12% among white girls in states where consent laws were practiced.” The AFA Journal is published by the American Family Association in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.