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Sex Education vs. Abstinence Smackdown

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This mom is not buying Planned Parenthood's B.S. for one minute.

Teenage couple

Homeschool Mom: Planned Parenthood has decreed that 10-year-olds have a fundamental right to be taught about contraception, to have comprehensive sex education, and also to be treated as sexual beings. It's their right, right? Now, I'm sure I'm not alone here in thinking that this is the most ridiculous thing I have read in a long time. But the scary thing is, some of you will absolutely agree with Planned Parenthood -- and those of you who do are probably not all pedophiles (who right now are rubbing their sweaty palms together in glee). Some of you just are misguided enough to think, "Kids are 'doing it' younger anyway, so why not prepare them for it?" I'll tell you why: Because it's not safe -- emotionally, physically or morally. It is not acceptable or beneficial in any way, shape or form for 10-year-olds -- or 14-year-olds, for that matter -- to be having sex.

I hear all the time that abstinence-only sex education doesn't work. People say there's been a rise in teen pregnancies, etc., and that abstinence-only sex ed is the reason why. "Look," they say, "Bristol Palin got pregnant, and she says abstinence-only sex education doesn't work." Well, I just want to point you all to a little study that says abstinence-only sex ed  is not the complete failure that people paint it to be. The study appears in the current issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, and on Feb. 2, 2010, Ashley Hayes wrote about it on Hayes' piece reports that the study was conducted over a two-year period with African-American girls who averaged about 12 years in age. Two thirds of the girls who received abstinence-only sex education delayed having sexual intercourse within the two year period, while almost half the girls who received either abstinence-and-condom education or just condom education had intercourse in that same two-year span. So: Can you delay first-time sexual intercourse? It appears that you can. Can you make teen sex obsolete? Probably not -- but you can't make a lot of social problems obsolete. You can definitely make them less prevalent, though.

I believe that parents actively telling their kids "Don't have sex" goes a long way. It's the same with drug use: What's the biggest deterrent? Parents saying, "Don't do drugs." But telling a kid, "Well, having sex is normal when you're 14 or 12 or even 10 -- so use this and be safe" doesn't strike me as a way to curtail the unwanted behavior. Teen pregnancy is on the rise, along with sexually transmitted diseases -- and so is drug use, teen violence and teen suicide. So where does all that leave us? Do we say, "Well, let's teach them to use drugs safely," or "Let's teach them to kill themselves less lethally," or "Let's teach them to beat the snot out of each other in a safer way"? No. We say, "That is unacceptable and we don't want you to use drugs or kill yourself or hurt someone else."

So why is it so bad to say, "Don't have sex until you are in a committed, adult, legally binding relationship -- or at the very least, older"? I have a 14-year-old son who recently entered a private full-time high school, and I have told him, "You may not date until you are older." I informed him that while I cannot control his liking a girl or spending time in school with a girl he feels romantically attached to, I will not aid and abet any kind of romantic relationship. She is not coming over, he's not going to her house, there will be no movies, etc. I'm just not going there.

To a 14-year-old boy, girls are only a source of distraction and trouble -- so my son's pretty cool with my rule. His friends who do date have proven to him that I'm not talking smack. In fact, he has advised them, "You're better off waiting" -- because he has seen the drama that accompanies young teen romantic relationships. Maybe he won't wait until he's married to have sex. (I'd like him to, because I have seen couples in my church who did wait, and who now have extremely fulfilling and wonderful marriages.) But at the very least, I'd like to keep him safe while he's 14. I am not ready to give up the battle, as Planned Parenthood would like me to. We may not be able to eliminate teen sex, but maybe we can delay it -- and that is an improvement.

next: I Am NOT a Pregnant Teen!
28 comments so far | Post a comment now
chris February 16, 2010, 4:04 AM

I agree completely with you. When Momlogic posted the blog about Planned Parenthood, I was the only one who responsed to it. I don’t believe that children have a “right” to be sexually active at 10 or a “right” at five to know why to masturbate. That’s just crazy. I talk a lot to my kids about sex and no, I’m not telling them that they can never have sex before marriage but I am telling them that sex should be something that they wait until they are emotionally ready for not just physically ready. The pressure for teenagers to have sex is so high now between the shows on tv and the music they listen to. I really wish that our children had a chance to stay “innocent” longer than they do. One minute they are in elementary school and seem so young, the next minute they are in middle/high school and seem to be bomboarded by everything sex and drugs. Too sad.

Anonymous February 16, 2010, 5:33 AM

Honestly I was raised in a fundamentalist religious group that put a lot of emphasis on abstinence before marriage and I fell for it. While my husband and I are in a loving and committed relationship, in the 5 years we’ve been married we’ve yet to find a way to make love in a style we can both enjoy. We both want such different things in bed but didn’t know it before we got married because we had never had sex. I wouldn’t encourage a 10 year old to have sex, but I think the other extreme’s dangerous too.

Debra February 16, 2010, 6:08 AM

Planned Parenthood isn’t going around telling teens to have sex they want them to do it safely if they are. Most abstinence taught kids don’t use protection when they do have sex, and then they’re exposing their partners to all sorts of diseases. While 10 might be young, many girls experience their first period now at that age if girls need to have a discussion why they get a period and all the details it entails, boys should be included in their own discussion. The fact is in our culture kids are going to be exposed to sex at a very young age, if we ignore it we’re also pretending to ignore all the complications that come along with it like pregnancy and STDs. I’m sure any parent would rather their kid come home pregnant before catching HIV. They might be young but wouldn’t you rather them be alive to see their future?

Barb February 16, 2010, 7:03 AM

Yes, like Debra said, burying our heads in the sand saying, “No, no, no” won’t stop it from happening. I didn’t see the blog you’re referring to, but I support Planned Parenthood’s responsibility behind sex education even if they come off as a bit radical sometimes (even in my opinion). I don’t necessarily think that by letting kids know these things exist (condoms and other birth control) they’re going to take it as approval to have sex at 10 (!). For both sides—me, who supports education and you, who supports abstinence-only information—the parents need to be there, supporting our children. I firmly believe that if a loving parent is honest and open with a child about sex education, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE: our kids, our future) will benefit.

Side note: At 16 I asked my mom about getting birth control pills. She told me I was too young to have sex. Do you think I chose not to have sex? No. But I had to find my own contraception; isn’t it a good think that I knew where to go? (A shout out to Planned Parenthood for preventing teen pregnancy for me! I used to go there for the free condoms in the lobby.)

arisma February 16, 2010, 7:53 AM

Even in the most Christian of settings, abstinence is only 99.99% effective. How else do you explain Jesus? Seriously, though, just because you tell kids to wait, even if you make a moral imperative that they do, they won’t. Teaching kids to respect their bodies and to understand the possible repercussions of sex is your best bet. Part and parcel with that is teaching them how to protect themselves properly when they do give in to temptation. As uncomfortable as the thought is, our little ones ARE sexual beings. Fetuses have been observed masturbating while in the womb. No one taught them to, it’s just natural behavior. There are societal influences and it’s a parents job to shape their kids morality to resist that. It’s a schools job to teach facts and reality. Not that I’d expect a homeschooler to readily grasp that concept.

arisma February 16, 2010, 7:57 AM

Also, to anonymous, that’s exactly why I tell people I actively oppose waiting for sex until after marriage. A firm, committed relationship for sure, but marriage? Absolutely not. A honeymoon is a terrible time to find out your husband (or wife) likes to get off to things like scat or choking, (assuming you don’t share those kinks).

Blah  February 16, 2010, 8:03 AM

I don’t completely agree with this article. Why would the author assume that by teaching a ten year old about sex & contraception, that you’re automatically telling them it’s okay to have sex? That’s just ridiculous. Knowledge is power. Kids may or may not listen when told not to have sex. If they don’t listen to you, chances are when they have their first experience they won’t be able to protect themselves from std, pregnancy, etc. Because they have no clue how to. I think it’s irresponsible not teach our kids. You can teach sex, protection, AND abstinence at the same time. Not telling them how to protect themselves isn’t going to stop them…. Btw the part about NOT letting your son date, when he actually does, chances are this kid is going to fall hard as soon as he starts dating, & he won’t feel comfortable telling you because he’ll know you’ll disapprove. And people wonder why young kids rush to get married and out of the house :/ Good Luck.

Kristin February 16, 2010, 8:07 AM

You’re right. I won’t tell my children about STDs and how to protect themselves. I won’t explain what is normal or abusive or anything about how their sexual relationships need to be to be healthy for them.

I’ll make sex a taboo subject while I’m at it. That way they are afraid to ask me for help when they need it. I’ll let them go off and figure it all out for themselves. Maybe they will get it when they get that second line on their pregnancy test or when they get herpes.

You’re right. I see it now. *rolls eyes*

maria February 16, 2010, 8:28 AM

I am a mother of 3 boys 13, 15,25 and two girls who are 17 and 22. I put them both on birth control when they turned 15. I always told and still tell them to abstain but I am being realistic in that it only takes once to conceive or catch an std. My oldest is married with no kids yet and my seventeen yr old according to her and the doctor is still a virgin. I am proud but I also know how easy to have sex is. I have a niece who got pregnant at 12. She had a baby at 13 and my three oldest kids all went to junior high school with at least one pregnant girl. I preach condoms and abstinence to the boys also. Planned parenthood was available when I lived in CA but not here in GA. If planned parenthood could prevent a teen pregnancy or an std fom spreading it should b everywhere. Not all parents care so kids need somewhere to go. In high school one of my daughters friends got pregnant cuz they couldn’t afford condoms and didn’t have insurance for birth control. She had her baby and dropped out of school. The option needs to be there. As parents we will do what we feel is right in what values we teach but if a girl menstruates at 10 she needs to know what can happen. Its not condoning it. Its being realistic. Talking to my kids friends 12 yr olds are having sex and think its no big deal. Behind the parents back of course. Kids need to learn what consequenses sex can bring and know there is somewhere they can go if they can’t talk to their parents.

abbey February 16, 2010, 8:33 AM

I think you’re mixing up sex education with the act of sex. The truth is, kids are having sex and it’s your relationship with your child that determines at what age and how they are going to do it. You might not be ready to tell your child about condoms, but they might be ready to hear it and just because you tell them that, when a person has sex they should wear a condom, it’s not giving them the okay to have sex. I personally want my children to be incredibly educated in all areas of life, sex being one of them. And, in that study you quoted, those were 12-years olds. What about the 15-17 year olds? I would seriously have to question that study and really evaluate the author’s resources before I make assumptions based on her work. And, also, regarding the drug thing. We tell kids absolutely they shouldn’t be doing drugs, but we also tell them why. I don’t want my children doing drugs because of x, y, and z. Shouldn’t they also be as informed about sex? I don’t want my child having sex as a teen because of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and mental maturity? Yeah, I 100% disagree with you and i think you’re kids are in for an alarming surprise when they are introduced into a sexual situation. My parents handled sex in a very similar way and I was pretty traumatized when I first began having sex.

Anonymous February 16, 2010, 9:40 AM

I lost my virginity before I was married, sixteen to be exact. My middle school had sex ed and actually explain birth control and such. Because of that, I knew how to protect myself. Also, even though it was my future (now current) husband that I lost my virginity to, we have a wonderful marriage. I think it was a good idea we had sex before marriage.

Schools teaching abstinence sex ed is not the best idea, unless it is a Christian school. I was not raised Christian and do not have the same morals, so abstinence sex education would have been pointless for me. It better to teach kids the truth then not tell then anything.

just sayin February 16, 2010, 9:54 AM

I don’t understand why there is always a question as to sexual education or abstinence. To me, it’s the same as stay at work mom vs working mom or breast feed vs bottle feed. Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t we education our child about sex, std’s,unwanted pregancy and birth control and education them about waiting until they are emotionally ready and experiencing it with someone they care and love. I don’t understand why we can teach them about every part of the responsibility of being sexually active.

tennmom February 16, 2010, 10:53 AM

To Chris, I have to respond: masturbation is not a “right”, true, but unless a parent has a camera on their child 24/7 there is no way to stop it, nor do I consider it a good idea to try to stop it. I was younger than 5 when I realized I could pleasure myself, as have MANY children since the beginning of time. My parents explained that it was something one does not do in front of other people and that was that.
My now 12 year old started her period, as did I, when she was 10 1/2. I’ve always had age-appropriate conversations about sex with both of my daughters. I now stress to her the emotional aspect of sex.
My first time was when I was 17, with the boy/man that I had dated since I was 14. My parents almost nixed that relationship b/c he was 3 years older than I. By that time we were sure we were in a committed relationship. Even at that age, I was wise enough (via talks with my mother) to know how floored I would have been had I had a sexual relationship with someone then had a break up. We married when I was 20 & he was the first & only sexual partner for me until his death from cancer in 2003.
I see the glances exchanged between my older daughter and boys. She is in 6th grade. While Christmas shopping a young man at the check out counter asked if she was enjoying her senior year in high school.
I wasn’t allowed to “car date” (guy picks up the girl from home in a car) until I was 16. I thought it was unfair but I sure understand their thinking now. One of my friends lost her virginity to a boy 5 years older when we were 11. They thought they had the park near our school all to themselves that day. They were mistaken. Imagine seeing THAT as several of us decided to stop by to play on the swings that day! The same friend often spoke of her sexual exploits when we were the ripe old age of 12. She was pregnant & married at 16,lost custody of her 2 children at 18.
I lived in a small West TN town. Our local health department would provide a year’s worth of birth control pills to girls/women of any age after a gyn exam.
HIV was still a “new” concept for us back then.
I think it is our responsibility to our kids to be open and point blank honest about all aspects of sex.
Sex is going to happen no matter what we say.

Pamala February 16, 2010, 12:59 PM

Yeah don’t teach children how to be responsible if they choose to have sex! Kids are doing it younger and younger, and if you just bury your heads in the sand it will get worse. I think that properly educating a child on everything, especially the negative aspects of sex and educating themselves on how to protect themselves is more than appropriate. Also I think it’s important that teenage sex and pregnancy be shamed as it used to be. Now it’s just accepted as if it’s okay. It’s not okay. It should be looked down upon, not praised. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t educate our children as well.

chris February 16, 2010, 1:24 PM

Tennmom, if you go back to the actual article that I first responsed to, you will see that I am completely open with my kids about sex and masturbation. My problem with the first article was the impression of older men who seem to take a special issue in “helping” children find their sexuality and exploring it at a very young age. When I hear a man express the “right” of a child to be sexual, then I have to question why he is concerned about my child sexuality. It is up to me to be completely open and honest with my children but I don’t want/need people (outside of sex ed in school) to be concern with my child learning how to masturbate or using sexual aid to pleasure themselves. If your not sure of the article I’m referring to, I’m sure you get go back in momlogics articles and find it. I also have nothing against planned parenthood, I used them when I was a teenager for birth control pills so that is not my issue with this again my issue is that this book just seems a little to close to the NAMBLA creed.

tennmom February 16, 2010, 1:31 PM

Sorry to Chris, I did go back and read & now see your point. You are right.

Christina February 16, 2010, 2:50 PM

When I was 10, my mother showed me charts and graphs and was quite upfront about the entire process of sex, including birth control methods. When I was 12 or so, she had me watch that documentary showing a baby being born. Best birth control ever. There was NO way I was going to let any boy do THAT to me. Eventually, of course, I did have sex, but I was quite careful in the areas of birth control and protecting myself from STDs. Oh yeah, my parents were quite religious. So to all of those abstinence only people I can only say, knowledge is power. My parents gave me knowledge and that gave me the power to say no until I was ready to say yes.

Anonymous February 16, 2010, 4:13 PM

Educating children about sex is not encouraging them to have sex and does not make one a pedophile. I find these remarks offensive to people who are against abstinence only education, which is PROVEN not to work. As a child I was introduced to sex ed in the fourth grade at the age of nine. I had no ill effects from learning how the body functions and how children were made. My best friend’s sister, on the other hand, who was older than both of us and skipped sex ed had a child at the age of thirteen. Her claim was that she did not know what sex was, being completely sheltered from it, and did not know she was having intercourse or that her acts with her male friend would result in a child. After that her family became pro sexual education as soon as children start going through puberty. It is not our place to withhold the basic workings of the human body from children. No one is saying pop in a porn and let them watch which is the only thing I can picture you being so offended by. Abstinence only DOES NOT WORK. More and more middle school aged children are showing up with STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) in their throats because they are ignorant to what Oral Sex is and that diseases can be passed that way. Spreading fear that the people who want to educate kids and prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and the spread of STI’s is not only offensive but horribly ignorant on your part. Calling educators and those trying to help pedophiles is slander. I usually like this site but I can’t believe anyone let you post such rubbish. As soon as our bodies mature and we are able to procreate we should already be knowledgeable of how our reproductive systems work, not after an accident happens. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss.

Working Mama February 16, 2010, 4:15 PM

The writer of this article needs to do more research into the subject matter before making baseless statements about Planned Parenthood. If you think quoting an article from Fox News is “proof” that the organization is pushing sex ed on 10-year-olds, you’re wrong. Enforcing an abstinence-only policy is short-sided and narrow minded. Of course no parent wants their kids having sex before they’re emotionally mature and in a committed relationship. But that’s not the real world. As parents we need to wise up and realize that the more a child knows about their own body, the risks of STDs and how to prevent an unwanted pregnancy the more empowered they will be to make the right decision. Teens who are afraid to talk to their parents about sex or tell them that they’re sexually active (because of the fear of getting in trouble or disappointing them) are the ones more likely to end up pregnant or with an STD.

Stephanie February 16, 2010, 5:09 PM

Sex education does not equal encouraging kids to have sex. That’s an incredibly ignorant way to look at it. It’s been proven time and time again that the more a young person knows about sex education the longer they’ll wait to become sexually active. Kids who are given ALL the facts know all the risks whereas kids who are just told, “Don’t do it,” are more likely to not use protection or to use it incorrectly. Knowledge is power and any parent who thinks keeping their child ignorant will protect them are fooling themselves.

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