Abstinence-Only... Long-lasting Confusion and Trauma.

If you recieved comprehensive sex education in high school... you know... where they told you anything worth hearing, then... you were lucky.

I... and millions of other current teen and young adult Americans... are not so lucky.


I was a victim of Abstinence-Only Sex Education. Yes, I said VICTIM. Why? Because not only do these programs teach us absolutely nothing worth knowing... they also can cause significant situational and/ or psychological harm!

As a humanist... I look back appalled at the type of class I was forced (by the state) to take as a requirement for graduation.


I never learned anything but psychological trauma from Abstinenece-only education. I was lucky in one way... my particular class was "light." There are FAR worse types of abstinence only. At least my class didn't prosthelytize finding Jesus to us with public money. (That does happen in some classes!)


What I do remember of my attrocity of a "sex ed" class, well I'm angry! I was lied to, denied crucial information, and taught to be petrified of my sexuality.


As far as contraception goes... well that was covered in one class (sort of). By "covered" I mean the physical education teacher running "health class" passed us a sheet with a chart on it. On the table was a list of different methods of birth control. (Most of them I had never heard of at the time... "What's an IUD?") The table had a column next to it that had a set of percentages. These percentages were supposedly "failure rates" of these methods, most of which I had never heard of ... and those I did.. like condoms... well I didn't know how they worked anyway. I had never even seen a condom. I didn't know what it looked like.

The "teacher" spent the next thirty minutes or so explaining why "contraception is very likely to fail" and "abstinence until marriage is the only way to be sure you won't get pregnant or get an STD."

The percentages were insanely inflated. But I didn't figure this out until several years later.


No one told us anything about what these contraceptives actually were or how to use them. We were just told that they were likely to fail.


But what has made me the most angry is how that class damaged the development of my sexuality... a problem that I'm still dealing with to some degree.


I was taught to be afraid of sex. I know now that they just wanted me to be afraid of "pre-marital" sex... but the end result was that I was afraid of ALL sex. I was terrified of marriage, terrified of pregnancy, terrified of forming romantic attachments. 

I was told that sex outside of marriage would ruin my life. That I would inevitably have my heart broken. That no one could ever be truly devoted to you outside of marriage. 

But worse... their emphasis on how difficult pregnancy and childbearing would be had me terrified of ever starting a family.


I took a course for my college major called "Psychology of Sexuality." Suddenly I was getting REAL information. For the first time I got information on how to use those contraceptive methods and the textbook broke down human sexuality as a natural thing and explained all the options available.

I'm finally learning not to fear sex. But I am extremely angry at how I was one of the kids betrayed by the bush administration who jammed sex- fear-mongering down our throats at age 14... when we were just waking up to our own sexuality.

I was betrayed... and so were millions of others.

Long story short... I know from first hand experience that abstinence-only sex ed does nothing at all except hurt teenagers.

Views: 111

Comment by matt.clerke on October 25, 2011 at 9:50pm

That's terrible. In Australia, sex-ed is offered in primary school on an opt-in basis and then in high school as part of the physical education curriculum. Personally I think I learnt a lot more in opt-in primary school classes than I did in the few lessons of sex-ed in high school.

Comment by Matthew Wood on October 25, 2011 at 11:35pm

I think the film Mean Girls summed it up nicely from a public school stand point:

"Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant and die! Don't have sex in the missionary position, don't have sex standing up, just don't do it, OK, promise? OK, now everybody take some rubbers."

The whole fear and taboo of sex that is impressed upon young folks in this country is bad. It is a natural process. It is enjoyable, but yes be safe to ensure what you don't want to happen has a very small chance of ever happening.

Comment by Trish E. Harmon on October 25, 2011 at 11:59pm

All these idiots preaching "abstinence only" know damn well what they did as teens and apparently "found Jesus" sometime after that and now want to prevent other teens from going through the very natural process of sexuality. I can guarantee that MOST Christians in this country and around the world didn't wait for marriage to have sex, either. They are completely ignoring the natural process our bodies go through during puberty and want to make it a dirty, dangerous thing. I'm all for telling teens to wait, and why, but the truth is, most won't. For many reasons, teens have sex because they grow up faster than others, they may have an abusive home life and look toward sex as a way of getting close to someone...even if they know it's not going to amount to anything. Some are desperate to be loved and will become promiscuous, looking for what they perceive as love and intimacy. There are a host of things why teens have sex, but basically our bodies are set up toward sexual activity during our teen years. It's a fact that won't ever change. So now, Christians want to stop it altogether with, yet again, scare tactics. It seems to be their running motto. Scare the crap out of everyone so they'll believe in God, scare the crap out of them so they won't have sex. Yea, how's that workin'?

Teens need to be informed of the dangers of having sex, but also how to have it as safely as possible. They need to be validated, that the urges and feelings they are having are NATURAL. It's time to take the stigma of it being evil, bad, or dirty out of sex education and instead letting them know how to deal with it responsibly.

I couldn't help but laugh when it turned out that Sarah Palin's daughter had a baby as a teen and out of wedlock. Kind of threw a curve in her "abstinance only" rhetoric. We have to let Christians/politicians know that we have to stop vilifying sex and start being real about it. We all know teens hate being TOLD what to do or not to do and will often do just the opposite. Can we all just move into the 21st century already and use some damn common sense?

Comment by FSM on October 26, 2011 at 1:46am

And here is a link to info about a study showing a higher pregnancy rate for kids from abstinence-only sex ed compared to comprehensive sex ed:



If all this birth control stuff doesn't work anyway, then there's no point in using it, right? :-P

Comment by Dylan Sloboda on October 26, 2011 at 2:09am

I really don't get how they distort the failure rates of contraceptives. Trojan brags about their consistent failure rates of less than 1 in 6000 in each batch that makes it to market. I've read from the early studies on birth control pills that there has never been a lab-observed failure of birth control under normal conditions. As part of how birth control pills work, if you are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term, then it will be effective as long as their are no mitigating circumstances (conditions that impair effectiveness such as certain drugs). This is because birth control pills use the same or similar hormones as the body uses to interrupt a woman's cycle during pregnancy.


And it's not like any of this information is hidden. It all had to be proven to be effective and reliable to the FDA before it could even go to market and the studies used are a matter of public record.

Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on October 28, 2011 at 4:10pm

Hah! Less than 1 in 1000?! LOL! In my stupidity of a class they said it was "1 in 4"!


Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on October 28, 2011 at 4:36pm

The other problem Dylan is that (as I mentioned) in my state... and a lot of others abstinence only sex ed is covered at age 13 or 14. Tell me... how many kids that age have parents comfortable with talking about how to use condoms? How many 14 year olds have known what condoms are and the various brands that sell them for over a year... if they know at all? My teacher was forbidden from showing us condoms or explaining what they were. My primary source of info on that stuff were those among my friends who were already sexually active (yes some teens are sexually active in 9th grade! - It's time to stop pretending that children never grow up.) and how accurate are your friends? lol. Yes... even if my teacher HAD been allowed to pass around condoms without explaining anything about them... I (and several others) would probably look at the little plastic wrapper dumbfounded and feeling foolish and stupid. I was fourteen and still in puberty. I didn't know what "gay" meant yet and had very little knowledge (all of which I had logically "put two and two together" on my own) of what the basic mechanics of sex were. Most of the information I have today I have gathered on my own over time. If you had said to me then "would you choose the patch?" I would have heard confusing nonsense. "What patch? What does it do? Where do you put it?"

So... how would I have looked at those condoms back then. Confused. I may have "technically" had access to the REAL information... but no one told me where I could go to get it. 

That's the problem! Teens end up having sex anyway and they don't know how to protect themselves! There were always at least four pregnant teenagers at my school at all times. 


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