Part 2: Misunderstanding Abstinence Education

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This is one of four blog posts in a series on abstinence vs. comprehensive sex education.

See the others here: Part 1Part 3Part 4.

 

In my post last week, I discussed two views on sex education: Comprehensive Sex Education vs. Abstinence Education. I also expressed my propensity toward the abstinence-based approach.

I would still encourage you to do the research for yourself on both methods, but I’m going to take this post to express 2 common misunderstandings I’ve encountered when it comes to abstinence-based sex education. The first is regarding the method of instruction employed in abstinence-based programs. The second is regarding the content (or lack-there-of).

 

1. Method.

It seems like often, abstinence educators are accused of seeing things from a completely black-and-white perspective, which is really outdated, woefully ignorant, naïve, and religiously charged. It’s also typically believed that guilt or made-up medical information is a regular tactic used to scare students into not having sex.

I freely admit that some AE advocates out there may do these ridiculous things. I’m sure there have been some who have compared sexually active students to chewed-up pieces of gum, or have said that every time you have sex you will get pregnant (no matter what contraceptives you use), or that pregnancy will ruin your life beyond the point of no return.

However, every court has its jester. There are always idiots on both sides of a debate; I’m sure CSE has had it’s own gaffs over the years. Moreover, this kind of “guilt and shame” method is certainly not the norm in AE, especially for nationally organized and certified abstinence educators who hold one another to a higher standard. Just look at the curricula that are out there. It’s a common mistake for people to throw out the whole idea of AE based on one poor representation.

 

2. Content.

It’s also common practice for those who oppose AE to call it “abstinence-only” education, as if all other helpful and relative information is intentionally withheld from, or not communicated to, students. The content is supposedly lacking, because it’s “Just don’t have sex,” and that’s it.

But this is simply inaccurate. Abstinence educators do attempt to actually teach students that abstaining from sex is the best sexual choice for them. However, educators give accurate and current information about contraceptives, STDs, and statistics related to teen pregnancy, in order to accomplish that goal—better and more constructively than CSE, in my opinion. Again, simply look at the curricula that are out there, or ask your local abstinence educator what they teach.

The difference comes in the way the content is presented to students, as well as the goal of communicating that content. These seem to be two fundamental, foundational differences between AE and CSE, which I would like to tackle in next week’s post.

I thought this would only be a 2-part blog, but it’s turning out to necessitate further exploration as a series! As I discuss these two fundamental differences further in next week’s post, I will also share why I think Abstinence Education is more constructive, helpful, and ultimately more pedagogical than Comprehensive Sex Education.

 

Carter Mundy is the Outreach Director at Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center. He enjoys spending time with his wife, new daughter, and the family dog. He also loves his church family, Mercy Hill Church, and serves as a community group leader.

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