Wave Abstinence Education Goodbye

Without so much as a feminist fiesta or tribute to Michael Jackson’s sexually liberating Dirty Diana lyrics, abstinence education is dead.

The Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved $730.5 billion to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education last week. While the Subcommittee funds programs to “help at-risk women and teens bear healthy children,” it conspicuously disavows the very means to ensure that teens will not become pregnant in the first place.

Removal of abstinence-only education funding was not entirely unexpected after Congress let the only other source of abstinence funding expire in June. Contentious debates regarding the effectiveness of federally-funded abstinence programs suggest that the appropriations bill would be either more widely condemned or more excitedly praised, but no one is waving abstinence education good-bye.

Growing unwed birthrates and a current spending ratio of 12:1 favoring sex education programs prompt reform, not an “eh, shrug” mentality that results in throwing out abstinence education for good. Boys will be boys – and girls will be girls – is the doctrine of our new budget.

Sex education is normalized as society accepts that modern culture will inevitably sexualize US teenagers. Instead of providing a wise, convincing, and effective approach to healthy relationships, sex-ed programs assume that “kids will do it anyway,” and decide that if it is going to happen, it might as well happen “safely.”

But if we accept that culture will sexualize our youth, we give up hope for a strong civil society where teenagers graduate from high school with their emotional and physical health intact and their chances at an enviable future more promising than ever.

The underlying difficulty with an “eh, shrug” mentality is that boys are not naturally sex-addicted and girls are not naturally prone to handing over their virginity to any pubescent classmate.

America can do without the “eh, shrug” mentality when it comes to protecting our children. Boys will be “boys” until they are called to be men. Girls will be “girls” until they are told they are worth waiting for. The HHS-Labor bill hits the House floor next week, so all together now: turn off Dirty Diana.

-Rachel Wagley

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One thought on “Wave Abstinence Education Goodbye

  1. Esther says:

    “Sex education is normalized as society accepts that modern culture will inevitably sexualize US teenagers.”

    More traditional cultures in modern day America sexualize US teenagers too. For example, if a teenage girl doesn’t look like she’s trying to attract boys then she risks being accused of being lesbian – and in some communities this is very risky indeed.

    “…sex-ed programs assume that ‘kids will do it anyway,’ and decide that if it is going to happen, it might as well happen ‘safely.’…”

    Assuming that “kids will do it anyway” doesn’t mean “kids will do it immediately anyway.” It includes everything from “some kids will do it immediately anyway” to “some kids will grow up and get married and do it then anyway.” That’s why teaching both abstinence and contraception is important: abstinence for the kids to remember and use now and contraception for them to remember after graduation if and when they’re traditionally married parents and can afford neither the extra energy for raising even more children nor the risk of divorce that can come with using abstinence during marriage.

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