with your kids about Abstinence
It should come as no surprise that there is little consensus among cultures about young people and sex. Take, for instance, a recent study that compared American teens with their Dutch counterparts: In the Netherlands, where parents routinely allow their children to become sexually active when they feel ready and host their children's partners for sleepovers, the rate of teen pregnancy is an eighth of that in the US. "That's all well and good," a more conservative American parent might retort, "but abstinence is still the only foolproof method of birth control, and I'd prefer if my child waited until marriage to have sex."
What is Abstinence-only
Abstinence-only is a form of sex education that focuses on teaching individuals that abstinence remains the only safe way to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy. This type of program provides little, if any, discussion on safe sex, birth control or contraception.
It has as its exclusive purpose teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity
Abstinence works, but only if you never have sexual intercourse, or anal or oral sex. There are STI's that you can contract, like herpes, however, without having sex.
What Are the Disadvantages of Abstinence?
There are few disadvantages to abstinence. People may find it difficult to abstain for long periods of time and may end their period of abstinence without being prepared to protect themselves against pregnancy or infection.
No abstinence-only program has yet been proven through rigorous evaluation to help youth delay sex for a significant period of time, help youth decrease their number of sex partners, or reduce STI or pregnancy rates among teens.
Among youth participating in virginity pledge programs, researchers found that 88% broke the pledge and had sex before marriage. Among these participants, many had more partners in a shorter period of time and were even less likely to use contraception, than those who did not take the pledge.
What are the advantages of comprehensive sex education?
There is an immense body of research to show that comprehensive sexuality education is effective in training youth safe sex techniques and contraception use.
Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant.
For many people it's hard to be clear about what they want if they get aroused. It is helpful to think ahead of time about how you can say "no" to sex play. What behavior will be clear? What words will be best?
As parents, it's important to take
responsibility to teach your teen children that physically,
they are adults and need to understand that their bodies are
capable of creating children. Be a responsible parent.
When it comes talking about sex, contraception and teenage dating, it seems that parents tend to get trapped making some predictable mistakes. One of these errors has to do with only discussing abstinence. When asked about this issue, teens have overwhelmingly responded that they need to hear more from their parents than just "don't have sex." In fact, this is one area where teens feel that their parents must give them the benefit of the doubt.
Parents should not allow themselves to fall into the pitfall of believing that their teen will receive mixed messages or become confused if both contraception and abstinence are discussed at the same time. Show your teen that you respect his/her intelligence enough to engage in these responsible discussions. As per the requests expressed by many teens:
Parents You Must Do More than Just Lecture about Abstinence
I realize this can be a slippery slope. It is important that you (as a parent) unmistakably clarify, for your teen, your hopes and values with respect to their behavior. It is perfectly OK for you to share your opinion, morals and expectations about sex with your teen. It may be helpful, though, for you to first be clear about your own sexual attitudes and values before having this conversation. When having this discussion, make sure you are explaining why you feel the way you do (this is not the time for because I said so), actively seek your teens input and listen to what they have to say.
I wish, though, it could be just that easy. Unfortunately, in todays world, parents need to do much more than tell your teen not to have sex. This is also the time that you must talk about sex and contraception:
It may also be helpful to discuss how you felt when you were a teenager... keeping in mind the change of the times. Do your best to make this a conversation rather than a lecture.
In addition to talking about safety and pregnancy, talk about the emotions that can come along with a sexual relationship
It may be helpful to know that 53% of teens say that their parents or their own religious beliefs, morals and values influence their sexual decisions the most. Teens whose parents provide clear messages about the value of abstinence are more likely to delay their first sexual experience, and parents who discuss contraception are more likely to have teens who use birth control when they finally choose to engage in sexual activity.
Researchers Michelle M. Isley et al. discovered that abstinence-only education is simply not enough. Their study revealed that teens who believed that they received sex education that ONLY contained information about birth control methods were much more likely to use a reliable contraceptive method the first time they engaged in sex. It seems that teens who experienced sex education discussions that mainly included strong lectures on abstinence were less likely to use a reliable contraceptive during their first sexual act. This data suggests that abstinence-only messaging tends to cancel out, or dilutes, the potential beneficial effects conveyed by information about birth control methods. It seems then, that stressing more to your teen not to have sex, especially when no information about contraception is presented, can lead to undependable birth control use.
This study also showed that when parents discuss sex topics in detail (and not just abstinence), there is a higher likelihood that their teens will use a more dependable birth control method. These comprehensive sex conversations between parents and teens (that go beyond parents telling teens not to have sex) help to promote healthier teen sexual behaviors. Parents should discuss hormonal birth control methods because teens who use these methods tend to do so more consistently. This conversation should not be reserved for just female teens.
Many male teens have shown very limited knowledge about hormonal contraceptives (believing many myths about the pill, for example) or may not even know what hormonal options are available. When parents provide their teen sons with this information, it will help them to feel more secure in their knowledge this, in turn, will help serve as an essential step in helping these young men facilitate responsible discussions about contraceptives with their girlfriends.
Finally, it appears that teens who have participated in discussions with family members about condoms are more likely to use condoms themselves. So, my final tip... when parents talk about how to use condoms or buy condoms (rather than focus on abstinence), teen condom use increases.
And to back me up on all this, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Adolescents, actively supports and encourages doctors to counsel teens about the correct and consistent use of reliable contraception and condoms among those who are sexually active or considering sexual activity. Given that research clearly supports that parents can positively influence whether their female teens engage in safer sexual practices when they have sexual intercourse, parents and teens should both be encouraged to talk about the discussions that the teen had with her doctor during her appointment.
The bottom line here, parents: It's time to go beyond abstinence lectures:
Pregnancies Highest In States With Abstinence-Only
This is the lowest national rate for teen births since the Centers for Disease Control began tracking it in 1940, and CDC officials attributed the decline to pregnancy prevention efforts. Other reports show that teenagers are having less sex and using contraception more often. Studies have backed this up. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. And in 2007, a federal report showed that abstinence-only programs had no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.
But 37 states require sex education that includes abstinence, 26 of which require that abstinence be stressed as the best method. Additionally, research shows that abstinence-only strategies could deter contraceptive use among teenagers, thus increasing their risk of unintended pregnancy.
For example, take the states with the
highest and lowest teen pregnancy rates. Mississippi does
not require sex education in schools, but when it is taught,
abstinence-only education is the state standard. New Mexico,
which has the second highest teen birth rate, does not
require sex ed and has no requirements on what should be
included when it is taught. New Hampshire, on the other
hand, requires comprehensive sex education in schools that
includes abstinence and information about condoms and
at a Glance
What Is Abstinence?
You may have heard people talk about abstinence in different ways. Some people think of abstinence as not having vaginal intercourse. They may enjoy other kinds of sexual activities that don't lead to pregnancy. This is better described as outercourse.
Some people define abstinence as not having vaginal intercourse when a woman might get pregnant. This is better described as periodic abstinence, which is one of the fertility awareness-based methods of birth control.
And some people define abstinence as not having any kind of sex play with a partner. This is the definition we use on these pages.
Being continuously abstinent is the only way to be absolutely sure that you won't have an unintended pregnancy or get an STD.
How Effective Is Abstinence? Used continuously, abstinence is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and most STDs.
What Are the Disadvantages of Abstinence? There are few disadvantages to abstinence. People may find it difficult to abstain for long periods of time and may end their period of abstinence without being prepared to protect themselves against pregnancy or infection.
Talking with your
partner about your decision to abstain from sex play is
important whether or not you've had sex play before.
Partners need to be honest with each other and make sexual
decisions together. These are some of the best ways to keep
a relationship happy. Even so, it may not be easy to do. You
may feel awkward or embarrassed. It's best to talk about
your feelings before things get sexual. For many people it's
hard to be clear about what they want if they get aroused.
It is helpful to think ahead of time about how
you can say "no" to sex play. What behavior will be clear?
What words will be best? You can practice saying the words
out loud. Then think about how someone might respond to you.
Take the time to consider fully what being abstinent will
mean for you. It is important to know what you are thinking
and feeling and what you need. Then you can tell your
partner about it. Be straightforward about the limits you
want to set. Keep in mind that having sex is not the only
way two people can get to know each other. Sex play is also
not the only way couples can be close. People get closer as
they build trust by talking listening sharing being honest
respecting each other's thoughts and feelings enjoying one
another's company Abstinence can only work when both
partners agree to it. So it is also helpful to keep talking
with each other about why you've agreed to abstain from sex
play. Your relationship may change. And your decision to be
abstinent may change, too.
radio with Gordon Clay
The US remains a sex-negative culture and healthy sex education by parents is seldom taught. As a culture, we try to keep our "girls" "little girls" as long as possible, and long after their bodies have become that of a woman.
And yet, in many cultures around the world, Africa and India and especially Roman Catholic countries - Equador and Peru, young girls are acknowledged as full women upon their first menses and start developing the skills to start creating and raising a family. In these countries it is not unusual for a marriage between a 13 year old woman and a 21 year-old man. The point is, once she goes through mensus, she is a woman.
As parents, it's time
to take responsibility to teach your teen children that
physically, they are adults and need to understand that
their bodies are capable of creating children. Think about
Sure, the question might seem simple at first glance...
Nope. Not so fast.
When we dig into what "virginity" really means, it gets a little more complicated.
Just like this photo that went viral. Check it out: Just a young woman in a wedding dress beaming as she stands next to her father on her big day.
Nope. Not so fast. Take a closer look...
They're both holding a "Certificate of Purity" from her doctor.
Now, I'm not here to knock the fact that Brelyn Bowman had a goal that was important to her that she achieved. But there is something messed up about the, um, measurement of that goal.
Here's the thing: It's impossible to "prove" someone is a virgin using a hymen test.
The basis for Bowman's test was whether her hymen a membrane in the vaginal canal was still intact. While the test worked for her, it has long been debunked as a useful tool to determine whether someone has engaged in sex.
There are two big issues here: First, not all hymens are created equal. Some people are born with hymens that are not intact. And, second, even if someone is born with it intact, the hymen can tear due to a variety of nonsexual activities, like horseback riding or gymnastics.
Quick! Someone tell her to get off that horse or it'll render all obsolete virginity tests useless!
OK, so if the hymen test doesn't work. What does?
Wait! Back that horse up because we're putting it before the cart.
There's no set definition for virginity. People commonly say that a virgin is someone who has never had sex. But what counts as sex?
Does oral sex count? Anal intercourse? Conventionally, people have tended to believe that only penis-in-vagina intercourse counts. But then ... are gay people always virgins? What about people who engage in other sexual contact?
I wouldn't blame you if you're scratching your head right now because it all seems pretty complicated and confusing.
It's hard to parse it all because virginity isn't a biological state. It's a social construct.
Think about it: The valuation of virginity is only targeted toward women.
There's no test for people without vaginas.
That's because virginity and sexual purity emerged way back in ye olden times as a way to control women's behavior. And we see that in all the sexual double standards we have between men and women.
In spite of the fact that virginity can't be proven, it's still used as a way to measure a woman's so-called "purity."
Look at the phenomenon of purity balls: A girl's "sanctity" is promised to a male protector (father) until it's (presumably) handed off to a male spouse. (The possibility that the young woman won't be with a man or ever get married? IMPOSSIBLE.)
There's nothing wrong with choosing to wait to have sex. But let's make sure we provide young people with fact-based information to help them make that decision.
Providing comprehensive sex education, which would explain that a hymen test isn't an accurate test of virginity, could be a great start. Comparing people who have multiple sexual partners to chewed gum doesn't provide the proper foundation to make a fully informed decision.
A Harvard study revealed that abstinence-only education does not make a student less likely to engage in premarital sex. They're just as likely to have it, but less likely to use contraception the first time. You know what actually helps students delay sex (and use contraception to boot)? Comprehensive sex ed education.
Behold, the power of accurate knowledge!
The whole notion that a woman's "purity" and thus her value is tied to whether she has had sex or not is just plain wrong.
As Jessica Valenti, author of "The Purity Myth," says:
The purity myth is the lie that women's sexuality has some bearing on who we are and how good we are. Because, really, I think that we all know that young women are so much more than whether or not they have sex.
I'm not judging Bowman for her decision.
Instead, I'm aiming my judgment at a
society that perpetuates misinformation about sex and our