Editorial: GOP supports abstinence only

Rocio M 2

Illustration by Rocio Macias

Sexual education is far behind what it should be today.

Many children have unprotected sex with little knowledge of what sexually transmitted infections and diseases are, let alone that they may be subject to contracting one.

Teaching abstinence is the practice in which people are simply told to not have sex. This strategy is a widely known failure, yet the Trump administration has made a priority of abstinence-only education, a practice that’s ineffective and spreads misinformation.

The administration’s approach defies all forms of common sense. There is no evidence that abstinence-only education prevents or delays young people from becoming sexually active.

  Abstinence-only education does not lead students to have fewer sexual partners or reduce rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Given that most Americans engage in premarital sex, this vision of an abstinent outside of marriage world is simply at odds with reality.

Chitra Panjabi, president and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, said in a press release that it was “unacceptable” that Congress would go along with this and elect “to waste millions on this failed approach to sex ed that is not only ineffective, but also actively harms young people.”

Students are not given much information on how the opposite sex operates, let alone their own biology. The focus is almost solely on trying to frighten teenagers and young adults out of sex by listing sexually transmitted diseases and their various side effects.

The U.S. government has funded abstinence programs in schools and community organizations since the early 1980s. An increased awareness  and promotion of them began as part of welfare reform efforts undertaken during the Clinton administration. According to Guttmacher, the federal government has spent about $2 billion over the past 20 years on abstinence-based education.

“Trump, an alleged serial adulterer who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and has been accused of such behavior close to two dozen times, has asked that abstinence funding be increased to bring total spending on abstinence up to $100 million for 2018,” The Intercept said.

Another problem with the current approach toward sex education, is that LGBT students are even less informed than their heterosexual peers on how to stay safe while having sex.

Sexually transmitted infections and diseases do not discriminate based on gender nor sexual orientation.

Sexual education lessons often discuss pleasures that men have with sex. While female sexuality is largely ignored. The female body is often explained as a vessel that can become impregnated rather than a person that finds pleasure in sexual activities and that needs to change.

In some states, students are made to sign an “abstinence pledge” to wait until marriage after completing their course. These abstinence pledges do more harm than good for students because they are not given adequate information about safe sex.

According to a Guttmacher Institute study, students are one-third less likely to use contraception during sex and are also less likely to use condoms.

High schools nearby in Riverside Unified School District do not even have a health or sexual education course. Both have been compressed to a two week seminar that takes place during physical education courses.

Public health experts strongly recommend a comprehensive approach to sex education, one that informs young people about abstinence as well as about various forms of contraception and other aspects of sexual health.

Another symptom of poor sexual education is that most people begin having sex without considering that sexual activities are often deeply emotional. Teenagers and young adults feed into their physical wants and needs and attempt to ignore the emotional competence that is necessary for a healthy body and mind.

More often than not, parents rely on their children’s schools to engage in this overall uncomfortable and deeply important topic. With the Trump administration’s commitment to not teaching proper sexual education, it becomes the duty of parents and community members to provide our youth with information that they need to become informed members of society.