Sex education in most places is pretty lousy and could stand to be massively improved, not least since certain places seem to leave this rather important matter to a combination of churches and porn. Which, it has to be said, are not selling the same message.
Nowhere is this more true that the United States, where the predominant form of sex ed is in the form of abstinence-only education, teaching kids that sex should only happen between married people. Married to one another, we assume, although the president might have different views on that.
Anyway: for a long time sex educators have been arguing that telling young people not to have sex isn’t nearly as useful as telling them about how to have safe, respectful, consensual sex with adequate precautions. However, that all sounds like a lot of work.
And now a twenty year meta-analysis (ie: a study that bundles up all the existing research and sees what the overall result is) has found that telling people not to have sex is a remarkably successful – provided that what you want to achieve is to have kids getting pregnant, contracting sexually transmitted diseases, and having anal sex in the belief that it doesn’t count as sex.
The report is in the American Journal of Public Health, entitled Funding for Abstinence-Only Education and Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention: Does State Ideology Affect Outcomes?. And not to give the ending away, but: yes, it does.
The findings are predictable: abstinence-only education has been found to have zero effect in reducing pregnancies or reducing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, since it turns out that kids that don’t know how to do sex safely end up doing it unsafely.
Along with this, making “virginity pledges” to keep one’s genitals unsullied are also popular in the conservative regions where abstinence only education is the norm.
And the upshot is that straight horned-up teens engage in higher levels of non-penis-in-vagina action, with higher rates of oral and anal sex since that’s not specifically outlawed. Garfunkel and Oates did an especially brilliant (and very filthy) song in its honour. Absolutely in no way safe for work, by the way:
And that song’s ready for a renaissance since, as ScienceAlert pointed out, “Not only has the Trump administration proposed an additional $277 million in abstinence-only education, they recently cut more than $200 million to adolescent pregnancy-prevention programs.”
So that’s nifty.
And sure, if science and research and evidence hasn’t done the job of changing policy yet this study isn’t about to suddenly do so. But for those of us a bit more into doing smart things that help people, it’s good to know.