Virginity Pledge Leads to Unsafe Sex
There used to be something called sex education in America, including straightforward information about the birds ‘n’ the bees, conception, contraception, and how to mend a broken heart. Sex Ed was the most popular elective course in my high school, taught by the hottest teacher. And it worked. Though there was a lot of sex going on at parties, dances, in the parking lot, in the bleachers at ball games and who knows where else, there were very few pregnancies; just one or two in a senior class of 600.
Now, that’s all changed. American sex education is now abstinence education. Federally funded “abstinence only until marriage” programs have been gaining strength since the 1990s and currently dominate the sex ed landscape. Contraception is rarely discussed, except to say (wrongly) that it’s not reliable. U.S. law now requires all federally funded sex education programs to inform teenagers that ”sexual activity outside the context of [monogamous and heterosexual] marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.” Where is the scientific evidence of this statement? Nowhere. But when did lack of evidence stop the Bushies from forcing their Make-War-Not-Love agenda down people’s throats (nonconsensual fellatio pun intended).
Moreover, as Sharon’s Smith’s incisive Counterpunch article “Abstinence Backfires” reveals, these fear-mongering, myth-infested, abstinence-only programs have contributed to “soaring rates of unplanned pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births and, yes, abortions among women who are young or poor.” As Smith points out, a recent Columbia University study found that 88 percent of adolescent girls who take the “virginity pledge” have premarital sex anyway. And one-third of these publicly declared Vestal Virgins are less likely to use contraception when they do have sex. Guess if you put a condom on, you can’t get away with saying “it just happened.”
Consensual sex isn’t automatically “bad” for teenagers or other living things. But it is rather complicated. Our society’s anti-sex hysteria just adds to the complications. This is why straightforward, science-based sex education like American schools were starting to offer in the 1970s-80s is so important.
Since its May (Happy Masturbation Month!), we should also remember what one of the great American sex educators of our times, former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders tried to tell us: One of the best ways to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases is through good old-fashioned jacking and jilling off. It’s safe, easy , educational (you learn a lot about your body through touching it), and relatively uncomplicated.
Masturbation may be a better preventative than we even know. For instance, if former President Bill Clinton had simply followed Dr. Elders’ advice instead of firing her, we might very well not be in the huge socio-sexo-political-economic mess we are in today.