So what did you all think?
1. Do you think Abstinence Only Education in schools helps to reduce Teen Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Teen Pregnancies?
Okay, 100% of you said NO. That's pretty resounding.
2. Do you think Sex Education (where they actually discuss Safer Sex) in Schools helps to reduce Teen STDs and Teen Pregnancies?
94% of you think that Safer Sex education actually helps. That's pretty strong agreement as well.
3. Do you think Education about Safer Sex leads to Teens having MORE sex than they would otherwise?
Now I admit I found this result surprising. Some of the major reasons given by abstinence-only advocates (remember Sarah Palin?) are that if you talk to Teens about the safe ways to have sex, you're ENCOURAGING them to have sex. Lots of sex. So for 97% of you to say "NO" to this - that was amazing.
Here's what some of you commented in the survey:
1. teens are going to have sex no matter what you say
2. If it looks like a secret, and acts like a secret, and you can't tell anybody ... then they're going to do it!
3. More knowledge is better even if it does lead to more sex, though I rather doubt that it would. I would rather know kids are having more safe sex than that they are not getting the information they need to have safe sex. I was sexually active when I was 14. We had sex ed that was fairly explicit about pregnancy, but there was nothing about safe sex way back then.
4. Well I don't have conclusive data on the matter but my gut feeling and basic conviction is no. It's the same argument physicians face when not mentioning the word suicide to a depressed patient in fear of awakening suicidal ideation. The latter has been proven to be utterly wrong. In fact, even if teens were to have more sex they would be more healthier in their sexual pratices as studies have shown.
5. Sex education should be a topic for all the disciplines - not only on science class.
6. I think that it is a ridiculous concept that the conservatives hold. Ignorance does not protect you from anything. Teach the children when they are still your captive audience, or you will only seem them put themselves at risk later in life due to their own lack of knowledge.
7. It's not cause-and-effect from abstienence-only, though--abstinence-only is more often found in places where girls feel like they have to validate themselves through sex. That having been said, condom-on-a-banana was a defining experience of my freshman year of high school and I wouldn't want it denied to anyone.
8. I remember being freaked out by all the weird ooky things that could go wrong, so much so that it kind of scared me away from further activity. Unfortunately, the classes came too late - I went to a Catholic school my first two years and I was already "actively engaged" before I switched to a public school. Better late than never, though, because it certainly slowed me down, made me think about the consequences, and showed me how to be safer.
9. Regardless of what is actually happening, there's always the sense that "everyone else is doing it." An important component of sex education needs to be "how to say no, why to say no, when to say no, and what to do when the other person says no."
10. Most teens are physically adults, if still socially on the cusp between childhood and adulthood. You cannot teach them to be asexual. Biology will win over social or religious mores every time. The best you can hope for (if you view teen sex as a Bad Thing) is damage control-- teaching teens how to approach sex in a healthy way.
4. What WOULD reduce Teen STDs and Teen pregnancies? (Check all the ideas you think would help)
One of the really cool things from looking at this data is that if you look at the responses to "Abstinence Only" education, there's a real difference in it's perceived impact, depending on who it comes from:
PARENTS were the most influential. Then
SCHOOLS, and lastly,
That's a pretty fascinating window on who has the most influence on Teens and their behavior. And you can see that pattern held true in the numbers on teaching about Safer Sex as well!
There were also some great comments to this question, like:
1. I think sex education programs should make it clear that abstinence is the only 100% surefire way to prevent pregnancy and STDs, but that if you do want to have sex there are ways you should and shouldn't go about it.
2. non-profits yes, religious zealots, no.
3. Anything can help and the more the better. Talking, education and allowing kids to discuss what's going on with them openly will help. If all of this was in place, then there might be a place where each child feels comfortable in talking to someone.
4. All apply but I'd rank teen-led safer sexual education as the most effective and religious organizations offering abstinence as the least. I have worked as a peer educator.
5. Religion is bullshit. Not everyone listens to their parents, or has good rapport with them about sexuality. That leaves the public schools.
6. I don't think abstinence programming is the problem - only when it's presented as the only option. They're fighting against a powerful biologogical drive, more powerful than any religious or moral teaching, and it's naive to think teenagers won't have sex. Those that choose need to know how to handle it. Balanced education that provides options seems the best choice.
7. I think abstinence education-- from all the sources listed above-- could be helpful, but only *in addition* to safer sex education. Abstinence is the right option for some teens and their families, and teens should feel comfortable choosing it, but abstinence should never be taught as the *only* option
5. Would offering Teens free condoms (in schools or elsewhere) help reduce Teen STDs and Teen Pregnancies?
The comments on this question were really great:
1. I think teenagers can get nervous or embarrassed to buy condoms in stores, so giving them out (maybe having them available in the health room at schools or something) would be useful and encourage people to use them (as opposed to having sex without).
2. But only with education on how to use them.
3. Studies of UNFPA.
4. Yes, but only if there is a solid sex education program besides the distribution of condoms.
5. When my boyfriend and I didn't have condoms handy we resorted to kicthen products: saran wrap, baggies, and even (just once) tinfoil. Ouch. Refraining from having sex did not even enter our brains. Access to condoms is vital - there are too many barriers to buying them. They're under lock and key at the grocery store and the pharmacy - even my 40-year-old husband doesn't want to go ask somebody for help to buy condoms.
6. Would offering Teens free condoms (in schools or elsewhere) encourage Teens to be more sexually active?
Some of your comments:
1. This would probably be a maybe for me. If they won't do it without a condom - and hopefully the education they get would lead them in that direction, then having condoms freely available might lead to more activity. But I think they'll just decide to do it anyway with or without the condom, so having them available should lead to less pregnancies and STDs. Kids think they are indestructible and nothing bad will happen to them.
2. i've worked with a lot of teenage girls over the years and being an older gal, i've had to educate these girls on safe sex practices. with all of the pregnancy scare i've seen with them, i finally gave them the do's and don'ts due to the fact that they were unaware of safe sex practices. the school system in Maui, Hi promotes abstinence and as i've witnessed, there are too many unwed teenage mothers here. women are being robbed of their teen years due to misinformation or no information. they are already having sex, one might as well inform them of their options.
3. some yes BUT it will be safer and protected
4. Nothing is going to stop them. Not a damn thing. Having a condom around doesn't give them the idea to have sex - it's always there. Having a condom around when the idea pops in prevents negative consequences.
6. Teens who really want to have sex will do it whether they have condoms or not. (And those who really want to have safer sex will obtain condoms whether they are free or not.) Making condoms easily available will only encourage safer sex, not more sex.
Thank you all for responding to the survey, for commenting so honestly and with such generosity of spirit.
I'm not sure I'll never get the image of tinfoil out of my mind... but I'm grateful for it because it's a powerful reminder of how strong the body's desires are, and the lengths Teens go...
It's interesting to note: A broad consensus around the teaching of sex education has existed for decades, with 85 percent of Americans favoring sex-ed in schools as early as 1985 (source). The numbers appear to have increased since, as a 2004 poll conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Kennedy School of Government showed that 90 percent of Americans believe that sex education is a “very important” or “somewhat important” part of the school curriculum, whereas only 7 percent believe that sex education should not be taught at all. In the same survey, just 15 percent of Americans supported abstinence-only programs (source).
If you missed taking this "Does Sex Education Make A Difference?" survey, You can still fill it out here">, and/or you can share your reaction and thoughts in comments!