Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginity propaganda does not work.

Abstinence programs in the government controlled schools are a feeble attempt, in fact a totally ineffectual attempt, to persuade teens to act completely different than their parents or grandparents acted when they were the same age. The idea of remaining a virgin until marriage is a religious ideal and thus not one that is common in reality.

A study of past sexual behavior of American adults shows that virtually all Americans have sex before they marry. Most, when young, lie to their parents about it. Apparently most, when adults, lie to their children about it. A government program, meant to lie to teens about this, is sold to the public as “telling the truth” to teens about sex. The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars to lie to teens about sex. Most parents are able to do it themselves at no cost.

A report by Dr. Lawrence Finer, Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954-2003, concludes: “Almost all Americans have sex before marrying.”

The Religious Right, which is notorious about lying about sexuality (I won’t mention Ted Haggard if you don’t) and one lie they spread is that premarital sex is something brought about by the “sexual revolution” of the 60s and that prior to this time Americans were chaste individuals. This goes along with their pretense that homosexuality barely existed as well.

What has happened in America is that premarital sexuality takes place at about the same rates as before but that teens become sexually active earlier. In additions a larger percentage of individuals don’t marry and marriage takes place about 3 to 4 years later in life. Under the Bush Administration’s fetish for abstinence this would mean that a quarter of all Americans are never supposed to have sex and the average America is supposed to go 13 years without sex --- from the time of puberty to marriage. So 13 years, no sex, sure that’s realistic.

Believing in unrealistic scenarios is par for the Bush administration hence their eagerness to flush hundreds of millions of dollars down the toilet to lie to teens about sex. Bush wants the feds to waste $207 million on such “abstinence programs” this year alone. Some $900 million has already been consumed.

Over 100 such federal indoctrination programs exist. The federal government usurps parental authority in order to promote a fundamentalist view of sexuality. Oddly, for decades, the Religious Right has been claiming that the government is not the proper instrument to teach kids about sex. Now that they are being paid millions of dollars to do the teaching for the government they suddenly don’t mind. It’s like the story of the woman who admitted she would sleep with a man for $1 million but is insulted when he offers her $100 and says: “What do you think I am?” His response: “We’ve already determined that now we are just negotiating the price.” The Religious Right, when millions in federal funds were waved before their noses, allowed their whoring tendencies to dominate and grabbed the money.

Under Bush regulations the sex “educators” are forbidden to tell teens about contraception. Many routinely lie about the consequences of sex or what is actually happening in the United States. The goal is to scare the kids into abstaining. The problem is that the kids are smarter than the “educators” acknowledge and know when some pious preacher is blowing smoke. They don’t believe it. But then their parents didn’t much believe it and neither did their grandparents. The net result is that even graduates of abstinence programs don’t abstain. T

In 1997 the Congress authorized a study that followed 2000 children “from elementary or middle school into high school” with about half the children going through “abstinence-only” indoctrination programs. The other half received the normal information given out to teens.

The Washington Post reports that when the study was concluded the average child in the study was not yet 17 years old and half of them had been sexually active with the average age for their first sexual encounter being 15 years old. Under US law that means most these teens broke they law and can be accused of sexual molestation and required to become registered sex offenders.

Fewer than a quarter of sexually active teens use condoms most of the time, a third have had two or more sexual partners. And the rates are no different for the “abstinence-only” students. The program did nothing. (This ought to be applauded as some government programs to discourage the use of illegal drugs seem to have the opposite effect.)

Sarah Brown, of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy said: “There’s not a lot of good news here for people who pin their hopes on abstinence-only education. This is the first study with a solid experimental design, the first with adequate numbers and long-term follow-up, the first to measure behavior and not just intent. On every measure, the effectiveness of the programs was flat.”

So the program doesn’t work. And the Bush Administration response? The same to every other fact of reality that interferes with their fantasies --- they ignore it. A Bush representative dismissed the study saying it wasn’t “rigorous enough” and then noted that the $900 million spent so far “is not that much money”.

To raise the $900 million squandered on these programs it would required all 900,000 residents of Tucson, Arizona to give the feds $1000. So a family of four would need to hand over $4000. All for a program which simply doesn’t work.

Something like 2% of condoms fail to work, a failure rate that the fundamentalists point to with horror, arguing it proves you can’t trust condoms and that birth control information is futile. Yet the failure rate for abstinence-only programs is 88%, that is 88% fail to abstain. That makes a 2% failure rate look fantastic in comparison.

But teen pregnancy rates are declining in the US. Why? It isn’t due to huge numbers of teens remaining virgins, that’s for sure. Instead the main reason for the decline is that more teens are using condoms -- the very contraceptive which the Bush Administration rules forbid discussing. Between 1995 and 2002 the US teen pregnancy rate has declined by 24% and 86% of the decline is attributed to contraception usage.

One thing is clear, when it comes to Bush and his administration, no matter the policy or issue under discussion, belief always trumps reality. The doctrine is clung to, no matter how much evidence accumulates to the contrary. A stubborn refusal to accept rational proof is the hallmark of the fundamentalist.

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