Thursday, April 24, 2008

An Unlikely Case for Purity Education [Serge]

Just to make sure the earth is still spinning correctly on its axis, I had to check back with the RH reality blog. It seems things are back to normal, for posts like this one is what I am used to.

There are few things more tragic than a young person who has to deal with an HIV infection. Blogger Max Siegal has chosen to use his story to show how horrible "abstinence-only" sex education is. In fact, he states that the "abstinence"sex ed transformed his life. He has chosen to share this story with Congress in order to change the public policy. Let's take a close look at his story. I believe, if anything, his story is strong evidence that we need more education regarding sexual purity, not less.

I experienced abstinence-only education taught by my junior high school gym teacher. He told me and my male classmates that sex is dangerous and that we should think more seriously about it when we "grow up and marry." He made clear that only heterosexuality ending in marriage should be discussed. Already aware of my sexual orientation, his speech might as well not have happened.
I would agree that this message is not adequate. Regardless it seems the general message is that teen sexuality contains some very negative consequences and should be taken extremely seriously, and is best expressed in a life-committed relationship. I am completely unsure why his sexual orientation made the teacher's speech one to be ignored.

Max doesn't speak at all about any sex ed he had after this Junior High class.

When I was 17, I began seeing someone six years older than me. The first time we had sex, I took out a condom but he ignored it. I did not know how to assert myself further. I knew enough to suggest a condom, but I didn't adequately understand the importance of using one, and even if had I understood that, I had no idea how to discuss condoms with my partner.
Let me get this correct. When you thought you may have sex with your partner, you prepared yourself with a condom. When things were beginning to heat up, you decided to take it out in an attempt to use it. Your partner - six years older - ignored you, and you choose to have sex with him anyway. You then claim that you did not understand the importance of using one, and had no idea how to discuss condoms with your partner.

Umm, if you did not understand the importance of using a condom, why on earth did you carry one and try to use it? Since pregnancy is not an issue, I assume that you were trying to prevent STD transmission. As for discussing condoms with your partner, taking it out and showing it to them seems to be a pretty effective way to have a conversation about the process. Do you believe a more involved junior high sex ed class would have made that much of a difference.

It seems that the problem here is that you found yourself in a position in which your 17 year old hormones and emotions overcame your rational thoughts about the dangers of unprotected sex. This is precisely the reason why it would probably be wiser to not get yourself in that position, which, of course, is the message of abstinence education.

The abstinence-only message did not prepare me for life, and I contracted HIV from the first person with whom I consented to have unprotected sex.

I was still in high school.
Actually, the abstinence-only message would have protected you and prepared you for the rest of your life if you followed it. The "comprehensive sex-ed" which teaches that you must arm yourself with condoms (which you did!) in order to prevent negative consequences failed miserably in your case.

I'm not necessarily for all "abstinence-only" education programs. I'm sure there are excellent ones and also many which could use significant improvement. However, it seems that a clear message that early sexual activity involves consequences that may not be able to be covered with thin layers of latex and artificial hormones is one that is helpful for our children. This story, although tragic, is pretty strong evidence of that fact.

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