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America’s Attitude Toward Sex and Teens Is Insane – Amanda Marcotte

Throughout the Bush years, funding for programs that refused to teach contraception in lieu of telling kids to wait until marriage–known as abstinence-only programs–ballooned [3], putting a lot of schools in a situation where the only real access to sex education funding they had was federal abstinence-only money. The programs were wildly unsuccessful [4] at their supposed goals of reducing STI and teen pregnancy rates, and President Obama vowed [5] to end federal abstinence-only funding. In 2010, he did [6], and the issue slipped out of the public discourse, so you’d be forgiven if you thought abstinence-only programs had disappeared forever.

But as we learned recently in one of the most headline-grabbing ways possible, abstinence-only still rules the sex education–if you can call it education–offered by all sorts of rural and red-state schools across the country. A high school [7] in Crane, Texas was discovered to have 20 known cases of chlamydia, in a school with only 300 students. That’s a rate of 1 in 15 students. But when the district’s superintendent was confronted with the fact that his school’s sex education appears to be no more than telling kids sex is dirty and gross and not to do it, he was recalcitrant. “If kids are not having any sexual activity, they can’t get this disease,” the superintendent told My San Antonio[8]. Of course, kids are having sex in the non-hypothetical world, as evidenced by the non-hypothetical cases of chlamydia, but apparently abstinence-only proponents prefer to live in the Land of If.

Reporters discovered [9] that the text recommended for use in Crane’s sex education program was one of the many Bush-era abstinence-only texts [10] that have been discredited, in no small part because they discourage the use of condoms. Abstinence-only proponents have long believed that if they tell kids condoms don’t work, kids won’t have sex. In reality, this just convinces kids to skip the condoms [11]. Condoms do work, by the way, but only if people use them [12].)

Crane is, sadly, not anomalous. While Obama did do his part to end the biggest abstinence-only programs of the Bush era, abstinence-only continues to be a plague upon our country. The right isn’t known for being impressed by things like “facts” and “evidence,” particularly when they get in the way of harrumphing about how the world is going to hell and kids these days are out of control and other such nonsense.

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