Saturday, March 19, 2005

Saturday Sex Blogging

"Abstinence-based sex education" is all the rage in public school systems across the country. In fact, an argument could be made that one of the keys to the current fundamentalist hammerlock on domestic U.S. social policies started in the public school systems - with sex education.

An article in the Washington Post this morning on the ineffectiveness of "virginity pledges" will certainly spark some debate:

Teenagers who take virginity pledges -- public declarations to abstain from sex -- are almost as likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease as those who never made the pledge, an eight-year study released yesterday found.

Although young people who sign a virginity pledge delay the initiation of sexual activity, marry at younger ages and have fewer sexual partners, they are also less likely to use condoms and more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex, said the researchers from Yale and Columbia universities.

"The sad story is that kids who are trying to preserve their technical virginity are, in some cases, engaging in much riskier behavior," said lead author Peter S. Bearman, a professor at Columbia's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. "From a public health point of view, an abstinence movement that encourages no vaginal sex may inadvertently encourage other forms of alternative sex that are at higher risk of STDs."...

So, that got me to thinking. The hotbed of the "just say NO" movement is most certainly in the heart of red state America. You can look it up. Here's an interesting little factoid - putting aside the subject of STD's, teen pregnancy rates (the most obvious unintended consequence of unprotected teen sex) is highest in the states where prevention just isn't discussed in the genteel confines of the halls of secondary education.

According to a Guttmacher Institute study released last year, the top 10 states in terms of teen pregnancy rates are:

New Mexico
North Carolina

Ok, so California's an outlier. What else is new. The same study found that, for the most part, the lowest teen pregnancy rate (and, it would stand to reason, STD transmission) are those states where comprehensive sex education is mandated in the school systems.

It's hard to argue with empirical evidence, but then, the Calvanists among us never let a little hard science get in the way of puritanical social engineering.