I have already written about how my school basically ignored church-state separation. This especially included sex education. In our school, we were strictly abstinence-only. One day in 9th grade health class, the boys and girls were separated and the “sex lady” (who happened to go to my parents’ church) came in to talk to us. She told us that we should not have sex, and even that we should not have boyfriends. Volunteers were taken in a game and put into two groups: those with boyfriends, who invariably became pregnant and diseased, and those with “friends” who remained abstinent and got happily married. Although my school did not allow her to show pictures of diseased genitals, I heard that other local schools did. The Sex Lady drew a phallic shape on the board to represent a condom, and then she drew a large hole in it and a happy little sperm swimming through. Of course, the AIDS virus is much smaller than a sperm, she smugly told us. The take-home message was that condoms were absolutely worthless.
This message was taken to heart by many of my fellow students. Not the abstinence part, the condoms being worthless part. Both my junior high and my high school had very high rates of teen pregnancy. When I spoke to girls who had become pregnant, they were generally extremely ignorant of birth control and believed the lies they had been told about condoms. Abortion was, of course, out of the question for any girl that became pregnant, due to her own religious beliefs as well as parental notification laws. Adoption was also never considered; I’m not sure why.
Abstinence-only education does not prevent sex, it only prevents safer sex. I hardly expect that a Bible Belt school will put condoms on bananas, but is it too much to expect them not to lie? Condoms have failure rates, but they are many, many times safer than not using one. After all, seatbelts do not prevent 100% of all deaths in car wrecks, does that mean you don’t use them at all? I would rather the school not breathe a word about sex than say these lies. In this case, the school is actually causing harm. Hardly anyone is persuaded not to have sex by this talk, however, some may be persuaded not to use condoms. Most young men have a prejudice against them anyway, and a nudge in that direction may be all they need to abandon their use. They fatalistically accept the risk that pregnancy could happen in exchange for instant gratification, or try to pull out with the attendant high failure rate.
I also remember a school-wide abstinence rally in 9th grade. The speaker was a woman who claimed to be a former model. She illustrated her commitment to abstinence by telling us a story about how Sylvester Stallone had wanted to screw her and she had had the strength to say no. The tale had no resonance whatsoever with the young teenage girls who had never thought of him as hot. There was the usual claptrap about saving yourself for marriage and how wonderful it would be on your honeymoon. My first time hurt like a bitch and made me sore for days, so I could see how GREAT that would be for a new bride and groom. Of course, secondary virginity was an option if you had already messed up, but it was clear that you were used goods and less worthy.
It is clear to me from my experiences that abstinence-only education is not handled well by the schools. Why should it be? It takes no special teaching for kids to know that they shouldn’t have sex. If comprehensive sex education will not be taught, then teach no sex ed at all. The outcome will be no worse and we won’t waste the money.