Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Big Lie Technique from the Abstinence Only Crowd

In the debate over abstinence-only sex education, there is a lie told by the pro-abstinence crowd that is so absurdly false it is remarkable that anyone in a public discussion will dare utter it. Joe over at STACLU represents it fairly well:

"I still lack the understanding to grasp exactly how abstinence doesn’t work. I would think it is the only method of birth control that works 100% of the time, and the only sure fire way not to contract an STD."

This is wrong in more than one way. First, there are more ways to contract STDs than by choosing to have sex. Arthur Ashe and Ryan White were two of the more famous members of the thousands who have died from AIDS contracted via nonsexual means. One could also be a good abstainer and be raped and left with a gift that keeps on giving. So clearly abstinence is not 100% effective.

But we can grasp the general point Joe is making: choosing to not have sex will greatly reduce the odds of contracting a disease or unplanned pregnancy. It may not be truly 100%, but it is pretty high. So what is the problem?

The problem is that telling children to not have sex, or even having them say they will not have sex, does not mean that they won’t have sex. AS an analogy, consider using the same technique with alcoholics: tell them to just choose not to drink. Simple right? 100% effective right? Can’t get drunk if you don’t drink right? Sadly, no, as most alcoholics would tell you, and the drive to have sex is far stronger than the desire to drink. “Just say no” doesn’t work, which is why comments like this are fantasy:

”… if kids abstain until marriage, there would be less people in need of having their right to kill an unborn child protected. “

Yes Joe, IF they did, it would be so. If everyone just didn’t steal, we wouldn’t need locks on our doors either. Thinking you are going to persuade sexually healthy people to not have sex until they are married is just as likely. They are going to do so, whether anyone likes it or not. Better they do it informed as to the risks, and the methods to reduce their likelihood, than keep them in the dark, bury our heads in the sand, and hope they don’t do what we know they will.

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