Earlier today, I was visiting Karen Rayne’s thoughtful blog, Adolescent Sexuality, where she had a post up on the follies of abstinence only sex education. I think her post prompted me to articulate my own views of teaching kids about abstinence a little bit better than I normally do. Because I want to give Karen’s blog a shout out (It’s very much worth placing on your schedule of blogs to regularly visit), and because I wish to prompt you to share your own views on the matter, I will quote the comment I made there:
As someone who has been voluntarily celibate for years, I guess I would be a hypocrite if I did not support abstinence. And, indeed, I wish for a world in which no one — especially young people — is pressured into having sex when they don’t feel or intuit it’s right for them.
At the same time, though, I have increasingly come to the belief we should raise kids to anticipate that they will become sexually active at sometime in their late teens or early twenties, and, of course, to be prepared for it if and when it happens. In other words, I’m no longer of the opinion, if I ever really was, that we should tell kids their first choice should be abstinence and that having sex is only plan B.
For one thing, it’s my understanding that the average age of first sex in the US is currently somewhere around 17 or 18. For another thing, I recall that only one in ten people wait for marriage to have first sex. And, if those and other things are the real facts of the matter, then I find it a bit off to pretend — as so many of our leaders do — that most kids can benefit from being taught that abstinence ought to be Plan A.
I would turn it around. Responsible sex is Plan A, abstinence is Plan B, and Plan C is to take responsibility for neither and become a fool.
Of course, given the current politics of sex, I believe there is no way any public school system instructor in the US could get away with telling kids, “You should pretty much expect to have sex by your late teens or early twenties, and if you don’t, then that’s alright too.”
So, Karen, am I a nutcase for thinking the primary emphasis should be on preparing for sex, rather than on preparing for abstinence?
I will ask you the same essential question I asked Karen: Should the primary emphasis in sex education be on teaching kids to prepare for sex, rather than on teaching kids to prepare for abstinence? What do you think?