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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Like a Virgin

Virginity pledges. You know, like the ones urged by organizations like True Love Waits -- as TBogg says, convincing teens they are choosing abstinence rather than abstinence choosing them -- do they actually work?

It probably comes as no surprise to most thinking people -- but no, they don't. This according to a study begun in 1995 that tracked 20,000 young people:
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 at sex that are at higher risk of STDs...."

In terms of high-risk behavior, the raw numbers were small, but the gap was statistically significant, Bearman said. Just 2 percent of youth who never took a pledge said they had had anal or oral sex but not intercourse, compared with 13 percent of "consistent pledgers...."
To be perfectly fair, the study does show some indication that kids who took the pledge were less likely to give birth out of wedlock than those who didn't. Would it make it any better if my knocked up 16 year-old wanted to get married on top of it? No, Alex, I'd have to say it wouldn't.

Conservatives seem to plod along under the illusion that liberals want kids to be having sex and doing drugs at 12, and that sex education is little more than a recruitment video to the dark side. Now, I don't have kids. But if I did, you can bet I sure wouldn't want them to be sexually active 12 year olds. The argument doesn't break down along morality lines, as conservatives would like to suggest -- it breaks down, once again, along respect for the role of education.

The same people who don't want teachers speaking their minds, who want students trained like talking parrots rather than free thinkers, who don't want their children exposed to science that might explode their brains out of the narrow confines of a biblical creationist narrative, also don't have any concept of or respect for education as a means of empowerment and a weapon against exploitation.

How much faith for your creed can you really have if you constantly need to buttress it with mandated ignorance?

The WaPo article notes that spokespeople for True Love Waits were unavailable for comment.

No shit.

(Via Ignatz)