If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. And again. And then once again. At a certain point you may have to stop and think about reassessing the way that you are trying to achieve your goal before trying again, however. For example, if I were trying to bake cookies and instead of putting the dough on a cookie sheet and putting that cookie sheet in the oven I put the cookie dough into the ears of a platypus, I should not be surprised when my repeated attempts to get cookies yield no cookies and an angry platypus. You would think that this would be the fate to face abstinence only education — it does not promote abstinence and most often leads to more pregnancy.

Only in the strange mind of Rick Perry, Republican candidate for President, does abstinence only education work — and in the face of the simple facts that Texas has the third highest rate of teen pregnancy in the United States, he had no explanation as to why this was the case.

When I was in high school, there were organizations that had different methods of pregnancy prevention ready to teach. One of them, of course, was avoiding pregnancy by abstinence. It is true that if you are abstinent, you have a one hundred percent chance of not getting pregnant. The key is, of course, actually staying abstinent! This is a lot to ask of teenagers, many of whom are struggling with hormonal issues and are ever surrounded by a media that is, if you haven’t noticed, driven by lust and sexual urges. Most of the popular shows on television regularly feature characters trying to bed one another — is it any wonder teens have sex on the mind even more than ever?

Being the father of a child that just recently turned one year old (on the 14th of December!) I have to wonder what the world is going to be like for young Chaim Yosef as he gets older. How many of his friends as he grows up will come from parents that practiced abstinence only pregnancy prevention and were, in fact, not meant to be brought into the world? “My parents didn’t intend on having me, but they were using abstinence only birth control and it didn’t work so well after they had sex for the first time…” That would be an awkward conversation.

I hope that abstinence only education withers as parents and educators realize that it just doesn’t work. Does abstinence education have a place in school? Absolutely — so long as it is one of many forms of birth control taught. Otherwise you just end up with more fodder for future Kardashian programming.


  1. I wonder if people are frightened about the confrontation of an uncomfortable topic? Too many parents would risk becoming grandparents than teaching their kids responsible, and realistic, birth control.

    1. To me it seems they would rather risk being grandparents than admit that, despite abstinence being a preferable choice, intercourse does sometimes happen and when it does — be prepared!

  2. If I was relying strictly on the media for my source of information about the success of abstinence education, I might come to similar conclusions as you have. The reality is that the stats and facts from the Centers for Disease Control show a different picture. Since abstinence-centered education (now called Sexual Risk Avoidance education) began in the early 1990s, teen pregnancies are DOWN 35%, teen abortion are DOWN 49%, teen sexual activity is DOWN to the point that 54% of high school student have NOT HAD SEX and the teen birth rates are DOWN so far that in Feb 2011 it was reported that teen birth rates hit a 70 year low. Now I am not naive enough nor enough of an ideologue to believe that 100% of these positive trends are due totally to abstinence education but shouldn’t we be giving teens the tools and encouragement they need to continue this positive momentum? Why are there so many abstinence haters in the media? Good question. I am not sure. It might make for a good blog. Check out http://www.abstinenceworks.org for more stats and facts about the positive studies and results of abstinence education.

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