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December 30, 2008

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This will make no difference to the people who push abstinence-only. They aren't doing it because they think it *works*, they're doing it because they think it's *right*. The fact that it fails is irrelevant -- that just proves that humans are sinners. Higher rates of STDs and abortion among the abstinence-educated just prove that the wages of sin are, as they should be, death.

Especially for gays. And women.

Tend to agree. Given the choice between abortion being illegal and a scheme to actually reduce the number of abortions, many people in the "conservative" camp would prefer the former.

Doc Science says it all. Their concern has nothing to do with what works. Kind of like their choice for President.

if conservatives truly cared about preventing abortions, they'd be all about birth control, but they don't. all they care about is punishing women who dare to orgasm (or at least try to).

To be fair, though, "what works" isn't the only concern for anybody, is it?

For instance, I think there are excellent reasons to think that torture doesn't work as a way of extracting information. But even if somebody could prove to me that it does work, I'd still be against using it. That's not because I don't want us to be able to gather information; I just believe that torture is wrong. "What works" isn't my only concern, though it's one concern.

Similarly, I think there's an intellectually coherent conservative viewpoint in which you want to reduce the number of abortions and teenage pregnancies--but there are some methods that you're not willing to resort to to achieve those goals.

Not that I agree with these people; in particular, I don't share their moral qualms about things like teen sex education, and I can imagine arguing with them about those qualms. But I don't think it's reasonable to go after them for having concerns other than "what works". Everybody does, or at least should.

True Norvin, though I would argue in the present example it is not just a question of working or not working in terms of preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Less condom use increases risks of the contraction of deadly diseases, and if a certain method of sex education is leading to less condom use, then it has health and safety implications that trump.

Norvin, you may be right, but when you say [i]Similarly, I think there's an intellectually coherent conservative viewpoint in which you want to reduce the number of abortions and teenage pregnancies--but there are some methods that you're not willing to resort to to achieve those goals.[/i], the problem appears to be that [i]none[/i] of the methods those conservatives are willing to use have any success at all.

It reminds me of the episode of "The Simpsons" in which Flanders' beatnik parents are trying to discipline him: "You've gotta help us, doc! We've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas!"

Less condom use increases risks of the contraction of deadly diseases, and if a certain method of sex education is leading to less condom use, then it has health and safety implications that trump.

By that logic, in Norvin's hypothetical world where torture is effective, wouldn't the increased safety of Americans resulting from torture also trump?

By that logic, in Norvin's hypothetical world where torture is effective, wouldn't the perceived increased safety of Americans resulting from torture also trump?

Because it doesn't matter if the torture doesn't make Americans safer, or even if it increases the danger.

It's all about perceptions.

I would happily refer you to this:
http://www.adolescenthealth.org/PositionPaper_Abstinence_only_edu_policies_and_programs.pdf

(The last author is a super-genius.)

By that logic, in Norvin's hypothetical world where torture is effective, wouldn't the increased safety of Americans resulting from torture also trump?

It would definitely militate in favor of using torture. There are other variables to consider, however, such as the extent to which damage to our image makes us less safe in a countervailing way. Also, undermining the goal of winning hearts and minds - in a COIN doctrine kind of way. Many Iraqis turned to insurgent activities after Abu Ghraib, so in that sense, torture made us less safe. Even if it "worked" in terms of providing actionable intelligence in some circumstances (which it probably did).

Also to consider is the level of injustice inflicted upon the innocent (not to mention the corruption of the torturers themselves).

In the present example, what is the objection to providing teens comprehensive sex education/materials?

The foremost, to my knowledge, is that it corrupts the morality of teens and leads to more premarital sex. But that's not true.

Also Dan: that link is incomplete.

Whatever happened to pragmatism being THE American philosophy? Truth is what works. Untestable assertions are not truth.

Evidence shows abstinence education does not work. Consequently, its failure should be documented and it should be discarded from the public policy card deck. The morality of abstinence versus safe sex education only enters into the debate if we are completely unconcerned with outcomes. If we are unconcerned with outcomes, then we should just do nothing.

Huh. I tried copying and pasting, and it worked just fine. Regardless, it's a position paper for the Society for Adolescent Medicine that condemns abstinence-only sexuality education for a variety of reasons. Not only is it ineffective (and exclusionary of gays), but it's also inherently coercive to deprive people (even *gasp* adolescents) of information in the hopes that doing so will effect a desired behavior.

You have a point norvin. My response would be that abstinence-only advocates generally tend to argue and seem to believe not only that their way is more effective but that sexual education that is not a-o actively promotes promiscuity.

Now its true that for a-o advocates the central "problem" seems to be teen lust itself while their opponents are more concerned with the results of teen sexual behavior. But the question of effectiveness, and the empirical evidence of such, is still the key to the public debate that I have witnessed my whole life. It has also been true for as long as I can remember that the evidence is unambiguous on this debate. Abstinence-only has failed on the mission, which at lest publicly, it claims for itself. Insofar as behavior is an indicator of morality, it has failed utterly to adjust the moral outlook of the young people in its care to its own.

In short, I agree that there might be some internally consistent a-o argument for which this evidence would be irrelevant but it is not an argument that I see its advocates out there making very often.

The study compares teens who have taken a virginity pledge to teens who haven't - did the pledging teens participate in an abstinence-only program while the others had regular sex-ed? Or were they all exposed to regular sex-ed while some additionally took a virginity pledge? Does anyone have a link to the actual study? The article linked to in the post is somewhat vague. I'm also interested in what criteria she used for subjectively selecting students with "similar" pre-study attitudes about sex. The fact she did that sets off some warning bells about how representative the sample set was.

Dan - the link worked for me, using firefox 3 on xp. Eric - did you get both lines when you did your copy?

Back on Thread - Like others here have said, the real goal seems to be controlling sexual behavior, just like the abortion debate.

Eric - did you get both lines when you did your copy?

No. Just one line.

Mike: I'm sure if you use the google you can locate the study.

Eric: Just have to note that I agree 100%. I beat on you enough that I have to let you know when I agree. Rare as it is… ;)

We're not trying to stop teens from having premarital sex!

What we're trying to do is to make sure that they feel really guilty and neurotic about it if they do, and to increase the likelihood that girls will experience unwanted pregnancies from it!

Gosh! So clear.

Ah, found it. It's rigorous, and I think my earlier fear of subjective sample selection was unfounded. Rosenbaum looks at a lot of variables, but unfortunately not whether the teens were in an abstinence-only versus a regular sex-ed program; I'd be interested to see how that affects the breakdown. This is interesting from the conclusion:

Adolescents who initiate sexual activity are likely to recant virginity
pledges, whereas those who take pledges are likely to recant their sexual histories.
Thus, evaluations of sexual abstinence programs are vulnerable to unreliable
data.

Many teens who take virginity pledges aren't virgins to start with, but will self-report themselves as virgins afterwards.

We're not trying to stop teens from having premarital sex!

I certainly hope not. Teen-age premarital sex is like the best sex evah.


I certainly hope not. Teen-age premarital sex is like the best sex evah.

From an species standpoint, d*mn right about that. Otherwise none of us would be here, and this conversation would be conducted by Lizard People tut-tut'ing over which moron wrote "Hairless Ape" in as a write-in ballot during the Minnesota Senate election.

;-)

I think Doctor Science at the top of the comments, and cw at 17:14 between them, nail it exactly. The advocates for abstinence-only "sex education" probably could care less about the efficacy of their programs, what is important - vitally important - is that they get the government behind backing the "right", i.e. the "moral" polic(ies) re sex and sex education. Which of course, amounts to little more than enshrining "sex is bad" as official public policy.

Teen sex the best evah? Surely you [email protected]! I think Sippy Wallace had it right:


You can make me do what you wanna do
But you got to know how,
You can make me cry, you can make me sigh,
But you got to know how,
You can make me do like this, you can make me do like that,
Woh, baby, but you got to know how.

Once a pal of mine stole a guy of mine,
But I got him back, now,
It's the same old song, she couldn't keep him long,
'Cause she didn't know how.
Well, I love my man, I make him holler,
Woh, my,
Yessir, I really know how.

Technique ain't tough, if you care enough,
You can learn to know how,
I might drop a hint how to strike my flint
If you yearn to know how,
Well, don't tell me about the life you led,
Don't try to drink me into bed,
No, baby, no, that ain't the way how.

You got to take your time, you know it ain't no crime
If it lasts all night.
I think you'll be ideal when you begin to feel
That you're doin' right.

When you love me right, you hear me holler,
Woh, my,
Yessir, when you really know how.

(instrumental break)

And if you stay with me, who knows how it will be
When we finally know how,
We'll get a house in town, no need to move around
When we really know how,
Well, there's tricks that I don't even know,
Ones we'll make up as we go.
Woh, mister, when we really know how.
Yes, mister, when we really know how.

Now that would be real sex ed!

Whatever happened to pragmatism being THE American philosophy? Truth is what works.

That died long ago. Truth is now whatever BS you can con other people into.

To reiterate Eric's point: what is the objection to straightforward sex ed supposed to be? In order to say: X might work, in the sense of getting us something we want (e.g., info about the location of the Ticking Time Bomb), but it's immoral just the same, you need to be able to point to something that makes it immoral.

I've always understood the case against straightforward sex ed to be: by talking about the possibility that teens might have sex, it makes teens having sex seem normal and OK, thereby leading more teens to have sex. That is, it's an argument based on alleged consequences. The fact that it does not have those effects would seem to cut the legs out from under that argument.

If our only objection to torture were that it didn't work, or that it made people less likely to talk, a demonstration that it did work would be decisive. Similarly here, I would have thought.

I can understand how a thoughtful conservative might think sex is immoral, although I do not share that view.

I cannot comprehend how anyone could think that truthful education about sex is immoral.

I've always understood the case against straightforward sex ed to be: by talking about the possibility that teens might have sex, it makes teens having sex seem normal and OK, thereby leading more teens to have sex.

It is really weird when you think about it that anyone could possibly be convinced by the argument that if you just don't tell teenagers about sex, they won't attempt to have sex.

I mean, firstly, no one would try to claim that if you just don't teach kids how to cross roads safely, they will never, ever try to cross a road.

Secondly, the notion that people who are old enough to have sexual feelings towards others will refrain from mutually acting on those sexual feelings solely because their teachers and parents tell them they have to be celibate, is a notion with several thousand years of absolute disproof behind it. You don't really need a recent study to show that not telling kids anything about sex in schools and not letting kids have any access to contraception or abortion, when that was standard practice in the 1920s and you can show that didn't work with reference to public health records.


Abstinence-only works 100% of the time. The trick, though, is in the execution. It's kind of like learning to fly: all you have to do is throw yourself at the ground, and miss.

I fully empathize with folks who don't want other people to educate their children about sex. The problem is that the education must take place somehow; if you want to have the choice of who doesn't do it, you're going to have to make some good choices about who does. "Just let me know if you have any questions" does not a sex education make.

Whatever happened to pragmatism being THE American philosophy? Truth is what works.

I know I'm incredibly boring here, but it's not that simple:

All sorts of terrible stuff like slavery, genocide, discrimination, oppression and exploitation "worked" for many and for long periods of time. Unless you subscribe to some sort of Hegelian teleology, whereby the rational and therefore good will eventually prevail, you still have to find a way to avoid the naturalistic fallacy.

I fully empathize with folks who don't want other people to educate their children about sex.

I do also. IMVVHO whenever you put something in the public sphere, there always also needs to be an accommodation of private conscience.

People who don't want their kids to get sex ed at school should not be required to do so.

The problem arises, also in my VVHO, when the accommodation made to the conscience of some takes the form of "then nobody can do it".

There is a lot of value in providing basic, factual information about sexuality to young people, and school is a not-bad context for doing it. Kids whose folks object should be able to opt out, and AFAIK they are able to do so.

But limiting access to the information for folks who have no moral qualm about it seems just as wrong, to me, as forcing it on folks who do object.

There's also the objection of "but I don't want my tax dollars spent on things I have a moral objection to" but I'm not sure that's a can of worms we really want to open. Or, maybe we do, but I'm not sure that the folks who call for that really understand what they're signing up for.

Thanks -

I've always understood the case against straightforward sex ed to be: by talking about the possibility that teens might have sex, it makes teens having sex seem normal and OK, thereby leading more teens to have sex. That is, it's an argument based on alleged consequences. The fact that it does not have those effects would seem to cut the legs out from under that argument.

But such education does have the effect of making teens having sex seem normal, and that in itself is too much for some conservatives. It's pretty much the same attitude as such conservatives have about gay people: teenagers shouldn't be allowed to be told that gay sex is normal, even if they have no urge towards gay sex themselves.

It's perfectly possible to take a position that teenage sex is normal and nevertheless a bad idea to do, just as eating too much junk food, avoiding doing your maths homework and believing that the stock exchange will always go up are common, but stupid things to do. But that seems far too complex an argument to make for rather a lot of conservative parents.

The foremost, to my knowledge, is that it corrupts the morality of teens and leads to more premarital sex. But that's not true.

Well, the latter has been consistently demonstrated false by studies, but people have some pretty wacky notions of what constitutes "corruption". I would hazard a guess that many social conservatives object to the idea of their 15-year-old learning details of sexual activity in school, independent of its effect on their behavior. There's a reason the word "innocence" also means "naiveté". Something about a tree, and knowledge, and being naked...


It's perfectly possible to take a position that teenage sex is normal and nevertheless a bad idea to do, just as eating too much junk food, avoiding doing your maths homework and believing that the stock exchange will always go up are common, but stupid things to do.

But from a motivational standpoint, isn’t this “don’t take risks” sort of analysis rather weak tea compared with the task of trying to suppress behavior which can be very pleasurable? You are appealing to two different parts of the brain and good luck with getting the frontal lobe based rational risk analysis part to win that contest, especially with an age group for whom deferred gratification is a rather abstract concept.

It seems to me that traditional religions are very strongly disapproving of sex for a pretty good reason – because historically speaking they were part of a whole system of cultural practices which agricultural and pastoral societies used to keep their birth rates low so as to prevent a Malthusian crisis from overtaxing their finite resource base. If you look at most pre-industrial societies, they are packed with traditions and practices (such as imposing wealth accumulation requirements before sanctioning marriage, e.g. dowry/bride price, etc.) which act as a brake on the expansion of the population.

This point is especially noticeable when you contrast the sexual mores of rural areas with the more “loose” morals traditionally associated with cities. For most of history urban areas had very good reasons to encourage higher birth rates – because cities were net population sinks (for reasons of epidemiology and public health) dependant on a continual net influx of population from their rural hinterlands just to maintain their numbers. So screwing around in the big city was not the population bomb problem it would be if practiced on a widespread basis out on the farm.

Thus in pre-industrial society, having the religious elders putting a guilt trip on the young’uns about sex was a feature, not a bug – it was what kept the larger society from descending into famine at some point in the future.

The reason this seems so silly to us today is that now we enjoy the benefits of modern contraceptives, so we have better ways to deal with teen pregnancy than by keeping them ignorant and locking them up at night, and more effective tools than guilt and shame. But the older cultural practices are so deeply embedded (and especially in our religious traditions which are very slow to change) that they are still with us despite our changed circumstances.

Teen-age premarital sex is like the best sex evah.

Either you are a teenager, or yr doin it rong, if you really believe that is true.

Amusingly, my spouse signed the 'opt out' for our middle-schooler attending the sex ed class, because he was afraid they would pollute her young mind with scary, abstinence-only, secular You Will Go To Hell If You Think About Sex nonsense.

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