Why abstinence-only education never has, can or will work

I can't believe it. I really just can't believe it. It's 2012 and some people still believe that abstinence-only education is the way to go. In my opinion, that's absolutely, positively ludicrous.

When I heard about the new sex education bill in Utah and how it's wants to ban teachers from teaching about contraception, I couldn't think of a worse thing to happen to the poor kids living there.

Let me clarify: I don't think we should be teaching kids about sex all the time or too early. I don't think we should encourage sex in teens or tell them "how to get away with it", as Republican state Rep. Bill Wright, who sponsored the proposal, thinks we're doing. But I do think we need to teach kids the basics of what sex is, including the consequences and how to stay safe if and when they decide to do it—whether that's on their 16th birthday or on their wedding night.


Read more ¿Qué más? Contrary to popular belief, data shows teenagers are having LESS sex.

When and who with to have sex for the first time is a very personal choice. But it's still a choice that needs to be thought of from every angle. If a teen or adult doesn't know the basics of sex, how can they really make the best choice for themselves?

I have a friend who's a Sex Ed teacher in a troubled school in the Bronx, New York. She has never told me how she shows kids how to hide the fact that they're having sex or be promiscuous. Her teaching is all about biology and the risks of unprotected sex—like pregnancy and STI's. Her students are more educated and therefore able to make wiser choices, like teens having less sex today than in the 1980's despite popular belief.

There is nothing wrong with teaching teens abstinence. The problem comes when we teach them ignorance, too. Historically states that supported this kind of education also had higher rates of teen pregnancy and, unsurprisingly, higher rates of abortion even though they are also typically the kind of states that try to limit a woman's right to choose.

Read more ¿Qué más? You have to talk to your daughter about her body, even if your mother didn't talk to you.

But when it comes to sex, kids need to know what's going on—and they aren't going to learn the good, the bad and the ugly (and how to tell the difference) if we don't tell them the whole story.

What do you think of teaching abstinence-only education? What is the policy in your area?

Image via Circuit Tsunami/flickr