Abstinence: A Cost With No Benefit
Abstinence is such a harmful concept. It is an investment without any return. When an investor buys stock, she expect dividends. When a college student lands an internship, he hopes a job offer will follow as a result of his hard work. Individuals have other resources besides money. A person’s resources include their job (ability to generate revenue in the present and in the future), their skills and, most importantly, their time. Unlike money, time can never be recovered. Christians teach that abstinence is the only moral route of sexual expression outside of marriage. Even masturbation is deemed sinful. Abstinence does more than waste the resources of the people who invest into it. Waste involves using resources carelessly, without meaning to harm. Abstinence, on the other hand, uses peoples’ resources with the intent to harm them.
The Christian says abstinence isn’t just about Biblical compliance, it’s also ‘pragmatic.’ It’s supposed to be a form of risk management. Christians say that abstinence is the only way to ensure that young girls don’t get impregnated out of wedlock and that young boys don’t spread sexual transmitted infections through their hormone-fueled conquests. They claim it’s protection from harm. In reality, it’s actually subjection to harm.
Disturbingly and perplexingly, abstinence only education is taught in a vast number of high schools in America (including the one where I graduated). Statistically, abstinence only education programs have failed in every instance of their application. Despite this, Christians oppose comprehensive sex education, even though it’s proven to be effective, because they say it encourages premarital sexual activity. Where scientifically evidence-based sex education has succeeded, abstinence education has resulted in disaster. Abstinence programs have not reduced unplanned pregnancy rates nor have they decreased premarital sexual activity. In Africa, the Catholic Church’s refusal to condone birth control and other Christians’ push for abstinence only education has furthered the scourge of AIDS across the continent. Abstinence only education is another example of Christianity valuing the preservation of its creed over the welfare of humanity. It squanders lives and breeds shame.
Policy Proven to Fail
While abstinence education has been as effective as the Iraq War, in terms of unplanned pregnancy reduction and STI transmission, it provides other harms to those afflicted by its application. When kids are not given any knowledge about sex, they cannot possibly make informed sexual decisions. This can result in varying degrees of suffering. Unplanned pregnancy and pro-life superstitions shatter lives and that destruction falls disproportionately on women. The investment in abstinence doesn’t give a return. It only causes harm and robs victims of resources and opportunities. Dreams are crushed. Futures are compromised. Life is stolen.
When sex is never discussed, the concept of sexual consent is never discussed. Girls are not taught how to say firmly say no (or that they have the absolute authority to say no) and boys are not educated on the profound importance of ensuring both partners are on the same page before starting a sexual encounter, especially when alcohol or drugs are involved. This ignorance can result in far darker outcomes than an unplanned pregnancy: prison, trauma, depression, suicide and addiction.
Abstinence only education provides even less useful sex education for members of the LGTBQ community. Their sexuality isn’t even addressed. The only information that they’re able to glean is “just say no” which is no match for the biological sex drive. Students of this category deserve the best evidence-based, scientific sexual education available. Instead, they are completely ignored and their sexualities aren’t even recognized. Asexual students deserve to learn about their sexuality in the same way that heterosexual students do (assuming comprehensive sex education). They’re investment in abstinence education also only yields harm.
Another casualty of abstinence is premature marriages. When kids spend their entire adolescence fighting biology in an effort to avoid damnation, they’re likely to get hitched with the first willing partner. That way they can copulate with Christ’s blessing. It’s not a coincidence that the hyper-religious United States boosts a much higher divorce rate than the more secular Europe. People get married younger and dumber in land of the free. The human drive to procreate is far too powerful to be curtailed by family-planning considerations of the distant future. Teenagers or kids in their early twenties get married before they’re fully matured adults. Quite often, they grow apart and realize their incompatibility. More harm and resources are lost and more time is wasted.
Aside from the grave consequences outlined above, there are other ways that abstinence education robs its victims. Sexuality is a natural part of being a human. Kids need to learn about it objectively at a young age. There needs to be no ambiguity on what safe sex is. Sex is an artform and, like everything else, practice makes perfect. The idea that two virgins on their wedding night will have a tantric love-making session is comical. It takes a while for a person to acquire sexual skills and learn what their sexual preferences are. A wedding night where both parties orgasm is a much better scenario than the virgin bloodbath alternative. In that scene, the virgin bride’s cherry gets popped by her husband after thirty-seven seconds of pedestrian missionary thrusting. Blood covers his genitalia like he’s fucking her with a chainsaw. Meanwhile, she grunts in pain like she’s getting raped because her vagina is the size of straw. After, he feels bad that she didn’t get off and tries to go down on her. Unfortunately, his abstinence only sex education didn’t give him a great understanding of female anatomy so the concept of a clitoris is about as familiar to him as the concept of a condom. That’s not a good wedding night for anyone.
Sidenote: For those of you who are not ready to have sex but want intimacy with your partner, I have some words of wisdom for you. For it is written: Oral is Moral.
Celebrate, Don’t Stigmatize
In all seriousness, sexuality is not something to be ashamed about, as abstinence teaches. It’s something to be celebrated; sexuality is a huge part of what makes us who we are. Abstinence tells us that we should be ashamed of ourselves. It tries to siphon the beauty out of a core facet of our identity. That isn’t just harmful, it’s horrific. All sexualities should be celebrated and everyone should be educated on what other sexualities exist. Christians want this knowledge to stay hidden because awareness thwarts shame. Shame is the fuel that drives Christianity. They want young people to be ashamed of their sexuality so that the Christian worldview is perpetuated and followers stay locked in the cycle of fear. Sexuality is a beautiful thing and abstinence-obsessed Christians have been trying to pervert it for too long.