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Abstinence Education Versus Comprehensive Safe Sex Education

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Patrick O’Brien

Professor Cahoon



Abstinence Education versus Comprehensive Safe Sex Education

        To this day, there are no clear-cut answer as to whether it is better to abstain from sex until marriage, or just to be safe during sex in regards to contraception. Abstaining from sex is something that is taught to adolescents at very young ages, as it’s conventional to wait until you find that one special person. This certain message comes out of several magazine articles, journal entries in online websites, research studies and a wide variety of publications. The only way to be completely ensure there will be no accidental pregnancy, unwanted unexpected STD’s, or complications associated with unprotected sex, is to take the abstinence pledge.  Many individuals understand that teens are becoming more sexual active, or at least it seems, every year. This makes it very hard to persuade teens into becoming sex-free until marriage. The idea of teaching comprehensive sex education courses to students, preaching the idea that if you are going to have sex, to be safe about it, is of interest to the population as well.                                 Three interesting online articles have very different perspectives on the issue of whether abstinence is better than safe sex education. The Huffington post seems to think just that. They claim that because of a groundbreaking federal study, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, that abstinence is certainly successful. Researchers say the long-term study, which followed 662 African-American public middle school students between 2001 and 2004, is significant. To the average American, reading this article will surely make them consider having their kid partake in an abstinence course. John Jemmott, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who headed the study, a strong support of abstinence only education, is merely only one individual who has done a deep study on this case. In order to provide persuade Americans that abstinence is the way to go, more research and studies need to be performed, showcasing the same data. Until that is done, Americans will simply be confused as to which method is truly the best for teaching kids about sex.                                         This study concluded approximately half of the students in the study who received sex-education classes that included information about contraceptives went on to have sex in the next two years. But only one out of three students in the study who received abstinence-only education did. Although this study shows that one method of sex education is superior to the other, there is a miniscule amount quantitative information present in this article. To someone who uses numbers and figures to formulate a logical conclusion about a certain topic, they will probably not enjoy this article very much. Using only one study may cause serious inaccuracy as there are many factors that could have played into the data that was recorded in this experiment, such as people lying, teachers in sex education courses being poor teachers and so on.                                                                                                The NY Times has the perspective on the opposite side of the spectrum. The individuals at NY Times recognize that teens will not always listen to what adults and teachers have to say, so preparing them for sex is of utmost importance to them. Conveying the message that abstinence is always better is prioritized, however for teens that will be sexual active it is essential that they know the practices of safe sex. No one wishes for an unexpected pregnancy, STD, or complication associated with unprotected sex. Therefore, it is important according to NY Times, that teens be introduced to the importance of condoms, birth control and so on, and truly understand them, before becoming sexually activity. Author of this online magazine article, Jane E. Brody, from The New York Times adds “One national study, published in 2001 in The American Journal of Sociology, found that while some teenagers who promised to remain abstinent until marriage delayed sexual activity by an average of 18 months, they were more likely to have unprotected sex when they broke their pledge than those who had never pledged virginity in the first place.” This shows that individuals are ignorant in regards to safe-sex if not taught about it.  In addition to that, Columbia University researchers reported in March that in a national study of teenagers who pledged not to have sex before marriage, a majority did not live up to their vows. The individuals also developed STD’s at about the same rate as teenagers who had not made virginity pledges.                                         The New York Times has more quantitative information regarding their claims, making the Huffington post look like an inaccurate source to use. The more studies done, the better. Seeing how this cite has data pulled from multiple researchers and studies, this article seems to be a bit more persuading.                Between the two methods of sex education lies Neither an abstinence class nor a comprehensive sex education class seems to be the definite winner. According to experts and individuals at Avert, the only way to achieve the lowest amount of pregnancies, contracted STD’s and complications associated with unprotected sex, is to teach abstinence, but recognize that individuals will stray from abstinence if chosen to.  Avert claims that supporters of both abstinence based and comprehensive approaches share the view that sex education plays an important role in HIV prevention. They also stress that fact that both approaches emphasize the potential benefits of delaying having sexual intercourse, in terms of helping young people avoid HIV and unexpected pregnancies.  Unfortunately this website makes a lot of claims that are merely opinion based, or at least it seems.         There are little places in the article that state “due to a study”, “backed up by a study”, and so on, making it somewhat of an inaccurate source. At first glance the evidence can seem confusing, with claims coming from both groups about the so-called, “proven” effectiveness of their method of sex education. When only the most reliable studies are taken into account the position is clear.                 



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