Every school and organization across North America (Canada and the United States) needs to abstain from teaching abstinence-only education to youth.
Teaching abstinence-only without a more comprehensive sexual education is like giving a first time gun owner the firearm and ammunition, making them feel ashamed for even looking at it, then yelling “pull” without ever having taught them safe gun-handling practices.
Abstinence-only programs teach no sexual relations until marriage; and in today’s world the ultra-conservative expectations of courting in mutually monogamous relations from childhood is laughable.
Not only do the programs purposely avoid teaching the consequences and options of unexpected pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptive information, they also stress traditional marriage as the proper option. This archaically leaves LGBTQA youths cut out of the equation, which can lead to psychological trauma and physical damage due to ignorance.
According to the Advocates for Youth organization, having such a narrow, singular focus fails to address peer pressure, fails to teach positive communication skills, and does not reflect the age, experience, mindset and culture of youth.
Abstinence-only programs also violate youths’ access to necessary health care information and can be chalked up to censorship — touting an “approved” message by order of an organization and stifling other options.
As a result of the programs youths may be too scared or ashamed to admit their activities or needs.
A few years back I read a news story feature written by a woman who, as part of a group pledge, abstained until marriage. She wrote waiting was the easy part. But after she got married relations with her husband became physically and psychologically painful. She was just following a formula: wait, wedding, wedding night, wifely duties.
Because it had not been a individual choice, her virginity became a duty, an overpowering part of her identity. After her marriage she completely lost who she was, leading to self-proclaimed feelings of rape. The narrow-mindedness of the message she grew up with did not allow for her to grow past that on her own as an adult.
Abstinence-only programs can be a political agenda, a religious doctrine, a personal choice. But it is not sexual education.
Amelia Naismith is the reporter for The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.