Opinion with Richard Bleil
Yes, there will be people who disagree with this post, but as always, I don’t want to change minds. Instead, I’m hoping to give people something to think about, whether or not they agree with me. Driving home the other night, I got to thinking about the “abstinence only” concept of teaching birth control, and there are additional issues that came to mind.
Yes, we all know that when the US tries to push “abstinence only” for pre-marital sex, both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases rise. It won’t change the minds of those who champion this form of sexual education regardless of how many statistics, how many years and how many different efforts you throw at them. Usually, they will respond with sin and Bible verses (that fit their agenda) and that’s that.
Let’s be real about this; the largest purveyor of this belief in our society is the Catholic church (and some other churches and groups as well). The problem, in my opinion, is that the concept of “abstinence only” is an unrealistic expectation of human beings, not just in this day and age, but always. I’ve seen a man in an interview express how he does not want to marry his girlfriend because she is not a virgin, although he’s the first and only man she’s ever been with. This is reflective of the whole concept that it is, and always will be, the woman’s fault if she loses her “purity”, especially if she becomes pregnant. I’ve had arguments with people who push abstinence only even as he bragged of his pre-marital sexual exploits. In my mind, this kind of hypocrisy is unforgivable.
But not everyone who advances the abstinence only agenda are hypocrites. Some do actually wait for marriage themselves, and honestly, this is not the point of this blog. See, I have a cousin who ended up pregnant at the age of fifteen. She was in a private Catholic school, and she told us (and she is honest) that it was just one time that she had sex. The problem is that she was taught “never”, but was not taught “but if you do…” Her school never taught her that the time she would be most vulnerable to sexual advances would be the times that the egg is in position, and she can become pregnant.
The purpose here is not to lay blame. I’m not going to say it’s her fault, or the fault of the school, her parents, or even the church. What I will say is that I don’t believe she was given to tools necessary to protect herself, either physically or emotionally. This is one of the major problems with “abstinence only” education. I have no problem with teaching children about the sanctity of their bodies, the role of love in a sexual relationship, and the benefits of waiting, but I do believe they should also be taught about their vulnerability, the pitfalls (other than burning brimstone sermons) of sexual activity, and how to protect themselves.
The other very real problem with abstinence only education is guilt. When children are taught that the only thing they can do is wait, when their human nature kicks in and they decide not to, because of this lesson of abstinence being pounded into them they are more likely to feel guilt as a result. This guilt means that they won’t want to talk about the experience, even if it is rape. They will believe there is no emotional or intellectual support system they can turn to because they themselves violated the precious “abstinence only” rule. What’s more, they will likely be less willing to seek medical help if they suddenly find themselves with symptoms of venereal disease, counselor help if their lover betrays them and other students start calling them names, or medical help if they do end up pregnant. In a few weeks we are likely to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v Wade, and all of the ramifications that go with that (including the right to privacy of medical issues which was the primary reason for the original ruling based on the writings of the justices at the time). This means that alternate, unsafe and illegal forms of abortion can be expected to increase, especially for young girls.
I’m very concerned about the anticipated ruling of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade. If I were the father of a daughter, I would be talking with her about contraceptives, and if I were the father of a son, I would be discussing responsibility (something that is often overlooked in these discussions). I’m concerned about the rights to privacy, illegal abortions and so many other issues. Be careful. Be prepared to take up the mantle.