Abstinence is defined as the practice of restraining oneself from indulging in something. Abstinence pledges, also known as “virginity” pledges, are commonly the first thought when hearing this word. For years, federal funding has been attributed to abstinence-only sex education programs in schools across America. However, these programs are ultimately ineffective and harmful to participants.
According to Advocates for Youth, abstinence-only programs essentially teach that abstaining from sexual activity is the best way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STDs and STIs), out-of-wedlock pregnancy and other health problems associated with sexual activity. Abstinence prevents these situations, but it also instills ignorance. By only teaching the benefits of not being sexually active, these programs provide no knowledge or education for protection to individuals who are and will continue to be sexually active. Instead of telling teens that they can simply not be sexually active, schools should educate students on other ways to avoid the complications that come along with sexual activity.
According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), people between the ages 15 to 25 make up one quarter of the sexually active population and contract 50 percent of the 19 million STDs annually acquired in the U.S. Do Something, an organization advocating social change, stated that abstinence pledgers are as likely to have STDs as non-pledgers and are less likely to use protection when becoming sexually active which could lead to the contraction of an STD/STI.
There are no abstinence-only programs that have been proven effective; a study conducted by Advocates for Youth has shown negative results proving through evaluation that these programs do not delay sexual activity or decrease STI/STD or pregnancy rates among teens. Instread, comprehensive sex education has widely benefited students by teaching preventive measures to avoid pregnancies and STDs as well as abstinence. A study by the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy states that 50 percent of comprehensive sex educated students were less likely to have unintended pregnancy, 40 percent delayed the start of sexual activity and 60 percent reduced unprotected sex.
There is no way to stop people from being sexually active, which is reason enough to say that teens need to be informed on the possible dangers of sexual activity. Abstinence-only programs do not provide this necessary education; comprehensive sex education does. The best hope for informed and protected teens and young adults is comprehensive sex education.