Posted by: Beverly Dale | February 8, 2010

Sexual Education without the Judgmental Moralizing

If there is one thing that the Penn researchers discovered in their new research that compared abstinence-only (until you are ready) versus comprehensive education, it is to show definitively that when one omits the condemnation of sex and replaces it with discussions of “when you are ready” at least with 12 and 13 year olds, it does have a positive impact of slowing things down for at least two years even when compared with a more comprehensive sex education approach. (Let’s be clear, however, that comprehensive sex ed also clearly teaches that adolescents should delay experiences until they are ready.)

But there are other crucial differences in the Jemmotts’ special abstinence programs from what is usually taught in ab-only classes: they did not dispense erroneous information or use fear as a motivator, there was no discussion of or pressure for marriage, and condoms were not denigrated as useless. The  programs studied by the Jemmotts are completely dissimilar to those who received federal funds from the Bush administration.

However, before we jump for joy that we now don’t have to do the hard work of teaching comprehensive sex to preteens in order to slow down their sexual experimentation, it is worth noting that fully 23% of those 12- and 13-year-old urban youth were already sexually active–and that national statistics show that by the time they are 17, 70% will have had sex. What that means is it not enough just to slow down initial exploration, we had better prepared them with adequate information for when they decide to…and they will, sooner than Mom and Dad or the preacher thinks they should!

So, it is one point for jettisoning the moralizing marriage and judgmental fear-based classes of the Bush era, but it is also one point for preparing our youth with age-appropriate and medically-accurate comprehensive sex information of the Obama era.

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