Abstinence Failure - It's not 100% Safe

I want to state that I never claimed to be a medical doctor, as Pastor Green's Forum article titled "Dobson is Right..." claims. I agree with Pastor Green's statement "...what kind of doctor gives us this kind of advice?" I would ask him to ask Dr. Dobson that question. I pulled all of my information from the government web sites I noted in my Forum article. I can't tell you where Dr. Dobson pulled his information from.

Pastor Green goes on to say "Shouldn't he be giving us the best possible scenario for stopping the spread of this disease?" or any Sexually Transmitted Infection? Dr. Dobson suggested that an Abstinence-only approach is 100% effective. This is misleading and potentially dangerous. There can't be one slip. To be 100% effective it requires one to abstain from petting, as well as oral and anal sex, not just coitus, 100% of the time.

That's why I had proposed an abstinence-plus approach which promotes abstinence as the best choice but provides information on contraception in case a teen becomes sexually active. This, I believe, is the most successful approach to truely reduce STD and teen pregnancy.

Half of all new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in the United States and two thirds of all sexually transmitted diseases (STD) occur among young people under the age of 25. It is estimated that by the end of high school, nearly two thirds of American youth have been sexually active, and one in five has had four or more sexual partners. Despite these alarming statistics, less than half of all public schools in the United States offer information on how to obtain contraceptives and most schools increasingly teach abstinence-only-until-marriage education. There is little evidence that abstinence-only programs are successful in encouraging teenagers to delay all sexual activity until marriage, and for those who don't make it, nothing is taugh how to avoid pregnancy, or STD or HIV infection. Comprehensive sex education, which emphasizes the benefits of abstinence while also teaching about contraception and disease-prevention methods, has been proven to reduce rates of teen pregnancy and STD infection.

The Kaiser Family Foundation and Seventeen magazine found that half of all 15-17 year-olds believe that a person who has oral sex is still a virgin. Even more striking, the study found that 55% of college students pledging virginity until marriage, who said they had kept their vow, reported having had oral sex. While pledgers generally were somewhat less likely to have had vaginal sex than nonpledgers, they were equally likely to have had oral or anal sex. The Alan Guttmacher Institute indicated that 25% of the decrease in the U.S. teen pregnancy rate was due to a decline in the proportion of teenagers who had never had sex while 75% was due to improved contraceptive use among sexually active teens. And, Clara S. Haignere, Ph.D, associate processor of public health at Temple University found that abstinence has a user-failure rate between 26 and 86 percent. This rate is considerably higher than the condom user-failure rate.

"Abstinence is complicated to use. It requires negotiation skills. Teens have to talk to their partners about it, and use it all the time - every time they're intimate," says Haignere. The "Just say no to sex" approach isn't realistic, given that nearly half of all 9th-12th graders have already had sexual intercourse, according to the 2001 Youth Risk Behavior survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pastor Green also tried to put words in my mouth when he suggested that I recommended that "...you and your sexual 'partners' should not worry about a person's sexual history." I am adamant that all people have a Responsible Sex Conversation even before petting. My recommendation probably requires partners to have a deeper conversation than the majority of readers have ever had. (See www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/responsiblesexconversation.html)

So, Pastor Green, if you want to believe Dr. Dobson's information versus what the Centers for Disease Control and the National Health Institute believe, as you said, that's your right. However, this attitude only adds to the mistrust of religious teachers and in the end will result in an increase of STDs and unplanned pregnancies. When one realizes that vows of abstinence break far more often than condoms, responsible people will want our youth to know more about safer sex options. Tuesday, February 14th, is National Condom Day. It might be a good day for parents to check out www.letstalkaboutsex.org to find out positive ways to approach this difficult subject with their children.

Let's teach teens abstinence plus providing information regarding safer sex. Using condoms and birth control will help a majority of young people. If teens are taught that no sex is safe sex, they'll have sex anyway without knowing the safer thing to do.

Gordon Clay
Web Master of
and Menstuff.org