Friday, March 18, 2005

Bad sex ed

Virginity pledges do not reduce STD risk | Science Blog:
Young adults who take virginity pledges as adolescents are as likely to be infected with sexually transmitted diseases as those who do not take virginity pledges, … researchers report in the March 18 issue of Journal of Adolescent Health. The virginity pledges may even encourage higher risk sexual behavior among young adults…

"We were surprised by the findings," said [Hannah] Brueckner [of Yale]. "Pledgers have fewer sex partners than non-pledgers, they start having sex later, and they marry earlier, so they should have lower STD rates, but they don't."

One reason is that sexually active pledgers were less likely to use condoms at first sex than non-pledgers. Because most pledgers are sexually active (88 percent of the pledgers), lower rates of condom use increases STD risk. Brueeckner and Bearman also note that pledgers were less likely to seek and obtain STD-related health care, possibly because of increased stigmatization or misperception of infection risk among pledgers. Because pledgers are less likely to be diagnosed and treated for STD infections, they may be more likely to have those infections for longer periods than non-pledgers. …

Pledging may lead some young adults to engage in alternative sexual behaviors in order to preserve their virginity. Among virgins--those who have not had vaginal intercourse--male pledgers are four times more likely to have anal sex; male and female pledgers are six times more likely to have oral sex than non-pledgers. Condom use for anal sex is very low; for oral almost non-existent. Therefore, Brueckner said, virgin pledger engagement in riskier behavior may be a factor in higher than expected STD rates.
To recap: kids who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are more likely to have unprotected anal sex, and are more likely to be infected with STDs, and, since they are less likely to use condoms in vaginal sex, they are likely to have higher pregnancy rates.

Previous stories on sex ed here and here.

In other sex news, Bush pushes sexual abstinence for teens despite data:
In the past five years, President George W. Bush has more than doubled funding for [abstinence only] programs, which teach that abstinence from sexual activity until marriage is the only sure way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other health problems.

In his fiscal year 2006 budget unveiled last month which drastically slashed spending on hundreds of other social programs, Bush proposed increasing funding for abstinence by $39 million to $206 million, rising to $270 million by 2008. …

"Bush may be sincere but he is also pandering to his political base and paying more attention to the ideology than the facts," said Michael McGee, vice president for education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which calls abstinence-only education "one of the religious right's greatest challenges to the nation's sexual health."

McGee said the abstinence-only movement had had a chilling effect on U.S. classrooms, forcing teachers to stop mentioning contraception in health classes even when the curriculum requires them to do so.

"It only takes one parent complaining to ruin it for the entire school. We've seen it in community after community. Schools want at all costs to avoid controversy," he said.
Does that sound familiar? It's the same strategy we see in the evolution fights. Intimidate the teachers, push bogus alternatives, and create false controversy.

Science? We don't need no steenking science!