Apparently being known for Steubenville isn't enough for Ohio — they're now trying to corner the market on not educating their teens about sex. Yesterday, the Ohio House Finance Committee's Republican members voted to adopt a state budget amendment that mandates an abstinence-only approach to sexual education. Oh, Ohio.
The idiotic measure will "prohibit the teaching of sexual education coursework that endorses non-abstinence as an acceptable behavior or promotes sexual gateway activity."
"Sexual Gateway Activity" — what's that? Who's he?:
ORC 2907.01(B) “Sexual contact” means any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast, for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person.
In addition, teachers can't distribute contraceptives at school, because nothing keeps a teen not pregnant more than not giving them condoms.
So... educators must pretend that teenager's normal and natural sexual feelings and actions are just not happening. And if they're questioned by students — they just, what? Tell them to put an ice pack on That Which Is Most Sacred and read the bible? Just make sure they skip that sassy Genesis 19:30-36! And forget about Genesis 29: 21-28, too — RAU-NCHY. Actually, maybe just skip that whole section.
Even worse, parents can sue educators if they feel the provisions were violated. "You told my daughter that sex exists — that'll be one million dollars, please!"
Once again, with feeling: Abstinence-only education DOES NOT WORK. Even more to the point, teenagers who receive comprehensive sex education are 60 percent less likely to get pregnant (or to get someone else pregnant), and teen pregnancies are highest in abstinence-only states. Welcome to the club, Ohio — hope you have lots of extra money in that budget to help with the influx of teen moms.
Unfortunately, Ohio isn't the only state that naively thinks abstinence-only education can save its youth, plenty of other states are peddling this b.s. That said, even Mississippi, the state with the highest teen birth rate, has significantly wised up.
Although scaring kids with tales of disease and regret will only get educators so far. According to the Guttmacher Institute's research:
The majority (86%) of the decline in the teen pregnancy rate between 1995 and 2002 was the result of dramatic improvements in contraceptive use, including an increase in the proportion of teens using a single method of contraception, an increase in the proportion using multiple methods simultaneously and a substantial decline in nonuse. Just 14% of the decline is attributable to decreased sexual activity.
You can terrify a few innocent souls into abstinence with stories of girls who dry humped and then were stricken with a genital warts-herpes hybrid that ate their homework, but the vast majority of teens will still bone. Even if they take the scary messages to heart, they still might end up boning — this time without condoms because they never learned any better. (Or possibly anal so they can still go to heaven. Praise be!)
When it comes to sex, teens have taken a horny version of Alec Baldwin's Glengarry Glen Ross speech to heart: Always Be Boning. And trust — they approach boning with as much passion as Baldwin does closing.
The best we can do as adults is to educate them about their options — and yes, abstinence is one. So is birth control. If we speak openly and honestly with teens, we might even be able to destigmatize sex. We could even teach teens to respect each other's boundaries and to communicate clearly about desires. Invaluable lessons that would yield happier, healthier adults.
But by subscribing to useless, inane, and antiquated abstinence-only education, we cut teens off from the whole truth — they're forced to piece it together on their own from their friends and the media. No wonder our culture has such a fucked up relationship with sex — and a difficult time understanding what does and doesn't constitute consent.
Clear boundaries are never explained or explored, and it's no surprise many teens have backwards ideas of what they are and aren't entitled to. If we pretend sex is something that only happens between married people, we can continue to ignore the painful truth of what's really at stake. If we're unable to speak openly with kids about these things, then we an expect more shitty business as usual. Ohio already knows plenty about that.
Image via Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock.