Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bristol Palin: Abstinence for teens "not realistic"

Bristol Palin, the famed daughter of former vice presidential nominee and current Republican Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, recently had an interview with Fox News' Greta van Susteren, in which she gave a candid opinion on her views of abstinence.

The teen mother said she felt that telling other teens to be abstinent was just "not realistic at all," meaning that teens would have sex regardless of what their parents preached.

This is precisely why I am supportive of sexual health classes including other birth control methods in their teachings. Abstinence-only education does not work, as study after study confirms. Teens are still going to have sex, and as we see all too often, it is likely to be unprotected sex.

The best method of teaching teens about sex lies in telling them the truth: abstinence IS the best way of protecting oneself from becoming pregnant or from catching a sexually transmitted disease; but if they're ever in the situation where they may find themselves engaging in sexual activities, they should wear a condom. If they know they're going to have sex, young women should invest in birth control AND insist on the condom.

We need to be honest with our teens as well as look out for what's in their best interests for their health. Abstinence-only education accomplishes neither.


  1. Even though I'm a lot more socially conservative than I was when we were in high school together, I still believe in comprehensive sex education. But, I actually have a wider view of what that might entail.

    See, I think the real problem with abstinence only education is that it tries to promote an essentially religious message without explicitly mentioning religious values or teachings, with the result being that you end up getting a bunch of vague, anti-intellectual nonsense.

    So, this is what I would do. Every public school should have comprehensive sex education offered to their students. BUT, parents who believe that what is being taught violates their moral values should be able to opt out of the sex ed portion of health class. I think this is current Wisconsin law now, except that students still have to be able to pass the same tests given in class, just with their parents presenting the material and offering their own commentary.

    I'd add another option. I would strongly encourage churches that disagree with the message being taught in public sex ed courses to set up their own curriculum that, if they mentioned a few basic points, could be a complete substitute for the public school course (or "sex ed portion" of the health course.) In this option, students would have a study hall during the day (for those few weeks), then attendance would be taken/tests given at their church later that night. (Logistical issues with sports/music may need to be worked out on a case by case basis.)

    Maybe I'm naive, but I truly believe that if students were given a well-thought out account of the reasons why their church believes in abstaining from sex until marriage and/or refraining from birth control and condoms, rather than just a bunch of vague, anti-intellectual nonsense, they'd be more likely to actually follow it. I believe this because of my own personal experience. During high school, I was not given a good (or really, any) presentation on why the Catholic Church is opposed to contraception and pre-marital sex. But I did learn about it during college, and my opinions about sex did a complete 180-degree turnaround. There was a point, or really several points, where I just thought to myself, "Wow. Everything I have ever believed and most of what I have been told about sexuality up to this point is a lie." I guarantee you that the people referred to in the studies that say, "80% of Catholics use contraception"--I guarantee you they don't understand why the Catholic Church opposes it. And yes, this is largely the church's fault, but it doesn't mean they're wrong, it just means they were negligent. If those couples did understand why the church is opposed to contraception, they'd never even think of using it. (We do believe in natural family planning methods, which, if used properly, a big if, are ironically more effective than the pill or condoms.)

    But yes, the onus should be on the churches to do this. If they cannot, they are failing their kids and frankly might as well close up shop.

  2. I slightly disagree with both Chris and Alex. I am somewhere in the middle of both. I believe every kid needs a person in their life willing to have an open discussion about sex (sex ed. teacher, sibling, parent, mentor, pastor, etc). Schools must offer informative programs lacking bias (or at least as much as possible) which allow young adults to know what their options are.
    Sex is too taboo in this country for no valid reason. Everyone has their own values and it is inherently wrong for one to force theirs upon anyone else.
    If my parents told me how to view and value sex, I would most likely do the opposite. Instead they told me they trusted my decisions and thus I decided my sexual fate on my own.
    Similarly, my best friend's parents felt the same as mine and she chose a completely opposite route.
    Abstinence only sexual education is the same as abstinence only alcohol education, both end up with addictions, bad situations, and decisions that change the person's life.