Friday, March 6, 2009

Abstinence-Only Education Sends Dangerous Messages to Youth

As per usual, the Amplify blog, run by the great organization Advocates for Youth, has some chilling information on what is being actually taught in publicly-funding abstinence-only education programs.

We talk about these programs in the abstract an awful lot, and how they're not teaching teens the tools they need to keep themselves safe and make smart choices about their sexual health. But it's also a good idea to take a look at what they actually are teaching teens. And the truth about what they're up to goes far beyond even the dangerous myths that "condoms don't work," and into the realm of reinforcing out-dated and oppressive gender roles with regards to sex.

Just a couple excerpts from what Amplify found:
In South Carolina, Heritage Community Services (currently receives a CBAE grant of $600,000 per year from 2006-2011) teaches girls that conservative attire is necessary, or those poor boys will virtually attack you. Here is an excerpt from their classroom curriculum:
“Males and females are aroused at different levels of intimacy. Males are more sight oriented, whereas females are more touch oriented. This is why girls need to be careful with what they wear, because males are looking! The girl might be thinking fashion, while the boy is thinking sex. For this reason, girls have a responsibility to wear modest clothing that doesn’t invite lustful thoughts.
Yes indeed, girls. It is your duty to the country. More from HCS’s website:
“a good minimum guideline is to declare everything covered by a bathing suit as off limits. Everyone needs to know his or her boundaries before getting in a risky situation. Once someone is excited physically, it can be difficult to stop.”
Far from teaching girls the useful skills of how to assert themselves in sexual situations and clearly say what they do and do not want to do, this kind of curriculum doesn't even acknowledge that girls and women have their own sexual thoughts and desires. Indeed, another example found over at Amplify's blog post shows curriculum that asserts male sexual desire as erratic based on physical attraction, with female sexual desire as harder to come by and based in emotion.

And worst of all, these kinds of attitudes are the exact same ones that promote victim-blaming with regards to rape and sexual assault. These attitudes being taught to students put the onus on girls and women to not "provoke" the sexual attraction and attention of men, rather than the onus on boys and men to control themselves and act respectfully. Amplify has even yet another example, where this attitude gets particularly explicit -- in an abstinence-only story which asserts that a girl who claimed to be raped is not credible, due to her promiscuous reputation.

Read the full Amplify post here, and remember that not only are our teens being given dangerous, harmful and sexist messages -- they're also being funded by our tax dollars! You can ask President Obama to zero-out funding for abstinence-only education here.

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