Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Unicorns, Santa Claus and effective virginity pledges

This is old news, partly because WaPo reported it on Monday, but also because, well, tell us something we don't know, but virginity pledges don't work.
A new study by a researcher at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and published in the scientific journal Pediatrics finds that:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do.

CNN reports:
Five years after the initial survey the study subjects were aged 20 to 23. Eighty-two percent of pledge takers denied (or forgot) they had ever taken such a vow. Overall pledge takers were no different from non-pledge takers in terms of their premarital sex, anal and oral sexual practices, and their probability of having a sexually transmitted disease.

Both groups lost their virginity at an average age of 21, had about three lifetime partners, and had similar rates of STDs. "And the majority were having premarital sex, over 50 percent," says Rosenbaum. Overall, roughly 75 percent of pledgers and non-pledgers were sexually active, and about one in five was married.

So, there's more evidence that abstinence-until-marriage pledges don't work unless you're a born-again Christian growing up in a hyper-conservative environment, where you'd probably stay abstinent even if you didn't pledge.
If you're an average teenager receiving the abstinence-only sex education that is federally funded to the tune of $204 million a year, abstinence pledges don't make a difference in whether or not you practice abstinence.

Hate to sound like a teenager here, but, duh.

Thanks to Ilya for the tip!


At December 30, 2008 at 10:55 PM , Blogger Brian said...

The sad thing about this is that supporters of such stupid anti-sex programs are going to just ignore these findings. This is, after all, not the first study to prove that abstinence fails more often than condoms.

At December 31, 2008 at 2:21 AM , Anonymous christina said...

I think it's very important to make a distinction here: a distinction between people who take the virginity pledge just because (because everyone else is, because that's what's being done at the moment, because whatever) and people who take it thoughtfully and seriously.

As someone who falls into the latter category (and, by the way, I am neither a born-again Christian, nor did I grow up in a hyper-conservative environment), I can testify to such a pledge's effectiveness, at least in my case, and I'm sure in the case of other people who took a similar pledge or vow of some form with them same serious attitude that I did.

To me, the usefulness of a abstinence-till-marriage pledge is that 1) you've definitively made a lifestyle choice and thus will be prepared for moments when that choice matters, and 2) it gives you an excuse on principle (i.e. you don't want to break your pledge/vow as a matter of personal integrity) if and when you are faced with the possibility of premarital sex and your partner wants a reason for your refusal.

Someone who makes the pledge likely--who does it just because, or who recites the pledge or signs their name on the card without bothering to think about or read what they're pledging--clearly is not going to be affected one way or another by having taken the pledge, so yes, forcing abstinence pledges on kids who are bored/not paying attention/couldn't care less is not really going to work. But I don't think it's fair to say such pledges categorically don't work, because if they're taken seriously by people who take pledging their word seriously, they are going to work.

And just as a sidenote, by definition, abstinence is more effective than condoms--that's the whole point, that abstinence if 100% effective. Clearly, if you're having sex, you're not practicing abstinence, so at that point, yeah, a condom would be more effective birth control, but once you're having sex, you're not abstinent any longer.

At December 31, 2008 at 8:00 PM , Blogger Mike said...

I think what Brian meant was that abstinence-only education fails more often than either the condoms that are bought by teenagers who are taught about safe sex practices or the condoms that are distributed in schools (though, I would support the former over the latter any day).


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