Sex, Condoms and Motorcycle Helmets

The Godless Left continues its relentless attacks on abstinence-based sex-ed programs, calling them unrealistic since, “teenagers are going to have sex no matter what we do.”

To understand the fallacy in this fatalistic claim, imagine that a teenage girl tells her parents that she is not interested in having sex but her boyfriend is pressuring her.  The question is, should her parents tell her that she is being unrealistic to expect him to be abstinent?  Should they tell her that she will have to either jump in bed with him or just accept that he will go out and have sex with other girls? 

Obviously, no decent parent would say that to their daughter.  They would tell her that abstinence is entirely reasonable.  That exposes the “kids-are-going-to-have-sex-no-matter-what-we-do” argument as a lie.  After all, if it is realistic for a teenage boy to abstain because his girlfriend doesn’t want to have sex, then it is equally realistic for him to abstain because he has been taught that it is the right thing to do. 

Today, people are starting to pick up on the fact that, after public schools began introducing contraception-based sex-ed in the 1960s, America’s relatively small teen pregnancy problem exploded into an epidemic of promiscuity, teen pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases.  They are also noticing that children are now having sex at much younger ages.  Whereas forty years ago it would have been front-page news for a 12-year-old girl to be pregnant, today it is not even unusual.

This has caught many liberal social engineers between a rock and a hard place.   They abhor the abstinence message, but they see it gaining popularity among parents who have seen that contraception-based sex education has been a train wreck.  In this environment, the pill-pushers have decided to advocate what they call “Abstinence Plus” or “Comprehensive Sex Education.”  Trying to appear reasonable, they now claim to support abstinence-based programs as an addition to contraception-based programs.  Some even grudgingly, though insincerely, agree that abstinence should be primary. 

This is a scam.  These people know that pushing contraception and abstinence together will neutralize the abstinence message.  It’s no different than parents telling their teenagers,  “Don’t drink and drive, but if you do, don’t spill anything on the seats” or “Don’t smoke, but if you do, use filtered cigarettes” or “Don’t take a gun to school, but if you do, don’t point it at anyone” or “Don’t use heroin, but if you do, don’t leave needles lying around where your little brother can get them” or “Don’t drive my new Corvette while I’m out of town, but if you do, replace the gas you use.”

The fact is, America’s epidemic of teen pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases was caused by a dramatic increase in sexual activity among children, and all the condoms and birth control pills in the world will not turn that around.  The only solution is to reduce the sexual activity rate of children, and mixed messages will never do that.

A good analogy can be drawn between contraception-based sex-ed and motorcycle helmets.  As someone who has been riding, building and/or racing motorcycles for 47 of my 59 years, I can assure you that someone is better off wearing a helmet than not wearing one.  However, helmets do not make riding motorcycles safe and I have never heard one helmet or motorcycle manufacturer contend otherwise.

Let’s say, however, that we decided to let our school systems make motorcycle helmets available to every teenager in the country for free and without their parents’ knowledge.  Let’s also say that these kids were “educated” that wearing helmets made them seem mature and responsible because it meant that they were practicing “safe motorcycle.” 

In that environment, it would be pure idiocy to think that the number of children willing to ride motorcycles is not going to dramatically increase or that the number killed on motorcycles is not going to skyrocket.

So, if the question is whether helmets offer some degree of protection to people who ride motorcycles, the answer is yes.  If the question is whether they should be pushed to children as part of a “motorcycle abstinence” or “safe motorcycle” message, the answer is absolutely not.  In fact, it would be criminal to do so.  But that is precisely how the condom/contraception message has been packaged to address teen sexuality, and the results have been as horrifying as they were predictable.

Some people argue that abstinence-only programs write off those children who don’t remain abstinent and places them at a higher risk for pregnancy, diseases, and abortion.  To some degree, that is a valid argument.  However, that doesn’t mean abstinence-only programs shouldn’t be adopted.

When laws requiring children to be strapped into child safety seats were being considered, it was already known that some children would die because they were in these seats.  For example, when cars accidentally go into a river or lake, some children will drown when their parents panic and can’t get them out of their car seats.  Other children will die in car fires because their parents were rendered unconscious during the wreck and not available to get them out of the car seat.  In some crashes, children who might have a better chance for survival if they were thrown from the cars in which they were riding, will instead die because they were strapped into a car seat.

The legislators who supported these child-restraint laws were aware of these risks.  But, in passing these laws, they were not saying, “We’re willing to write off those children who will die because they were in a car seat.”  Instead, they recognized that child safety seats save more lives than they take.  In a perfect world they would be able to pass a law to save every child who gets into a car wreck, but they don’t live in such a world so they made decisions that they believed would save the most lives possible.  

That dynamic also applies to abstinence-based sex education.  No reasonable person could believe that it will save every child or that some children might not actually be harmed by it.  Although the pill-pushers’ argument that teenagers are going to have sex no matter what we do is a lie, we cannot deny that some kids will have sex no matter what we do.  But we have to also accept the harsh reality that there is never going to be a perfect or painless solution to the massive destruction caused by Planned Parenthood’s brand of sex education.  Given that, we must look for the educational approach that will save the most children possible, and that is abstinence-only.  It is the only solution that is 100% effective every time it is used.   

One thing is for certain.  It is the very definition of stupidity and insanity to believe that contraception-based sex education is a solution to the social problems that were created by contraception-based sex education.

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I believe I am probably one of the "godless left" whom you disparage in this essay; I am an ex-Catholic-turned-somewhat-agnostic who doesn't have all the answers - to this or several other moral issues. However, I believe in conferring credit where credit is due. I agree with you - profoundly - about abstinence for the young. Sexual intimacy demands maturity, responsibility (optimally, reciprocal responsibility) and self-sacrifice. Unsurprisingly, the very young are not usually fully equipped with these qualities. Intimacy should take place between adults - consenting adults. However, it is asking too much of our educators and/or medical professionals to render them quasi-parents. Parents have the right - and obligation - to restrict the individuals with whom their children associate - much less date. I know from whence I speak, by the way. Being a single mother isn't easy; however, my own mother evinced little to no concern about the fact that her daughter was consorting with a rapist/drug abuser. Until her wowie-zowie religious conversion three years later, of course. If I sound resentful, it's because I am. Further, I disagree (somewhat) with your equating of contraception with all sexual impropriety. My "boyfriend" didn't use contraception; that didn't prevent him from being a rapist. He had little to no sex education - that didn't stop him from knocking up a half-dozen underage girls along the way to adulthood. I agree with you about the inestimable benefits of abstinence - especially among the young. Family planning measures - and the benefits and/or angst that derive from sexual intimacy - should be reserved to adults. These aren't prurient reactions on my part; they are borne of personal experience.
# Posted By Annette in Wichita | 11/9/07 7:47 AM
I for one am a supporter of Planned Parenthood, although not of ALL of their teaching curriculum. It is important to teach children about both abstinence AND birth control methods. Go to http://www.onecondoms.com and view their parent/child guides to see if any will help you open up a conversation about safer sex and sexual health.
# Posted By Katana Avion | 3/31/09 11:56 AM
Again you get it wrong. The research shows that if you want to reduce the amount of teen pregnancies and STD's among the youth, you need to speak openly about sex and it's consequences. Simply telling kids not to do something ends up with greater numbers of them getting into "trouble". Again, get an education. TB
# Posted By Tom | 1/8/10 12:55 AM

Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics