10 Arguments Against Abstinence - Pros and Cons of Abstinence Debate, Part II

Is Abstinence Realistic for All Teens? Arguments Against Abstinence

Continued from the article 10 Arguments For Abstinence - Pros and Cons of Abstinence, Part I

Ten Arguments Against Abstinence

  1. Telling teens to be abstinent is"not realistic at all" said Bristol Palin, daughter of 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, in her first interview after giving birth at 18.
  2. Abstinence means different things to different people, and some forms of "abstinence" can still spread sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Teens who abstain from vaginal intercourse but engage in oral sex, mutual masturbation or anal sex can still be infected by STDs. Any skin-to-skin contact including genital-to-genital, hand-to-genital or mouth-to-genital can spread disease.
  3. Abstinence only works if teens stick to their pledge. But according to researcher Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, "Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior."
  4. Over the past five years, several major studies have found that abstinence-only education has no effect in stopping or delaying sex. According to Emerging Answers 2007, commissioned by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, "there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners."
  5. Teens who break their vows of abstinence are much less likely to use contraceptives than those who do not pledge abstinence. A report published in the January 2009 issue of Pediatrics found that teens who break their pledge are less likely to get tested for STDs and may have STDs for longer periods of time than teens who do not pledge abstinence.
  6. Since teens who pledge abstinence are much less likely to use contraceptives if they break their pledge, their risk of becoming pregnant is significantly greater. A sexually active teen who does not use contraception has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year.
  7. The declining in the rate of teen pregnancy nationwide is now recognized as due to increased use of contraception, and not abstinence. According to the Guttmacher Institute, "Recent research concluded that almost all of the decline in the pregnancy rate between 1995 and 2002 among 18–19-year-olds was attributable to increased contraceptive use. Among women aged 15-17, about one-quarter of the decline during the same period was attributable to reduced sexual activity and three-quarters to increased contraceptive use."
  8. Abstinence sends the wrong message to girls and young women. Author and women's issues advocate Jessica Valenti argues, "While boys are taught that the things that make them men — good men — are universally accepted ethical ideals, women are led to believe that our moral compass lies somewhere between our legs....Virginity and chastity are reemerging as a trend in pop culture, in our schools, in the media, and even in legislation. So while young women are subject to overt sexual messages every day, they're simultaneously being taught — by the people who are supposed to care for their personal and moral development, no less — that their only real worth is their virginity and ability to remain 'pure.'"
  9. The states with the highest teen pregnancy rates and teen birth rates in the U.S. are either states that do not mandate sex education or HIV education or stress abstinence-only as the primary method of preventing pregnancy.
  10. Teens who realize that they may engage in sexual activity take responsibility for preventing pregnancy by choosing a method of contraception in advance. For sexually experienced females age 15-19, nearly all (99%) used some form of contraception at least once during sexual intercourse.

Boonstra, Heather. "Advocates Call for a New Approach After the Era of 'Abstinence-Only’ Sex.' Guttmacher Policy Review. Winter 2009, vol. 12, no. 1.
"Bristol Palin: Abstinence for all teens 'not realistic.'" CNN.com. 17 February 2009.
Sanchez, Mitzi. "Teen Pregnancy: 'No Contraceptive? 90% Chance Of Getting Pregnant.''' Huffingtonpost.com. 15 February 2012.
Vilibert, Diana. "Jessica Valenti Debunks the Purity Myth." MarieClaire.com. 22 April 2009.