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In Sex Education News: Obama Cuts Federal Abstinence-Only Education

May 8, 2009

compsexedYesterday, President Barack Obama cut two $100 million abstinence-only sex education programs from previous President George W. Bush’s budget. Woo hoo! This has been long waiting. For those who don’t know, abstinence-only sex education are programs that fail to provide adequate information for teenagers in regards to sexual health (for ex: some do not identify how to use a condom properly, many statistics regarding STIs are skewed, and many programs are religiously-based where homosexual adolescents feel left out of the discussion of sexual health). If you want to read more about abstinence-only education, please click here to get the facts.

The alternative to abstinence-only education is called comprehensive sex education. This includes an emphasis on abstinence, while also teaching adolescents about safe sex practices. Below is a description of the definition and difference between abstinence-only and comprehensive sex-education (this is something I wrote for NARAL Pro-Choice NY TORCH Program):

Abstinence-only verses Comprehensive Sex Educations



A sex education program that teaches that sex before marriage is considered “bad behavior” and has negative consequences afterwards.

Comprehensive sex education:

A sex education program that teaches a wide variety of topics. Comprehensive sex education teaches that sex is a natural part of life but informs that abstinence is the only 100% way to protect against unwanted pregnancy and STIs.

What does it teach?


It does not address forms of contraception except when discussing the negative effects of condoms*.

Comprehensive sex education:

It also teaches about the different forms of contraception. In addition, this form of sex education includes information on HIV/AIDS and other STI’s.

Who do they include?


Many abstinence-only programs tend to use fear tactics* to promote abstinence while leaving out half of high schools students who have already had sex including LGBTQ students.

Comprehensive sex education:

This sex education program includes all high school students: those who have had sex and those who haven’t had sex, including those who are LGBTQ students.

*How they address negative affects of condoms: For example, in one abstinence-only curriculum it states:

Condoms provide no proven reduction against chlamydia, the most common bacterial STD. (from Choosing the Best PATH, Leader guide pg. 18)

Actually, condoms reduce the risk of gonorrhea, herpes simplex virus (HSV), and pelvic inflammatory disease. In addition, intact latex condoms provide a continuous mechanical barrier to HIV, HSV, hepatitis B virus (HBV), and chlamydia (from the CDC government website).

*Fear tactics: Abstinence-only marriage compares sex before marriage with various dangerous situations saying that they will be bad consequences. For example, in one abstinence-only curriculum it states:

Eating spoiled food and getting sick and jumping from a tall building and injuring yourself or killing yourself as well as other examples.

Another example of why abstinence-only is not good sex education:

This activity was also used in the NARAL Pro-Choice TORCH curriculum. Below is an activity that teen peer educators presented to other peers in NYC. It highlights how ineffective abstinence-only education is.

Spit in a Cup Activity

Purpose: To show an example of Abstinence –only activity through discussion/critique of what is wrong with this activity.

Materials: Plastic cup

STD placards

Before the presentation, prepare 7 STD placards by writing each of the following words on a separate 8 ½ X 11 sheet of paper:

HPV ( Human Papilloma Virus)

    Say, “Right now I am going to present an abstinence-only activity. This is an activity that is presented in many abstinence-only curriculums. Afterwards, we will discuss what you liked/didn’t like about the activity.”
  1. Ask 7 volunteers to line up side-by-side at the front of the class.
  1. <Distribute one placard to each volunteer. Be sure the virgin card goes to a guy at the very end of the line.
  1. Give the first volunteer in the line the plastic cup and ask him or her spit in the cup.
  1. Ask the student to pass the cup down to the next person in the line, and ask the second student to spit in the same cup as well.
  1. Continue down the line until everyone except the “VIRGIN” has spit in the cup.
  1. When the “Virgin” receives the cup, say, “Now I want you to drink it.” NOTE: DO NOT LET THE STUDENT ACTUALLY DRINK FROM THE CUP!!!! The purpose is to draw attention to nature of mixed body fluids. The “VIRGIN” says “no thanks” to the cup.
  1. Hold up the spit cup and say, “Now isn’t he smart? This is like what you put into your body when you have sex with someone whose sexual history is unknown to you. Think before you act!!”
  1. <Explain that the abstinence-only activity is over. Ask participants how they felt participating in the activity.  What did they like about the activity? What did they not like about the activity? Ask the same questions to the people observing the activity. You can let the group have a free discussion around critiques and comments about the activity but make sure to discuss the following things:
    1. Uses a bad demonstration of bodily fluids by comparing them to spit
      1. Spit and bodily fluids are not the same. None of the bodily fluids listed could pass their disease/infection by spitting.
    2. The activity does not discuss condom usage.
    3. It assumes that everyone has not had sex, assuming that only virgins are trying to protect themselves from diseases/infections
    4. It does not talk about the specific facts of the STIs mentioned (for example, whether or not the infection could be treated).

Why abstinence-only doesn’t work:

If you’re not convinced from what is mentioned earlier, please go to the U.S. government’s study on why abstinence-only education is not an effective sex education program for adolescents.


To support comprehensive sex education, click here to contact your member of Congress. You can also go to for a starter kit on how to advocate for sex ed.

  1. Erik permalink
    May 8, 2009 4:53 pm

    Wow. That description of the game with the cup took me right back to sex ed in Iowa…

    My parents never allowed me to take sex ed. They pulled me out each year because they wanted to be the ones to teach me about sex in the christian light. I begged them to let me finally take sex ed in eighth grade. On my first day, my teacher put up an overhead projection of a vagina. I fainted instantly. When I came to, I was in the arms of my band director, in her office. I was sent home (I have written a rather funny account of this I’ll send you sometime…).

    This is really good news. Go Obama.

  2. jana permalink
    July 16, 2009 2:32 pm

    I’m from Germany and for me it was normal that we discussed the sex things in our biology lessons. So I’m really bemazed every time I hear about “Abstinence only Education” or people which support that.

    At the moment I’m completing an Internship at NCAC (National Coalition Against Censorship) so I’ve read a lot about it – certainly.

    If you are interested in reading more about it you could just join our blog:

    On our blog there is shown a infographic about Abstinence-only Education. It’s very interesting!

    We are glad about a lot comments as well as a lively discussion!



  1. In Sex Education News: Obama Cuts Federal Abstinence-Only … | AV Online,sex blog

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