Rufus New York

The Problem with Abstinence-only Education

A fifth of the youth in our country are being misled by Abstinence-only education. This broken system of education is leaving them vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies and dangerous STDs. Comprehensive sex education has to be mandated on a federal level, so the youth of America will no longer be at risk.

Dear President,

I ask of you to remember back to when you were a teenager. I want you to remember the confusion that everyone goes through as they develop, as they try to understand their sexuality. Now, I assume you were fortunate enough to receive a comprehensive sex education, but there are no national standards for sex education. A recent survey conducted by the Guttmacher Institute found 23% of the students in your country are taught abstinence-only education, a form of sex ed which fails to prepare them for the future. The broken system that is abstinence-only education must be abolished.

Teenagers are emotionally vulnerable, and messages spread by Abstinence-only education can cause teens to lose self-worth. Elizabeth Smart, a victim of sexual assault, remembers what one of her teachers said:

“Imagine you’re a stick of gum and when you engage in sex, that’s like, that’s like getting chewed and then if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum. And who’s going to want you after that?”

This is a horrible thing to say to anyone, but here’s how Smart reacted to her teacher’s statement:

“Well that’s terrible, but nobody should ever say that, but for me, I felt oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum.”

You’ll find comparisons like these being said in classrooms across the nation. We cannot allow a form of education to exist that compares our youth to chewed gum because they dared to explore their sexuality. The messages spread by these programs cause students to fear to have sex and can fill those that have had sex with self-loathing.

Abstinence-based education requires students enrolled to keep their promise of celibacy. Put simply, teenagers are horny and they will have sex. In fact, in 2007 an evaluation of abstinence-only programs conducted by the federal government concluded that students enrolled in abstinence-only programs were no less likely to have sex and had a similar amount of sexual partners when compared to students in comprehensive sex ed programs. Abstinence-only education fails to achieve their primary goal of getting students to abstain from sex.

When students leave high school, they won’t require all of the knowledge they are taught, but they must learn proper use of condoms, birth control and other forms of contraceptives. While emphasizing abstinence, the programs paint contraceptives in a negative light. In 2004, when Advocates for Youth reviewed 11 state-based evaluations, they found that teenagers that went through abstinence-only education were more unwilling to use forms of contraception. The programs also don’t teach proper use of contraceptives. This is a problem in states such as Mississippi which, according to the Huffington Post, has largely adopted abstinence-only education. In Mississippi, legislation forbids contraceptive demonstrations in class. Sex ed teachers can’t even show how to put condoms on bananas. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in 2014, 38 out of 1000 girls aged 15 to 19 in Mississippi became pregnant. That’s the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. When you pair a general unwillingness to use contraceptives with the fact that teens are still having sex, you get disaster. By not using contraceptives, these teens are opening themselves up to unwanted pregnancies and risk contracting STDs.

Now remember, a policy of abstinence is not a bad thing. Everyone has the right to choose whether or not they want to abstain from sex. Through abstinence, you can avoid the risk of pregnancy and STDs. However, teachers should present abstinence as a choice, instead of pressuring students into it. Use of contraceptives also must be taught, so students will know how to protect themselves against pregnancy and STDs. So I ask you, our president, to work to pass legislation that would make comprehensive sex education mandatory across the country.

We can no longer allow our sex education system to fail it’s students by failing to teach them the basics. I need you, our president, to mandate comprehensive sex ed. I need you to help arm our youth with the knowledge they need to protect themselves and vanquish the abstinence-only education that is putting them at risk.



Works Cited

Advocates for Youth.“Top Five Reasons to Abandon Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs”advocatesforyouth,, Accessed 25 Oct.2016

Advocates for Youth.“The Truth About Abstinence-Only Programs”Advocates For Youth,, Accessed 25 Oct.2016.

LastWeekTonight.“Sex Education: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver(HBO)”, Accessed 26 Oct.2016.

Le Coz, Emily.”Mississippi Schools, With America’s Highest Teen Pregnancy Rate, Largely Adopts Abstinence-Only Sex Education”The Huffington Post,, Accessed 3 Nov.2016.

Livni, Ephrat.”Study: Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Up”abc News,, Accessed 25 Oct.2016.

Lowen, Linda.“10 Arguments for Abstinence - Pros and Cons of the Abstinence Debate, Part I”About,,Accessed 25 oct.2016.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.”Teen Birth Rate Comparison, 2014: Among Girls Age 15-19”The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy,, Accessed 31 OCT.2016.

Van Tassel, Gabrielle.”Sex Education or Sex Ignorance?”HuffingtonPost,, Accessed 25 Oct.2016

Photo Sources:

Van Tassel, Gabrielle.”Sex Education or Sex Ignorance?”HuffingtonPost,, Accessed 25 Oct.2016

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