Cox Newspapers, December 7, 2004
We can't stop
sex, but we can stop spreading misinformation
by TOM TEEPEN
The gods of irony are dancing again. Even as
the movie "Kinsey" turns up in theaters
to remind us of the social shock that greeted
the first comprehensive scientific survey of
sexual behavior in 1948, your federal government
is trying to stuff the sex genie back into
The more things change, the more...
The film traces the pioneering work of the Indiana
University -- read: heartland -- scientist
Alfred Kinsey, whose nationwide survey whisked
a thick cover of hypocrisy off of sexual matters.
Contrary to the staid surface of the times
and despite legally backed sexual repression,
it turned out that premarital and extramarital
sex, plus an array of practices at the time
labeled deviant, were in fact widespread.
The study excited a veritable industry of denunciation
and debunking whose remnant figures are still
fussing on the margins, some even demanding
a congressional investigation of Kinsey, who
has been dead for 48 years.
But for all the controversy, Kinsey, in the end,
did finally free the issues of sex from misinformation
and the mire of wishful thinking, didn't he?
Not exactly. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., shows
in a new report that abstinence-only sex education,
an enthusiasm of President Bush and congressional
Republicans, often tutors students in gross
Abstinence-only courses indoctrinate young people
against sex until marriage and limit birth-control
information to its failures. This is, frankly,
a silly undertaking -- silly because it is
hopeless. Puberty is hitting a year or two
earlier than it did a century ago, and marriage
nowadays usually waits until well into the
20s. A policy promoting celibacy for a stretch
of a dozen years or more, and at an age when
the hormones are at their hottest, is nonsense.
And indeed a Columbia University study found
that while teens who take virginity pledges
may wait a little longer to become sexually
active than other kids, 88 percent fall off
the wagon. When they do, they are less likely
to use protection than students who have had
comprehensive sex education.
Its advocates argue that abstinence is the only
sure way to avoid pregnancy or sexual disease.
Well, sure. But, then, never getting into an
automobile is the only certain way to avoid
a car crash and not many are going to do that,
Youthful promiscuity is a problem, but the effective
answers lie with prudence, good judgment and
knowledge -- all teachable.
Instead, as Waxman has found, students in some
abstinence courses are told that touching another
person's genitals can cause pregnancy, that
abortion often leads to sterility, that the
AIDS virus can be spread by tears and sweat.
Condoms are misrepresented as next to useless
in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted
This isn't sex education. It's anti-sex education,
trafficking in shame and dread and sometimes
further freighted with anti-abortion and pre-feminist
cant. Even so, Congress has just hiked abstinence-only
education by $30 million, even as it was cutting
the National Science Foundation, our basic
research engine, by $105 million.
And compounding futility with farce, a national
abstinence-only advocacy group is boosting
the crusade with a T-shirt that reads "Touch
your dog, not your date."
Maybe Kinsey would understand.
TOM TEEPEN is an Atlanta-based columnist for
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