The framing of a debate: 10 years of the abstinence-only-until-marriage message.When SIECUS SIECUS Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States began the Community Advocacy Project in 1992, I don't believe anyone could have predicted the changes the next decade would bring. At the time the federal government spent a small amount of money on "chastity Chastity
See also Modesty, Purity, Virginity.
virgin saint and martyr. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewster, 76]
(Rom. Diana) moon goddess; virgin huntress. [Gk. Myth. " programs under the Adolescent and Family Life Education Act (AFLA AFLA Armed Forces Legal Assistance
AFLA Adolescent Family Life Act
AFLA Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association
AFLA Africa Legal Aid
AFLA Association Française de Linguistique Appliquée (France)
AFLA Amateur Fencers League of America ) and communities were just starting to face challenges from those who demanded schools implement fear-based, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
Controversy over school-based sexuality education was by no means new when we began to track it during the 1993-94 school year. In 1968,just four years after SIECUS began a booklet entitled Is The Little Red School House the Place to Teach Raw Sex? was published by the John Birch Society John Birch Society, ultraconservative, anti-Communist organization in the United States. It was founded in Dec., 1958, by manufacturer Robert Welch and named after John Birch, an American intelligence officer killed by Communists in China (Aug., 1945). . In the years that followed, it became clear that conservative forces and far right organizations were strategically targeting sexuality education as an arena in which they could bring about social change.
CHANGING STRATEGY AND SHAPING THE DEBATE
However, after the passage of AFLA, and into the early 1990s, the far right changed their strategy. Instead of arguing to remove sexuality education from the "little red school house," they simply asked to change the messages young people heard. In fact, they began to argue that sexuality education in school was very important, so long as it told young people, in no uncertain terms, to abstain from abstain from
verb refrain from, avoid, decline, give up, stop, refuse, cease, do without, shun, renounce, eschew, leave off, keep from, forgo, withhold from, forbear, desist from, deny yourself, kick ( all sexual activity' until marriage.
The real success of the abstinence-only-until-marriage movement has been the ability of its leaders to shape the debate and define the terms. They declared that supporters of abstinence-only-until-marriage and supporters of comprehensive sexuality education were polar opposites that which is conspicuously different in most important respects.
See also: Opposite . They framed this as a debate between the god-fearing and the godless god·less
1. Recognizing or worshiping no god.
2. Wicked, impious, or immoral.
godless·ly adv. ; between those who wanted to give children values and those who wanted to give them condoms; between those who valued families and those who valued freedom of sexual expression; between the moral and the immoral.
Despite the fact that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have never been proven effective, such programs became palatable pal·at·a·ble
1. Acceptable to the taste; sufficiently agreeable in flavor to be eaten.
2. Acceptable or agreeable to the mind or sensibilities: a palatable solution to the problem. to many communities because they provided messages that adults were eager to hear: If we tell our young people not to have sex, they won't.
With this new strategy and message echoed by national, state, and local organizations across the country, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs flourished. The federal government began to invest significant amounts of money in such programs; states added their own money and created state-wide media campaigns; and community-based organizations and schools implemented classroom lectures, assemblies, after school clubs, and chastity rallies. At the same time that existing national far right organizations made abstinence-until-marriage a primary part of their agenda, new organizations devoted to distributing abstinence abstinence: see fasting; temperance movements. only materials and curricula emerged, and a national circuit of speakers gained popularity. Today, abstinence-only-until-marriage is a multi-million dollar business replete re·plete
1. Abundantly supplied; abounding: a stream replete with trout; an apartment replete with Empire furniture.
2. Filled to satiation; gorged.
3. with trinkets of every kind from boxer shorts boxer shorts
Men's full-cut undershorts.
boxer shorts or boxers
men's underpants shaped like shorts but with a front opening
boxer shorts box that say "Keep It" to mints that say "Sex is Mint for Marriage" to novelty ATM (Abstinence Till Marriage) cards that expire on the holder's wedding day.
A SOCIAL AGENDA
Hidden behind these cute toys, however, are much more serious issues. Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are, in fact, an attempt at social change masquerading 1. (networking) masquerading - "NAT" (Linux kernel name).
2. (messaging) masquerading - Hiding the names of internal e-mail client and gateway machines from the outside world by rewriting the "From" address and other headers as the message leaves the as a teen pregnancy prevention effort. Nowhere is this more evident than in the portrayal of gender roles and male/female relationships in many abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula.
These curricula present the stereotypical view that men desire casual sexual activity from any and all women, while women only agree to sexual activity, to get love. For example, Sex Respect says that % young man's natural desire for sex is already strong due to testosterone testosterone (tĕstŏs`tərōn), principal androgen, or male sex hormone. One of the group of compounds known as anabolic steroids, testosterone is secreted by the testes (see testis) but is also synthesized in small quantities in the " and that, in contrast, "females are becoming culturally conditioned to fantasize about sex as well. (1) WAIT Training makes a similar point by saying: "A man is usually less discriminating about those to whom he is physically attracted." (2) Such comments not only disregard women's natural interest in sexual pleasure, they also place responsibility for setting limits almost exclusively on young women. In a poster, Sex Respect tells girls: "Watch what you wear, if you don't aim to please, don't aim to tease tease (tez) to pull apart gently with fine needles to permit microscopic examination.
v. ." (3)
Instead of stereotypes and catchphrases, students need to learn that both men and women are sexual beings and are equally responsible for making decisions regarding sexual activity.
These curricula also present "traditional" gender roles as the norm within a marriage. Reasonable Reasons to Wait suggests that newly married couples ask: "will the wife work after marriage or will the husband be the sole breadwinner bread·win·ner
One whose earnings are the primary source of support for one's dependents.
bread·winning n. ?" (4) The Art of Loving Well, a literary anthology used to promote abstinence-until-marriage, asks students to: "Think of the enormous wisdom contained in the fact that in the wedding ceremony the father 'gives away' his daughter" (5) And WAIT Training explains: "It is not that men are more selfish than women. It is simply that at the outset of a marriage, a man is not as equipped to express unselfish love or as desirous de·sir·ous
Having or expressing desire; desiring: Both sides were desirous of finding a quick solution to the problem.
de·sir of nurturing marriage into a loving and lasting relationship as a woman is." (6)
These examples represent a giant step backwards in the values of gender equality--both within relationships as well as within society--that so many generations have struggled for. By promoting these gender stereotypes, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs limit young people's options, influence their behaviors, and color their expectations for future relationships.
Such stereotypes are once again taking center stage. A recent edition of Newsweek was devoted to "The New Virginity Virginity
See also Chastity, Purity.
patron saint of virgins. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewer Dictionary, 16]
Indian maiden learns too late she can be released from her vow to remain a virgin. [Fr. Lit. ." It discussed young women who have decided to remain virgins until they marry. Choosing to remain abstinent is a valid and often wise decision. What was disturbing about this article, however, was that the issue was once again framed as the godfearing versus the godless, the moral versus the immoral, and the pure versus the tainted taint
v. taint·ed, taint·ing, taints
1. To affect with or as if with a disease.
2. To affect with decay or putrefaction; spoil. See Synonyms at contaminate.
3. . And this time, young women were the target.
I am very concerned that this concept of the "new virgin" is quickly becoming yet another mechanism to make young women feel ashamed of their sexuality.
THE LAST TEN YEARS
I feel that this special anniversary issue of the SIECUS Report provides valuable information, insight, and, in spite of all the bad news, some hope. In addition to our annual review of controversy, this issue provides analysis of the changes we have seen over the last ten years in communities and schools, federal and state laws and policies, and relevant court decisions. As you will see from these articles, the federal government's increasing commitment to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, including the 1996 passage of the Welfare Reform Act and the creation of the Special Projects of Regional and National Significance--Community Based Abstinence Education Program (SPRANS-CBAE), has had a profound impact on sexuality education in this country.
What I am most excited about, however, are the contributions to this issue by a number of educators and parents who have faced controversy first-hand. These dedicated individuals show us that although it is not easy, we can, in fact, make progress.
I hope that when the Community Advocacy Project marks another ten years of tracking controversy around sexuality education, SIECUS can simply report that comprehensive sexuality education has become so widely accepted that communities no longer debate the issue. After all, the ultimate goal of all good advocacy projects is to create a world where the project is no longer needed.
(1) C.K. Mast, Sex Respect (revised edition), (Golf, IL: Respect Incorporated, 1997) pg. 6.
(2) WAIT (Why Am 1 Tempted) Training, Workshop Manual (Longmont, CO: Friends First, 1996) pg. 40
(3) Sex Respect, Student Workbook work·book
1. A booklet containing problems and exercises that a student may work directly on the pages.
2. A manual containing operating instructions, as for an appliance or machine.
3. , pg. 82
(4) M. Gallagher Duran, Reasonable Reasons to Wait; The Keys to Character, Student Workbook, (Chantilly, VA: A Choice in Education, 2002-03) pg. 185
(5) The Art of Loving Well, Character Education Curriculum for Today Teenagers, Teacher's Guide (Boston, MA: Trustees of Boston University Boston University, at Boston, Mass.; coeducational; founded 1839, chartered 1869, first baccalaureate granted 1871. It is composed of 16 schools and colleges. , 1998), pg. 21
(6) WAIT (Why Am I Tempted) Training. Workshop Manual, pg. 89