Emphasizing abstinence before marriage may actually do more harm than good, according to a new finding from researchers at the University of Washington.
While saving one’s virginity until happily wedded bliss is both an American and religious tradition based on morality, experts say those who make pledges of abstinence experience negative effects relating to their sexual health.
“There’s an obsession with virginity in this country,” said the lead researcher, Sarah Diefendorf. “And we forget to have informative, successful conversations on sex.”
The rates of sexually transmitted infections are even higher among people who pledged their abstinence than they are among the general population, according to other studies. They may also be less likely to wear a condom or use other types of contraception. And contrary to the belief of social conservatives, teens who commit to abstinence do not exhibit lower rates of STDs, suggesting that saving it for marriage does not lead to better public health.
Instead, public health advocates point out that such findings suggests a need for more comprehensive and immediate sex education in schools so that youth are more exposed to the reality of sexual intercourse to dispel any misinformation.
Think Progress reports:
Public health experts have advocated taking a starkly different approach to teen sexuality, acknowledging that the vast majority of young adults are will be sexually active before marriage and pointing out that curricula need to adapt to this reality. Reproductive health researchers recommend that, in order to reduce the rate of STDs and unintended pregnancies, schools need to implement comprehensive sexuality instruction as early as age 10. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also endorse starting sex ed earlier, based on statistics showing that most kids don’t receive any formal instruction until after they’ve already started having sex.
(Photo: Jon Feingersh/Blend Images/Corbis)