Abstinence-Only Group Tells Students To Sign Pledge That Expires on Wedding Day

Over the weekend, reader Larry Mathys‘s brother and sister-in-law found something disturbing in their son’s bed:

That’s a card their son signed when a group called The Real Deal of Saline County visited his public school back in February. Larry points to the logo — which not-so-subtlely resembles a cross. Notice the expiration date on that pledge: “My Wedding Night.” (Apparently, after you get married, you can have all the illegal drugs and porn you want…?)

Without asking for parental consent, a group of Christians from the group came to the nephew’s school to promote abstinence.

The issue isn’t that it’s a Christian group. They didn’t mention faith in their presentation at all, according to the nephew.

The issue is that they’re spreading bad information. Larry explains:

Even if these deluded people believe that a significant number of teens, in the heat of a mutually consenting moment of heavy petting will suddenly put an end to it because they remember that they signed a 3″ x 6″ contract with the good people at, “The Real Deal”, there’s still the matter of valid data. I mean, if we’re going to address a real problem, then we have to be honest with ourselves and provide real data. And from everything I could find, teen pregnancy has been on the rise in Arkansas over the past 6 years.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, promoted The Real Deal this way back in 2002:

Abstinence by Choice operates in 20 schools in the Little Rock area of Arkansas. The program targets 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students and reaches about 4,000 youths each year. A recent evaluation, involving a sample of nearly 1,000 students, shows that the program has been highly effective in changing the attitudes that are directly linked to early sexual activity. Moreover, the program reduced the sexual activity rates of girls by approximately 40 percent (from 10.2 percent to 5.9 percent) and the rate for boys by approximately 30 percent (from 22.8 percent to 15.8 percent) when compared with similar students who had not been exposed to the program. (The sexual activity rate of students in the program was compared with the rate of sexual activity among control students in the same grade in the same schools prior to the commencement of the program.)

However, a paper by Dr. Douglas Kirby (PDF) (also from 2002, sponsored by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy) looked at several “Effective Abstinence-Only Programs” as listed by the Heritage Foundation and found that Abstinence By Choice wasn’t as great as it was made out to be:

Abstinence by Choice. This study did not meet the minimal criteria for Emerging Answers because it had a very weak research design (Weed, 2001). In particular, it did not have pre-intervention and post-intervention data from a comparison group of the same age.

It shouldn’t be this hard to get honest, accurate information about sex and drugs to younger students. According to The Real Deal’s own workshop notes, they teach kids to be abstinent by showing them slides of STDs, asking kids “what [it would] be like around school if others knew you had an STD,” and asking them how premarital sex will impede their life goals. It’s as if any form of premarital physical contact with someone you like is automatically evil.

There should be a place in school curriculums for serious discussions about these topics. But let’s have a honest discussion, not one based on faulty assumptions. One of the goals of sex education ought to be to make sure kids are aware of and mature enough to handle the consequences of sex (physically and emotionally) before they decide to have it, not to scare them away from it for good until some ill-defined “expiration date.”

If there’s a group like this coming to your children’s school, talk to the administration about getting it cancelled. They don’t have the facts, but they have no problem spreading lies and pretending like they know what they’re talking about.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://alesbianphysician.wordpress.com/ Jessica Sideways

    I didn’t get the memo saying that once I got married, I would get to have porn and illegal drugs. Does it still apply now that I am divorced? ;-P

    • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

      “Does it still apply now that I am divorced?”
      Yes, even more so.

    • Amanda

      Looks like you get to keep the drugs and porn, but not the sex.  Sorry.  Them’s the rules!

  • Anonymous

    One of the most tiresome aspects of this fight (we’re in the 21st century? really?) is the constant braying of “kids should learn abstinence!”.

    They do.

    Any sex-ed class worth its salt teaches that abstinence is most certainly an option. They teach that no one should ever pressure you into having sex before you’re ready. They also teach you about sexual health and explain the risks of sexual activity. This includes explaining that refraining from sexual activity is obviously the safest choice BUT that there are ways to drastically reduce your risk of pregnancy and disease if you do choose to have sex.

    What the people screaming about abstinence want is not giving kids information, but witholding information. They want kids to believe that abstinence is the ONLY good option. That sex will physically and emotionally damage you before marriage. They want to spread incorrect information about condoms, saying they don’t work, and thus increasing the chance that teens who have sex, don’t bother with a condom. They want sex to be seen as dirty, dangerous, and disgusting outside of marriage (gay kids aren’t allowed to have sex at all, apparently).

    • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

      Ah, if only all sex education was so thorough. The sex ed I had was about that good. I took it independent study over the summer though so it was self-taught and I was raised without any religion and my parents were hippies so… yeah.

      Anyway, I read this awesome book when I reached college age. http://www.goofyfootpress.com/ -> The Guide To Getting It On.
      Just an awesome read from cover to cover and provides sooooo much information that I bet wouldn’t be allowed in a sex ed class. I plan on giving it to my kids.

      • Semipermeable

        I remember my sex ed mentioned condoms, followed by having to make charts about STDs, and give a little talk about an STD, etc. We were lucky to have an explanation of male/female genetalia, including the clitoris, plus be given a chart comparing methods of birth control (the patch and the hormone arm inserts weren’t covered, but they were still new then), so it could have been much worse. However there was no mention of LGBTQ(..) sex safety, and our teacher, a sweet woman who ran the bible club, gave us a long recounting of her experience that when she had premarital sex men just used her and it created bad relationships, but the first guy who agreed to wait ended up being the one she was currently married to. (She’d been married 3 times previously).

        In short, not all public sex ed classes are 100% abstinence, but there was still a strong undercurrent of slut shaming and one sided perspectives about how sex distorts relationships. A pervious teacher even mentioned the name of a pregnant teen who ‘clearly didn’t listen’  and scorned the poor girl openly. 

    • Vanessa

      So basically what Christians are teaching kids is that sex is the most awful, dirty, sinful thing on the face of the earth and they should save it for someone they love. Right.

  • Beckyleah

    I signed one of those things in high school in the 90′s. It was nearly identical and we had to turn it in for a grade. I crossed out wedding night and penciled in the next day’s date. Teacher was not happy about that :-)

  • Rich Wilson

    Well obviously the underage alcohol part is right.  I don’t drink myself, but I understand that wine before its time sucks.

  • Amanda

    A wild biological urge appears!  Abstinence-only group, Christian parents choose you.  Abstinence-only group uses SIGNED PLEDGES FOR TEENS.  It’s not very effective.

    • BrandonUB

      Best post I’ve seen anywhere all day!

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

      Wild biological urge uses SURGING HORMONES. It’s super effective!

    • Semipermeable

      This is fantastic, my roommate and I are laughing our asses off. Thank you. :)

  • BrandonUB

    Can you imagine how twisted of a mindset you’d have to have to actually brag about decreasing the number of people having sex? It’s almost like they have an active loathing of basic human happiness…

    • Icecreamassassin

      Christianity in a nutshell.

    • Anonymous

      Christianity teaches that humans are born broken, wicked and sinful. Yes, on some very fundamental level there is a certain level of hatred for mankind and being human itself. Life is a condition that needs to be overcome to attain true happiness in heaven

  • Bowserthecat

    I just get tired of this. We pulled my daughter out of the Texas abstinence only program because we consider it not just ineffective but actively harmful. When it comes right down to it this is one group (the Christian right) forcing it’s values on the rest of us who don’t agree with those values. Why the h3ll should you wait until you’re married to have sex. Neither I nor my wife did and we seem to be just fine thank you. I certainly don’t view marriage as being some sort of sacred thing, I don’t think anything is sacred. Anyway I could (and have) ranted about this at length and will just shut up now.

    • Gerry

      “Texas Abstinence Only” sounds like a good idea actually! I never go near the place! :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kenneth-Dunlap/1418932885 Kenneth Dunlap

      Judging by who they worship and elect as leaders, their values are rampant theft, rape, child rape, and bribery
      Be thankful that they are most certainly not “forcing it’s values on the rest of us.” 

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    The morality police would have had to have gotten to me rather early. I violated ALL of those “no-no’s” on that abstinence pledge well before my 15th birthday, at least one as early as third grade. I’ll leave it up to the rest of you to guess which one that was…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Okafor/1759887752 Anthony Okafor

      a BJ?

      • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

        No, it tastes funny…now get to the back of the line.

        • Lizzy

          If BJs taste funny, you or your partner may want to get something looked at…

          • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

            zing… :-)

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

            Yup. Though I’m going to be a brat and point out that hey, some people just don’t like to give head. (I do suggest that everyone try it at least once, and guys — DON’T DO THE “HEAD GRAB” THING, IT’S RAPEY.)

            • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

              Actually, some of the girls I dated…oh never mind…

            • http://www.facebook.com/LittleBrownBird Sharon Combs

              On the other hand, if she grabs your hands and puts them on her head, take the hint!

  • The Captain

    I just love how it’s also a pledge not to have sex outside of marriage that expires on your wedding night. 

    It’s either the stupidest thing I’ve seen in a while, or the most brilliant.

  • loopsyel

    The arrow graphic is MS clipart indicating confusion and not knowing where to go.

    • Anonymous

      Often the confused arrow signpost is followed by a signpost with an arrow on top pointing up.  That’s suppose to show that god is the ‘true’ way or something.  I think there was an Archie comic (titled, One Way) that used something similar.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    THE REAL DEAL DISGUISED PROPAGANDA
    Abstinence Builds Character Abstinence Builds Psychosis

    From this day forward, I _________________, in the presence of these witnesses, under duress from immediate peer pressure, vow to learn how to lie and choose ABSTINENCE. rationalize why I can’t score. I promise to respect myself and others enough to say “NO” to underage alcohol, illegal drugs, pornography, and sex before or outside of marriage, unless of course I actually get an opportunity.
    Signed: ___________________ Date:_____________
    EXPIRATION DATE:  (my wedding night) between one week and six months from now.

  • Leia

    If my child had to sign that for a grade, or even to feel like part of the norm, I would be livid. It’s not that I want her having sex (or drinking or smoking) in 7th, 8th or 9th grade, as much as teaching abstinence as the only way is dangerous, and I don’t ever want my child to have to deal with the unnecessary guilt that gets piled onto, but doesn’t need to come with, premarital sex.

    Hopefully I can teach her well enough at home that she will be able to know better than to sign that kind of bullshit.

  • Gerry

    What if you sign one of these and then never get married? Bummer!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    However, a paper by Dr. Douglas Kirby (PDF) (also from 2002…)

    For something more current: Abstinence-Only Education Does Not Lead to Abstinent Behavior, Researchers Find
    about:

    Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall, David W. Hall. Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S. PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (10): e24658 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024658

  • Anonymous

    How is it “Abstinence by Choice” if you’re basically forced to sign it under duress of losing grades and such?

  • Drew Bentley

    The studies conducted will never be truly accurate either. How many 7th to 9th graders do you know who fully tell the truth in those survey’s sent out at school asking if they’ve done drugs, had sex or sexually active, etc? I know when I was that age, I didn’t take that crap seriously so I answered the opposite of what the truth was, out of fun.

    • http://twitter.com/kariedgerton Kari Edgerton

      They do have studies that show teen pregnancy goes up in abstinence only areas. It’s kind of difficult to hide a pregnancy…

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, so they’ll get married just so they can finally get laid, with no thought of what it is to actually be married.

    • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

      Yeah, tell me about it. But, if my Dad hadn’t married that nut job, I’d have never been born.

  • Anonymous

    The same people who bring you horrible stories of burning in hell for eternity to scare you into not breaking god’s laws now bring you slideshows of STDs and scary questions to scare you into not having sex or doing drugs.  Fear tactics are all they have because the reality of their message in EITHER case is ignorance.

  • Ashton

    Ugh.  Abstinence by choice – yeah, right.  I was forced into abstinence.  All the crap my mom got for me from Focus on the Family and other places with similar philosophies all say that you shouldn’t conform and the proceed to teach you to do just that so long as you’re conforming to what they want.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1615224910 Anonymous

    I signed something like that when I was a young teenager and did not have any knowledge or experience of sex. Needless to say, the pledge was absolutely worthless.

  • Erik Cameron

    Most kids have already been practicing abstinence all their lives by the time they hit Jr High. We need to teach them about the alternatives.

    In retrospect that actually sounds really creepy depending on how you interpret it…

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

      Yes, teach them. Just… no “hands on” instruction, yeah?

  • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

    When I was growing up in Italy it was common knowledge among us public school students that if you wanted to score you had to frequent the nearby private catholic high school. 
    My guess is that while in my school sex was mysterious and forbidden (it was the 70′s in Italy after all) we at least had a somewhat healthier view on it and our student body was mixed. In the girls only catholic school they were so obsessed with even the most modest displays of affection that they managed to make it more appealing to their students. 

    Back then we also had the myth of the Scandinavian girls being loose and easy because they studied sex-ed in school. It turned out that because of it they had a much more mature view of sex and they were much less likely to engage in promiscuous sex.

    To me it was clear even then: take the mystery away and the problem resolves itself. Keep it mysterious and more kids will be tempted to try it before their time.

    • Anonymous

      That’s also backed up by a Dutch study that came to the conclusion that people who had comprehensive sex education had sex for the first time a bit later (up to a year or so) and were less promiscuous.

      The idea that fundamentalist Christians are so much better about sex or porn is silly. They just hide all of it

    • Rich Wilson

      I worked for a professor from Italy in the late 80s.  She said that when she was a young teen, her very devout Catholic grandmother told her to NOT marry the first guy she sleeps with.  She was supposed to try a few out to make sure she got a good one.

  • heisenberg

    Can we please figure out a witty way to bring up the point that jesus was born to a mother practicing abstinence? 

    • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

      God cums in, Jesus comes out…never a miscommunication.
      -à la Bill O’Reilly

  • http://www.facebook.com/rox1smf Roxanne Brown

    And then there’s this:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/29/virgin-diaries-tlc_n_1118364.html

    Not even a KISS before the wedding? What if s/he sucks at kissing, or anything else? Then you’re stuck with her/him and a lousy sex life. Cruel.

  • guest

    At least they left masturbation out of it!
     
    Now excuse me, I’ll be back in a bit.

  • Austin

    They had something like this in my school a couple years ago where some old geezer talked for somewhere around four hours about “how much better it feels” and how you’ll “respect yourself”. At least they also had a really good comprehensive sex education class that didn’t even bother telling you to be abstinent.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

      Yeah, they’ll end up “respecting themselves”. Sometimes twice a night…

  • Holldoll933

    I love how Arkansas only gets on here for stuff like this…

  • GSW

    asking kids “what [it would] be like around school if others knew you had an STD,”

    Nothing like as bad as it would be for the person who gave it to me!
    (Moral ALWAYS use condoms)

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Is there a pledge for those who are gay? Of course, they would have to pledge to never, ever, ever engage in fulfilling sex.

  • Prochoice

    That funny idea about “respect yourself” crept up when I was young and attending a girls´school.
    If they had known that I was born into an abuse family, all  the “good catholics” would have blamed ME THE VICTIM.
    I did try and get the half of the truth into the open: that I never ever wanted any children (maybe I am old enough to say I succeeded in that, at least).

    But the ” modesty” and “stay a virgin”-crap made everything more difficult, and I am sure that many of the other girls in my school did not get out – I am too shocked about the neverending topic to risk a look or count.

  • Sware

    I think another message in all of this is that whether it is an abstinence only pledge or a drug free pledge is the message that it’s OK for adults to coerce kids into signing things they are not of legal age to be bound to.  What they are doing is basically “symbolism” of entering a contract at best.  If my kid comes home with such a thing we are going to have a long talk…about contract law.  ;0) 
     
    The sex discussion I have with my kids is an ongoing line of communication…not simply “a talk”. 


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X