Rand Hultgren: abstinence-only education has “incredible success records.”

“Use, do not abuse.  Neither excess nor abstinence ever rendered man happy.”  ~ Voltaire

Rand Hultgren just went on the Washington Watch to trumpet his new legislation, and to brag about how abstinence-only education works.

Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) appeared on Washington Watch yesterday with Family Research Council Tony Perkins to discuss his legislation that “would spend $110 million a year for the next five years on grants to abstinence programs around the country,” funding that would have otherwise gone towards comprehensive sexual education. He claimed that while the Obama administration backs “very dangerous and experimental education programs,” programs pushing abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum have “incredible success records.”

Except none of that is true.  Although, to be fair, for a guy who thinks the low success rate of prayer counts as “working”, abstinence-only education may also appear to “work”.  However, for those of us who like success rates that actually measure up to a reasonable standard of success, Hultgren could not be more wrong.

Far from having “incredible success records,” abstinence programs have a history of failure. Reports have consistently found that there is no evidence to support the claim that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs reduce premarital sex or teen pregnancy; on the other hand, studies show that comprehensive sex-ed decreases the rate of teen pregnancy and STDs.

Brace yourself, church-goers: people have sex.  Take a moment to catch your breath.  But it turns out that pledging to be abstinent does not stop young people from having sex.

One might wonder then, exactly how abstinence “education” or abstinence pledges prevent young pregnancies and STDs…y’know, the two perks that those supporting abstinence swarm us with when touting the virtue of virginity.  Well, while abstinence pledges don’t reduce the likelihood a teen will have sex, they do significantly reduce the odds that those teens will have sex responsibly.

The study also found that teens who took a virginity pledge were 10 percent less likely to use a condom and less likely to use any other form of birth control than their non-pledging counterparts.

And I can just imagine the cop-outs…

“You can’t look at this issue too scientifically.”

“If your faith is true, you’ll stay abstinent.”

“Think of how nice it will be to give your virginity to your husband.”

Pretty damn lame, if you ask me.  I’ve been physical with virgins.  It’s tedious and far less fun.  Imagine that the moment Super Smash Brothers Brawl (freaking awesome game) came out, and your parents told you “Wouldn’t it be special if you waited until you were married to play this for the first time?”  Hell no, it wouldn’t!  If I did that, she might be really good at the game by then and get bored teaching me how to do something simple like double-jump…or find the clitoris.  You want to please your spouse on your wedding night?  Then know what the hell you’re doing.  It’s not something you start being good at (unless you’re me, I’ve always been amazing…).

Ok, that last part was a lie.

So, you want to have fewer STDs and unwanted pregnancy?  Throw on a condom, take your birth control, get tested for STDs, know the people you’re sleeping with, and go proudly embrace the fact that you are a human being.  Remember, god didn’t want you to eat shrimp either.  Do not try to hold your sexual breath until you find who you think is the right guy/gal, or until you marry the wrong person way too young out of biological desperation

And now, fun sex links, courtesy of one of my favorite youtube peeps, cdk007:

How sex evolved.
The joy of sexual reproduction.
Is multi-gender sex better?
Is god pro-life?

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Randomfactor

    I’ve always been amazing…

    Me too, but I got a late start and watched a lot of porn.

    • Loqi

      I thought I would be good at it, since I had spent years doing it by hand. I guess I’m more of an auditory learner…

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “incredible success records,”

    Well that’s true in the sense of incredible = “not credible.”

    • Robert B.

      Indeed! The success records are so incredible, I can’t credit them at all!

  • Jasper

    God damn, would all these alternate universe people go home already?

  • Glodson

    “Think of how nice it will be to give your virginity to your husband.”

    If anyone thinks that is true, if anyone thinks that’s a good thing to say to a young woman, go fuck yourself.

    That is a stomach churning sentiment.

    • invivoMark

      Yeah, what the fuck would I do with it, anyway? Why would I want that?

      • Glodson

        Remember, it isn’t that you have her virginity, it is that she’s yours alone.

        Yeah, it is a disgusting little thought, isn’t it?

        • Nate Frein

          Especially since the reasoning simply does not apply to men.

          • Glodson

            And that’s a feature of this line of reasoning.

        • Andrew Kohler

          As I’ve said somewhere else or other in the comments section on this blog: can we please stop acting like virginity is a thing that people have, lose, or give to people? I am convinced that this idea creates anxiety and neurosis, what with the whole “I want to give my husband/wife my virginity as a beautiful gift, and if I’ve had sex before I won’t have it to give to him/her to have bronzed and kept with our future children’s baby boots.” And why has a special state of being been designated for not having done something? (Am I an Antarctigin because I’ve never been to Antarctica?) I suppose I wouldn’t have all of these misgivings if the status of being a virgin weren’t equated with purity, etc. (they call them “purity rings” for a reason).

          In particular I find the idea of “losing one’s virginity” to be toxic: in what other case does gaining an experience go hand in hand with a loss? The idea that having sex comes with a loss of something (albeit something that, um, doesn’t really exist in any tangible way) seems to me another way of attempting to exert control over the sex lives of others.

          Personally, I have decided to eschew the words “virgin” (except when talking about forests) and “virginity.” This reminds me a bit of a discussion a while back about how the word “evil” is too closely tied to its religious meanings for atheists to use, to which a few others and I disagreed. I can’t think of an adequate replacement for “evil,” but I think “those who have not become sexually active,” while a bit verbose, is preferable to “virgins” because it doesn’t have all of that weird virginity-obsession stuff attached to it. But, I’ll certainly not hold it against those who keep using those words for practical reasons, so long as they work against the ideas that underlie “abstinence education,” which is only education in the sense that “friendly fire” is actually friendly.

          • Artor

            Your eloquence gives me chills. I’m going to put on an inexperienced wool sweater.

  • Jacob

    I think I like “teaching someone to double-jump” as a euphemism for beginner’s sexual impotency.

    Writing that one down.

  • invivoMark

    “If I did that, she might be really good at the game by then and get bored teaching me how to do something simple like double-jump…or find the clitoris.”

    JT, you’re not supposed to make me laugh while I’m at work! I get odd looks!

    I love the analogy, by the way.

  • smrnda

    I’ve talked with a few proponents of abstinence based sex education. Some are deluded enough to think it works, but the usual explanation I get is that they think young people shouldn’t be having sex, and if they do, screw what happens to them. The anti-sex crowd wants there to be only 2 choices – abstinence or disaster, which is why they hate information so much.

    • Glodson

      And there’s a big overlap with the anti-choice crowd.

      One might think they don’t really give a shit about the pregnancies, but rather care more about controlling the sex lives of women. And if a few rape victims, or women will medically troubled pregnancies, get in the way, that’s just the will of god.

    • iknklast

      I’ve read a few things by proponents of abstinence only, what they say when they’re talking to themselves, or being totally honest. I think we have to recognize that they have a different definition of success. In one study I read, they were bragging about their great success rate – in bringing young people to Jesus. They passed over the failure to achieve reduction in teen pregnancy or STDs as irrelevant, because that really isn’t what it’s about. They don’t really worry if they reduce those things; they’re saving souls. With that as a context, I would have to admit that, yes, abstinence only, religious sex education is much more successful than comprehensive, secular sex-education.

      Make them state their goals up front. Once my gag reflex stops kicking in, I can have a conversation with people at that level; but if they’re not being honest, if they’re defining success differently, then we’ll never get past square one, because it’ll just devolve into “am not!” “are too!”.

      • Glodson

        I would like to see that study.

        I wonder if those areas have poor quality of education, or a concentration of homeschooling/private schools.

        • iknklast

          I’m not sure exactly where I read it; if you give me a day or two, I might be able to find it for you, but it might be a magazine article, and I read so many magazines, I would be hard pressed to find the exact citation. I’ll check back through my book lists and let you know.

      • Andrew Kohler

        By iknklast’s account (which I find credible and convincing), state funding of abstinence programs is state funding of religious proselytizing. I recommend Penn and Teller’s Bullshit episode on the subject (simply titled “Abstinence”–I was able to watch it on YouTube).

  • unbound

    Keep in mind that the simply statement of “incredible success records” isn’t necessarily inaccurate…as long as success, in this case, is in the increase of teenage pregnancy…

    • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Well it doesn’t have success in terms of preventing teenage pregnancy, but it does have an impressive history of success at shamin’ dem bitchez. Mission fucking accomplished.

      • Nate Frein

        Or “Fucking mission accomplished”?

        • Andrew Kohler

          Well, in this case the mission can only be said to be accomplished if there has been *no* fucking ;-)

          • Nate Frein

            True, but it’s a fucking related mission.

            Okay, I’m done. I’m no Glodson XD

          • Glodson

            That’s right, Nate.

            You are actually funny. ;)

  • pjmaertz

    I think this guy is technically correct. The only problem is that his version of success involves the punishment of women for having sex by forcing them to carry a child to term. Abstinence only education certainly results in more unwanted children. Now all he needs to do is completely ban abortions so that women can become the baby making vessels gad wants them to be.

    • Nate Frein

      Unfortunately, even that doesn’t work. Areas where abortion is illegal actually tend to have more abortions overall than areas where abortion is legal

      • Michael Busch

        It happens that those areas are also the areas with comprehensive sex ed and ready access to effective contraceptives.

        So once again we see that a large fraction of the population that claims to be pro-life is not actually doing so to prevent abortion. It’s more about cultural markers and controlling people.

        • Nate Frein


  • drax

    I don’t game so I initially thought that “double jumping” was some kind of sex move I hadn’t heard of. I googled it in hopes of adding it to my repetoire, imagine my surprise.

    • http://smingleigh.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Careful, you fool! You’ll invoke Rule 34, and then we’ll be up to our eyeballs in double-jumps!

      • drax

        Based on the verbage of rule 34 it’s probably already too late. Furthermore I’d like to see what that looks like.

      • Compuholic

        Should I be worried that I thought of cellular automata when you mentioned rule 34? Maybe I should rethink my sex life.

  • Khaliah

    The problem with abstinence is that it is the only form of “birth control” where it fails once the involved parties say “yes” to sex instead of “no.”

  • AmyC

    What could they possibly spend all that money on for abstinence “education?” They could easily just set the kids in a room and say “sex is bad, don’t do it until you’re married” repeat ad nauseum until the kids are sufficiently brainwashed. Other than paying the “teacher” for their time, I really don’t see what else they need to do. It’s not like these programs actually supply sex information to anybody.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      Oh, but how could they possibly get in all the slut-shaming with just setting kids in a room? I mean, they have to use the crumpled-paper metaphor and the used gum metaphor and the rose with the petals picked off metaphor: you know, everything they can do to make girls feel like shit for daring to have hormones.

      Yes, I know boys get bad teachings too. They get a lot of headfuckery about masturbation and uncontrollable lust, but the messages the boys get, while harmful, aren’t nearly as pernicious as the ones the girls get.