Controlling the Beast Inside
I’ve always thought it too obvious to be a blindspot that opponents of abstinence education behave as if a quick course or two ought to do the trick if such an approach were going to work at all. As I’ve said before, the cultural movement of which such people are a part does not really believe that the safest, healthiest sex occurs within marriage; it believes that restricting sex to lifelong monogamous relationships is unrealistic and, therefore, that the act of setting such expectations is, itself, a central source of the harm that can come from sex, so the lessons it seeks to teach can only increase sexual activity. Valerie Huber offers an example on USA Today’s Web site that shows this mindset in the extreme: “one popular [comprehensive, safe-sex] program promoted graphic sexual behavior such as showering together as an acceptable ‘abstinent’ activity.”
Huber summarizes the other strategy — abstinence education — as follows:
Abstinence programs offer a holistic approach, teaching teens how to build healthy relationships, increase self-worth and set appropriate boundaries in order to achieve future goals. Abstinence education shares the realities of sexually transmitted diseases and the best way to prevent them. Accurate information about contraception is provided, but always within the context of abstinence as the healthiest choice. The realistic limitations of condoms are shared but without the explicit demonstration and advocacy that characterizes “comprehensive” programs.
The focus on self-worth and future goals is an important marker of the differences between sex-ed approaches. Sometimes one gets the impression of a They who realize that the more the beast inside us all can be released, the more easily we can be herded. Controlling that beast can give us strength against those who would exploit us.
I, for one, do not consider it an accident that traditional religious prescriptions and the self-actualizing civilized mandate for self control overlap. That suggestions of the latter are often treated as if they must represent unconstitutional imposition of the former points to the driving force behind the opposing movement.