Monday, December 12, 2005

Abstinence only sex ed: biased, inaccurate AND sexist

It's old news that abstinence-only sex education is chock-full of scientific and medical inaccuracy. In a report prepared at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman (a champion of science) in Dec. 2004, over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula in the study contained "false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health." These programs, which are heavily funded by the federal government, imply that condoms are ineffective at preventing STDs/STIs and pregnancy (in contradiction to actual scientific data), include false information about the sequelae of abortion, and blur religion and science.

I knew about that part of the report.

What I hadn't heard about until reading articles in Salon and Harper's is how incredibly SEXIST these programs are. They are purveyors not only of conservative sexual morals, but also of gender stereotypes. Here is one of the parables that is provided to our youth:

Deep inside every man is a knight in shining armor, ready to rescue a maiden and slay a dragon. When a man feels trusted, he is free to be the strong, protecting man he longs to be.

Imagine a knight traveling through the countryside. He hears a princess in distress and rushes gallantly to slay the dragon. The princess calls out, “I think this noose will work better!” and throws him a rope. As she tells him how to use the noose, the knight obliges her and kills the dragon. Everyone is happy, except the knight, who doesn’t feel like a hero. He is depressed and feels unsure of himself. He would have preferred to use his own sword.

The knight goes on another trip. The princess reminds him to take the noose. The knight hears another maiden in distress. He remembers how he used to feel before he met the princess; with a surge of confidence, he slays the dragon with his sword. All the townspeople rejoice, and the knight is a hero. He never returned to the princess. Instead, he lived happily ever after in the village, and eventually married the maiden—but only after making sure she knew nothing about nooses.

Moral of the story: Occasional assistance may be all right, but too much will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess.

What? I don't even think I understand what the point of this is, particularly in a sex ed curriculum. I guess we need to restate that men need to be in charge and to seem more knowledgeable than women. Women, hide your wisdom! Men need to know more, or at least think that they know more, so if you want your knight in shining armor, play dumb.

Oh, yeah, that's a good message to give young people. That furthers gender equality and sexual health. Ladies, don't tell your man how to please you or suggest he wear a condom, because that will lessen his confidence. Hey, what about *her* confidence, huh? It's sure to be bolstered by the reminder that she isn't as bright as he is.

Here's another gem:

While a man needs little or no preparation for sex, a woman often needs hours of emotional and mental preparation.

5 Major Needs of Women: Affection, Conversation, Honesty and Openness, Financial Support, Family Commitment

5 Major Needs of Men: Sexual Fulfillment, Recreational Companionship, Physical Attractiveness, Admiration, Domestic Support

So, women don't need sexual fulfillment and men don't need affection or honesty? I'll remember to lie to my sweetie as I'm admiring his big muscles and draining his wallet dry. That's the ideal relationship for me!

[Sarcasm mode disengaged.]

The really depressing part is that some people believe this *is* the right message to give the next generation, and it's being given out on a massive scale.

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