Voices Online Edition
Vol. XVIII: No. 3 - Michaelmas 2003
Is "Safe Sex" Really Safe?
by Bebe C. Kennedy
Bebe Kennedy is a retired counselor for the Ritenour School District in Saint Louis County and a retired adjunct assistant professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis Department of Behavioral Studies. She is a published author and has made many professional presentations on the topic of adolescent sexuality on local, state, and national levels.
The battle cry of the "safe-sex alliance" has been that traditional sexual mores are outdated. This "alliance" for promoting so-called "safe-sex" education includes organizations such as Planned Parenthood and SIECUS (Sex Information and Education Council of the United States). Among their beliefs are the following:
1. Sex education should begin in kindergarten.
2. Instruction should be value-free and void of any discussion of morality and virtue.
3. Abstinence-until-marriage programs should not be part of public school curricula.
4. Adolescents need not share their decisions about contraceptive use and abortion services with parents.1
An example of the philosophy of the advocates of "safe sex" is a statement made by Debra Haffner in a SIECUS report. She identifies as "healthy alternatives" (she calls them "outercourse") such practices as "undressing each other, masturbation in front of a partner, mutual masturbation".2
The alliance has put forth a number of arguments in an attempt to thwart efforts of those in opposition. Two principle arguments are that condom use and sex-education programs are overcoming problems. But the evidence does not support the claims. For example:
1. Condoms offer protection against pregnancy and STDs.3
Research, however, indicates that "Out-of-wedlock birthrates have increased among sexually experienced and sexually active female teens despite an increased use of condoms".4
According to The Medical Institute for Sexual Health, the word "protection" -- referring to condoms -- can be misleading, as condom use does not protect 100% of the time from any STD.
The Medical Institute further disclosed, "Approximately 25 percent of adolescents report alcohol or drug use during their most recent sexual behavior, compromising their ability to use condoms correctly or at all".5
2. Comprehensive sex education has been proven effective.6
Trevor Stammers, MD, in a commentary in the Postgraduate Medical Journal of the British Medical Association, concluded, "Over the past 20 years the primary message in sex education has been 'use contraception'. This approach has clearly failed".7
A national poll conducted a number of years ago by Louis Harris and Associates for Planned Parenthood found that teens who participated in comprehensive sex education programs were 54% more likely to have had sex than those who had no sex education, and were 65% more likely to have had sex than those who had abstinence-based education.8
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified five of the best "safe-sex" curricula. But according to published research, not one of these programs, or any other comprehensive "safe-sex" program, has "measured a decline in the non-marital birthrate among its participants".9
Abstinence educator Peter Brandt stated that more than two decades of "safe-sex" education has resulted in epidemic proportions of STDs and that one half the twelve million new cases annually are incurable.10 An inherent message is that early sexual activity is expected.11
Teens are Being Misled
Refusal to look at documented evidence is an injustice to youth who have been misled into believing that they are protected through so-called "safe-sex" methods. The perils of the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are clearly delineated. But when it comes to sex, teens are advised to act responsibly and to practice "safe sex". The condemnation of only selected harmful behaviors is inconsistent and illogical. Much anguish caused by STDs and unintended pregnancies could be eliminated by the promotion of the abstinence-until-marriage concept that has, in general, been affirmatively regarded by society in recent years.
Important facts to note: "Abstinence and decreased sexual activity among sexually active adolescents are primarily responsible for the decline during the 1990s in adolescent pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates.... Abstinence-only programs may be playing an increasing role in bringing about reduced teen sexual activity".12
For additional information, contact the Abstinence Clearinghouse (www.abstinence.net; 888-577-2966).
1 "Take Twelve -- the truth behind 12 of the most common arguments made by powerful 'safe-sex' organizations against the abstinence-until-marriage message". Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colorado; 2001 (web site: www.family.org).
2 "They Call This Abstinence?" Citizen magazine; May 18, 1992.
3 "Take Twelve".
4 "The Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion Rates in the 1990s: What Factors Are Responsible?" A special report commissioned by the consortium of State Physicians Resource Councils, January 7, 1999. (text available online at: www.awareprogram.net/article01.php).
5 "Sex, Condoms, and STDs: What We Now Know". The Medical Institute for Sexual Health; Austin, Texas; 2002.
6 "Take Twelve".
7 "Sexual Spin". Trevor Stammers, MD. Postgraduate Medical Journal of the British Medical Association, November 1999.
8 "American Teens Speak: Sex, Myths, TV and Birth Control". Louis Harris and Associates, Inc., 1986.
9 "Take Twelve".
10 "Culture, et cetera". The Washington Times, January 25, 2000.
11 "Safe sex: Time to Abstain". The Washington Times, July 30, 2002.
12 "The Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy..."
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