WASHINGTON - Students who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not, according to a study ordered by Congress.
Also, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes that were reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes. And they first had sex at about the same age as other students — 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.
The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education. Critics have repeatedly said they don't believe the programs are working, and the study will give them reinforcement.
However, Bush administration officials cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions from the study. They said the four programs reviewed — among several hundred across the nation — were some of the very first established after Congress overhauled the nation's welfare laws in 1996.
Officials said one lesson they learned from the study is that the abstinence message should be reinforced in subsequent years to truly affect behavior.
"This report confirms that these interventions are not like vaccines. You can't expect one dose in middle school, or a small dose, to be protective all throughout the youth's high school career," said Harry Wilson, the commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the Administration for Children and Families.
Doesn't that just sum up the Bush administration? "What we're doing isn't working? Let's do more of it!"
There was some good news, though:
"I really do think it's a two-part story. First, there is no evidence that the programs increased the rate of sexual abstinence," said Chris Trenholm, a senior researcher at Mathematica who oversaw the study. "However, the second part of the story that I think is equally important is that we find no evidence that the programs increased the rate of unprotected sex."
Trenholm said his second point of emphasis was important because some critics of abstinence programs have contended that they lead to less frequent use of condoms.
Maybe sex ed isn't really that important. I mean, what is there to teach, from a health standpoint, besides, "Use a freaking condom!"
I still think purity balls are the creepiest thing ever.