7 Reasons Why Abstinence-Only Education Doesn’t Work for Gen Z

Across the United States, a war is being waged about the best way to keep kids safe as they enter

abstinence only

Across the United States, a war is being waged about the best way to keep kids safe as they enter their teen years and start to consider becoming sexually active.

A standard practice across the US for decades has been “abstinence-only” education, which basically just teaches teenagers that the only safe way to engage in sex is not to have it at all.

But time and time again, research has proven “abstinence-only” education to be ineffective, and dangerous. Without supply the information teens need to prevent pregnancy and STDs, they’re making reckless decisions that end in lifelong impacts that they may have no idea they’re even at risk for.

It’s important in 2023 to listen to science and understand these 7 compelling reasons why abstinence-only education just doesn’t work.

  1. Lack of Comprehensive Information:
    One of the most glaring issues with abstinence-only education is its failure to provide comprehensive information about sexual health. By focusing solely on abstinence, these programs leave students in the dark about contraception, safe sex practices, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This knowledge gap leaves young adults ill-equipped to make informed decisions and increases the risk of unplanned pregnancies and the spread of diseases. Instead of scaring them away from sex, it scares them away from educating themselves when they have sex – with dire consequences.
  2. Unrealistic Expectations: Abstinence-only education sets unrealistic expectations by portraying sex as a taboo subject that should be avoided at all costs. However, research consistently shows that a significant percentage of young adults engage in sexual activity before marriage. By dismissing the reality of human nature, these programs create a disconnect between what is taught and what actually occurs, leaving students confused and unprepared.
  3. Ignoring LGBTQ+ Individuals: Abstinence-only education often fails to acknowledge the existence and needs of LGBTQ+ individuals. By focusing exclusively on heterosexual relationships, these programs alienate a significant portion of the student population. This exclusion perpetuates stigma and creates a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ students, who are left without crucial information and support regarding their sexual health.
  4. Ineffective in Delaying Sexual Activity: Contrary to the claims of abstinence-only advocates, research has consistently shown that these programs do not delay the onset of sexual activity. In fact, studies have found that students who receive comprehensive sex education are more likely to delay sexual initiation and engage in safer sexual practices. Abstinence-only education not only fails to achieve its intended goal but also increases the risks associated with early sexual encounters. If teens listened to what adults said was good for them, they wouldn’t need parents – but they clearly do.
  5. Lack of Consent Education: An alarming oversight in abstinence-only programs is the absence of consent education. Teaching young adults about the importance of consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships is crucial in preventing sexual assault and promoting respectful behavior. By neglecting this critical component, abstinence-only education fails to address the root causes of sexual violence and perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes.
  6. Dismissing the Emotional Aspect: Sexuality is a deeply personal and emotional aspect of human life. Abstinence-only education often fails to address the emotional aspects of sexual relationships, such as communication, consent, and building healthy connections. By omitting these crucial components, students are ill-prepared to navigate the emotional complexities that arise from sexual experiences.
  7. Increased Teen Pregnancy and STI Rates: Perhaps the most damning evidence against abstinence-only education lies in the statistics. Research consistently shows that areas with abstinence-only programs have higher rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The lack of comprehensive sex education leaves young adults vulnerable to the consequences of unprotected sexual activity, as they lack the knowledge and resources to make responsible choices.

In an era where sexual education should be empowering young adults to make informed decisions, “abstinence-only” programs have proven time and time again that they are ineffective and detrimental.

It seems logical that schools should embrace comprehensive sex education programs which provide factual information, support diverse identities, and equip students with the tools they need to lead healthy and responsible sexual lives.