|A recent study of American
sexual behavior suggests that the federal government may
be wasting millions of tax dollars promoting "abstinence until
marriage" among young adults.
by the San Francisco Chronicle shows that more than $1
billion in federal funding has been provided for abstinence-only
sex education programs in the past 10 years. The Bush
administration budgeted $241.5 million for such programs during
this year alone.
A recent survey by the Annenberg
Public Policy Center indicates that only 36 percent of Americans
support the abstinence-only sex education method. More than 80 percent favor a more balanced
approach, with educational presentations
including birth control methods as well as abstinence.
The Census Bureau
Americans are waiting longer than ever to marry, with 25
now being the median age of marriage for women and 27 for men.
But a recent study by the Guttmacher
Institute says most adults are not waiting for marriage to have sex.
The Guttmacher Institute is a nonprofit
organization that studies reproductive health and
sexual behavior. Its new study focused on
the sexual practices of about 40,000 people between the ages of
18 and 44.
The study analyzed data from the
National Survey of Family Growth. Results showed that by
the age of 20, 75 percent of young adults had engaged in
premarital sex. More than 90 percent had reported such
behavior before the age of 30.
Guttmacher's whistle blowing on
premarital sex may fuel further debate over the wisdom of
federal funding for sexual abstinence programs.
According to the Guttmacher
report, "Almost all Americans have sex before marrying."
The report argues for sex education programs that provide people
with skills and information "to protect themselves from
unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases once they
become sexually active, regardless of marital status."
Until recently, federally funded abstinence-only
focused on high school teens. But a few months ago the
Department of Health and Human Services clarified guidelines for
its 2007 grants.
The Department wanted would-be
recipients of federal funds to know that money was available for
abstinence-only sex education programs to target 19 to 29
year-old adults as well high school teens.
Lawrence Finer, director of
domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute, suggested that
abstinence programs should be closely scrutinized. He
questioned the effectiveness of telling people in their twenties
to wait for marriage to have sex.
Another study released a few
months ago by the Barna Research Group, suggests that programs
promoting abstinence until marriage will have little, if any,
effect on young adults, including young Christians.
Barna is a well respected nonprofit research
organization whose clients are primarily Christian ministers and
The Barna study shows that two
Americans in their twenties and thirties believe that
unmarried cohabitation is morally acceptable,
while more than half find no fault with sex outside of marriage.
A portion of the Barna study
focused on the attitudes of "born-again" Christians in
their twenties and thirties. The attitudes of these
young adults raise questions about
the effectiveness of government funded programs telling young
adults that premarital sex is bad.
Nearly 60 percent of young adult
Christians felt that unmarried
cohabitation and premarital sex are morally okay.
These studies suggest that
federal bureaucrats who dish out grant money for abstinence-only
sex education programs, and conservative members of Congress who
authorize such funding,
have their heads in the sand.
Could it be that these
abstinence-only promoters are in a state of denial about the
extent to which premarital sex has become the norm in American
society? Could it be that they really don't want to know
As Mark Twain once quipped, "Denial ain't just a river in
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is
one politician whose head is not in the sand.
When he saw that new federal
rules would limit how much sex educators would be prohibited
from discussing contraception and sexually transmitted diseases,
Doyle "just said no" to a $600,000 federal grant for
abstinence-based sex education in his state. Doyle felt
the new rules went too far in gagging sex educators.
As many as 12 other states are
considering the possibility of following Doyle's lead.
Perhaps there is hope for honesty
in education after all.
Unmarried America 2007
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and