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Are you a pervert? Challenging the boundaries of sex

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Are you a pervert?

I believe you are.

This statement might offend you. Perhaps you wonder what would compel me to say something like that about you, especially since we’ve never met. However, a voice deep down inside of you might wonder if I am right. Maybe that voice is telling you that thing you did or liked may make you abnormal.

Whatever your take on this may be, I invite you to open your mind and explore what might be beyond your comfort zone. Let me entice you with a little bit of what I research as a neuroscientist of sexual behaviour.

Throughout history, those who have not lived under the conformity of social standards of sexuality have been tortured, ostracized, convicted and, in general, have lost their social standing.

In fact, non-conventional sexual practices – and fetishes – are not deviant. Yet there’s a well-established tradition of judging them as if they are. The repercussions of this societal judgment cause the social stigmatization of people we most likely don’t know at all.

One of the most common targets is the Bondage, Domination/Submission, Discipline and Sado-Masochism (BDSM) culture.

Why has society condemned certain intimate practices between consenting adults but not others? The answer possibly lies in wherever our society sets moral standards — generally biased, limited and sometimes political. Instead, normality should be derived by scientific and quantified results.

The Victorian church set sexual standards

The word pervert did not originally mean sexual deviant, but atheist. Pervert described someone who would not ascribe to the normal (church) rules. People who resisted the morality dictated by the church were people who debauched or seduced.

Additionally, the word contains the suffix ‘vert’, meaning to turn, as in, convert. Therefore, pervert described a person who turned away from the right course. The word changed from the moral heretic to the immoral sexual deviant in the Victorian era, when scholars used it to describe patients with “atypical” sexual desires. I imagine in the Victorian era that even a foot fetish would have been considered a perversion.

When it comes to bedroom activities, we often believe that most things we don’t do are wrong and sick. We often judge other people’s realities and behaviours from our limited and biased scope and experience.

Let’s talk about sex and bondage

BDSM is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of consensual sexual or erotic practices. BDSM communities commonly welcome anyone who identifies with their practices. Consider it akin to a book club if you like to read, or like an orchestra if you want to play classical music.

You may imagine or know some of the BDSM practices. But what makes you part of the BDSM culture? Well, there are no rules, but there are three fundamental principles that guide any BDSM practice: consent, safety and respect.

Physical and psychological well-being are a priority over anything: There is no pleasure in a sexual act when one of the parties is not enjoying it.

BDSM practices may require painful and risky stimulation carried out with extreme care. Just as in several other fun activities, such as playing a sport, practice makes perfect. There is only one way of doing things — the right way — and anyone who engages in these practices within the community knows health and safety comes first.

A vintage illustration from the 1950s for an erotic tale, Bizarre Honeymoon.

Normal and sexually satisfied

BDSM and other non-conventional sexual practices are more familiar than you may know. Research has shown that fetishes and BDSM-like practices are very common in the general population. Normal, everyday people commonly fantasize about BDSM-like experiences.

As well, BDSM practitioners and submissive-identified females in particular appear to be more sexually satisfied than the general population. Other studies have revealed increased pleasure, enjoyment and positive effects during BDSM versus non-BDSM sexual experiences.

Although BDSM practitioners were previously believed to have a history of sexual abuse and trauma, studies by medical researcher and professor Norman Breslow in the Journal of Social Behavior and Personality showed these initial ideas were based on hypothetical case studies and not empirical evidence.

As well, more recent studies show that BDSM practitioners do not generally report sexual abuse or childhood trauma. BDSM practitioners also display less depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms compared to “normal” population standards. Furthermore, BDSM practitioners also report significantly less benevolent sexism, rape myth acceptance and victim-blaming attitudes compared to college students and the general population.

Even male and female rats have been known to develop fetishes.

A universe of possibilities

All these differences do not necessarily mean one needs to embrace more BDSM-like practices. Instead, it’s an invitation to stop judging others, and instead, embrace and enjoy our sexual lives. Fetishes can simply be the expression of our experiences and versatile sexuality in terms of practices, toys or objects that can be incorporated into our intimacy.

It’s up to each individual to choose what is right for themselves. The notion of abnormality in sexuality — with its medical and psychological labels of illness — came about to explain a deviant pattern in the reproductive aspects of mating. But humans, in general, engage in sex because they like it, not necessarily because they want to reproduce. Thus, in the eyes of those who may believe sex only serves for reproduction, any “deviation from reproductive sex” may be abnormal.

There is a universe of possibilities out there to which only you should set the boundaries. Our time in this world is too short and uncertain to deprive ourselves of the pleasures of the flesh and senses simply because someone has a negative opinion about it.

So, let me ask again, are you a pervert?

Complete Article HERE!

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How to talk to kids about sex

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“I do know how babies are made,” my then-8-year-old son recently told his 13-year-old sister. She ignored him. “Mom, he really doesn’t,” she said. “You better tell him before he goes to camp and hears it from older kids.” She was right. I had talked to him about love for years, but I must have glossed over the mechanical piece.

According to Deborah Roffman, a teacher and author of “Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ ‘Go-To’ Person About Sex,” I was late to the game. “If we’re not deliberately reaching out to kids by third grade, almost everything they learn after that is going to be remedial,” she says. “Sexual intercourse in the service of reproduction is thoroughly age-appropriate for 6-year-olds.”

Not long after I got my son up to speed, I taught middle school health and wellness for the first time. No amount of parenting readies you for a roomful of curious 13-year-olds. To prepare me, my principal showed me questions kids had asked in the past. “How many times can you ask a girl out before it becomes sexual harassment?” “Is it possible for a boy to put his privates in the wrong hole?” “What are all the different sex positions?”

Well, okay then. I could do this. As Roffman notes, these conversations are simply part of the nurturing process, and we miss the big picture when we focus on “the talk.” “That’s where I start with parents. It’s about how we can raise sexually healthy young people from birth,” she says.

Kids have five core needs when it comes to sexuality, Roffman explains. They need affirmation and unconditional love; information about healthy and unhealthy behaviors; clarity about values such as respect and integrity; appropriate boundaries and limits; and guidance about making responsible, safe choices. Within that framework, here are seven tips to help parents raise kids who know how to make well-considered decisions.

Fill in gaps and debunk myths

Karen Rayne, a sex educator in Texas and author of “GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance and Being You,” says that parents shouldn’t make assumptions about what their kids know. She recalls a student who avoided trampolines because she believed that every time a girl is jostled, an egg dies. Another girl sobbed in a bathroom at a water park when she got her period for the first time. “She was being raised by a single dad who never talked to her about it, and she thought she was dying,” she says.

Yuri Ohlrichs, an author and sex educator at Rutgers Netherlands, says that kids are picking up information from peers and the Internet and that parents need to debunk myths. One boy told him that if you clean your genitals with a medical disinfectant after sex, you can’t get a sexually transmitted disease. “Some of the misconceptions are disturbing, and as responsible adults we can take away the tension they create,” he says.

Admit discomfort and stay calm

For parents, acknowledging discomfort is a good first step. “You can begin the conversation with, ‘This is going to be awkward, but we’re going to talk about it anyway because it’s important,’ ” Rayne says. Even if parents are fine, it doesn’t mean their kids are. “Parents need to normalize the dialogue and provide a space where kids can ask anything,” she says. “If young people say something shocking, it’s okay to say, ‘That’s surprising to me.’ ” Still, she recommends parents stay calm and delay their gut reaction. “Process with a friend, partner or religious figure, and then respond in your best emotional state,” she says.

Talk about your family’s values

When Roffman talks to parents, she asks them to list at least five values they want their children to bring to all sexual situations they encounter in their lives. She then urges them to name those values to their kids as young as possible.

By taking this approach, parents can teach the importance of compassion, honesty and respect long before they broach them in a sexual context. “Parents can say, ‘You’re standing too close to me. You’re not respecting my boundaries,’ and talk to children about how no one is allowed to touch them without their permission,” Roffman says.

Last year, her eighth-graders wanted to teach fifth-
graders about consent. They showed an image of the prince kissing Sleeping Beauty along with nonsexual examples of consent. By the end of the presentation, the students understood why Sleeping Beauty was incapable of agreeing to the kiss.

Share personal stories with caution

Before sharing personal information, parents need to think deeply about why they’re sharing it, Roffman says. “There should be a point to the story. What do they hope their child will learn?” She notes that trying to steer a kid’s behavior is not a good motive. “The goal should be to help your child think through decisions they’re going to make,” she says.

Parents also can draw a line when kids ask intrusive questions. “The act of drawing boundaries is powerful, and parents can say, ‘That’s a personal question, and maybe I’ll answer it when you’re older,’ ” Rayne says.

Address stereotypes and gender differences

Ohlrichs encourages adults to take a positive approach to both male and female sexuality. “Not all boys or men are going out there to have sex as much as they can,” he says, noting that boys have insecurities but may struggle to express them. “We have to make sure that boys understand that you’re just as much a man if you’re not experienced sexually as if you are.”

He also urges parents to explain that although there are no hard-and-fast distinctions, males and females might approach sexual scenarios differently. “Boys don’t always understand that a girl might stop kissing because she’s focused on what’s going on around them,” he says. “Boys might be all green lights, but if a girl hears someone in the house or the boy says something that reminds her of a negative experience, it’s over.” Parents can explain that it’s not necessarily a rejection and that the couple needs to work together to make it comfortable. He also suggests that parents tell teens that if someone is giggling or nervous, “it might not be a positive situation for them.”

Ohlrichs urges parents to address stereotypes about female sexuality, noting that girls throughout the world internalize the idea that they need to protect their reputation. “They’re getting the message that they need to conceal excitement and avoid taking initiative, and it’s still one-sided,” he says.

Use media and other sources to start a conversation

“Everything in life can be connected to human sexuality,” Roffman says, and parents can find natural segues in a variety of topics, such as music and sports. Sexetc.org, a website that is run by teens and affiliated with Rutgers University, features polls that parents can use to start a dialogue. Scarleteen.com also has a parenting section and an adult-moderated dialogue board for teens.

Rayne has used the movie “Wonder Woman” and the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” to talk about gender issues with her own children. She also talks to her kids about sexting and shares other Internet cautionary tales when they unfold publicly. Books about sex, gender and reproduction are readily available in her home.

Complete Article HERE!

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Visualizing Sex as a Spectrum

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Infographic reveals the startling complexity of sex determination

Infographic by Pitch Interactive and Amanda Montañez

By Amanda Montañez

Sex and gender pervade nearly every aspect of our lives. Each time we use a public restroom, shop for clothes, or fill out a form, we are insistently reminded that we must be either male or female; men or women; boys or girls. Even things that ostensibly have nothing to do with sex or gender—what we eat, for example, or the books we read—are often sold to us as if they are necessarily feminine or masculine.

Some of these conventions currently face challenges, some more polarizing than others. On the milder end of things, enterprising online retailers promote gender-neutral clothing for babies, and city transport authorities mercifully abolish the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” from public announcements. And on the other side of the controversy scale, U.S. state legislators debate so-called “bathroom bills,” which would prohibit transgender individuals from using public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. This dispute has prompted some venues to offer a gender-neutral restroom option, or simply to do away with gender distinctions altogether in their facilities.

Much of the public discourse in this arena centers on gender rather than sex, presumably because gender is understood to be somewhat subjective; it is a social construct that can be complex, fluid, multifaceted. Biological sex, on the other hand, appears to leave less room for debate. You either have two X chromosomes or an X and a Y; ovaries or testes; a vagina or a penis. Regardless of how an individual ends up identifying, they are assigned to one sex or the other at birth based on these binary sets of characteristics.

But of course, sex is not that simple either.

The September issue of Scientific American explores the fascinating and evolving science of sex and gender. One of the graphics I had the pleasure of working on breaks down the idea of biological sex as a non-binary attribute, focusing largely on what clinicians refer to as disorders of sex development (DSD), also known as intersex.

The project was originally conceived as a data-driven graphic exploring the spectra of sex and gender. I wondered, for instance, what data could tell us about the frequency of transgender and non-binary identities, what proportion of the population is intersex, and how that value might break down into rates of specific DSDs.

I hired the researcher Amanda Hobbs to look into these questions, and what she came back with, rather than answers, looked more like a series of new questions. The search for solid data on transgender and intersex populations proved challenging, and was confounded by a variety of factors. For example, surveys often lump transgender in with gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities. And DSDs, in addition to being variously defined by different entities, sometimes go undetected or emerge unexpectedly, either during sexual development or later in life.

The project abruptly transformed into an exercise in visualizing complexity. First, it seemed imperative to define a few terms. Sex, gender, and sexuality are all distinct from one another (although they are often related), and each exists on its own spectrum. Moreover, sex cannot be depicted as a simple, one-dimensional scale. In the world of DSDs, an individual may shift along the spectrum as development brings new biological factors into play. The density of science underlying this phenomenon compelled a shift towards intersex as the primary focus of the visualization.

Now that my task was clear, I set about assembling the content of the graphic and putting it down on paper. In part, this process clarified how much I could include, as the complete list of known DSDs and their various manifestations proved unwieldy for a single spread in a print magazine. I ended up with a visual outline of sorts depicting a diverse selection of conditions and their convoluted pathways of development over time. Although not an especially pretty sketch, it captured the sense of intricacy the topic demanded.

Visual outline

Next I consulted with Dr. Amy Winsiewski, a DSD specialist at the University of Oklahoma, who was kind enough to review the content of my sketch for accuracy. And finally, I called upon the visualization experts at Pitch Interactive to help bring the project to life.

[caption id="attachment_2328558" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Sketch

Once the aesthetic of the graphic had been established, I continued to refine both the text and design elements, guided by feedback from my colleagues who helped identify areas that were unclear or difficult to follow.

The finished print graphic

Detail of the finished print graphic

The resulting visualization is a source of pride for me, as I hope it is for everyone who contributed to its development. (You can see a larger version here in the September digital issue.) Design and visual communication feats aside, I believe the content itself is of critical importance from a social and policy perspective.

DSDs—which, broadly defined, may affect about one percent of the population—represent a robust, evidence-based argument to reject rigid assignations of sex and gender. Certain recent developments, such as the Swedish adoption of a gender-neutral singular pronoun, and the growing call to stop medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex babies, indicate a shift in the right direction. I am hopeful that raising public awareness of intersex, along with transgender and non-binary identities, will help align policies more closely with scientific reality, and by extension, social justice.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘Why won’t you have sex with me?’ A real look at disability and relationships

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Louise Bruton’s Dublin Fringe Festival show examines our ignorance and prejudices, and takes a real look at disability, sex and relationships

Louise Bruton: ‘We all have our dry spells. We all get heartbroken . . . all the emotional things, they’re all similar to everybody else.’

Louise Bruton is on her way to buy Buckfast ahead of a visit to a friend’s festival on Inishturk island. Standard. Bruton is a writer and journalist who rose to prominence with her website Legless In Dublin (leglessindublin.com) detailing accessibility issues and reviews of venues and events. As a wheelchair user, she has managed to harness a way of communicating that undercuts preconceptions, prejudices and presumptions.

Bruton is blunt and hilarious. A pinned tweet on her Twitter account is a series of photos of her hugging and dancing with Grace Jones.

But there are also rage-inducing snippets of the reality of being a wheelchair user. Sample line: “Last one on the train in Heuston. Not a staff member or ramp in sight. Doors have been closed again. Guess I live here now.” Hard to stomach, but so necessary. Bruton calls this ridiculousness out.

It’s a meditation on disability, sex, relationships, and the misconceptions of non-disabled people hold about the sex lives of disabled people

Her latest project is a show for the Dublin Fringe Festival, excellently titled Why Won’t You Have Sex With Me?, which plays September 8th-11th at the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar, Dublin. It’s a meditation on disability, sex, relationships, and the misconceptions of non-disabled people hold about the sex lives of disabled people.

In the show, she’ll talk to the audience – “there will be a lot of interaction with visuals” – and it will also deal with sex and relationships in general.

Bruton hopes that people might leave the show checking themselves a little, wondering if they’ve ever been that person who has figuratively (or literally) “patted someone on the head, or spoken about them in front of them.”

The Fringe show is also inspired by how the media attempts to tap into the “issue” of sex and disability.

A while ago, after the Guardian ran a piece about disabled people and sex – something Bruton identifies as an “evergreen”, annual story – a couple of journalists from Irish outlets contacted her asking if she would be up for discussing the “stigma” associated with having sex with a disabled person.

We all have our dry spells. We all get heartbroken . . . all the emotional things, they’re all similar to everybody else

“That came in as a very loaded question,” Bruton says, “assuming that there is a stigma. And if there is a stigma, I’m unaware of it. I think it’s pretty unfair to blame anything going on in your love life purely on the fact of a disability. I think that kind of erases everything else about you.”

Bruton sees that story as just another entry point for discussing other people’s relationships and sex lives. Those kinds of articles, she thinks, feel like they use disability as leverage for voyeurism, “I just think it’s a really lazy way to be kind of a pervert about it!”

“We all go through the feast or famine spells when it comes to sex and dating. That’s something that applies to everyone. In the week those journalists contacted me – what if I was going through the famine time? Do I tell them that? ‘Nothing’s happening for me right now, I’m in the famine stages!’ It’s challenging that, pointing out how ridiculous those articles are. They’re done on an annual basis. There’s no evidence to support that our love lives are any different just because we’re disabled.”

“The way this is framed in the media,” Bruton says, “is that if you’re disabled and you’re not having sex, you’re going to die alone, and if you’re disabled and you are having sex, then you’re some sort of a freak or a fetishist.

“You’re put in these two categories, whereas I’m like ‘we’re the same as everybody else’. We all have our dry spells. We all get heartbroken . . . all the emotional things, they’re all similar to everybody else. The elements that do make it different or difficult, have been created by non-disabled people.

“That is the physical structure of society, where we don’t get into every single pub with everybody else in it, or nightclubs that everybody else is in. There’s also the fact that non-disabled people have a very wrong and archaic view of disabled people. They’re looking at us as if we’re completely different, whereas we go through the exact emotions as everybody else.”

Bruton is the type of person who is up the front at gigs, and when she arrives at parties, the energy in the room fizzes. Her busy social life creates the opportunity for a lot of encounters.

“People will come up to me anyway, because I’m in a wheelchair, and they’ll be like, ‘what happened you?’ And I don’t really want to go into my entire personal history and tell them, because it’s none of their business. I know a lot of my male friends who are in wheelchairs, a lot of people come up to them and very specifically ask them does their penis work.

There’s a manipulative attitude that people have towards disabled people

“I didn’t realise how bad it was for guys. That’s just not what you ask anybody. That is such a juvenile thing, firstly, and it’s just really rude as well.

“It seems to be that men are put on the spot in a much more invasive way,” she says. “People I know who are disabled and are in relationships, they have mentioned times where they’ve felt unsure if their partner is comfortable with them being disabled, and that has gone on for years.”

Bruton says that there seems to be a general feeling that disabled people “should ‘take what you can get’” when it comes to sex and relationships.

“There’s a manipulative attitude that people have towards disabled people – ‘you’re lucky to be getting anyone at all’ – and if you’ve any relationship issues, it’s like ‘you should be glad they’re going out with you’. It might create this fear that they [disabled people] mightn’t have many options so they might have to ‘settle’. Nobody should ever feel that settling is an option.”

A non-disabled person Bruton interviewed as research for the show said that if they ended a relationship with a disabled person, they would be afraid it would be because of the disability, and not a personality clash. “There’s a lot of double takes going on in people’s minds,” Bruton says, “you really are questioning how things are being perceived by other people.”

The superficiality of online dating causes issues, Bruton says. “Because the way that dating has changed – because online dating is such a big part of it now – there is a superficial element to dating now more than ever. You’re basing things on three photos and one sentence that describes your entire life.

“I’m hesitant in the online world . . . I don’t shy away from having my wheelchair in photos. The guys are immediately like ‘why are you in a wheelchair? What happened you?’ There’s no way to brush that off politely. I’ve tried.

“In real life you can say ‘oh I’ll tell you another time!’, but in a message on your phone, they find that rude, or don’t know what to say next.”

If you’re so concerned with taking advantage of someone with a disability, you should be concerned about taking advantage of all other people

As part of the making of the show, Bruton interviewed non-disabled people about disabled people, sex and dating. One word kept repeating. “The word ‘vulnerable’ came up a lot,” Bruton explains. “This is mostly men who said this. Men felt that if they were to date or have sex with a woman with a disability or a man with a disability, they would somehow be taking advantage of a vulnerable person.

“So that goes back to that old-fashioned idea of disability that we weren’t in the same schools, we were sent away to homes to live and be looked after. That idea stuck with people…

“We’re no more vulnerable than the next person. Of course there are different levels to disability. But generally, if you’re so concerned with taking advantage of someone with a disability, you should be concerned about taking advantage of all other people. There’s a lot of hypocrisy with it.”

Something that has been said to Bruton has been the idea that, “‘it takes a very special person to go out with someone who has a disability’.

“The way I interpret that, is that means you have to be a carer almost, instead of being a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I think that’s at the back of people’s minds – they think they’re going to have to look after the person, rather than just spending time with them.”

I think a lot of people see relationships as a status thing

Regarding her own experiences, a not exactly infrequent one is strangers inviting themselves to discuss aspects of her personal life with her – asking if a friend is a boyfriend, or manufacturing a love story out of nowhere. “A lot of people go straight into asking if you’re in a relationship. I think a lot of people see relationships as a status thing, that you can only be truly accepted if you’re loved in that way.”

When Bruton was on crutches before using a wheelchair, she sometimes experienced guys freaking out and backing away when they realised she didn’t just have a sprained ankle or a sports injury. “Maybe they thought I was lying to them or something. Like I was tricking them. That was the vibe I got, that I had lied to them to get their attention.”

At this point, she realises there is an advantage to being able to identify such shallowness from the get-go. It’s like an extra layer of insight to character judgement that non-disabled people may not have, “It’s a really key indicator. Someone else, it could take them a few months to find out if they’re an asshole or not, but I can find out in a second.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex Education Based on Abstinence? There’s a Real Absence of Evidence

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Sex education has long occupied an ideological fault line in American life. Religious conservatives worry that teaching teenagers about birth control will encourage premarital sex. Liberals argue that failing to teach about it ensures more unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. So it was a welcome development when, a few years ago, Congress began to shift funding for sex education to focus on evidence-based outcomes, letting effectiveness determine which programs would get money.

But a recent move by the Trump administration seems set to undo this progress.

Federal support for abstinence-until-marriage programs had increased sharply under the administration of George W. Bush, and focus on it continued at a state and local level after he left office. From 2000 until 2014, the percentage of schools that required education in human sexuality fell to 48 percent from 67 percent. By 2014, half of middle schools and more than three-quarters of high schools were focusing on abstinence. Only a quarter of middle schools and three-fifths of high schools taught about birth control. In 1995, 81 percent of boys and 87 percent of girls reported learning of birth control in school.

Sex education focused on an abstinence-only approach fails in a number of ways.

First, it’s increasingly impractical. Trying to persuade people to remain abstinent until they are married is only getting harder because of social trends. The median age of Americans when they first have sex in the United States is now just under 18 years for women and just over 18 years for men. The median age of first marriage is much higher, at 26.5 years for women and 29.8 for men. This gap has increased significantly over time, and with it the prevalence of premarital sex.

Second, the evidence isn’t there that abstinence-only education affects outcomes. In 2007, a number of studies reviewed the efficacy of sexual education. The first was a systematic review conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. It found no good evidence to support the idea that such programs delayed the age of first sexual intercourse or reduced the number of partners an adolescent might have.

The second was a Cochrane meta-analysis that looked at studies of 13 abstinence-only programs together and found that they showed no effect on these factors, or on the use of protection like condoms. A third was published by Mathematica, a nonpartisan research organization, and it, too, found that abstinence programs had no effect on sexual abstinence for youth.

In 2010, Congress created the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, with a mandate to fund age-appropriate and evidence-based programs. Communities could apply for funding to put in only approved evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, or evaluate promising and innovative new approaches. The government chose Mathematica to determine independently which programs were evidence-based, and the list is updated with new and evolving data.

Of the many programs some groups promote as being abstinence-based, Mathematica has confirmed four as having evidence of being successful. Healthy Futures and Positive Potential had one study each showing mixed results in reducing sexual activity. Heritage Keepers and Promoting Health Among Teens (PHAT) had one study each showing positive results in reducing sexual activity.

But it’s important to note that there’s no evidence to support that these abstinence-based programs influence other important metrics: the number of sexual partners an adolescent might have, the use of contraceptives, the chance of contracting a sexually transmitted infection or even becoming pregnant. There are many more comprehensive programs (beyond the abstinence-only approach) on the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program’s list that have been shown to affect these other aspects of sexual health.

Since the program began, the teenage birthrate has dropped more than 40 percent. It’s at a record low in the United States, and it has declined faster since then than in any other comparable period. Many believe that increased use of effective contraception is the primary reason for this decline; contraception, of course, is not part of abstinence-only education.

There have been further reviews since 2007. In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted two meta-analyses: one on 23 abstinence programs and the other on 66 comprehensive sexual education programs. The comprehensive programs reduced sexual activity, the number of sex partners, the frequency of unprotected sexual activity, and sexually transmitted infections. They also increased the use of protection (condoms and/or hormonal contraception). The review of abstinence programs showed a reduction only in sexual activity, but the findings were inconsistent and that significance disappeared when you looked at the stronger study designs (randomized controlled trials).

This year, researchers published a systematic review of systematic reviews (there have been so many), summarizing 224 randomized controlled trials. They found that comprehensive sex education improved knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and outcomes. Abstinence-only programs did not.

Considering all this accumulating evidence, it was an unexpected setback when the Trump administration recently canceled funding for 81 projects that are part of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, saying grants would end in June 2018, two years early — a decision made without consulting Congress.

Those 81 projects showed promise and could provide us with more data. It’s likely that all the work spent investigating what is effective and what isn’t will be lost. The money already invested would be wasted as well.

The move is bad news in other ways, too. The program represented a shift in thinking by the federal government, away from an ideological approach and toward an evidence-based one but allowing for a variety of methods — even abstinence-only — to coexist.

The Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine has just released an updated evidence report and position paper on this topic. It argues that many universally accepted documents, as well as international human rights treaties, “provide that all people have the right to ‘seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds,’ including information about their health.” The society argues that access to sexual health information “is a basic human right and is essential to realizing the human right to the highest attainable standard of health.” It says that abstinence-only-until-marriage education is unethical.

Instead of debating over the curriculum of sexual education, we should be looking at the outcomes. What’s important are further decreases in teenage pregnancy and in sexually transmitted infections. We’d also like to see adolescents making more responsible decisions about their sexual health and their sexual behavior.

Abstinence as a goal is more important than abstinence as a teaching point. By the metrics listed above, comprehensive sexual health programs are more effective.

Whether for ethical reasons, for evidence-based reasons or for practical ones, continuing to demand that adolescents be taught solely abstinence-until-marriage seems like an ideologically driven mission that will fail to accomplish its goals.

Complete Article HERE!

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