15 January 2009

Abstinence vs. 'Safe Sex'

I'm only just now beginning to get caught up on all the reading you all have been sending me.

Conventional wisdom holds that parents who teach and encourage abstinence rather than proper condom use are fools and idiots who put their children at risk for STDs and teen pregnancy.

There are even scientists out there manipulating samples and outright misinterpreting the data to arrive at these conclusions.

A very liberal press--a press completely unfriendly to the religious (unless they're Muslim)--parrots these "findings" and spins them even further than the spin given them by some of the researchers.

Folks, beware statistics.

William McGurn of the WSJ recently analyzed the latest such story
The real difference is their more conservative and religious home and social environment. As she notes, when you compare both groups in this study with teens at large, the behavioral differences are striking. Here are just a few:

- These teens generally have less risky sex, i.e., fewer sexual partners.

- These teens are less likely to have a teenage pregnancy, or to have friends who use drugs.

- These teens have less premarital vaginal sex.

- When these teens lose their virginity they tend to do so at age 21 -- compared to 17 for the typical American teen.

- And very much overlooked, one out of four of these teens do in fact keep the pledge to remain chaste -- amid much cheap ridicule and just about zero support outside their homes or churches.

Let's put this another way. The real headline from this study is this: "Religious Teens Differ Little in Sexual Behavior Whether or Not They Take a Pledge."

Did you catch how far this data was spun by the press/"researchers?" It should have read, as McGurn points out above, "Conservative/religious teens, regardless of taking an abstinence pledge, are far more conservative about sex than their peers." Instead, the media, taking their cue from the researchers, somehow parsed the data to show that chastity pledges don't matter.

This, of course, is not the significant variable. And if they'd been honest about their data, they would have pointed that out. The significant variable--the point of McGurn's article--is the conservative/religious home & family life.

Religious, conservative teens from religious, conservative families are far more conservative about sex than their, ah, less conservative & religious peers. Seriously, does this surprise anyone?

(thanks to Branden B.)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.