Archive for February, 2010

Taylor Swift shouldn’t be shunned by feminists

February 26, 2010

It often makes me grit my teeth when feminists get carried away with categorizing what is and is not feminist. The entire idea of categorizing and labeling people and shoving them into little boxes is sort of anti-feminist, especially when women start being shoved into “what’s good/not good for feminism.”

I love Feministe, but reading Jill (who I usually agree with about pretty much everything) deride Taylor Swift for not being the best thing for feminism rubbed me the wrong way for a few reasons, including the fact that this kind of categorizing is a slippery slope.

What I found most absurd about Jill’s reasoning is her discomfort with Taylor Swift playing the virgin too much, which Jill chalks up to a “problem with her branding.” Where exactly is the line then? Should Swift be more like Miley Cyrus, a 16-year-old girl who takes pictures of herself half-naked and does on-stage performances with a stripper pole? If being hypersexualized isn’t the answer, then that leaves an artist with the choice to be asexual, and really, haven’t women been portrayed as asexual for long enough?

Instead of giving Taylor Swift the benefit of the doubt that maybe her own personal choice and personality is not to be overtly or overly sexual, Jill instead jumps to the conclusion that it’s a role she is playing to sell records. This type of judgment puts women into corners. It’s the kind of dilemma women are caught in all the time, because they are judged if they are virgins or act virgin-like, and they are judged if they are overly sexual. Women are supposed to claim their own sexuality in the eyes of feminism, but how are they supposed to claim it for themselves if feminists are judging them for choosing the wrong level of sexuality to portray? Women should not have to worry they’ll be heckled by men for dressing/acting too sexy, but heckled by feminists for not dressing/acting sexy enough.

And, like Jill, I love Lady Gaga, but she isn’t exactly the holy grail for feminists considering she “worships” men, and I’m pretty sure she denies even being a feminist. And, I agree that Taylor Swift writes most, if not all, her songs about guys, but so does Lady Gaga, and most music artists — a majority of music is about love, that’s pretty standard. John Mayer is always writing about love, Ne-Yo is always writing about love, everyone is always writing about love.

Personally, I think Paramore is good for feminism because Hayley Williams leads a rock band, and rock is a genre where really popular bands are 99.9% male, except maybe The Donnas, and few have just a female lead singer, except maybe No Doubt or Garbage.

It’s your musical preference whether you want to hear someone sing about love over guitar, piano, studio-mixed beats, whatever — but it’s an insanely slippery slope to say it’s OK to write about wanting to ride on someone’s disco stick, but it’s not OK to write about unrequited high school love. I don’t think heartbreak or heterosexual love is the only thing women experience, but I think it’s one of the most influential aspects of songwriting, and it’s hard to decide where to draw the line if you’re trying to label anything as “anti-feminist” if it’s too devoted to men.

This topic opens a whole can of worms about what exactly is good for feminism, which opens a can of worms about sexuality and how heterosexual feminists are supposed to be empowered, independent women while also attracted to men. (See: Naomi Wolf, “Radical Heterosexuality.”)

CCINAC: 3. Overpopulation

February 26, 2010

One of my favorite factoids is from Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, who says that if everyone on Earth consumed at the same rate as Americans, four Earths would be needed to house the extra stuff that goes along with the American lifestyle.

Although we still (currently anyway) only need one Earth to hold all our people and possessions, the population is growing at a pace that makes one question whether E.O.’s prediction is coming closer to reality.  Overpopulation is a serious concern, as more people mean more competition for goods and resources, and more waste and pollution.

Population growth has been steeply increasing ever since the Industrial Revolution, as the population grew by 4.5 billion in the 20th century, compared to the 1.3 billion growth in the 1,900 years prior, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

The planet’s population was 6, 692, 030, 277 more than 6 and a half billion — people in 2008, according to the World Bank. Millions more people have been born since then, and the numbers only continue to rise, burdening the planet with more demand for natural and unnatural resources alike.

Looking at the CIA World Factbook , it’s evident that many of the countries with high birth rates per 1,000 people are developing countries. The advantage that developed countries have concerning overpopulation is generally high levels of access to contraceptives, as well as some kind of sex-education.

Comprehensive sex ed and contraceptives are successful ways to combat high birth rates and unintended pregnancies, of which there are 70 to 80 million each year, according to the United Nations Foundation. In just unintended pregnancies alone, that’s an extra one billion people on the planet in 12.5 years.

Another way is by enhancing education, so that women in these countries are aware of their options in life — not just to have babies, but to work and develop a career or livelihood — and perhaps have children later than they originally would have. Not only might women delay when they have children, but with more education and a job, they will also be able to better provide for their families and avoid/get out of poverty.

This is a really interesting topic because directly legislating the issue is (1) morally questionable, in that it’s unsettling to think the world would sanction how many children you have; and (2) unnecessary if you legislate and focus on related factors such as education and access to contraception, which will lower birth rates without directly having to limit the amount of children people are allowed to have.  

With a finite amount of resources and space, it’s essential to make sure something like a birth rate — technically infinite — doesn’t exceed those resources and space. This is especially necessary in cases where people did not intend or want to have a pregnancy, but merely did so because of a lack of education or access to contraception. Although an environmental problem in nature, that doesn’t mean it has to have an environmental solution.

16&P: One million tell-tale signs that you’re in an unhealthy relationship

February 25, 2010

I’ve decided that my love of 16 and Pregnant runs much deeper that just enjoying many MTV reality TV shows, but in fact each episode teaches valuable lessons about relationships (romantic, friend, family, etc.). So, every Wednesday, I’ll be discussing an important issue that the Tuesday night episode highlights.

This week was about Nikkole, a 15-year-old high school junior who got pregnant after unprotected sex and relying on the “pull and pray” method of birth control. Like a majority of the teens on the show, the baby’s father was immature and mistreated the baby’s mother.

The father in this episode, Josh, was by far the worst father I’ve seen on 16 & Pregnant. He was controlling, manipulative, deceitful, and disrespectful. He treated Nikkole like a doormat, and he broke up with her and began dating another girl both when he found out Nikkole was pregnant and shortly after she gave birth to her baby boy, Lyle.

Normally, I feel sympathy toward these girls because they don’t realize how jerky their boyfriends are until after they give birth (see: Ryan and Maci, Jenelle and Andrew). But in this episode, I felt both anger and pity toward Nikkole, who obviously did not see or want to see the tell-tale signs that Josh was a complete douchebag:

1. Josh bossed her around in any situation possible, telling her where to be, what to do, and when to do it. He never asked — he demanded. Whether she was at a friend’s house and he demanded to see her or he alloted her only a certain amount of time to go to the Homecoming Dance, Josh always needed control.

2. Josh rarely kept his word about anything. He demanded that she only spend one hour at the Homecoming Dance before he was to pick her up, but he never showed, and she spent Homecoming night playing video games with her younger brother. Aside from breaking up with her when he found out she was pregnant, he also broke up with her weeks after she gave birth — both times to date the same girl.

3. Josh completely disrespected everyone in his path, including her, her friends, her mom, and his own mother. His disrespect for her was obvious, as he saw her as a thing to be controlled and not as an actual person with feelings, not to mention he broke up with her countless times so he could hook up with other girls, and then he’d get back with her so he technically avoided “cheating.”

He also was mean to her friends, calling one a “bitch” for trying to tell Nikkole not to leave just because he had commanded her to drop everything and see him. He constantly fought for power from Nikkole’s mom, even demanding that Nikkole tell him her mom was number one, just because he knew she wouldn’t say it and he wanted to feel validated. He kept saying he “trumped” her mom, and he was even disrespectful to his own mom and didn’t listen to a word she said.

Now, sometimes, girls are in bad relationships and their friends won’t be honest because they don’t want to cause any drama or fights. But Nikkole’s friends were extremely blunt with her when it came to trying to knock some sense into her about Josh, telling her point blank that he cheated on her, controlled her, and was no good for her at all.

Nikkole is like too many women who stay with a guy because they have dependency issues. Nikkole clung to Josh before the pregnancy, probably lured by his confident (and arrogant) personality and “bad-boy” image. She has convinced herself that she “loves” Josh, while she ignores his mostly douchey personality and instead focuses on the times when he treats her well (likely when it’s convenient for him and he wants something from her).

I see far too many women cling to damaged relationships because they are convinced that (a) the guy was at one point charming, so he can get back to that point if he tries, even though his charm was likely an act, or (b) she can change the guy, take him on as a pet project and be the one true love and woman who turned the “bad boy” into a Prince Charming.

These girls — especially teenagers — are yearning for that unconditional love they see in movies and read about in books, and they convince themselves that friends and family just don’t understand because they see a different side of this guy that is good and pure. They cling to this sliver of his personality as hope that, with enough time and care, this sliver will become noticeable to everyone else.

In some cases, it’s more a matter of trying to salvage the time and energy put into a relationship, hoping to save the relationship and work things out so it wasn’t a complete waste of time, but women need to be able to recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship and get out of it. Even with a baby, Nikkole is better off not having her son’s major role model be a guy who lies, cheats, and manipulates every chance he can get.

Also, this episode is an example of how people need to listen to their family and friends when it comes to relationships. People often isolate themselves and disconnect with everyone they know in favor of staying in an unhealthy relationship with someone, and the reason they isolate is because their family and friends keep telling them it’s not a good relationship, and they don’t want to hear that.

This episode was a good lesson in what characterizes an unhealthy relationship, and why many 16-year-old guys are not prone to maturity. I hope teenagers and adults alike can watch this episode and be more real with themselves about how they deserve to be treated, how they are being treated by a partner, and how important it is not to get sucked into such psychological abuse.

When abortion is illegal, the lines of “pro-life” become blurry

February 24, 2010

I will never understand how people who identify as pro-life can support legislation that denies abortions at all costs, even if the mother will die and that means the baby will die, too — what insane logic decries one life lost, and supports two lives lost?

In Nicaragua, a woman is being refused cancer treatment because she is 10 weeks pregnant, and going through the treatment would necessitate an abortion. This is treatment that could save the woman’s life, and allow her to keep being a mother to her 10-year-old daughter. The Nicaraguan government used to OK abortions when the mother’s health is in danger, but now they don’t.

And somehow, it makes sense to let this woman die without treatment, inherently and willfully killing her unborn child and leaving her 10-year-old daughter motherless, instead of providing an abortion and treatment which would inherently and willfully kill her unborn child, but keep her alive and able to care for her daughter. Seems like this unborn fetus will die either way, and the government is fine with consciously letting the mother die just to prove a point.

The Pro-life camp is skeptical of this story, either questioning that “Amelia” (a pseudonym) exists or saying she is being exploited and doesn’t really need the abortion. My favorite viewpoint comes from LifeSiteNews.com:

Flores Vigil did not explain how “chemotherapy” would involve “radiation,” nor why an abortion, which would utterly destroy the child, would be necessary merely to prevent “damage” to the same child.

I understand that the story could seem sketchy, considering little information is being provided about the woman and her specific medical condition. But, I think the quotes in the above sentence prove that the skepticism here comes from a fundamental belief that all science is not to be trusted, because radiation is “damaging” in the sense that those crazy scientists are tricking us into thinking radiation is bad just so they can kill babies.

Also, these sites want to convey that pro-choice groups are calling for legalizing abortion, using this case in an exploitative way to get their agenda passed. Except that this isn’t even a case of legalizing all abortion, but at least allowing women who will die if their baby’s life is deemed more valuable and worth attempting to save. For example, the Catholic News Agency is trying to make it look like there is no correlation between abortion and saving the mother’s life because abortion is not a cure for cancer:

“Is it a coincidence that all of the main players surrounding ‘Amelia’ all agree on the same point: ‘an abortion will save the life of the mother?’ … You’d have to be pretty naïve or have a serious case of amnesia to think that,” Polo stated.

This perspective  — focusing on how an abortion is killing the baby rather than saving the mother — is why women who could live with proper medical treatment end up dying because their unborn children’s lives are given priority.

I understand why people are pro-life. I don’t understand why people who are pro-life think they should decide who lives and who dies when a pregnancy could either directly or indirectly lead to a woman’s death. I don’t understand why people who are pro-life think that risking the mother’s life is OK, even if the result is a dead mother and either a dead child or a child with serious health problems and no mother to take care of him/her.

Forget arguing power sources: efficiency, reduction always better answers

February 23, 2010

I just unearthed this Time article, which to me illustrates best how many people view and want electricity and energy generation: low cost, infinite, and it helps if it’s not terrible for the environment. The problem is, however, that no energy source can match greater energy efficiency and — even better — reduced demand.

The Time article referenced above discusses why nuclear power is still not a viable saving grace for energy generation — it’s outrageously expensive (costing both government and taxpayers billions of dollars for just one new nuclear power plant) and necessitates finding a place to toss radioactive, toxic waste from the power plants.

Yes, it burns carbon-free, and according to the article, most people don’t even mind living near one — although it never made me feel better that the nuclear plant near my hometown constantly leaked radiation, or that my hometown was just outside the devastation and vaporization zone in the event of a nuclear reactor catastrophe.

In the end, nuclear alone cannot satiate our need for electricity and energy — the answer needs to come first from reduced demand and second from better energy efficiency. Because, really, isn’t the easiest way to solve the energy problem by just using less of it? And figuring out how to get the most bang for our buck?

We keep looking for ways to keep our current lifestyles without sacrificing any of the luxuries that most middle-class and wealthier people currently energy: Endless electricity for cheap prices, endless consumer goods for cheap prices, endless amounts of whatever we want. People want the best of all worlds, because they understand that polluting the air is bad for them and the planet but want a solution that allows them endless electricity, a clear conscience, and money left in their wallets.

Just as permanent weight loss doesn’t come from eating cake everyday, energy efficiency won’t happen by using all the energy in the world you want. It’s as if all these different power sources are like diet pills or plans that people want to embrace because they are easy and don’t require much lifestyle change, when in reality reducing your caloric intake (aka energy use, in power terms) in combination with choosing healthier foods and exercising (aka efficiency) is a lifestyle change that will long-lasting effects.

Spanking is a really ineffective form of discipline

February 18, 2010

Whether or not to spank children has always been a highly debated topic, but it’s truly an ineffective form of discipline — even if Tyra thinks “light” spanking doesn’t count as abuse and is OK.

Now, I’m sure if you ask your grandparents about spanking, they’ll likely have a no-nonsense attitude toward discipline and will praise spanking as a way to toughen kids and teach them that actions have consequences. These days, parents are growing more progressive and concerned about the ill effects that spanking can have on children — if Supernanny has taught us anything, it’s that parents are in desperate need of disciplinary advice and simply hitting them doesn’t curb bad behavior.

Spanking doesn’t curb bad behavior for the following reasons:

1. It’s not a long-term solution. Much like torture, spanking is a way to get short-term results. You hit, the child cries, and you have scared them into acting how you want them to act for the next 10 minutes. Spanking is also like torture because both do not produce adequate long-term results — you get a superficial, positive result immediately, but over time the method isn’t effective.

First, using violence gets short-term goals because the child is only stopping behavior out of fear and not out of any moral obligation or value-based thinking. You aren’t rewarding or encouraging positive behavior, but instead only threatening the child with physical pain. This physical pain is only temporary and momentary, so it doesn’t have any lasting affect on the child. Nothing is instilled in the child except a fear of violence rather than a true understanding of good vs. bad, morals, etc.

Long-term solutions come in the form of taking away privileges, time-outs, and then talking to your child after the punishment about why whatever they did was wrong. Yes, you can smack them when they talk back to you, but you also assume they will understand why they are being punished and why exactly it was wrong to act that way.

And, in today’s world of gadgets and gizmos, it is a lot more effective to take away a cell phone or computer because the momentary pain of a spanking is tolerable compared to feeling/being disconnected from the world.

2. It promotes violence as a solution. To get your child to do what you want, you proceed to hit them to get the point across. This instills anger and fear into the child, and it teaches them to be violent toward someone else in order to get that person to obey you. The child sees results when they beat up on other children, and the cycle continues.

3. It creates resentment. Yes, you get annoyed at your parents if they take away your phone, but excessive spanking can lead to a lot of resentment between child and parent. Resentment issues are likely to occur when the spankings are not “light” but actually rather rough and painful; resentment likely will occur if the spankings are frequent and often in response to mild or harmless infractions — you’d resent your parents if you got smacked every single time you did something slightly annoying and got an unwarranted and unexplained painful spanking.

And finally, some developmental psychologists promote discipline based on personality, which means your seemingly more sensitive siblings will not receive physically violent discipline but you will. I feel deep resentment toward my mom simply for being disciplined more severely than my brothers in a non-violent way (e.g. I was grounded for breaking rules, had an early curfew and they didn’t), so I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I was not only treated unfairly, but also violently disciplined whereas my brothers never were touched.

Yes, lots of people complain that children these days have it to easy and they just need a good smacking to get straight. The problem is that violence is constantly portrayed as this omnipotent solution to all our problems, when in reality it subdues them for a while but doesn’t actually solve anything.

Hmm … I wish I had written this last week when I saw the Tyra episode … I feel like I had another point to make but it’s lost now.

The Diva Cup is not disgusting, despite what my mom told you

February 5, 2010

The Diva Cup seems to cause a lot of controversy for a one ounce piece of silicon that collects menstral blood. Since asking for one for Christmas, I’ve gotten mixed feedback from family (my mom was so grossed out I had to ask my brother to buy it for me) and friends, much of it skeptical and critical. That’s why I was eager to finally use it and be able to tell them from personal experience how effective it was.

The Diva Cup is a cone-shaped, shotglass-sized alternative to tampons and pads, and it is inserted into the vagina to capture blood during a menstral cycle.

Because it isn’t made with any toxic chemicals, there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome; because it is reusable, it saves money and reduces waste.

But the eco-friendly, money-saving, only-have-to-change-twice-a-day Diva Cup is just too “gross” for some people to handle. After day one, I’d like to address some of the concerns that go along with the Diva Cup:

1. Yes, you have to get in touch with your inner self — literally. If you’re used to tampons with applicators or maxi pads, then you probably keep as far away from anything menstral as humanly possible. Women in the U.S. are usually socialized to feel that a period is dirty, shameful, and disgusting. But, it’s blood — everyone’s got it, and you’ve probably come in contact before.

The only concern I’d have is using the cup in a public restroom, but because you can wear it for up to 12 hours without a problem (unless your period is heavy, most likely), you probably won’t run into the public restroom problem often if at all.

2. Yes, the cup sits in your vagina and holds blood until you take it out. This is not different from a tampon, which sits there and holds blood until you take it out. My mom especially finds this gross, which makes little sense considering the blood just sits there whether you’re wearing a cup, tampon, or pad.

My mom also expects it would lead to infection but, while it’s sitting there, the cup won’t give you toxic shock syndrome. Tampons absorb any liquid, not just blood, including the normal flora and bacteria in the vagina. These bacteria and mucus specifically actually prevent infections, but high-absorbancy tampons — especially when left in for too long — absorb these infection-fighting bacteria and leave room for infection. The cup is neutral and doesn’t introduce any toxins or make it easier for toxins to multiply.

3. Yes, there is a learning curve to figuring out how to insert it properly. It’s pretty much the same as when you first use a tampon for the first time — you worry about losing the string, you don’t put it in far enough, you don’t get the hang of putting it in right away. But you probably didn’t give up on tampons, and the cup is the same way.

4. No, it won’t overflow if you change it according to your flow. If you have a heavy flow, you probably can’t get away with only changing it twice a day, but anyone with a light to medium flow could. At least you could wear it to sleep if you have a heavy flow, which is really convenient because having a heavy flow is awful when it comes time to go to sleep. The cup holds one ounce, and the average woman menstrates a total of one to 1.4 ounces each cycle.

After using it for just one day, I am finding that my only concern is getting it to fit correctly and adjusting to the fact that it is a little bit messier than dealing with pads or tampons. But it’s really nice to just change it twice a day, and I feel really good about not throwing away any garbage in the entire process.

I don’t want people to think The Diva Cup is disgusting because it’s actually really convenient and makes more sense then constantly buying more and more cotton products like tampons and pads — which are bleached with chlorine/release the carcinogen dioxin when bleached– and putting them near or inside your body.

Not only is it safer, but you don’t have to pray that you remembered to put a tampon in your purse, or that you can find someone who has a tampon, or that the restroom you found has tampon or pad machines.

I still can’t grasp what makes the cup so much more disgusting than anything else — perhaps the fact that the blood isn’t absorbed so we have to deal with the fact that, yes, we bleed once a month. Regardless, the menstral cup is not really gross, it’s easy to use, and it’s better for you, your wallet, and the environment.

Although I’m sure my mom told you something different.

Dr. Drew sends questionable messages on ‘Teen Mom’

February 3, 2010

Dr. Drew is the resident psychiatrist of Hollywood, but some of his assertions on the reunion show for MTV’s Teen Mom made me wonder where he got his degree.

In case you don’t breathe MTV reality shows like I do, Teen Mom follows four women from the pilot show 16 and Pregnant, where six teenagers were followed during their pregnancies and deliveries. The four women from Teen Mom are Maci, Farrah, Amber, and Catelynn, each with a different perspective on mothering, from single motherhood to adoption.

The four women reunited Tuesday night to discuss the season and their own personal problems with Dr. Drew. I remember being slightly annoyed at the reunion special for 16 and Pregnant because Dr. Drew was trying to get these teenagers to tell the audience how horrible their lives are and how regretful they were about having unprotected sex. But many of the teenagers pushed back because, although their lives were hard and they urged other teens to wait and use protection, they didn’t want to submit to Drew’s insistance that they regretted having their children because, in fact, they all loved their children despite the hardship.

Dr. Drew’s leading questions were evident on this last reunion show as well, as he was obviously trying to steer the women into answering questions with the answers he wanted. Most of the time it was understandable — domestic violence is unacceptable no matter who commits it, having a baby means giving up some of the “normal teenager” life, etc. His assertions with Maci, however, where really off-base.

Here’s Maci’s back story: She got pregnant during her senior year of high school with her boyfriend, Ryan. Her boyfriend is uninvolved, detached, and lazy. He has told her multiple times that they wouldn’t be together if it weren’t for Bentley, their son. They briefly lived together and were engaged, but Maci broke off the engagement and moved out because he was uninterested with spending time with her or Bentley, preferring to hang out with friends instead. They tried getting back together once more, went to a relationship counselor, but now are broken up for good because they have communication and commitment issues.

The first thing that really irked me was how flabbergasted he was that they both admitted they would have tried to work things out more had they been married. Dr. Drew kept trying to tell them how they should try to make things work, how he didn’t get how marriage made a difference. Marriage, though, is a larger commitment to each other and therefore should take a larger amount of energy to keep together. They couldn’t even stand to be around each other long enough to get married — I don’t see their breaking up as them not trying, I see it as a sign that they are not on the same page.

I felt like this was a larger assertion by Dr. Drew that staying married and being miserable is preferable to being apart and being happy. Being in a marriage yet hating each other brings about fighting, cheating, lying, and depression. Why would someone want to have their child in that environment, as opposed to still having two parents who don’t live in the same house but are not unhappy and miserable all the time?

The second thing that Dr. Drew tried to convince Maci was that guys love their children differently. Although he claimed he wasn’t condoning Ryan’s behavior, he said the love was different than a mother’s love. Although that may be true, Ryan showed barely any interest in taking care of or being around Bentley. I don’t think this is specific to men, I think this is specific to Ryan and other fathers who aren’t excited or interested in being dads. Watching the other men on the show, it’s evident that they don’t all act unresponsive or uninterested in their children.

Now, this account is based on what I see on TV, and I don’t know these people personally. But I was sitting there watching the reunion thinking, “A doctor is telling people that they should be married and try to make things work even if they are miserable and hate each other, and he’s also saying it’s OK that a father is somewhat neglectful because guys just love differently.” I disagree.

Abstinence-only study highlights importance of teaching style, message

February 2, 2010

A new study has found that abstinence-only sex education might work — but before values-based organizations jump on this study as the end all, be all of abstinence-only sex education, it’s important to look at what sets this program apart.

I can’t access the article directly without a magical password, but the abstract explains how there were four different groups with four different sex ed curricula — abstinence only, sex-only, a combination, and then a random health class not related to sex ed. The findings suggest that adolescents who took the abstinence class were less likely to have had sex two years later when compared to those who took the sex-only class (33 percent vs. 52 percent).

But, as The Washington Post points out, this was not your typical abstinence-only class. In fact, it really wasn’t your typical sex education class. Not only was it not morality or values-based, but it was conducted using small group teaching methods and a lot of student-teacher interaction.

When students are given more focused attention by teachers, they respond better to whatever they are being taught. In the abstinence-only set of students, the teacher worked with students in small groups and there was a high degree of student-teacher interaction that engages the student more than the typical lecture-based, large classroom environment of most sex ed classes. I wish I could read the study to see if the same small group teaching methods were used in the sex-only group.

This study shows two things: it shows that students respond better when they are more involved, engaged, and a part of the lesson, and it shows that pinning morality to the abstinence cause might actually be detrimental. This study did not attach values to the lesson, but rather spoke in more generic terms:

It did not take a moralistic tone, as many abstinence programs do. Most notably, the sessions encouraged children to delay sex until they are ready, not necessarily until married; did not portray sex outside marriage as never appropriate; and did not disparage condoms. (The Washington Post)

I can see how separating morals from the equation can be effective: Teenagers are full of angst and hormones, and they need to feel empowered to make their own decisions for themselves, instead of making them out of shame, guilt, or fear. Sometimes just telling them “no” and giving punishment just won’t get through to a teenager, and it seems like this method includes adolescents rather than preaches to them. I know at that age, I felt the urge to immediately tune-out many things that I saw as preachy because I felt like I was preached at all the time.

I think when it comes to sex education, this study proves that the message matters, and the way the message is delivered is extremely important when it comes to trying to prevent teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

Note: One thing that the study didn’t do was increase condom use, which is a problem if these students do decide to have sex before marrying another person who is waiting to have sex until marriage. According to a 2005 study, abstinence-only education not only can decrease sexual behavior, but it also can decrease the use of condoms, which means unprotected sex and possible pregnancies and transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.