The Waxman Report

I used to teach a life skills course for an independent NFP. Included in our information were segments which encouraged youth to abstain from sexual activity. Because of my occupation, I grew quite accustomed to being asked questions about the many reports in existence which seem to contradict the validity of abstinence education. Typically these questions were offered with an air of antagonism, for which I have no patience. Unfortunately, I have grown weary of the lack of education on the subject from the vast majority of the individuals participating in these insidious questionings. Therefore I have no remorse when these discussions culminate in their shame and embarrassment. I am often able to befuddle the minds of these antagonists by simply asking them which report would they like to discuss first. They don’t know because, not only have they not read them, but they don’t even know what the reports are called. I would like to take a moment and evaluate one anti-abstinence report that was presented to congress by Henry Waxman. In the following essay we will be evaluating a congressional report titled “The Waxman Report”.

In pages three and four of Sen. Henry Waxman’s congressional report on the content of abstinence only education programs, Sen. Waxman states that rigorous studies of abstinence only curricula do not show any overall effect on contraceptive use or the sexual behavior of participants. He then contradicts himself and states that the study showed that abstinence only education might increase participant’s risk. The only two explanations for an increase in risk are that abstinence educators are injecting their pupils with an STD serum, or perhaps the sexual behavior of students who have experienced abstinence education has been somehow affected. I have to ask the question Sen. Waxman, do these programs show no effect on sexual behavior or do they increase risk taking sexual behavior? You’ve stated both, but you must choose one, because both scenarios cannot co-exist. Next, Sen. Waxman states that researchers found that these abstinence programs helped some participants to delay sex. Another contradiction. I thought that these abstinence programs show no effect on sexual behavior. Sen. Waxman has stated that abstinence programs offer no effect; he then stated that they provide negative effects, and then he stated that they provide positive effects. These statements are inconsistent, conflicting and, therefore, illogical.

Next, Sen. Waxman states that students who have gone through an abstinence education course are less likely to seek STD testing. This is an interesting piece of research indeed. Which cow pie did Sen. Waxman lift to find that one? Considering comprehensive sex education programs portray condoms as adolescent brain proof protection from STDs and pregnancy, where does the motivation for STD screening come from? If comprehensive sex education makes teens feel adequately protected, what is motivating these teens to get screened? And if comprehensive sex education aspires to communicate with teens the benefits of condom usage and the overall protection which condoms offer, with hopes of motivating students to use condoms, and, after receiving this program, teens are running out to get immediate screening, then the logical conclusion is that comprehensive sex education is failing tremendously. Or could it be that research has failed us again? If you doubt the fallibility of research, then consider, it was research that concluded that Social Security was a good idea. Phrenology was based on over one hundred years of research and was an accepted branch of neuroscience in the nineteenth century. It was research that put us in Vietnam and research that caused the French to sell the Louisiana Territory. Research claims that Polar ice caps are melting due to global warming, and researchers freeze to death on their mission to investigate. Please, no more bogus research Sen. Waxman, You are insulting my capacity to think rationally. Abstinence education instructs students on some of the possible risks involved with being sexually active with multiple partners, even with the use of a condom, as stated by the CDC, The Department of Health and Human Services and even the Trojan condom company. Considering the risk teens face of acquiring an STD when engaging in sex with multiple partners, abstinence educators strongly recommend immediate STD screening for any participating students who profess to be sexually active, with or without the use of a condom.

I’m wondering something, and I’m not going to approach this from a research perspective. Instead I will attempt to think for myself and incorporate logic into the equation. If comprehensive sex education, which teaches that condoms offer full protection (a claim which even condom manufacturers don’t support), delays the initiation of sex and reduces the frequency of sex, why are the STD and teen pregnancy stats climbing? You can’t reasonably blame abstinence programs; these figures were rapidly climbing long before the “invasive” abstinence education programs infiltrated our school systems. Abstinence courses are only offered in about one third of our nation’s schools, so we can’t practically place the blame on them anyway. This brings me to two points that I would like to make. I was only recently a teenager, and have not forgotten the way my brain functioned in those years, so my first point is as follows: (1) If, when I was in school, you had told me to not have sex, then you had told me how to use a condom, and where to buy them, I would have heard you saying that you expected me to ignore your telling me to not have sex.  And you would have been telling me just that; otherwise there would’ve been no need to explain to me how to use a condom.  After all, why would I need to to be taught how to properly use a condom unless I was expected to have sex? If a boy is not having sex, then he would not need a condom. And if you are telling him that you expect him to fail on the first point to not have sex, should he not assume that he is also expected to fail on the second point to use a condom? You cannot pick and choose what part of your message he will listen to. He either listens or he doesn’t. And if he listens closely to what you would be telling him, he would hear you telling him that he is is expected to ignore some of your instructions, and adhere to others. And who is to come behind you and tell him which points to ignore and which to adhere to?  He would be getting a mixed message. So you are setting him up to fail by communicating to him what he must do when he fails. This would be like me telling my son to not play in the fire, yet then handing him a fire extinguisher and a Band-Aid. My second point is as follows: (2) If someone had told me of all the great benefits of condoms, which I am not presently refuting, then what would have been my motivation for limiting my sexual activity? If my teacher is telling me not to have sex, and then telling me that as long as I use a condom there will not be any risks, and then hinting to me that I’m expected to ignore her and become sexually active anyway, then I would not be motivated to delay my sexual debut due to a perceived lack of consequences. And considering my teacher is implying that she is expecting the worst from me in terms of sexual behavior, well, I’m only human Sen. Waxman, and I perform up to the level that is expected of me.

Nathan Gray