Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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July 11, 2006

South Dakota: New sex ed text books were approved last night for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in the Sioux Falls school district. Some parents are still unhappy because the new text’s definition of abstinence does not include marriage. It’s not clear from the article what textbook was selected. The Argus Leader has an editorial today arguing that it would be great if sex ed could be left up to parents, but that parents too often don’t take on that responsibility and because of their failure to do so the schools need to teach it.And Campus Progress has a piece called The Devil Wears Trojan written by Emily Amick a senior at Wellesley. Amick discusses what she thinks is really behind the fight over abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and comprehensive sex ed:

Abstinence-only advocates argue that giving teenagers information about sex is like giving them keys to a car before they are allowed to drive. But they ignore the fact that students who receive adequate driver’s education end up in fewer car accidents than students who don’t. When it comes to sex, perhaps conservatives’ concerns aren’t about accident rates at all, but rather about who should be allowed to drive.

Amick goes on to discuss the battle to preserve the “traditional family structure” and the role such a structure plays in this debate. She further links abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to preserving gender hierarchy and notes the effect these programs have on women:

The sex education debate is a debate about women’s futures, about whether our role is as nursery maid or corporate executive at Minute Maid. Promoting abstinence-only education in our schools is only a small part of a greater movement of sexual conservativism, a movement that believes women’s primary roles are that of wife and mother.

The ultimate question is: Are the battles we fight over the effectiveness of condoms, the HPV vaccine, and the insistence on abstinence before marriage really just masking a bigger conflict over gender roles, family structures, and acceptable sexual behavior?Food for thought.