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Gender prescription in abstinence-only education

Trentadue, M. P. (2016, April). Gender prescription in abstinence-only education. Presentation for Boston University Sexual Assault Response & Prevention (SARP) Ambassadors

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Gender prescription in abstinence-only education

  1. 1. Gender Prescription in Abstinence-only Education Presentation by Mia Trentadue
  2. 2. Abstinence-only Education vs. Comprehensive Sex Education Abstinence-only: Comprehensive: - Stresses abstinence - Provides medically accurate and age appropriate information - Provides information on contraceptives - Encourages healthy relationships (communication, boundaries) - Teaches that a “faithful monogamous [heterosexual] relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity” (1) - Views sex before marriage as hazardous and destructive
  3. 3. Where does the US stand? - 27 states were still accepting funding for abstinence-only education in 2009 (1) - Only 19 states require that sex education should be medically accurate - The majority of US adults support comprehensive sex education (2) not accepting funds
  4. 4. Is abstinence-only education harmful? Abstinence-only education… - is entirely ineffective in delaying sexual intercourse (3) - does not teach about birth control or barrier methods - is sex negative - does not teach about agency, boundaries, or sexual violence - is limited to heterosexual relationships in which procreation is the goal - is gender prescriptive and propagates rape myths
  5. 5. How is abstinence-only education gender prescriptive? Male Prescription: - Boys are in a constant struggle to control their sexualities and hormones (4) - Boys are “sexually uncontrollable” and “desire sexual activity from any and all women” - Male intimacy is separate from emotion - Implies that boys cannot experience sexual violence (5) Female Prescription: - Girls fill a temptress role (5) but are chaste, submissive, and sexually passive - Girls are supposed to keep male sexual urges in check, which implies responsibility and promotes victim-blaming attitudes (2) “The girl may need to put on the brakes first in order to help the boy.” – Reasonable Reasons to Wait (Student Workbook, p.96) (2)
  6. 6. “Because girls are usually more talkative, make eye contact more often than men, and love to dress in eye-catching ways, they may appear to be coming on to a guy when in reality they are just being friendly. To the male, however, he perceives that the girl wants him sexually. Asking herself what signals she is sending could save both sexes a lot of heartache.” - from Why kNOw (4) “Because we didn’t have accurate information about what was healthy and what wasn’t, I endured some awful situations because I didn’t know the difference. We didn’t talk about respect, boundaries, and sexual communication. So the myth of ‘boys push and girls resist’ informed everything. We never talked about consent because with abstinence curriculum you shouldn’t consent.” - Erin (Abstinence-only program participant from Oregon (4) Curriculum says / students say:
  7. 7. Chewing gum exercise See how it doesn’t look the same anymore? See how it doesn’t fit in the wrapper the same way? Do you see how it’s changed and damaged? The chewing gum exercise is used in abstinence- only curricula to show what happens to females’ worths after they have sex. Take out a piece of gum and start chewing it. After a few seconds, take the piece of gum out of your mouth.
  8. 8. Since when does chewing gum equate to a person’s worth? Abstinence-only ed identifies a person’s—a female’s—worth as connected to her sexuality. This is damaging, and utilizing chewing gum as an analogy for a sexually active person is destructive (6).
  9. 9. Elizabeth Smart on the chewing gum tactic “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easily it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.” - Elizabeth Smart (7)
  10. 10. Abstinence-only teaching tactics “In exercises, role plays, and class discussions, girls practice resistance to trite lines, unwanted hands, opened buttons, and the surrender of other ‘bases’ they are not prepared to yield. The discourses of violence and victimization both portray males as potential predators and females as victims” (9). Other curricula activities: 1) dirty chocolate exercise 2) used tape exercise 3) rose without petals exercise (8)
  11. 11. What do these kinds of tactics do? - perpetuate harmful gender role prescriptions - minimize male emotional needs - disregard female sexual desires - prevent students from exploring their own emotions and experiences (4) - provide a harmful and confusing double
  12. 12. Where do we go from here? - There is a dearth in statistical research on the correlation between abstinence-only education and sexual assault - Currently a lot of quantitative research about abstinence-only education and rates of pregnancy and STI transmission, but there aren’t a lot of statistics on the strength of the relationship between abstinence-only education and sexual assault - Teach medically accurate sex education - Promote abstinence without limiting curricula to abstinence-only models - Promote healthy relationships
  13. 13. “Young people have a fundamental right to accurate, unbiased information about their body and sexuality. Sex education changes lives.” - Laci Green, Sex Education Activist Abstinence-only education is
  14. 14. Questions/Discussion
  15. 15. Works Cited (1) (2) (3) PreventSexAssault_Dana-Raphael0415.pdf (4) 4KHYbnCss& F~%2Fmedia%2F2CB6B053D52A41E2B14C961F2E708597.ashx&usg=AFQjCNHtdf5o4k3nc0mPWANV9DaTbTtKBA&sig 2=13iWOhpxVC-R3IOSg1mgOA (5) (6) (7) (8) (9)