Remember Elizabeth Smart? She's the young woman who made international headlines after being abducted at age 14 and surviving nine harrowing months of sexual assault before escaping her captor. Well, in recent weeks, she's been making headlines again, this time as an advocate for sex education. Or, more specifically, as an advocate against pro-abstinence sex ed.

We're all for sex education for kids - the more the better - but teaching abstinence only seems a bit like teaching kids that bad things won't happen if you don't watch the news.

And then there's this:

I remember in school one time, I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence. And she said, 'Imagine you're a stick of gum. When you engage in sex, that's like getting chewed. And if you do that lots of times, you're going to become an old piece of gum, and who is going to want you after that?

Well, that's terrible. No one should ever say that. But for me, I thought, 'I'm that chewed-up piece of gum.' Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away. And that's how easy it is to feel you no longer have worth. Your life no longer has value.

That's what Smart reportedly told a Johns Hopkins University panel in early May in an effort to highlight the disastrous effects sexual shaming can have on sexual assual victims.

In study after study, abstinence-only sex education has proved ineffective. It's even been linked to higher rates of teen pregnancy. Making teenagers feel ashamed about sex or, worse, equating virginity with self worth, is bad enough. As it turns out, the unintended consequence is that those same messages might play back if those same are victimized, leaving them feeling irredeemably damaged - and perhaps even that they're somehow to blame.

Sex can be risky, it can have emotional consequences and there are all kinds of reasons why teens - and anyone really - should be careful with both their bodies and their hearts. But teaching kids that participating in a natural and necessary part of being human will leave them as used up and useless as an old piece of gum? In terms of a lesson, this one's as cruel as they come.

Check out some tips on how to talk to kids about sex in our Birds & Bees section. And tell us what you think about abstinence only sex ed.

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