Abstinence Only Sex Education

Updated: JANUARY 28, 2019

Abstinence-only sex education is a type of sexual education which teaches that abstinence is the only correct form of contraceptive for its teenage students. It generally does not teach students anything about condoms, other forms of birth control, or a range of other sexual topics, such as abortion and masturbation.

Abstinence-only sex education is sometimes called abstinence-centered education, abstinence-based education, and abstinence only until marriage education.

More About Abstinence Only Sex Education

Abstinence-only sex education teaches students that sex outside of marriage can have damaging psychological, physical, spiritual and social ramifications.

Fear tactics are often used to discourage sexual behavior, such as exaggerations regarding condom failure rates and the statistics and symptoms of sexually transmitted infections. Some abstinence-only teachers suggest that sexually transmitted infections are an inevitable result of sexual activity outside marriage.

Unlike comprehensive sex education, which encourages students to explore their individual values and beliefs about sex, abstinence-only education teaches that abstinence is the only acceptable choice for unmarried people.

Topics which may be deemed controversial, such as masturbation, sexuality, and abortion, are generally not discussed as part of an abstinence-only sex education curriculum. If abortion is discussed, it is only to be presented as an immoral choice for pregnant mothers.

While most abstinence-only educators are legally prohibited from mixing their classes with religious instruction, many come from religious backgrounds and allow this to colour their approach.

Critics of abstinence-only education argue that it is not effective because it does not provide all the information teens need to make responsible choices about their own sexual behavior and sexual health. It’s notable that there has been no evidence to support the idea that abstinence-only sex education helps youths delay the onset of sexual activity for a significant time period, reduce their number of sexual partners, or the lower the rates of teen pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.


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