the abstinence myth – adolescents vs priests


Zero percent of those who abstain will be pregnant.

I know it’s not a popular thing to admit in certain circles, but I am an animal. And I have lots in common with my animal relatives here on earth.  I breath air, I have the urge to eat and drink, I require rest, and I have the urge to engage in sexual activity.  These four vital things have kept the human race successfully trundling along for quite some time now.  If we don’t breath, we suffocate.  If we don’t eat or drink, we become dehydrated or starve.  If we don’t rest, we become fatigued, manic, and prone to hallucinations. Apparently, if we don’t have sex, we’re virtuous and chaste.  Eh?

Lots of Christian organisations promote abstinence to teenagers as the only 100% successful form of birth control. It’s hard to argue with that. If you’re not having sex, no-one’s getting pregnant. But that’s clearly missing the point. Can you realistically expect all teenagers with their raging hormones to stay abstinent?  Perhaps I’m underestimating what faith in a god and some willpower can do.

To seriously consider the feasibility of an expectation of abstinence in teenagers, I thought it would be useful to compare them with another group of people who actively choose abstinence.  Catholic priests are highly educated men, past the raging hormones stage, and they have a presumably extra strong faith in their deity.  I expect their ability to stay abstinent is a good indication of the best that can be achieved.  So I did a little internet research:

And I treated half a dozen priests who fathered children,” Dr. Lothstein said. “I treated priests who had two children. I treated priests who got women pregnant and got them abortions. I said to one of them, ‘Why didn’t you just use a condom?’ And he said, ‘Because birth control is against the law of the church.’ ”


Dozens of Italian women who have had relationships with Roman Catholic priests or lay monks have endorsed an open letter to the pope that calls for the abolition of the celibacy rule.


an extremely conservative estimate was that one in 10 of the 5,000 Catholic priests in Ireland enjoyed regular sex with women

I’m sticking to straightforward, consensual, heterosexual relationships here as I don’t want to muddy the waters, but I think we get the picture. If the priests are struggling, what hope do the teenagers have?

Abstinence is one of the many forms of birth control that teenagers today need to learn about. But it is utter lunacy to suggest that teaching this alone will help prevent unwanted pregnancies. In fact, researchers at the University of Georgia have found that “states that prescribe abstinence-only sex education programs in public schools have significantly higher teenage pregnancy and birth rates than states with more comprehensive sex education programs”.

And if you don’t believe anything you’ve read here, just ask Sarah Palin.