The fallacy of the University of Pennsylvania’s abstinence study

Conservative Christians are hailing a “landmark” study that “finally shows that abstinence-only education works”.  This study was done by John Jemmott III, a University of Pennsylvania professor and is titled: Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention Over 24 Months. Blog posts about this have been all over the Internet in the last couple of weeks, all of them on Conservative Christian sites and written by primarily one-track-mind imbeciles.

As usual in these types of arguments, the result was decided then they designed the study to mirror the answer they wanted.  In this case, they picked a bunch of really young kids as their sample, something no one mentions when citing the study.

From the study itself:

Objective To evaluate the efficacy of an abstinence-only intervention in preventing sexual involvement in young adolescents.

Design Randomized controlled trial.

Setting Urban public schools.

Participants A total of 662 African American students in grades 6 and 7.

So let’s get this straight, you took a sample of 11 to 13 year old grade school and first year middle school students, gave them 8 hours of “sex ed” then followed-up with them in 24 months when they were 13 to 15  and in 8th and 9th grade, still middle school, to see if they had had sex yet.

First another study, in Pennsylvania, looking to determine when adolescents first start having penetrative sex found that the average age is 16.4 years of age.

Second, how many 13 to 15 year olds are going to be honest about having had sex?

This study was FAIL from the beginning.

So by looking at a group of 6th and 7th graders, where sexual activity is very low (though not unheard of), and following-up with them before the age where they start having sex, John Jemmott III was able to determine that abstinence-only education works and education revolving around real information such as condoms, STI’s and the like doesn’t.

The author of the linked article then goes on to say that those that want to teach real sex education to educate and protect kids from disease, unwanted pregnancies and promote sexual health are not doing it to actually protect them, but to indoctrinate them into polyamory, and sites that wingnut Patrick Fagan.  Chuck Colson quotes Patrick Fagan:

That’s why the culture of polyamory attempts to control childhood education, sex education, and adolescent health programs. This control, Fagan warns, “enables the polyamory culture to reach into the traditional monogamy culture and gradually dismantle it.”

Everyday it appears that the Conservative Christians new holy war is against a new specter, a new devil here to steal your soul: Polyamory.  I mean really, are they running-out of stuff to champion and to scare the Jesus into their sheeples?

Chuck.  Patrick. You two don’t mind if I call you by your first names, do you? As someone in the polyamorous community I can tell you we are far too disorganized to do anything of the like as attempting to control childhood sex education.  Nobody is recruiting anyone.  We don’t have time, and quite honestly, we don’t care.  Our’s is a lifestyle of live and let live.  And it harms none, do what you will, and don’t judge others because they choose to live differently than us.  On top of that, any polyamory-minded person will tell you that it’s almost impossible to bring a monogamy-minded person into a polyamorous relationship, and when it does happen (because they fall in love with someone who is polyamorous, not by recruiting), it rarely ever works-out.

This kind of rhetoric from you simply drives people to alternative lifestyles: they find us, we don’t look for them.  In fact, many of the people I know in the swinging, polyamory and BDSM lifestyles came from very strict Christian homes and families and as adults couldn’t reconcile what was brainwashed into them as children (such as your anti-polyamory bullshit) with what they were seeing and experiencing in real life outside your protective bubble.  They seek alternative lifestyles to escape the sexual repression and stifling of self-expression of the culture they were raised in.

So John, Chuck, Patrick: believe me when I say, we don’t have to recruit anyone, you’re doing a fine enough job of driving them our way to begin with.

Note: In all fairness I’ll state that maybe John Jemmott III was looking for some other kind of data in his study and the Conservative Christian wingnuts like Chuck Colson are extracting and twisting the data that supports their agenda to turn America back to an idealized way of the past because the present and unknown future is just to scary for them.

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  • I already helped to rip this “study” to shreds in other locations, but lets throw in a quick fact check on what this study was NOT about:

    Quote:
    “Outcome Measures: The primary outcome was self-report of ever having sexual intercourse by the 24-month follow-up.”

    This was NOT about “unwanted pregnancy rates”, “disease rates” or even “risky behavior”, only “did you fuck or not?”

    From a scientific point of view, if we _assume_ that the study was executed correctly, without bias or manipulation, the only conclusion we could distill from the data would be

    “STI and condom training is not so useful for making kids have less sex.”

    Any other “conclusion” is just projection.

    Isn’t science fun?