The Politics of Teen Sex Stats


| 8/12/2010 9:30:44 AM


Tags: Politics, teen sex, sexual education, American Life League, AIDS, Media Consortium Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium,

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The American Life League (ALL) has seized upon the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) latest teen sex stats as proof that kids don’t need sex ed after all. The data show that 58 percent of girls and 57 percent of boys between the ages of 15 and 19 report that they had never had intercourse. According to the ALL, these stats somehow prove that sex ed is a waste of time.

Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality Check argues that ALL is disingenuously lumping all non-sexually active teens together: A 15-year-old virgin is not necessarily a committed proponent of abstinence. The CDC data suggest that many teens of these erstwhile virgins are doing their best to shed their virginity. Marcotte notes than only about 12 percent of teens are interested abstinence messages, and presumably, an even smaller percentage of those kids will live up to their ideals. What the study really shows is that nearly half of teenagers are already having sex, and many others are doing their best to get in on the action. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect audience for comprehensive sex ed.

Protecting sex workers

Scientists, policy-makers, and activists gathered in Vienna last week for the International AIDS Conference. The conference is supposed to be a global meeting of the minds, but some groups feel left out of the discussion. Sex workers are on the global front lines of the battle against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Yet, Titania Kumeh reports in Mother Jones that President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a key U.S. program to fund AIDS prevention in the developing world, continues to shut out sex worker activist groups unless they repudiate their clients’ livelihood. As you might expect, denouncing sex work is not an effective way of winning the trust of sex workers.

Kumeh profiles Peninah Mwangi, an AIDS activist and sex worker. She works with several NGOs that have been turned down for PEPFAR funding because they refuse to reject sex work. Mwangi and 100 other sex workers marched outside the International AIDS Conference in Vienna last week to draw attention to PEPFAR’s discriminatory policy against sex workers.

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