Renee Rose on “Abstinence, Religion, and School”


In this clip of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discusses the many issues that come about teaching sexual education in public schools. He talks about different school districts and how sex education is not regulated and can differ from school to school. One of the topics he focuses on is the information teenagers receive about abstinence. He shows multiple clips of videos and speakers that teenagers watch in school and how these videos can be confusing and even damaging to these kids. One of the videos compares a woman who was not a virgin to an old, dirty shoe. One of the sex education speakers uses a piece of tape to represent a girl who participates in sex by sticking the tape to the arm of many different boys. The tape losses its ability to stick and now represents a damaged girl.

Sex education is a touchy subject that many people argue about. There are many contradictory opinions on what is appropriate to teach to adolescents in regards to when to engage in sex and how to be safe. The topic that most religious congregates are conflicted by is the fact that abstinence is not the only thing being taught. This is partially related to E.B. Tylor’s theory of “Survivals” in that abstinence has been taught for hundreds of years and it is bothering a lot of people that society is much more open now to pre-marital sex. I say partially because it is a survival in the sense that abstinence has been a social norm for ages, but it is not the kind of survival that exists for no reason. For example, Tylor talks about how we say bless you when someone sneezes because we used to think demons could possess us. I am fairly sure that most of the population now knows that a sneeze is caused by an irritation to the nose or throat, but we still say “bless you” when others sneeze. Abstinence on the other hand has the benefits of not contracting a sexually transmitted disease and not risking the possibility of becoming pregnant. This is obviously a huge decision that teenagers face and unfortunately, not all teenagers receive the same information and support. I think that girls in particular are victims of these mixed messages they receive. Social media tells teenagers that sex is a normal thing that people do all the time. Videos like the one John Oliver shows, gives the message that a woman is less of a person if she engages in sex before marriage. This clearly could be very damaging to a teenage girl. Sexual education should provide a safe place for teenagers to get information about sex and all of the risks of participating in it; but it shouldn’t end there! They should also receive information on how to participate safely if they decide to do so.


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