by Lee, 05/29/2010, 2:54 PM

In a column accusing liberals of “nonsensical delight” over the downfall of Mark Souder, S.E. Cupp writes the following:

Fallen Rep. Mark Souder, a Republican from Indiana, is just the latest excuse to throw poor abstinence under a bus full of condoms. Salon.com’s Alex Pareene wrote about Souder’s unseemly tryst with a female staffer – who was not his wife – under the headline, “Abstinence Proselytizer Mark Souder Regrets Nothing.” For Pareene, the fact that Souder supported abstinence education is apparently an important thread of the story line.

But why? Granted, the promotional video of Souder and his mistress advocating abstinence is a delightfully vivid and embarrassing twist of irony. But Souder’s infidelity, and his inability to abstain from having extramarital sex, has nothing at all to do with abstinence education.

Zero. Abstinence education is a policy issue that we should discuss on the basis of its merits, without leaning on irrelevant, tawdry tabloid stories to prop up a position. Kids deserve better than that.

And everyone in the world deserves better than this embarrassing opinion column. There’s not much of an argument any more about the merits of abstinence-only education. Federal studies on the subject have been quite clear: that they don’t work, and that they might even increase the risk that teens will engage in unsafe sex.

What Cupp doesn’t understand is that the reasons for the failure of abstinence-only education are very much parallel to Souder’s inability to abstain from his own extramarital affair. Those of us who delighted in the hypocrisy of Mark Souder’s transgression are certainly able to connect the dots. If you understand why abstinence-only education doesn’t work, you’re not too surprised to see the reasons for that failure manifesting itself in ways that embarrass its strongest proponents.

But Souder wasn’t just a moral scold about sex. He was also the most fervent drug warrior in Congress. His infamous provision to the Higher Education Act in 1998 has cost hundreds of thousands of (disproportionately minority) students educational opportunities over the past decade. One can only imagine that Souder believed that such harsh measures would discourage drug use, but it clearly had no such effect. All it did was reduce opportunities for those who got caught and couldn’t subsequently rely on their family to continue to pay for their education.

There are strong parallels between abstinence-only education and programs like D.A.R.E. They both put a great amount of faith in the ability to use fear to keep teenagers from engaging in certain behaviors. And they both don’t work. At least with drugs, an effective regulatory scheme that keeps them out of the hands of young people could make it easier for kids to be drug-free, but we don’t have that right now. For both drugs and sex, we have very little ability to force young people to control their urges. The smartest thing has always been to provide them with accurate information and teach them how to be safe.

The reason that Mark Souder’s downfall has everything to do with abstinence-only education is because if even the biggest nanny in Congress doesn’t have the ability to abstain from sex that he knows could have serious consequences, very few teenagers out there do either. That’s the basis for why comprehensive sex-education is more realistic and more effective than trying to scare teens into keeping their pants on.

[via Sadly No - who hilariously refers to Cupp as "Sipp E. Cupp"]

22 Responses to “Abstaining from Reality – The Mark Souder Legacy”

1. Carl spews:

I think the worst thing about abstinence only, is you’d have to abstain from sex if it was done right. That seems like a punishment more than anything.

2. Deathfrogg spews:

@ 1

Abstaining from sexual activities is what creates suicide bombers and religious fanatics, and religious fanaticism will always attempt to impose strict restrictions on what constitutes socially acceptable sexual activity.

Talk about your big governments.

Maybe ol’ Mark Souders stance just isn’t wide enough.

3. MarkS spews:

Another family values Repugnantcan bites the dust.

4. spyder spews:

I’ll bet he used condoms too.

5. Proud To Be An Ass spews:

“Abstinence education is a policy issue that we should discuss on the basis of its merits.”

-Sipp E. Cupp

Since abstinence education is a policy utterly devoid of merit, there doesn’t seem to be much to discuss. That leaves only the lying, closed mindedness, and hypocrisy of its proponents.

6. Lee spews:

@5
Hey man, it was awesome to meet you the other night. Hope you’re enjoying your weekend.

7. proud leftist spews:

Let us not preach that which we cannot do.

8. Roger Rabbit spews:

Issuing government decrees against teenage sex is about as effective as not enforcing coal mine safety regulations. Is there anything under the sun that conservatives get right? They even fuck up sex.

9. Mike Jones spews:

Lee:

I think a more accurate statement is that DARE and Abstinence-only education doesn’t work for everyone. For some kids it works fine who choose not to have sex and not to do drugs based on a variety of reasons. I saw a poll on Daily Kos once which stated that 65% of teens have sex in high school. While that is still a majority that is not every teen and there are a good number of teens who do not have sex in high school. However there are the teens who want to have sex and so I think we should teach them about safe sex so they will be safe.

I guess main thing I am trying to say is I don’t like the statement Abstinence-only education doesn’t work, as that seems to be saying it doesn’t work for anybody, when it does for some. So maybe we could say that it doesn’t work for everyone?

10. Lee spews:

@9
Mike,
What I’m saying is that it doesn’t work better than comprehensive sex-ed. You can still teach kids that abstinence is the surest way to avoid the dangers of sex, but there are effective ways to reduce the risks of sexual activity.

Some young people do respond to authority figures like that, but most don’t.

11. Chris spews:

Mike Jones:

the more accurate you make your statement the more props you give to it. You look at what % of students don’t have sex, or drugs and that doesn’t mean that it has had any effect. Besides that such programs are social programs created to address problems in society. These programs have failed to meet their goals, and therefore have failed every tax paying citizen. Saving one kid in 100 is a failure for the amount of money given to them for the promises they made us. so is saving 30 kids in 100 and so fourth. at least until you get to saving 60 in 100 and that number rises. If these programs helped some kids then awesome but giving it credit does not address the kids it failed or the taxpayers.

12. Craig spews:

Fantastic argument, nicely done.

13. Mathew"RennDawg"Renner spews:

How about this. If I have kids thr goverment teaches them NOTHING on the subject of sex. Not Birth Control or abstience. I will teach them what they need to know as it should be. it is not the job of goverment to teach this. It is the job of parents. Parents stop the be so scared and do your jobs.

14. Lee spews:

@13
If you want that, you can send your kids to a private school or homeschool them. But if your kids go to public school, they should get the education is that is most effective on the whole for reducing the downstream effects of being ignorant about safe sex.

Parents should definitely be less reluctant to discuss sex with their kids, but public policy needs to be crafted based upon the world as it is, not how we wish it were.

15. Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder spews:

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead proved that the “comprehensive” alternative to abstinence ed did not work. Her article from Atlantic Monthly is reprinted here.

Of the two approaches, liberal feels-good comprehensive sex ed — condoms and cukes — was the flat-out failure. With the introduction of an abstinence alternative, metrics finally started to go in the right direction.

Whitehead showed that metrics matter. Liberal apologists for the anything-goes approach simply asserted (as Lee asserts without proof that abstinence is a failure) that comprehensive was the only way to go. That’s where they’d invested emotional and professional capital. That’s where they built their bureaucratic power centers.

16. rhp6033 spews:

A friend of mine, a schoolteacher, once told me that 20% of his kids would do the right thing without any coercion or bribes; 20% would do the wrong thing regardless of threats or punishment; and the remaining 60% would watch to see what happens, evaluating their risk of getting caught, the severety of the punishiment or consequences, and the amount of fun or rewards they could secure either way. His argument was that he was constantly fighting for the 60%, he couldn’t do much about either 20% on either end.

Through the 1960′s, the official philosophy of our society was to use a variety of scare tactics and punishment to discourage teenage sex. We would make moral arguments based upon religion. We would hold out the threat of pregnancy as a life-ruining consequence. We would try to reinforce social ostracization (sp?) of those who fail.

But by the late 1960′s, the birth-control pill was wedely used and available. By the early 1940′s abortion was an option. Pregnancy was no longer a dangerous consequence. The church had lost a lot of it’s moral legitimacy in the eyes of the youth (for various reasons too lengthy to discuss here). The threat of social ostracization (sp?) was insufficient to overcome teenage hormones, and eventually peer pressure was even stronger.

So now that your whole strategy has revolved around protecting your wall, what do you do once the wall’s been breached? More specifically, what do you do with the increasingly larger percentages of teenagers who obviously aren’t being scared into not having sex?

Souder’s policy is akin to repairing the wall by killing the wounded and using their bodies to plug the holes. In Sauder’s mind, it’s better to have some teenagers pregnant and with AIDS as a negative example to others, than to give them an opportunity to learn to avoid the consequences.

I guess this seems like a nice idea to Souder and his kind, as long as you are talking about teenagers in the hypothetical sense, where you can immagine them to be juvenile delinquents who deserve whatever they get. But I’m sure once those teenagers had a real face, like his own children, then he would find some way to except them from these consequences, if he can.

One of the reasons why conservative politicians have never REALLY pushed to abolish abortion is that they know most people who aren’t in favor of it generally, want it available for their own children – just in case. The same was true of drugs – Nixon’s “war on drugs” was a nice idea as long as they thought it was against the evil “person of color” from the slums. But as soon as upper-middle class white kids started getting hit with long prison terms for simple possession, the focus shifted instead to the “dealer”. Likewise, public opinion on the war in Vietnam changed remarkably when parents of white middle-classed kids suddenly found that their student deferrments weren’t going to protect them from combat indefinately.

17. Lee spews:

@15
Of the two approaches, liberal feels-good comprehensive sex ed — condoms and cukes — was the flat-out failure. With the introduction of an abstinence alternative, metrics finally started to go in the right direction.

Can you please excerpt the section of the article where she breaks down the metrics? I just skimmed through the article and see nothing of the sort.

As I pointed out in the original post, the studies that have been done on the topic show that abstinence education provides absolutely no value in reducing teenage sexual activity. The article you’ve linked doesn’t appear to debunk that in any way.

In fact, the word “metric” doesn’t even appear in the article, let alone any discussion of them. Yes, metrics matter. That’s how we know that abstinence-only education doesn’t work.

18. Lee spews:

@16
Souder’s policy is akin to repairing the wall by killing the wounded and using their bodies to plug the holes. In Sauder’s mind, it’s better to have some teenagers pregnant and with AIDS as a negative example to others, than to give them an opportunity to learn to avoid the consequences.

This may be the most intelligent thing I’ve seen in an HA comment thread for as long as I can remember.

19. Mathew"RennDawg"Renner spews:

@14

The education of our children is the responsibility of parents not goverment. Public schools shouls be there for parents who have no other options. But subjects as intimate as this one should be done by paremts. Why should someone who may undermind your personal belief system teech your kids. If we are gonna teach kids sex ed in public schools than parents should be told everything in the lesson plan. Then parents decide what happens next.

20. RED spews:

Rep. Mark Souder is finally gone! Why did IN. repeatedly elect this numbnut? Nobody will miss his McCarthyist rants. I can only hope that IN. sees this for what it is.

21. Lee spews:

@19
The education of our children is the responsibility of parents not goverment.

Let me repeat what I wrote in the comment above and we’ll try this again:

public policy needs to be crafted based upon the world as it is, not how we wish it were

The reality is that many parents do not undertake that responsibility. Because of that fact, government either steps in to pick up the slack, or the society pays a far greater price down the road. This is not rocket science.

Public schools shouls be there for parents who have no other options. But subjects as intimate as this one should be done by paremts.

Again, many parents fail to do so. The same logic above applies.

Why should someone who may undermind your personal belief system teech your kids.

Again, this is very simple. If you’re worried about your child being exposed to diverse viewpoints, you can homeschool them or send them to a private school with a sufficiently narrow belief system.

If we are gonna teach kids sex ed in public schools than parents should be told everything in the lesson plan.

I have no problem with that.

Then parents decide what happens next.

In the public school I attended, parents had the right to remove their children from sex-ed.

22. Just Passing Thru spews:

@19
I’m sorry, but I think you are wrong in this. While I am all for keeping gov’ment small and out of our hair (and homes), in this case, it does play a huge part. As Lee said, “or the society pays a far greater price down the road.” The prevention/mitigation of this price is one of the jobs of gov’ment. It trumps the rights of parents to teach their kids what they believe to be right. No, that is not quite true. Parents can still teach what they want. Kids just also have to be taught what is needed to keep everyone safe.

I keep thinking of immunization and herd immunity when thinking about this topic. Think of (good) sex-ed as the shot leading to herd immunity(safe sex practices). The more people who know about and practice safe sex, the better off (safer) everyone is. There is less chance of an outbreak. And when one does crop up, it is much smaller and less harmful.

I really have no problem with a parent telling their kid to just say no. The kid should still know how to be safe if they decide to ignore their parents wishes.

Also, this is so not an intimate issue! How can something which is done by almost everyone in the entire world be intimate? It is only intimate because we have given it a false label as such. We all do it, so why keep it all hushed up? We would all be much better off if we treated sex as what it actually is. Something that we all have done, do, and will probably do again.