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Sex Shaming and the Rhythm Method

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Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

According to the latest research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the proponents of abstinence-only can count one success in altering teenage sexual behavior.  No, they didn’t lower the rate of teenagers having sex, which the CDC indicates has stayed steady at around 4 in 10 teenagers (with 18 year-olds having sex at double the rate of those ages 15 to 17, despite media panics about younger teenagers having sex). Ab-only fans weren’t able to convince teenagers to marry younger.  Nor did they convince them that condoms are scary items that you should never touch unless you want to get cancer and rabies; most teenagers use condoms the first time they have sex. 

But despite all these failures, abstinence-only proponents have had one success.  The CDC also found that the percentage of teenage girls who use the rhythm method as birth control (at least some of the time) jumped from 11 percent in 2002 to 17 percent in 2008.  It’s high enough of a jump that it might explain why the teenage pregnancy rate is still as high as it is. 

Why blame abstinence-only proponents for this?  Don’t they just blithely tell young women to “just say no” and leave it at that?  Well, yes and no.  No one is under the impression that abstinence-only texts or speakers generally push the rhythm method, so much as they push the wedding ring as the cure for all your ills.  How you’re expected to control your fertility within marriage is rarely discussed at all in these programs.  Still, the rhythm method is associated with the prudish strand of Christian moralizing that also drives the abstinence-only movement, and so the more popular that kind of thinking, the more likely the rhythm method will be seen as a legitimate practice by teenagers. Read more