RMC Responds: Debunking the Promiscuity Myth

rmc_responds1This week we want to take some time to combat a myth that persists about preventive reproductive healthcare. One commenter wrote: “The facts do not back up the thesis. Contraception of all types is directly correlated to risky sexual behavior, which increases the risk of unwanted pregnancy. The best way to avoid an unwanted pregnancy? Don’t have sex with people with whom you do not want to have children. Crazy, I know.”

What is crazy, is the perpetuation of this blatantly false myth.  The suggestion that contraception is at all correlated with increased promiscuity or risky sexual behavior has been repeatedly proven false. Yet these claims have persisted regarding all forms of preventive reproductive healthcare. Remember public admonitions of the HPV vaccine (the one and only existing vaccine for cervical cancer) that discouraged parents from getting because it would make their daughters become promiscuous? Well, in the years since the vaccine was first introduced in 2006, repeated studies revealed receiving the HPV vaccine neither encouraged nor led to a rise in promiscuity in young girls.  And not only that, according to the CDC, during that same period of time vaccine-type HPV prevalence decreased 56 percent among female teenagers 14-19 years of age.

The same claims are often made about comprehensive sex education that includes age appropriate information about contraceptives in addition to information about the benefits of abstinence- what we like to call “abstinence-plus.”  Over the past decade, states across the country have been abandoning abstinence-only education because it was proven ineffective. In fact, students who receive only abstinence education have shown to have sex at an earlier age than their peers who receive abstinence-plus — AND they are less likely to use protection. (You can read more about “The Truth about Abstinence-Only Education” here) When we give people the knowledge and tools to prevent unintended pregnancy and STI transmission, they are more likely to take personal responsibility.

And now to the argument at hand. A recent study of nearly 10,000 women revealed that giving women increased access to affordable contraception does not lead to increased sexual activity (measured by frequency or number of sexual partners). However, the same research by Washington University in St. Louis, MO revealed that increased access to contraception does drastically reduce the rate of STI transmittance, number of unintended pregnancies and thus the rate and incidence of abortions.

There you have it. There is no proven correlation between contraception use and increased risky sexual behavior. And if we want to prevent unintended pregnancies, teen pregnancies and abortions, if we want our teens to be responsible – we need to give them the tools and education that will allow and encourage them to take personal responsibility for their sexual behavior and choices.

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