Claim: Heritage Foundation article asserts that Sex Ed programs encourage porn use

Hi everyone! I have found this article by the Heritage Foundation that alleges that a ''Focus on Kids'' sex ed program teaches students to use erotic media as follows:

''Teachers are told to have the kids "brainstorm ways to be close. The list may include … body massage, bathing together, masturbation, sensuous feeding, fantasizing, watching erotic movies, reading erotic books and magazines …"

It also alleges that the course uses dildos to demonstrate how to put on a condom:

''Focus on Kids also has teachers stage "condom races" between teams of students. (Warning: Explicit language ahead.) "Each person on the team must put the condom on the dildo or cucumber and take it off," the program says.''

The thing is that the article provides no source or citation for their claims, thus I find them very suspect. Hope you guys can help dig something up.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
They give more details and citations in their 2009 Study, page 9
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/TR/Transcripts/2009_0215_0011_TSTMNY.pdf

These materials send a very clear implicit message to students that society expects and accepts
teen sexual activity and that casual, transitory sexual relationships in the teen years will be exciting,
"fun," and "sexy." For example, Be Proud! Be Responsible! instructs teachers to:

Invite [students] to brainstorm ways to increase spontaneity and the likelihood
that they'll use condoms .... Examples: ... Store condoms under mattress ....
Eroticize condom use with partner.. . . Use condoms as a method of foreplay.. .
Think up a sexual fantasy using condoms .... Act sexy/sensual when putting
the condom on.. . . Hide them on your body and ask your partner to find it.. . .
Wrap them as a present and give them to your partner before a romantic dinner ....
Tease each other manually while putting on the condom. [1]


Similarly, Focus on Kids prompts teachers to:

State that there are other ways to be close to a person without having sexual
intercourse. Ask youth to brainstorm ways to be close. The list may
include.. .body massage, bathing together, masturbation, sensuous feeding,
fantasizing, watching erotic movies, reading erotic books and magazines.. . .
[2]

1. Be Proud! Be Responsible!, p. 78, 79.
2. Focus on Kids, p. 137.
Content from External Source
These are not really "sex ed" programs, but rather HIV prevention programs. Focus on Kids was aimed at "Urban teens"
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4800004/
The Focus-on-Kids (FOK) programme is an HIV prevention behavioural intervention based on a social cognitive model and the successful programme has been described extensively in the literature.14–20 This programme has been previously evaluated and shown to be effective to reduce risk behaviours in youth in high HIV prevalent urban communities, as well as in developing countries.14–16 FOK has been identified by a number of private organizations and federal agencies, including the community disease control, as an intervention with evidence of effectiveness and has been disseminated both nationally and internationally.21–23
Content from External Source
[
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
The OP article is from 2003. Is that program even still going on? in that way?

I found a "Focus on Youth" program, but i dont want to register to see the curriculum.

Article:
2018 ABOUT THIS PRODUCT:
Focus on Youth with Informed Parents and Children Together (ImPACT) is an HIV, STD and pregnancy prevention intervention for African-American youth ages 12–15. The intervention was updated from Focus on Kids, a community-university linked research and intervention program.
 
They give more details and citations in their 2009 Study, page 9
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/TR/Transcripts/2009_0215_0011_TSTMNY.pdf

These materials send a very clear implicit message to students that society expects and accepts
teen sexual activity and that casual, transitory sexual relationships in the teen years will be exciting,
"fun," and "sexy." For example, Be Proud! Be Responsible! instructs teachers to:

Invite [students] to brainstorm ways to increase spontaneity and the likelihood
that they'll use condoms .... Examples: ... Store condoms under mattress ....
Eroticize condom use with partner.. . . Use condoms as a method of foreplay.. .
Think up a sexual fantasy using condoms .... Act sexy/sensual when putting
the condom on.. . . Hide them on your body and ask your partner to find it.. . .
Wrap them as a present and give them to your partner before a romantic dinner ....
Tease each other manually while putting on the condom. [1]


Similarly, Focus on Kids prompts teachers to:

State that there are other ways to be close to a person without having sexual
intercourse. Ask youth to brainstorm ways to be close. The list may
include.. .body massage, bathing together, masturbation, sensuous feeding,
fantasizing, watching erotic movies, reading erotic books and magazines.. . .
[2]

1. Be Proud! Be Responsible!, p. 78, 79.
2. Focus on Kids, p. 137.
Content from External Source
These are not really "sex ed" programs, but rather HIV prevention programs. Focus on Kids was aimed at "Urban teens"
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4800004/
The Focus-on-Kids (FOK) programme is an HIV prevention behavioural intervention based on a social cognitive model and the successful programme has been described extensively in the literature.14–20 This programme has been previously evaluated and shown to be effective to reduce risk behaviours in youth in high HIV prevalent urban communities, as well as in developing countries.14–16 FOK has been identified by a number of private organizations and federal agencies, including the community disease control, as an intervention with evidence of effectiveness and has been disseminated both nationally and internationally.21–23
Content from External Source
[
Hi Mick, were you able to source the pages of the programs cited by the Heritage Foundation? If so, can you post a link to them?
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
I don't think it is unlikely that these pages exist/have existed.

Via https://udspace.udel.edu/handle/19716/21406 :

A Literature and Data Review of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs
By Paul L. Solano, Mary Joan McDuffie, Pat Powell
Health Services Policy Research Group (HSPRG), Center for Community Research and Service (CCRS), University of Delaware
June 2007

[...]

There is a wide array of teenage pregnancy preventions programs. The goals of the
programs can be divided into two main groups: programs that address teen’s sexual risk
factors (sex education with abstinence focus, sex education with conception component
and comprehensive sex education) and programs that address teens’ social risk factors
(early childhood and development programs).

[...]

The most efficacious prevention programs are comprehensive sex education ones.
Efficacy gains have been verified for a considerable proportion of these types of
programs.
Content from External Source
The data says, if you want fewer teen pregnancies and abortions, offer comprehensive sex education.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Hi Mick, were you able to source the pages of the programs cited by the Heritage Foundation? If so, can you post a link to them?
From the study that Mick cited:
SmartSelect_20211018-202608_Samsung Internet.jpg
That book is no longer available. I found a CDC fact sheet about the program on the Wayback Machine:
Article:
Curriculum Fact Sheet
Suggested Target Audience

African-American youth aged 9 to 15 years, and other youth, especially those living in urban low-income areas.
Length
Eight sessions including seven sessions lasting 1 1/2 hours each and one all-day outing.
Behavioral Findings
  • Six months after the program, condom-use was significantly higher among the Focus on Kids intervention group than among the control group.
  • Increased rates of condom use were particularly evident among boys and among teens aged 13 to 15 years.
Objectives
At the completion of this program, participants will be able to
  • state correct information about HIV, AIDS, and other STDs including modes of transmission and prevention, and severity;
  • state their own personal values and understand how these relate to pressures to engage in sexual risk behaviors;
  • be skilled in communicating and negotiating with other young people regarding sex and drug topics and be able to use a condom correctly

[...]

To Order Materials
Contact the publisher, ETR Associates, (800) 321-4407.

So it looks like the course material was never online.

P.S. ETR also offer books like this:
SmartSelect_20211018-203520_Samsung Internet.jpg
 
Last edited:

Mendel

Senior Member.
Two more items from the fact sheet quoted in my previous post:
The program was delivered to single gender groups of young people who were already friends.
Content from External Source
This was apparently not a classroom program!

The second item is that the materials include "Consent forms".

Now we can start debunking the heritage foundation article quoted in the OP.

Article:
It's "Back To School" time again, and here's the first pop quiz. No, it's not for the kids. It's for parents, and they have to answer only one question: Do you know what your children are learning in sex-education classes? If you're like most parents, the answer is no. But if the program is billed as "abstinence-based," you probably don't feel particularly concerned.

[..]

More likely, though, their children are being exposed to programs such as "Focus on Kids" (which, like other abstinence-plus programs, is heavily promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

I've bolded the bunk: "Focus on Kids" is not a school program, it requires the parents to sign a consent form, and nowhere in the fact sheet is abstinence even mentioned.

Even the Heritage Foundation do not classify "Focus on Kids" as an "abstinence-plus" program in their own study:
Article:
SmartSelect_20211018-220920_Samsung Notes.jpg

Obviously, the Heritage Foundation article is misleading the readers.


From the same study:
On average, authentic or traditional abstinence curricula devote 53.7 percent of their page content to abstinence-related material. In addition, these curricula devote 17.4 percent of their content to the subjects of healthy relationships and the benefits of marriage, both of which directly reinforce the main theme of teen abstinence. Authentic abstinence curricula allocate zero percent of their content to promoting contraception.

Comprehensive sex-ed/abstinence-plus curricula take the opposite approach. On average, these curricula devote only 4.7 percent of their page content to the topic of abstinence and zero percent to healthy relationships and marriage. The primary focus of these curricula is on encouraging young people to use contraception. On average, comprehensive sex-ed curricula devote 28.6 percentof their page content to describing contraception and encouraging contraceptive use. Overall, comprehensive sex-ed curricula allocate six times more content to the goal of promoting contraception than to the goal of promoting abstinence. (See Table A and Chart A.)

SmartSelect_20211018-224105_Samsung Notes.jpg
Content from External Source
Note also the different emphasis on STD awareness and General Behavioral Skills.

That is why comprehensive sex ed is good at preventing pregnancies (see the study I quoted in a previous post) and risky sexual behaviour (see e.g. CDC fact sheet for "Focus on Kids").

However, the Heritage Foundations says abstinence programs are effective, too:
Article:
Critics of abstinence education often assert that while abstinence education that exclusively promotes abstaining from premarital sex is a good idea in theory, there is no evidence that such education can actually reduce sexual activity among young people. Such criticism is erroneous. There are currently 10 scientific evaluations (described below) that demonstrate the effectiveness of abstinence programs in altering sexual behavior.[18] Each of the programs evaluated is a real abstinence (or what is conventionally termed an "abstinence only") program; that is, the program does not provide contraceptives or encourage their use.

That article headlines concerns like "Sexually Transmitted Diseases" and "Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing", but the actual benefits of the abstinence programs are described as "delaying early sexual activity", "reduced the rate of onset of sexual activity", "delaying the onset of sexual activity" and the like. That means kids lose their virginity later in life; but it doesn't actually say that less of them get pregnant or that they're less at risk of contracting STDs. If you thought abstinence programs generally achieve that, you've probably been misled.
 
Last edited:
Two more items from the fact sheet quoted in my previous post:
The program was delivered to single gender groups of young people who were already friends.
Content from External Source
This was apparently not a classroom program!

The second item is that the materials include "Consent forms".

Now we can start debunking the heritage foundation article quoted in the OP.

Article:
It's "Back To School" time again, and here's the first pop quiz. No, it's not for the kids. It's for parents, and they have to answer only one question: Do you know what your children are learning in sex-education classes? If you're like most parents, the answer is no. But if the program is billed as "abstinence-based," you probably don't feel particularly concerned.

[..]

More likely, though, their children are being exposed to programs such as "Focus on Kids" (which, like other abstinence-plus programs, is heavily promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

I've bolded the bunk: "Focus on Kids" is not a school program, it requires the parents to sign a consent form, and nowhere in the fact sheet is abstinence even mentioned.

Even the Heritage Foundation do not classify "Focus on Kids" as an "abstinence-plus" program in their own study:
Article:
SmartSelect_20211018-220920_Samsung Notes.jpg

Obviously, the Heritage Foundation article is misleading the readers.


From the same study:
On average, authentic or traditional abstinence curricula devote 53.7 percent of their page content to abstinence-related material. In addition, these curricula devote 17.4 percent of their content to the subjects of healthy relationships and the benefits of marriage, both of which directly reinforce the main theme of teen abstinence. Authentic abstinence curricula allocate zero percent of their content to promoting contraception.

Comprehensive sex-ed/abstinence-plus curricula take the opposite approach. On average, these curricula devote only 4.7 percent of their page content to the topic of abstinence and zero percent to healthy relationships and marriage. The primary focus of these curricula is on encouraging young people to use contraception. On average, comprehensive sex-ed curricula devote 28.6 percentof their page content to describing contraception and encouraging contraceptive use. Overall, comprehensive sex-ed curricula allocate six times more content to the goal of promoting contraception than to the goal of promoting abstinence. (See Table A and Chart A.)

SmartSelect_20211018-224105_Samsung Notes.jpg
Content from External Source
Note also the different emphasis on STD awareness and General Behavioral Skills.

That is why comprehensive sex ed is good at preventing pregnancies (see the study I quoted in a previous post) and risky sexual behaviour (see e.g. CDC fact sheet for "Focus on Kids").

However, the Heritage Foundations says abstinence programs are effective, too:
Article:
Critics of abstinence education often assert that while abstinence education that exclusively promotes abstaining from premarital sex is a good idea in theory, there is no evidence that such education can actually reduce sexual activity among young people. Such criticism is erroneous. There are currently 10 scientific evaluations (described below) that demonstrate the effectiveness of abstinence programs in altering sexual behavior.[18] Each of the programs evaluated is a real abstinence (or what is conventionally termed an "abstinence only") program; that is, the program does not provide contraceptives or encourage their use.

That article headlines concerns like "Sexually Transmitted Diseases" and "Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing", but the actual benefits of the abstinence programs are described as "delaying early sexual activity", "reduced the rate of onset of sexual activity", "delaying the onset of sexual activity" and the like. That means kids lose their virginity later in life; but it doesn't actually say that less of them get pregnant or that they're less at risk of contracting STDs. If you thought abstinence programs generally achieve that, you've probably been misled.
So to steelman the argument from Heritage, they claim that teens who have had STDs have reduced confidence, and that teenage relationships are generally fleeting, which means more frequent breakups, which leads to a reduced likelihood of entering into a stable relationship, which leads to a greater likelihood of divorce. Hence you are supposed to infer that STD risk will be reduced, and that out of wedlock childbearing will be reduced due to the focus on long term relationships inherent to abstinence only education.

Of course, inferences and assumptions in science mean nothing without proper testing; so how would you respond? I am planning on writing another post responding to the Heritage article you linked.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Of course, inferences and assumptions in science mean nothing without proper testing; so how would you respond?
Well, "inferences and assumptions in science mean nothing without proper testing" seems like a pretty good response to me.

Personally, decoupling the decisions "do I want to have sex with this person" from "do I want to conceive a child with this person" through contraceptives seems to provide a better chance for a happier long-term relationship. But yeah, testing.
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
The response would be in data - as you say, inference and assumption means nothing, testing means everything. The differences between comprehensive sex education and abstinence-only education as they relate to irresponsible sexual behavior and its consequences (divorce, pregnancy, STDs, etc) are quite heavily studied and the results generally don't support the Heritage Foundation assertions.
 
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