UU Mormon

Listen Up, Utah! Here’s How to Teach Abstinence

Posted on: March 18, 2012

Butterfly came out of her OWL (Our Whole Lives) class this morning with a couple of handouts about sexually transmitted diseases.  I caught sight of them and made an “Oh hey, fun!” type of comment. I expected some eye-rolling in return, but I didn’t expect her to say what she said.

“They showed us pictures.”


“Pictures?” I said.  “Pictures of… sexually transmitted diseases?”


Now, I am well known for my naivete, and I do not have the background to know what STDs look like.  Other than being able to imagine herpes because I’ve seen cold sores before, I didn’t even know that, well, that STDs looked like anything at all.  I vaguely remember high school health class and lists of complications like, um, infertility? Pain, no doubt. There’s gotta be pain. And they can also eventually involve a range of unpleasant things like cervical cancer or insanity or death.  But they also do things you can see?

I couldn’t let this pass.

“But pictures of what, exactly?”

“Well…”  She didn’t seem eager to talk about it. At all.  “You know, infections.”

“So, like, sores?  Pus?  Stuff like that?”

She gave me a sort of non-committal response from which I inferred that I had the basic idea and she didn’t think I needed to know any more than that.

I still wasn’t quite ready to let it go though.

Were they drawings or photos?


Color or black and white?


Wow, that must have been GROSS.

Yes, it was.  It really really was.

While this conversation was going on, NinjaBoy was pulling on my arm telling me to STOP TALKING ABOUT IT because even the vague hints were going to make him THROW UP.

“They passed the pictures around the circle,” Butterfly said, “and told us we didn’t have to look at them.  Only if we wanted to.”

That’s when it hit me.  This is genius. 

At the parent orientation one of the points they made was that OWL, at heart, is about promoting abstinence.  But instead of telling the kids they’re not ready to have sex, it gives the kids information — all the information, so that the kids can see for themselves that they’re not ready to deal with all the complications and messiness of sexual relationships.

Butterfly had mentioned that in the sexuality class at school (not OWL, just the regular public school curriculum) the teacher came right out and said the material was designed to scare them into not having sex. But from what I could tell from the information that was sent home, the school approach was basically just “If you have sex, you’ll get pregnant, or sick!  You could even die!”

C’mon. What teenager is impressed by hypothetical death threats?

But handing them a folder full of color photos of oozing pus and weeping sores and saying “You might not want to look at these”, thus ensuring that they can’t possibly resist taking a peek?

Genius, I tell you.  I’m fairly certain Butterfly will not forget this lesson any time soon.


2 Responses to "Listen Up, Utah! Here’s How to Teach Abstinence"

Dude–when I was in seventh grade sex ed they showed us slides of genital warts and syphilis and all that crap, full color, larger than life on the big screen. I thought it was pretty genius, too. But passing around the folder and saying you might not want to look? Even more genius.

Hi there! I was really excited to find your blog! I’m a born-and-raised LDS mom who has become disenchanted with a lot of things about the Church. I would truly love to take a sabbatical and join a UU church for a while, especially as the mother of three daughters. I just read through your entire blog and really appreciate you sharing your experiences. It’s definitely good to know I’m not the only Mormon out there with a yearning for a more Universalist philosophy and church experience. Blessings to you, and thank you again for sharing your journey.

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