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SUMMARY: SIECUS REVIEW OF WAIT (Why Am I Tempted?) Training?

WAIT Training contains very little information about the majority of topics suggested by SIECUS' Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education; K-12, such as puberty, anatomy, and sexual behavior. Even topics that are frequently discussed in detail in other abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, such as condoms and STDs, receive very little mention in this curriculum. Instead it devotes most of its lessons to the economic, social, and emotional benefits of marriage and abstinence before marriage. In these lessons, WAIT Training relies on messages of fear, discourages contraceptive use, and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options.

Relying on Negative Messages

Messages of Fear and Shame—Trying to scare students and instill guilt

  • “The problem in the U.S., however, is not teen pregnancy; it's teen sex. Pregnancy and STDs (sexually transmitted disease) are both merely potential consequences of premarital sex, multiple partners, and infidelity within marriage.”(WAIT Training, p. 203)
  • “[The unit is] designed to help teens comprehend all of the consequences—not just the physical ones – of premarital sex including the intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and financial ramifications.”(WAIT Training, p. 203)
  • “Freedoms that are gained by abstaining include the “freedom from”: a “damaged reputation,” “losing respect from others and for yourself,” “losing trust and support,” “gossip (having people talk about your behavior),” and “your dating partner bragging about ‘scoring' with you.”(WAIT Training, p. 263)

This focus on consequences is clearly designed to scare students rather than educate them. It is important to remember that 46% of all high school students and 63% of high school seniors have had sexual intercourse[1]; it is never appropriate for a curriculum to suggest that these teens are less worthy of love, trust, and respect than their abstinent peers.

Withholding and Distorting Information

Contraceptive Options—Misrepresenting data

  • “[Students] need to know that, when used every time, condoms at best only provide a 50% reduction in the transmission rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and Chlamydia. They should be told that condoms do not appear to provide any protection from HPV, (which causes 99% of all cervical cancer).”(WAIT Training, p. 21)
  • “While in ‘theory' teen use of contraception every time sounds good, it isn't realistic to expect. Thus, a condom is actually setting a teen up for failure when we realize, as adults, that condoms won't be used ‘consistently and correctly' every single time.”(WAIT Training, p. 36)

WAIT Training seems to suggest that it is acceptable to mischaracterize data on condom efficacy because teens are unable to use condoms consistently and correctly. The author assumes that if adolescents believe that condoms and other contraceptive methods are ineffective, they will abstain from sexual activity. There is no reason to think that this is true. Such inaccurate information may instead discourage teens from using these important prevention methods when they do become sexually active, thereby putting them at increased risk for unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV.

STDs—Providing incomplete and confusing information

  • “How does someone find out s(he) has Chlamydia?” The fact sheets states “Patients with symptoms are usually diagnosed when the clinician finds characteristic physical findings and identifies evidence of the Chlamydia organism in genital fluids or urine.”(WAIT Training, p. 211)
  • “[Chlamydia] may remain in the area of the cervix for some time, or may spread to the uterus (endometritis) or fallopian tubes (salpingitis). When this spread occurs, the condition is called pelvic inflammatory disease.”(WAIT Training, p. 211)

WAIT Training's information on STDs is complicated and seems intended for a more mature audience such as health care providers. Teens may have a hard time understanding what testing entails and how certain STDs can be cured before causing long term damage.

Promoting Biases

Gender—Fostering myths and stereotypes

  • According to the curriculum, women need affection while men need sexual fulfillment; women need conversation while men need recreational companionship; women need honesty and openness while men need physical attractiveness; women need financial support while men need admiration, and women need family commitment while men need domestic support. (WAIT Training, p. 199)
  • “Sexually speaking, it has been said that men are like microwaves and women are like crock pots. What does that mean? Generally, men get stimulated more easily than women and women take longer to get stimulated. Men are visual responders and women respond when they feel connected and close to someone.”(WAIT Training p. 62)
  • “While a man needs little or no preparation for sex, a woman often needs hours of emotional and mental preparation,” and “Harsh or abusive treatment can easily remove a woman's desire for sexual intimacy.”(WAIT Training, p. 199)

This lesson overtly reinforces a societal double-standard that suggests that men want casual sex from any and all women and that women do not desire sex as much as they feel the overwhelming need to be loved. In so doing the curriculum places all of the responsibility for refusing sexual activity on the shoulders of young women.

The Marriage Mandate—Promoting one lifestyle

  • “Marriage has been unfairly given a bad rap, and if we hope to effectively tackle the challenges of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse and crime, we can't afford to ignore the significance of marriage.”(WAIT Training, p. 273) 
  • Students are encouraged to add to a list of positive attributes of marriage by brainstorming the benefits of marriage to a man, a woman, a child, a family, a community, society, one's health or well-being, and your economic status. (WAIT Training, p. 279) 
  • “Marriage increases the demonstration of character traits necessary for successful living, such as sacrifices, humility, flexibility, empathy and ability to delay gratification.”(WAIT Training, p. 281)

This lesson seems based on the assumption that all students aspire to marriage, and in so doing discounts gay and lesbian individuals who are unable to marry, as well as the very real possibility that some students simply do not wish to marry. Although decisions about whether to move in with a partner are rarely relevant to high school students, the curriculum spends a great deal of time explaining why premarital cohabitation is wrong. It is not the place of an educational program to mandate relationship structures for young people.

Divorce and Family Structure—Depicting non-traditional families as troubled

  • “Most poor children reside in single-parent families.”
  • “Children in intact families are less likely to have problems in school.”
  • “Drug and alcohol use is more likely in broken or never-married families.”
  • “70% of people in prison are without dads.”(WAIT Training, p. 273)

Although this discussion is designed to make young people think of their future relationships, it would not be surprising if many students thought instead of their parents. It is unreasonable to put the burden of family structure on students who, as children, have no control over their current family situation. There are many reasons including divorce, death, desertion, cohabitation, and gay and lesbian partnerships, that students may live in a family that does not match the ideal model espoused by WAIT Training. Suggesting that these young people will face a lifetime of difficulty will only serve to distress and alienate many students.



[1] Danice K. Eaton, et. al., “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance— United States, 2005,” Surveillance Summaries, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 55, no. SS-5 ( 9 June 2006 ): 1-108, accessed 8 June 2006, <http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm>.