The Wages of Sin

Even a simple scan of the Bible reveals that fornication is a great sin. This has been the subject of sermons at least since the writing of the Pentateuch, and any of us who have ever attended a church has listened to at least one preacher decry some aspect of sexuality.

One of the interesting things is the diverse way that the sin of fornication has been defined within various sects, although the focus has mostly been on women’s sexuality. Some declare all aspects of lust as sinful, some only lust by women.  From biblical times, polygamy has been the natural state of marriage; a state that is about both male power and potency. Male adulterers receive a shrug of the shoulders; women receive stones. The very word adultery is often reserved for women.

There has always been a double standard about virginity before marriage, although in some cases, abstinence by both is expected. Whatever the belief, when religion is involved, it is always the women who receive the most approbation and punishment.

Amanda Marcotte, writing for XXFactor, discusses abstinence  based sex education and the religious right. To start with, she references an article by Gail Collins author of “As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda

Collins writes

The professors concluded that “abstinence-only programs have a stranglehold on sexuality education in Texas public schools.” More than 94 percent gave that instruction exclusively, while a small percentage completely ignored the rule that said they had to have something.

Most districts got their sex-education materials—and sometimes their speakers— from private vendors marketing programs like “Worth the Wait,” “Aim for Success,” or “W.A.I.T. Training.” If non-abstinence methods of preventing pregnancy came up in the class material at all, the researchers found, it was almost invariably in terms of condom failure rates. “Students, condoms aren’t safe. Never have been, never will be,” one abstinence speaker warned her classes. Students in another program were told to pass around a leaky balloon to illustrate the danger of using condoms. The teacher was instructed to tell the student left holding the deflated balloon at the end that “if he had been the one to get a leaky condom it could have meant he was at high risk or even death.” Another curriculum, “Why kNOw?” has the poor teacher construct an 18-foot-long model known as “Speedy the Sperm” to demonstrate condoms’ alleged failure to guard against STDs….

An abstinence-only program used in three districts assures them that “if a woman is dry, the sperm will die”—which harks back to Colonial-era theories that it was impossible for a woman to get pregnant unless she enjoyed the sex. There are repeated suggestions that premarital sex could have fatal consequences—reminiscent of the 1950s’ legends about couples who had illicit sex in the backseat of a car and then were murdered by the Lovers’ Lane Maniac. (A video used in three Texas districts has a boy asking an evangelical educator what will happen if he has sex before marriage. “Well, I guess you’ll have to be prepared to die,” is the response.)

As everyone knows, trying to frighten kids out of almost anything, especially something as hormonally driven as sex, will have exactly the opposite effect.

The schools may assure students, as one program does, that “divorce rate for two virgins who get married is less than 3 percent.” But most Texas high-schoolers are not virgins. Slightly more than half of 9th- to 12th-graders reported having had sex in 2009—higher than the national figure of 46 percent. By the time they’re seniors, 69 percent of Texas students are sexually active, and they indulge in risky behavior like sex with a large number of partners at rates higher than the national average.

The state has the third highest rate of teenage births in the country, and the second highest rate of repeat births to teenage girls. Sixty-three out of every 1,000 girls between 15 and 19 years old becomes a mother. That compares to 5 out of 1,000 in the Netherlands, and 42 in the United States as a whole. Texas is also well ahead of Rwanda (44), Micronesia (51), and Egypt (50).

The result of this lack of education reflects directly on the status of young single mothers who bear the major responsibility for childrearing.

One inevitable result is a huge number of poor women giving birth. Texas has the second-highest birth rate in the country after Utah, and nearly 60 percent of the women giving birth are low-income enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Virtually every study that I have read demonstrates that abstinence based programs do not work. Organisms have a basic drive to reproduce; right up there with eating and breathing. It is both how and why we are here.

Now, back to Marcotte. In her view, all of this means that the policies in Texas are actually success stories.

The main concern driving these policies is that sexually active, unmarried women will get away with their behavior without being punished. That’s why there’s obstacles such as parental notification between girls and access to contraception. The idea is that if a girl tries to escape her due punishment of unintended pregnancy, she should at least have to endure being grounded for her slatternly ways. At a certain point, you have to stop assuming it’s an accident when you see politicians who, when given the choice between improving sexual health outcomes and punishing girls for sex, always choose the latter….

the only fair conclusion is poor sexual health outcomes is the point, because they believe that if kids won’t stop having sex, they should at least be doing the time for their “crimes.” If you start with the assumption that sex is sinful and it should have negative consequences for those who disobey your sky god’s orders, then really, the Texas anti-sex policies can be considered a smashing success.

Under this view, the right wing’s ‘war on women’ is driven by their biblical believes that ‘the wages of sin are death’ or at least punishment in this world. Their programs are succeeding, not because they are uncaring, but because lawmakers are acting according to the will of their god.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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