Another attempt to show abstinence is bad: “Losing virginity early or late tied to health risks”

That headline is from an MSNBC story of the same name. Taken at face value, it argues that, for maximum healthiness, we should all aim to lose our virginity at the same age.

No, just kidding. What the article actually says is that “People who start having sex at a younger or older than average age appear to be at greater risk of developing sexual health problems later in life”.

Which actually does sound like they think we should all start having sex simultaneously. But, still no. Actually, their intent is to “cast some doubts on the benefits of abstinence-only sexual education that has been introduced in U.S. public schools.”


How can you get from saying the people who start having sex at a younger age or those who start at an older age are “at higher risk” to “abstinence is bad”?

It makes sense that people who start having sex earlier have an increased risk of STDs and other health problems. After all, is you start earlier, you have a better chance of having more partners, and more partners means more risk.

But doesn’t that argue for abstinence, rather than against it? Must I point out that abstinence logically means not having sex, and that by not having sex, you cannot—absolutely cannot—get an STD? I suppose I must, because the “researchers” apparently forgot that.

Just ignore that. After all, we’re trying to find reasons why abstinence is bad.

On to those who start late! The researchers find that “Delaying sexual activity may ‘create health risks by impeding development of the emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal skills that are crucial to satisfactory sexual functioning and general well-being’.” Wow. That’s a lot of words, some of them impressive sounding.

But how about this: those who start late do so because they have these same failings to begin with? If you’re a 40-year old virgin, chances are it was more than just bad luck that accounted for your lifelong dry spell.

The “researchers” do admit that “It’s not possible to determine cause-and-effect from” their data, however badly they want to. And they say that “young men with sexual problems may start having intercourse at a later age, contributing to the link between later sexual ‘debut’ and higher odds of sexual dysfunction.” Which, of course, entirely negates their entire study, given that earlier starters would have benefited from abstinence.

But don’t stop fighting yet! Because, we’re told, their “findings lend credence to other studies suggesting that abstinence-only education may actually increase the risk of certain health problems.” This is because “Sexual education that is more supportive and acknowledges the diverse needs of young people might prevent the negative outcomes observed here.” Oh, good grief.

What negative outcomes? The only evidence that the article gave was in support of abstinence. None, except for an internal dislike of the idea of abstinence, probably because of modern nervousness of its association with religion, was given against it.

This is the worst statistical “study” I have seen in a long time. Like all bad “studies”, they decided their outcome in advance, and went looking for data to confirm it. But even when the data they did find directly contradicted their desired outcome, they decided to bluff their way through by claiming that, despite appearances, the data was actually in their favor. This “study” earns an impressive 8 on the Briggs Statistical Deception Scale.


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