LGBT activist Dan Savage urged resistance to any effort by the Trump administration to enact abstinence-only sex education, warning conservatives “want sex to be dangerous and consequential so as to scare people out of having it.”
“That’s going to be counter-productive,” Savage said of Republican efforts to curb comprehensive sex education. “They don’t seem to learn much from research or data.”
In an interview published Thursday, Savage spoke with Vox’s Alexander Bisley about the importance of approaching sex education realistically, and offering teenagers and young adults the tools necessary to protect themselves in a world where people do, in fact, have sex.
“It can make it hard to talk about, because we’re all implicated and we’re all powerless in the face of our sexual desires and interests,” Savage explained. “Not in acting on them, we all have the ability to make our own choices and be sure that we’re acting consensually. But powerlessness in the face of desires existing within us.”
“One of the things I like to say is that we’re told this lie when we’re children that one day we’re gonna grow up and have sex, when in reality one day we grow up and sex has us,” he said to Vox.
Given that sex is a natural, biological function of human existence, Savage stressed the importance of comprehensive sex education. “It’s no surprise that they’re going to revive or pump more money into abstinence education, which continued to receive funds all throughout the Obama administration,” Savage said of the Trump administration.
“It’s galling—it’s counter-productive and people are going to get knocked up,” he continued. “And people are gonna sexually transmit infections ’cause all the research shows that people who have abstinence-only education may delay the onset of sexual activity by about six months to nine months, but they’re still sexually active before marriage. Just less likely to use birth control or any form of protection, so more likely to get pregnant or get an STI.”
Savage pointed to a comprehensive sex education effort in Colorado, which dropped the unplanned pregnancy and birth rate “to historic lows.”
“And Republicans and conservatives opposed refunding it … because Republicans and conservatives aren’t actually anti-abortion,” he told Vox. “They want sex to be dangerous and consequential so as to scare people out of having it.”
Savage also argued when it comes to cultural issues like sex education and trans rights, the Paul Ryans and Ted Cruzes of the world are “worse” than Donald Trump.
“There’s a Republican empathy gap, and Republicans seems to lack moral imagination,” he explained. “They can’t project themselves into the experience of someone who’s different, which is why you always see Republicans supporting things like drug treatment when they themselves get addicted to drugs, as is the case with Rush Limbaugh. Only supporting gay marriage when their son comes out. As is the case with Sen. Rob Portman.”
“We need Republicans who can imagine what it might be like to be trans and have to go to the bathroom,” Savage added.