Mississippi has one of the highest pregnancy rates in all of the United States, with 55 births for every 1,000 teen girls, according to a 2011 report. Much of this has to do with poor sex education in schools, which leads to a lower rate of contraception use among teens. Access to contraceptives is also especially low, and according to the Los Angeles Times, some pharmacies and drug stores in rual areas have been known to refuse the sale of condoms to minors. So when the state passed a law requiring schools to teach sex education, it was supposed to be a positive step in the right direction. However, this initiative has taken a turn in a different direction as Mississippi sex-ed classes are comparing sexually active girls to dirty chocolate.
"They're using the Peppermint Pattie to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she's had sex — that she's been used," said Marie Barnard, a parent who also happens to work in public health. "That shouldn't be the lesson we send kids about sex."
Teachers in Oxford, Miss., were asking “students to unwrap a piece of chocolate, pass it around class and observe how dirty it became,” the LA Times reported.
"Basically, the law stinks in Mississippi," Barnard said. "It was exciting to see the state address what is really a serious problem for the state, but they only took a little step forward."
Abstinence scare tactics are an old tradition with little-known benefits, and they do more of a detriment to women and girls' sexual health. In 2004, 35 percent of all births were to unmarried parents, and according to a report published by Legal Momentum, stigmatizing children born out of wedlock will not change or help the high pregnancy issue, which is what many of these programs are designed to do — stigmatize the children born out of wedlock and the parents who have them.
These abstinence-only programs also shame homosexuality. The Legal Momentum document cites a specific organization, the abstinence clearinghouse, a federally funded resource and provider for abstinence-only educators.“Research shows that homosexuality is not a healthy alternative for males or females. The male and female body are not anatomically suited to accommodate sexual relations with members of the same sex,” is what the abstinence clearinghouse promotes.
Fortunately, there are parents and advocates standing up for better education for the teens of Mississippi. Barnard along with other advocates are lobbying for “abstinence-plus” classes, which “urge abstinence but also teach about contraception.” She said that her advocacy has made such an impact that kids have started to call her and the other moms, the sex moms.”