Operation Keepsake? Operation For Pete’s Sake!

Shelley Blundell

There is a scourge sweeping our nation’s schools – it is funded by conservative interests, it lies to our children, it denies the reality of the human experience and it discriminates against a large portion of our nation’s youth. This program is abstinence-only sex education.

In Northeast Ohio, the program is called Operation Keepsake. Instituted about 15 years ago, the federally funded program “promotes the development of true intimacy with another person within the parameters of a healthy marital relationship,” according to the program’s Web site, www.operationkeepsake.com. For a “Keepsake” program to obtain funding from governmental interests, it must adhere to strict criteria, including teaching students that “sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects” and that “a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity.”

Almost every day, I hear or read stories about the rise of HIV rates and teen pregnancy in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control, HIV is a leading cause of death among Americans 25 to 44 years old.

Bearing these facts and figures in mind, one can understand why Operation Keepsake is in place, right? Wrong.

Teaching people that sex is only “right” within the context of marriage is wrong. Teaching people that condoms are not as effective as disease prevention agencies like the Centers for Disease Control would have us believe is wrong. Furthermore, not arming people with all the information they need to protect themselves against all potential threats, sexual or otherwise, is wrong.

There are many reasons why Operation Keepsake is innately a failure, but let us look to the issues for a moment. Operation Keepsake believes that sex should be performed within the intimate confines of marriage. What of members of the LGBT community, who under didactic Issue 1 policies are not allowed to marry in the state of Ohio? Are they to never experience “true intimacy” with one another because they shouldn’t be having sex outside of marriage?

What about people who don’t want to get married? The 2000 Census statistics have shown that both men and women in the United States are getting married later, and others are choosing to remain single in pursuit of career or other interests. Are they to never experience “true intimacy” because they chose a different life path?

What exactly does Operation Keepsake consider “marriage” to be anyway? Is it a religious concept? If so, whose religion? And what of those religions that are not encompassed in this idea of “marriage?” Can they not have sex until they are married under Operation Keepsake’s traditional marriage ideal?

According to a five-year nationwide study done by the Advocates for Youth program, “abstinence only programs . show some negative impacts on youth’s willingness to use contraception, including condoms, to prevent negative sexual health outcomes related to sexual intercourse.”

You cannot reconcile the theory of abstinence policies achieving extreme success with the reality that many teenagers below the age of 16 are sexually active. Marriage as it once was no longer exists. Equipping students with the knowledge they need to protect not only their health but their emotional stability does a lot more than telling them sex outside of marriage is wrong.

Shelley Blundell is a senior magazine journalism and history major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].