Maybe James Dobson should Focus on the Facts, not the Family

Monday, January 02, 2006 at 03:25 PM

The organization Focus on the Family (FOTF), led by James Dobson, is a major political player on the religious right.  I was reading info on Dobson, ended up doing some research on him and FOTF, and came across this headline on the web site of the Canadian branch of the group:
"37% of teens surveyed are waiting until they get married to have sex."  This info was attributed to a 2003 study from The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation called "Virginity and the First Time".

That astounded me.  37% of teens surveyed "are waiting" until they get married to have sex sounded way out of line from what I see, hear, and believe.  So I took the drastic step that Focus on the Family expects its followers to never take:  I looked up the study myself.

Turns out that the headline was grossly inaccurate, in two different respects:
(1) The 37% is of high school students who weren't already having sex at the time of the poll (Questions 11 & 12 of the poll).  Since 32% of all students were already having sex, the actual figure that Focus on the Family should have been citing was 37% of the 68% who had not yet had sex--that comes out to 25% of all students in the poll.

(2) It wasn't that this 25% "are waiting," which would be an accomplished fact; it's that 25% stated their intention to wait until marriage.  Quite a difference, given the inevitable rate of failure to carry out one's intentions.

The discrepancy led me to do a little more poking around Dobson's domain.  In an area devoted to debunking "myths" about homosexuality, I found:

Myth #7: Lesbian relationships are healthier than gay male relationships.  It's generally believed that women who have sex with women are less likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease than gay men. While most of the research on medically related health risks of homosexual activity deals with men who have sex with other men, there is interesting research concerning homosexual activity among women.

That's followed by a statement of "Fact" which flat out says "Lesbian relationships are equally unhealthy, and just as life-threatening as gay male relationships."  Unfortunately, the lengthy discussion that follows demonstrates no such thing.  It doesn't even compare lesbian relationships to gay male relationships, presumably because that comparison would show the "myth" to be the "fact" and the Focus on the family's version of the "fact" to be the "myth."  In fact, FOTF's analysis at one point DOES support the "myth" of lesbians having safer sex: "Approximately two-thirds of women surveyed have also had sex with men within the last five years. Sexually transmitted disease rates for bisexually active women are as much as twice that of those who engage in exclusively lesbian activity."

Then the geniuses who put this together point out that some lesbians do drugs, and are susceptible to the hazards of that.  Then they compare lesbians' risk for cancer to the cancer risks of women who have children!

If only FOTF stood for Focus on the Facts.