Though the rose example from the Focus on the Family video is part of the full Aspire curriculum, it is not included in Education for a Lifetime's presentation.
Instead, EFL instructors provide El Paso County public school students with the duct tape demo.
No, it's nothing kinky.
The buildup to this activity, which comes near the end of the presentation, focuses on oxytocin, a "powerful bonding hormone released during consensual sex, childbirth and breastfeeding." From there, it's a simple leap to a bold conclusion: "Sex is supposed to bond you to one person with whom you will spend the rest of life."
Developing an analogy that would make SAT writers proud, oxytocin turns out to be the same miracle addition to sexual relations that duct tape is to household repairs.
"What is the purpose of duct tape?" the instructor asks. "To bond things together."
With those words, the instructor is told to tear off a piece and to stick it to a desk, clothing and other objects, observing that it loses its stickiness as it picks up lint, dirt and fuzz.
"It's no longer able to fulfill its purpose," the script reads. "In the same way, sex is supposed to form an emotional bond, but when it's formed in an uncommitted relationship and then the relationship ends, what do you suppose happens to the bond? It breaks. Over time, if this bond is formed and broken several times, it can become harder to form the bond and will affect your relationship with your spouse when you finally settle down and get married."
A couple passages with the heading "Speaker FYI ONLY" give some detail, but nothing in the script justifies the chilling conclusion that people who've had multiple sex partners are condemned to carry their emotional lint with them forever.
EFL executive director Diane Foley says in conversation that teens face the greatest risk, since their brains are still developing, and she offers a couple sources to support the programs' claims, including a book called Hooked: New Science on how Casual Sex is Affecting our Children. (It's published by an imprint of Moody Publishers, which aims to "proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and a biblical worldview in such creative and powerful ways that individuals worldwide will live in increasing measure as His fully devoted followers.")
Rebecca Turner, a psychologist at Alliant International University in California who has researched oxytocin and human emotions, sounds flabbergasted when she hears a description of this activity.
"That's the most ridiculous, I mean absurd ..." she starts out, slowing before concluding, "There is zero science behind that."
The link between oxytocin and bonding goes back to prairie voles, small, mouse-like rodents with monogamous tendencies. To figure out what the hormone does in voles, researchers toyed with the critters' brain chemistry and then sliced them open in a lab.
That's harder to do with humans.
Turner's own work took a more restricted look at whether subjects talking about love and loss in the laboratory would have increased levels of oxytocin show up in their blood. Early work showed some promise, but a bigger study ultimately proved inconclusive.
The early work was nevertheless used by Eric Keroack, an ob-gyn charged with administering family planning grants as an appointee in the Bush administration, to support his thesis that women who have too much sex outside marriage can lose their ability to bond.
Turner was stunned.
"There is nothing about sex," she says. "I published this in one of the papers where I looked at the number of partners. I asked these young women, 'How many different sexual partners have you had?' It was all the way from one to 20, and there was no correlation between number of partners and how much oxytocin there was at baseline, how much there was when I stimulated their brains to talk about love."
Turner sounded out on the misuse of her research in a 2008 article published by the American Psychological Association. And she still shares lighthearted frustration talking about her experience: "I think there's some political motivation to try to demonstrate there's a biological basis for monogamy."
Keroack's misuse of oxytocin research got wide attention. Author Stacy Schiff blasted him in a 2007 New York Times op-ed for boldly extending and twisting prairie vole research to humans.
"By way of demonstration he proposes the duct tape test: you only need an adhesive and a hairy arm. The tape represents the brain. Press it down. Now reapply. See what happens? Less sticky, right?"
After reading the duct tape activity in EFL's script, Karen Teja, a former D-11 school board member who served on a committee in 2007 aimed at ramping up the sex ed curriculum, offers her own blunt assessment.
"To me," she says, "that's a flat-out lie."
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