Saturday, September 24, 2011

In Defense Of Abstinence

I wrote this last year. I thought I'd share again and ask for your thoughts!

Disclaimer: This is what I believe as far as MY children are concerned. If you want your 14 year old son to have condoms then YOU can buy them. If you want your 12 year old daughter to have access to birth control pills then YOU take her to the doctor. Please don't spend my tax dollars on something that I don't believe in.

Every time sex education gets brought up I hear the same tune, “Kids are going to have sex so we may as well teach them to be safe.” I always want to scream, “It doesn't have to be that way!” Teenagers are going to THINK about having sex. It's a biological certainty. When puberty sets in and hormones start raging sex is going to come up in the child's mind. It doesn't help that children are hyper sexualized today. With television shows that glamorize sex (Glee, The Secret Life of the American Teenager), music and singers that are all about sex, and movies that give out the “sex is okay if you're in love” message kids are set up for failure! If you hand that same sex obsessed child a condom and show them how to “be safe” of course they're going to have sex!

Let's talk about television for a minute. I recently wrote a blog about the sexual message of an episode of Glee. The show The Secret Life of the American teenager glamorizes teen sex and pregnancy. Yes, one of the characters got pregnant. However, the message is “she didn't use protection and that's why she got pregnant.” Add that her post pregnancy life has been very easy and the message is clear: Use protection, but if you don't it's not that bad. What about the movie that shows the story of the STD made it's way around school because of a promiscuous male? She's Too Young Oh, you missed that one? Probably because it was a Lifetime Original Movie and most teenagers don't watch that channel.

What about the claims that abstinence only education doesn't work? There are numerous studies that say that the percentage of children having sex doesn't change no matter what you teach them. Not so much:

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America (CWA), says bad public policy is to blame for the STD epidemic. "The funding of graphic sex-ed that encourages kids to be sexually active is a serious problem," She maintains. "We also have the FDA's decision to allow the morning after pill to be available without a prescription."

Wright says that decision is keeping many women from getting regular screening for STDs.  "...women are not going to their doctor's to get screened for sexually transmitted diseases," she clarifies. "Instead they're able to go to a local pharmacy and pick up a drug that is actually not that effective – even at preventing pregnancy." 

What happens is girls have unprotected sex, head down to the local pharmacy or Planned Parenthood, pick up Plan B and never get screened for STDs. These same girls continue having sex, possibly unprotected because they can just go grab the pill again, and spread anything they caught.

The latest Centers for Disease Control study on teen birth rates in the U.S. showed a slight uptick for the year 2006. Mississippi led the nation in the percentage of teens giving birth, while New Hampshire had the fewest.

But critics of abstinence education are using the study to show that those types of educational programs are not working. Bryan Fischer, executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance disagrees, saying ten times the amount of money is spent on condom-based sex education than is spent on abstinence education.

This was inspiring!

The classes did not focus on a message of saving sex until marriage or "disparage condom use." Instead, the classes "involved assignments to help sixth- and seventh graders see the drawbacks to sexual activity at their age."

Researchers surveyed the students again two years later and found that about one-third of those who had the abstinence-only classes said they had engaged in sex compared to about half of the students from the other three classes.

Here's where we get down to just my opinion. Proper abstinence only education shouldn't just say, “Wait until marriage. Here are the bad things that can happen. Just say no.” I've been there. “Just say no” doesn't work if you're already naked. We need to teach these kids how to avoid the situation all together, not just how to get out of it. We need to teach them the warning signs that things are going too far, not just what happens when you are already there. We need to teach them the emotional effects of sex outside of marriage, not just the physical effects. We should be teaching these sexualized youth that their bodies have VALUE and that they need to take pride in saving themselves. Being a virgin shouldn't be something that causes shame! In a world where sex is thrown at you at every turn having the strength to say, “I'm different” should be valued.

I'll be straight with you. (Before I get a million comments from “friends” that scream I'm a hypocrite) I didn't wait. I wasn't strong enough. But, I didn't get the right message. I got the first message. I was told, “Just say no.” I didn't get the right tools. And, I was a depressed teenager with self esteem issues. It happened and it shouldn't have. By then I only valued myself for my body and what I could do with it. I want my children to love themselves more than I loved myself!

Don't give up on abstinence!


  1. Thank you, Erin. I get so tired of the "they're doing it anyway" defense and the "it doesn't work" angle. I couldn't help but express it!

  2. Yes. We need to teach them to save themselves for marriage with purpose... to think of their virginity as a precious gift to give to their future spouse. And then we need to be involved enough in their lives that they have accountability.

    Also, for our family, we plan on accelerating high school and working with our kids to prepare them to marry in their early twenties. I think teens would be more likely to wait if they weren't being told "Abstinence until marriage! Oh, and no, you can't get married until you finish high school...and college...and get out of debt... and see the world... and are really sure you found The One..."

  3. natalie: That's a really good point! It's easier to "save yourself for marriage" if you plan on getting married in ten years versus TWENTY! If I'd known I'd meet my husband in college and get married at 19 waiting wouldn't have been so bad...but I was planning on attending medical school and having a career!
    But that's a whole different topic!

  4. the idea of marrying early is popular (understatement) in my culture as well. However, in some cases, kids, no matter how much you try and prepare them, are not ready to get married that early. And what if they don't find their husband that easily (or wife)? Then what?

  5. PS Let me just say that I was responding to the 2 comments rather than the blog post. I havent actually read it yet. I only saw the comments bec they show up on igoogle page.

  6. Dani, it isn't so much that we want to discourage youth from marrying late...but encourage them that marrying early isn't a bad thing.

  7. sometimes it isnt and sometimes it is

  8. Daniella, you're right that even with good preparation some aren't going to be ready to marry in their early twenties, or won't be able to find a spouse. In that case it will be harder for them to abstain than for those who are able to get married younger, but not impossible. I have friends who are single and 28 or older, and have still kept themselves for marriage, should it happen for them. I would want that for my kids if they're not able to marry young.

    However, we strongly believe that if we do all we can to prepare, encourage, and make sure that we're making opportunities for our older kids to meet like minded prospective spouses, that they'll be better prepared and better able to get married younger.

  9. Just dont push them too hard. I've seen it backfire (well in all America, but in my culture), and its not pretty. I am talking 36 year olds, divorced with 3-4 children (and that's only because divorce was finally taken off the taboo list)
    Im referring to the pressure to get married. Not to the abstinence.

  10. I think there is a difference between enabling and pushing. If I had a 20+ child who didn't *want* to get married, I would on some level wonder where I had failed (to show marriage as the good thing it is, to raise a person capable of taking on responsibility, etc), but I wouldn't push them to get married against their will. If it was a son, I'd probably lean towards nudging him out of the nest so that he realized all the perks of being part of a family and didn't take them for granted.

    Also, I think if you're encouraging early marriage you have to be supporting them all the way. For example, I got married at 21 and my parents, who had just replaced their washer, dryer, and fridge, gave the old ones to us instead of selling them. Both my family and my husband's family are very supportive in terms of offering babysitting, encouragement, and whatever else we need. Encouraging them to get married would go hand in hand with encouraging them after they got married and being ready to help them out if they needed support.

  11. I dont know honestly how to answer. We come from 2 different worlds. Not saying that in a bad way, I just cant really relate to your beliefs.

  12. Daniella, I think you're right that fundamentally we're coming at this from different places. Good conversation, though, so thanks! :)

  13. welks. I think I sometimes give up too quickly at explaining where I am coming from, but it sorta got me thinking that perhaps I wasn't prepared enough. On the other hand, I am a late bloomer (not physically necessarily) but emotionally..and sometimes individual personalities and certain characteristics make it hard to be ready in all ways for marriage. It is becoming more and more popular in secular America to get married later on. I do often feel ostracized in my community however that I am still single. And my being single has nothing to do with me wanting to have a career, or "live" a little. I want so badly to move on. And not just because 99.9% of my high school class is married with multiple children. So yes you have those people who just dont *want* to get married, but then there are just others who might just have not enough control in the matter.

  14. I have several older single woman friends, and I can't think of a one of them who voluntarily chose that. None of them were career oriented, either. One of them might be considered a late bloomer, I suppose, I didn't meet her until she was around 27. I really don't blame single women for not being married, because in my experience it isn't usually because of them or anything they did.

    It is getting more popular in the US to marry later, and I think it is a widespread cultural that we're trying to push back against as we raise our own kids. Part of our motivation is how many wonderful single women we know... and how many unmotivated, unprepared single guys who aren't marrying and raising families. We don't want to contribute to the problem... but I don't find fault with single women, I think they're more the victims than anything.

  15. What I notice a lot in the guys I meet (not all but an alarming amount) is that they are not prepared. A bunch still live with their parents, mooch off of them, and are terrified of commitment. There are others who want the "perfect" girl. Yes women are picky too, and it definitely gets harder as one gets older, because the men tend to want younger women. And for both sexes, people become somewhat more set in their ways. You sort of get used to things being a certain way I guess. I want to make sure I meet somebody who is stable in all ways. Financially, mentally, emotionally..a lot of men also don't know how to treat a woman these days. I think so many of them are clueless.



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