Christianity Today carried the following story on the failure of “abstinence only” programs, as well as the concept of “safe-sinning.”
“As a teen, I was taught abstinence-only sex education. I pledged purity, and I made it known to all the boys around me. In my freshman year of high school, I was even voted “Most Likely to Wait Until Marriage.” The very next year, at age 15, I became pregnant.
“Today, nearly half of American high schoolers, aged 14 to 18, are sexually active, according to a Centers for Disease Controlsurvey. Even Christians aren’t waiting until marriage. One survey found that 8 in 10 unmarried adult evangelicals have had sex
“Somebody has to say it: Our approach isn’t working, and it’s time to rethink “the talk.” It’s time to expand the conversation into territory where many evangelical parents dare not go.
“The familiar Christian parenting mantra of Proverbs 22:6 tells us that if we “start children off on the way they should go, when they are old they will not turn from it.” For sex education, many evangelical moms and dads hold to this verse, teaching their kids to “just say no” and trusting they’ll stick to it. Parents set on abstinence often worry if they say, “Don’t have sex, but if you do here’s how to be safe,” children will take it as permission. This implicit go-ahead for “safe-sinning,” they say, reduces the moral efficacy of the abstinence-only message and offers teens the tools to engage in pre-marital sex without fear of consequences.
“This idea of safe-sinning, though, is a myth. An overwhelming majority of teens actually say it would be easier to abstain if parents would address sex in an open and honest way. Continue reading “Abstinence only and “safe sinning””
Late last month I interviewed a woman who was 19 when she contracted the herpes simplex virus (HSV1) genitally while still identifying as a virgin. Yahoo News says that “No one ever told me you could contract an STD by [having] oral sex,” she said. “I thought I was being responsible, because I was saving myself for marriage…I come from a very religious background, and that’s what I was taught. Good girls don’t practice safe sex; they don’t have sex until marriage.”
“Coming to terms with the realization that there were still risks, despite abstaining from vaginal intercourse, this young woman now knows she was lacking some basic knowledge that she needed to make informed decisions about her sexual health.What would have helped her? Comprehensive sex education would have helped.
“We weren’t told about that stuff,” she told me. “Sex ed was literally a bunch of kids giggling about gross slides and our teacher telling us not to do it. Some of us even signed a paper saying we wouldn’t until we were married. So I only had oral sex, and look where that got me.” Now 23, she wishes she’d been armed with a comprehensive sexual education program, as opposed to the abstinence-only approach she received from her high school in South Carolina.
“When I asked her if she thought more thorough sex education in school would have influenced her behavior, she replied enthusiastically. “Yes, definitely! It’s not like I didn’t listen to or respect my teachers. I just didn’t know. I mean, no one told us to use some kind of barrier with oral sex; they didn’t want us to have sex at all. Why would they tell us how to do it safely?”