Abstinence, everyone is doing it!

I mean think about it, if you aren’t having sex right this minute, than aren’t you abstaining from it? I know that isn’t what is generally thought of when we talk about abstinence (although one study referred to 3 months without sex as abstinence). In fact, if you read Katherine Kersten’s latest column, you would understand that is the permissive, if not encouraging attitudes of adults are the biggest threat to abstinence in unmarried youth and adults. Of course, as a column it takes a while to get there!

Minnesota’s soaring rate of sexually transmitted disease [STD] is in the news again.

I am with her, let’s combat the STDs.

The solution? Enlightened folks tell us it’s more sex education, counseling and treatment. They call for more tax-funded initiatives such as a $1.3 million bill for screening and public education recently considered by the Minnesota Legislature.

But few are talking about the real reason for the epidemic: too many kids are having sex at too young an age.

Isn’t public health a role of government?? Well not if you are a conservative, spending money on screening and education. Screening, what is the point of screening, oh yeah, to catch people with an STD so that it can be treated and precautions taken to prevent the spread of it. It really is pretty basic concept, that has served societies well, SARS anyone? I don’t even want to know what Kersten hopes the government should do if we flu epidemic.

But is sex among teens the main reason for more teens having STDs? Well, yes, you really need to have some sexual contact, not necessarily intercourse, to transmit the STD to your partner. So abstinence can be a solution.

Sure, a little abstinence education never hurt anyone, the common wisdom goes, but we all know — wink, wink — that kids are going to “do it.”

This idea is one of the biggest cons of our generation. At least one group understands this — the 53 percent of high school students who reported that they had never had sexual intercourse in a 2005 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Empowering? Give me a break.

So Kersten starts by dismissing abstinence plus, which is abstinence plus comprehensive sex-ed.  Then she goes on to say that abstinence is working, after all 53% is enough to win an election (and more than George W Bush or Tim Pawlenty ever received for their current executive office), but that leaves 47% who are doing it!  And if they are doing it, lets educate them.  Besides, much of the abstinence only programs are a little inaccurate on the effectiveness of safe sex methods according to Congress,

The report finds that over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by over two-thirds of SPRANS grantees in 2003, contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.

Now Kersten goes off using one person’s personal experience to carry the story,

But her experience at the U reveals one reason it’s hard to keep such vows. The adults in authority there — far from supporting her — are undercutting her and other young people who have opted for sexual self-discipline and true love.

I don’t know about you, but if a youth has made the choice to abstain till marriage, the open acceptance by the adults in authority, shouldn’t be a problem.  Is giving options, not putting shame to pre-marital sex, the same as encouraging the behavior?  Maybe if you have low level of convictions, but this teen will probably face more pressure from her peers than her accepting administrators.  Doesn’t this seem a bit nanny state-ish, we must protect her because she is unable to be uninfluenced by adults.

And what the fuck is this concept of sexual self-discipline EQUALS true love.  There are lot of marriages that never meet the “true love” standard, maybe in Kersten’s worldview they all do (what does she think of the Clintons?), but there are.  And lets face it, the legal commitment, let alone the possible religious commitment, that is marriage is not a pre-requisite for true love.

Ross cites a skit she saw at the U of M orientation in June. It portrayed a guy and a girl who get involved in sex shortly after their relationship begins. “The focus was supposed to be ‘safe sex,'” Ross says. “But the underlying message to students was that sex is inevitable, no big deal — everyone is doing it.”

Maybe the message is that if you have sex, be safe about it.  Especially in light of the fact that people my have had multiple partners in their past.  Oh, and if we are against screening for STDs, then your potential sex partner may not even know they got an STD.

Ross may be projecting her own insecurity about her choice to be abstinent in a hyper sexualized culture to see this skit as challenging her choice.

Ross says: “They see the harm that sex can do, and quite a few regret the choices they’ve made.”

Research confirms that premarital sex puts young women at significant risk, not only for pregnancy and STDs, but also for related problems like infertility. They also risk psychological harm such as depression, suicidal thoughts and what Ross calls “the feeling of worthlessness that comes after being around the block a few times.”

A question I have for Ross, do these people regret having sex at all, or do they have regrets about some of their partners and how it changed the relationship.  I remember seeing a woman at our campus Pub who would take advantage of a very drunk man, that man may have regretted choosing sexual partners while the beer goggles are on.

Now on the issue of regretting, and the psychological damage from premarital sex, well I think that is really part of our society’s bi-polar approach to sex.  Sex sells, so we live in a hyper sexualized society, yet we still have high numbers of church goers many who have more conservative views on sex.  These two issues can pull at young people and can be magnified if they are with partners that treat them poorly.  Don’t worry, those problems can come in marriage too.

Now for a science check!  How exactly does premarital sex cause infertility as opposed to waiting for marriage?  The only thing that makes sense is an STD causing infertility, but just leave it at STD, and work on preventing them!

I think there are some kernels of truth the closing, but it still too far right for me,

Not surprisingly, young women often believe that they need to be “sexually active” if they want to be normal, to fit in. “Many women long for real intimacy, and they want to nab a guy,” Ross says. “If you feel some deep connection through sex, you think the guy would feel that, too.”

But sex without commitment is not erotic. In fact, it can be numbing, and it’s caustic to human dignity. That’s why, in surveys, it’s monogamous married women — not swingers — who report the highest sexual satisfaction.

I worry that many women will be sexually active, or promiscuous, to help with self-esteem issues.  If a person has low self-esteem, especially tied to body image, they may seek validation by nabbing a partner, and to either validate (or act out) that intimacy or to keep that partner, they may sexualize the relationship.

But to extend that to commitment of marriage is the only way to sexual happiness is not a leap of faith I would ever take.

And what about all our good friends that are not allowed to marry, you know my gay and lesbian friends, are they never to know the special intimacy that is part of love because society discriminates against them.

-Josh

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