Today the typical sex education program in the public schools merely concedes without any protest that kids will initiate sexual activity in early adolescence or at the very latest by high school; then to confirm their pernicious assumptions, they lump together the data for 18 and 19-year-olds in order to inflate the statistics about teen sexual activity. To compound the misinformation, the sex education programs seem to imply that condoms are adequate to provide satisfactory “protection” to undisciplined, inexperienced kids. Meanwhile, adult marriage manuals include “what to do” sections about when the condom breaks or slips off.
Let’s have a reality check: teen sexual activity is down, teen abortions are down and teen pregnancies (except for the oldest teens) are down. These dramatic changes coincide with the more wide-spread use of abstinence education programs in schools and youth programs. Whereas, the typical comprehensive sex education program focuses on “protection” via contraceptives –– especially condoms, abstinence programs provide a clear and consistent message about delaying sexual activity. Such programs bluntly advise the students that abstinence is the only 100 percent certain protection. Further, abstinence programs include information about the detrimental emotional as well as the biological consequences of too-soon, uncommitted out-of-wedlock sex. Most importantly, the abstinence programs emphasize the students’ futures: that self-discipline and self-esteem are essential to achieve a student’s dreams and reach his or her lifetime goals. The abstinence programs also lay a foundation for future relationships by teaching the principles that are necessary for building healthy relationships and preparing for a strong marriage.
Such programs are as necessary for the boys as for the girls. Our young men need to know that respect, self-restraint, and deferred gratification of sexual desires are necessary in their relationships with girls and young women. They need to learn to accept responsibility for their actions; otherwise, they will not reach adulthood with the ability to succeed in their personal or professional lives.
With skyrocketing sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy rates that remain too high, it is time for us to have tough love when it comes to our teens; they need accurate and full information, not just bland assurances that sexual activity is the norm and that “protection” makes it safe. We are not merely short-circuiting the teens’ futures when we turn a blind eye to the problems of unwed teen births, research shows that the babies born to unwed teen mothers are vulnerable to a wide range of predictable negative outcomes and risky behavior: continuing unwed births, drug and alcohol abuse, juvenile delinquency, school drop-out and other behavior problems.
We cannot expect young people to act responsibly when adults – whose thinking is often clouded by their rationalizations of their own past hurtful sexual experimentation – are irresponsible by not providing the best possible information to encourage the self-discipline and self-control that are the surest keys to their long-term well being.