Kathleen Parker

Physically, young women are getting clobbered by STDs with potentially deadly results. If a young woman begins having sex as a freshman in college, there's a 50 percent chance she'll have the human papillomavirus (HPV) by her senior year. While most cases of HPV are harmless, the virus causes nearly every case of cervical cancer, says Grossman.

Stacey, one of the college students featured in Grossman's book "Unprotected," contracted HPV even though a condom was used. But HPV, like herpes, lives on skin that may not be covered by a condom. An HPV expert tells college women, "You'd be wise to simply assume your partner has HPV infection."

Your partner. What happened to your dearly beloved? He -- and she -- disappeared with coed dorms and the triumph of reproductive health ideology. While coed dorms replaced obstacle with opportunity, ideologically driven sex-education programs promoted permissiveness and experimentation.

Because sex ed is based on the assumption that young people are sexually active with multiple partners, kids have been led to believe by mainstream health professionals that casual sex is OK. That's a delusion, says Grossman, because scientific data clearly indicate otherwise. Casual sex is, in fact, a serious health risk.

Rather than spread that word, sex educators have tweaked their message from urging "safe sex" to a more realistic "safer sex," any elaboration of which would defy standards of decency. Interested parents can find out for themselves by visiting one of several university-sponsored sex advice Web sites, such as Columbia's GoAskAlice.com.

To all good and bad, there is an inevitable backlash, and casual sex has lost its allure for many students. Having learned painful lessons from their elders' misguided altruism, they are seeking other expressions of intimacy.

At Duke University recently, Stepp asked how many in her audience of about 250 would like to bring back dating. Four out of every five raised their hands.

It would seem that young people are not hook-up machines, but are human beings who desire real intimacy and emotional connection. Toward that end, parents might buy Grossman's book for their children -- and themselves.

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Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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