Rebecca Hagelin

Parents got some good news last week: A new report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reveals that more teens and young adults are choosing virginity over casual sex.

“Among youngsters between the ages of 15 and 24, 27 percent of males and 29 percent of females said they had never experienced any sort of sexual contact.” The report draws from 2008 data, the latest available. By comparison, in 2002, 22 percent of males and females chose virginity.

Parents who want to help their children embrace sexual purity need a clear understanding of the sexual pressures in today’s culture.

A new book, Premarital Sex in America, by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, provides that and more. It offers compelling research on the influences and decisions that lead to premarital sex—or virginity—among older adolescents and young adults.

So what do parents need to know?

First, that “sexual scripts” within a person’s social community strongly influence his or her expectations about sex.

What are “sexual scripts”? They are the unwritten “rules” of a social community, the norms about “what…to do next” or how, when, and why to have sex. Peers, friends, and the media pass these scripts along, often implicitly, teaching through the power of stories, images, and anecdotes. The popular scripts shape adolescents’ perceptions of what’s “normal,” while competing “scripts,” proposed by parents and religious beliefs, may fade from the adolescents' day-to-day life and become lost.

Second, that the sexual scripts proposed by our permissive culture and the media rest on lies--lies about relationships, the meaning of sex, and the path towards happiness.

For example, young people consistently believe that more of their peers are having more sex than they really are. In reality, the hook-up culture is not the every-weekend-norm for most students, according to Regnerus’ data. On college campuses, for example, 36% of young people have never hooked up with anyone even once.

Those who have hooked up have done so an average of four times total by the end of college. And roughly 75% of those who have hooked up experience regret. Moreover, hook-ups proliferate in two specific scenarios: among young people who are not college-educated, and among those who attend private, elite schools where fraternities (and in many case, alcohol) dominate social life.

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
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