A few weeks ago there was a bit to-do over articles like this:
Then there are articles that get beyond the “ha ha you stupid Christians, we told you so…” and actually look at what the studies say
I personally am a big fan of virginity pledges, in spite of the evidence that says that they typically don’t hold. I should say though, I choose not to have my youth group go to big events where they encourage kids to make pledges, etc. But I do make it a point in my ministry to talk about sex and why I think sex (including oral sex) should be delayed until marriage. However, I’m still a fan of doing abstinence-only education in the same vein as the virginity pledge movement. Why? Those who take pledges (1) typically engage in less risky sex practices (2) Typically lose their virginity much later than their peers.
What I think people misunderstand about the idea of virginity pledges is that ultimately (for me) it’s not about helping kids avoid sexual sin in their lives. If it were about that then yes, the fact that pledgers typically don’t hold that pledge would be a loss. (And we’d have to give the boys blindfolds in youth group and tell them to wear them all the time) But here’s the most important stat (see the US News article). Those who pledge typically delay intercourse until 21, as opposed to 17 for their peers. To me, those four years are critical.
The “problem” with sexual intercourse before marriage ultimately has to do with the responsibility that comes with it – notably the responsibility to the other person as well as the child that is a possible outcome of sexual intercourse. Taking on this responsibility at 21 rather than 17 to me is a win.
My personal opinion is that our society should not be encouraging high school kids to have sex. Too much “abstience-only” education is caught up in religious langauge (and in some setting it should be). But the truth is, that encouraging teens, faith or no faith, to delay sexual intercourse is a good thing for our society in general. I know of no one who things teenagers getting pregnant is a good idea and although we educate our kids on birth control, it continues to happen. As far as I’m concerned, the teen pregnancy rate in this country shows the failings of sex ed about as much as these studies that show virginity pledges don’t work. The problem, I think, is that we talk about sex as if that’s what its really about, and it’s not. Sex is about marriage and family. At 17 most kids in the United States are not ready for that responsibility. As much as I dislike the show, at the end of “The Secret Life of the American Teeanger” there’s an infomercial that says “Teen Pregnancy if 100% Preventable”. And that’s true.
We (society) focus too much of our efforts talking about sex itself, instead of the myriad of issues that surround it. The way we talk to teenagers about sex mirrors our underestimation of them in general. We treat them like we expect them to act rather than treating them like the yong adults they are and presenting them with the whole story. When we keep the bar so low “just don’t get pregnant” (our basic message to teens) we miss an opportunity.