Monday, December 29, 2008

Captain Obvious! Your story is up!

By Carl

Well, I mean, duh!:

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

Now, look, I understood and could even support to an extent the concept behind virginity pledges: If you've raised a fairly obedient kid, and have lectured him or her about the evils of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and sex (particularly any combination of the four), likely you can expect to raise a child who remains unmolested by at least one of the above.

If you are really, really lucky. And I mean, "hit the lottery the same day that your rich uncle dies and Michelle Pfeiffer (or Pierce Brosnan) asks you on a date" lucky.

That lucky.

So hey, it could happen and hey, it's not a bad idea to reinforce your belief that a child shouldn't be having sex. Parents are supposed to set boundaries. Children are supposed to knock them down if they can.

Here's what is laughable about this whole trope, the way it's been rolled out in America: the exact people who SHOULDN'T be using this form of contraception ARE!

The only scenario in which this kind of paternalistic parenting approach works is a family environment where love, tolerance, acceptance and education prevail:

DAD: You know I respect you and love you, but I want you to promise me something. Promise me that you won't have sex until you are married and that you will come talk to me and be honest with me if you decide to break this promise.

CHILD: Dad, because you've always been honest and open with me, and given me guidance, I will promise not to have sex until I am married, with the understanding that mistakes happen, and I may not always be in control of how a promise like this might be broken. When it happens, I will need your guidance and trust, rather than your anger and disappointment.

The kid's likely to fail. Take it as a given. However, this type of relationship is likely the ONLY one that will produce a marked record of success. The child is making the promise out of a sense of security and safety, not out of fear.

It is in the climate of fear, however, that this promise is usually made:

DAD: Goddamit, don't you EVER have sex until you're married! I will not support you and some tramp/boy and your baby while you two figure out how to play house. Promise me, dammit, now!

CHILD: Um, OK, Dad, I promise. Can I go play with my, um, Wii now?

You get the picture. Not only is the second kid less likely to keep the promise, but is more likely to be unprepared for when he or she does break it. After all, it's not likely that this kid is going to find birth control, and certainly unlikely that he or she will keep it on hand. Worse, this kid is going to work overtime to make sure that Dad never finds out, that Mom never finds out, and that means he or she will have to lie like an area rug when Mom and Dad begin the formal inquisition.

Anyone who believes this kind of program is going to make the excitement and stimulations of teenaged sex go away is deluding themselves. You can throw all the cold showers and church retreats and PG-rated activities you want, the simple fact is, kids will have sex, which will influence their friends to have sex, which will influence more friends to have sex, and so on.

You want to know what will stop kids from having sex? Nothing. You want to know what will make kids think responsibly about sex?

Thinking responsibly about kids.


(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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