If the empty mantra, "Just Say No," failed to keep teenagers off of drugs, it certainly is not going to work for sex.
Yet, our government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on "abstinence only" programs that promote ignorance over education, while offering a warped view of sexuality. Like all programs steeped in religious extremism, these are fear-based, anti-science and prone to great exaggerations.
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a report in 2004 that found 11 out of 13 curriculums that preached "abstinence only" were rampant with scientific errors. In another study, researchers found that those who took so-called "virginity pledges" refrained from sex merely eighteen months longer than those who had not made such a pledge. However, the pledge-takers were six times more likely to engage in oral sex. " The Values Virgins" were also much less likely to engage in protected sex when they finally broke their pledge or to be tested for an STD. Disease rates between the two groups were similar.
Unfortunately, the New York Times Magazine reports that "condemn the condom" clubs are taking root at premier universities. As usual, they rely on breathless, overblown tales of breaking condoms, saying, "safe sex is not safe." Well, actually, condoms are pretty effective for those of us who had comprehensive sex education and know how to use them. I've yet to find one Bible-waving fanatic who can show me an HIV epidemic that broke out among people consistently wearing condoms.
The Harvard virginity group, True Love Revolution, makes the ridiculous claim that waiting until marriage enables "better sex in your future marriage." To buy this theory, one must conclude that sex is the singular activity where practice erodes performance.
The most illogical argument comes from the co-leader of True Love Revolution (TLR), Janie Fredell, who claims that sex releases a powerful hormone, oxytocin, which blurs the distinction between infatuation and lasting love. If released during gratuitous sex, she says, it can have unhealthy consequences because the hormone can cause, "palpable sense of loss, betrayed trust and unwelcome memories." (unlike the near 50% of marriages that end in divorce?)
In the same story, Leo Keliher, the co-director of TLR, spoke of his harrowing struggle to remain celibate. He told the Times he constantly had, "physical, lustful temptation," and called his sexuality an, "untamed beast" that causes, "thoughts that come out of the blue – basically pornography in my head…like a fly buzzing around."
It is clear that celibacy is causing a great deal of stress in Keliher's life – which can release the deadly hormone cortisol. If you want to follow Fredall's rationale, her co-director should have copious amounts of enthusiastic sex to limit his stress level, thus reducing his body's production of unhealthy hormones, which would likely increase his lifespan. Obviously, it is really easy to use cut and paste psychiatry to support one's ideological agenda – which is exactly what these holier-than-thou anti-sex groups are doing.
The Princeton abstinence group, The Anscombe Society, has come out against same-sex marriage – leaving gay students no option but lifelong celibacy. What they are really doing is setting some members up for failed marriages to so-called "ex-gays." Closeted homosexuals with religious hang-ups are drawn to these groups because it absolves them of having to explain why they aren't sexually active.
And, quite frankly, it sometimes allows these damaged and opportunistic men to find meek wives who won't demand much sex because they were made to believe lust is dirty. A perfect example is Fredell, who described oral sex in the Times as, "disgusting and disrespectful" and found it shocking and implausible that anyone would walk down the street thinking of sex with strangers.
The biggest farce is the marketing of such groups that claim they want to, "make abstinence look fun and interesting." (It's not) They also portray sex outside of marriage as an act that, "deeply compromises human dignity" and causes, "personal unhappiness and social harm."
While this can sometimes be true, casual sex can also be fun and harmless – which these groups deny. People can and do find a tremendous amount of satisfaction hooking up with people where there is no lasting spiritual connection – just immediate physical compatibility. The all-or-nothing approach pushed by these dishonest groups is a deep distortion of reality, uses sexual desperation to create marriages that are likely to fail, and unrealistic in a nation where the average marriage age is twenty-six.
No one should be pressured into sex and there should be strong support systems for teenagers who feel they are not ready. The best option is arming young people with the facts and offering honest, comprehensive discussions on sexuality. Sadly, these propaganda programs are really only interested in abstinence because they believe sex outside marriage is sinful. In my view, however, these groups create more sin, as the "virgins" often bare all, and then bear false witness to cover-up their hypocrisy.