Teenagers and abstinence has been an ongoing debate for years. Some people believe in abstinence only teachings and others believe in teaching sexual responsibility (i.e. condoms, birth control, STD education etc.). In today’s society abstaining from sexual activity (vaginal, oral, anal, masturbation, and any other form people come up with) is becoming increasingly difficult as it is glorified in the media, music, and even cartoons. I won’t even begin to talk about the amount of peer pressure out there to have sex early. The issue with many abstinence only programs is the restrictions or misrepresentation of facts that fail to address what a teenager should do when they reach a weak point. It sounds great to say “go pray” or “don’t put yourself in compromising situations” but in reality, how many teenagers are really going to do that? Almost every teenager has that moment of temporary insanity where everything they were taught falls out of their brain. So what do you do?
One study on abstinence only programs by Santelli, Ott, Lyon, Rogers, Summers, and Schleifer (2006) concluded that “abstinence-only education programs, as defined by federal funding requirements,are morally problematic, by withholding information and promoting questionable and inaccurate opinions. Abstinence-only programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life” (p. 72). Santelli et al. (2006) also concluded that ‘”although abstinence from sexual intercourse represents a healthy behavioral choice for adolescents, policies or programs offering “abstinence only” or “abstinence until marriage” as a single option for adolescents are scientifically and ethically flawed” (p. 79).
On the flip side some believing giving a young man condoms and putting a young woman on birth control is promoting sexual activity. I feel it depends on the teenager. Some young people may see it as a stamp of approval from their parents and go all in while others may be confused on how to feel about it. I think it would have served as a deterrent for me as a teenager because I was all about the thrill of creeping and pissing my mother off. If I would have felt as if she was supporting me it wouldn’t have been fun anymore (yes I was an awful teenager, sorry mom).
After my experiences I believe abstaining from sexual activity as a teenager is necessary because they cannot begin to understand the level of emotions and responsibility that comes with it. I had my first child at 17 and second at 19 without the help of their father. I was not ready for the emotional strains of having a child and certainly not ready to be a single parent. The first two years of my daughter’s life my mother and little sister were the main caretakers and if they had not been there I don’t know what I would have done. I remember in my early teen years I wanted a child so bad and as soon as I got over that feeling a year later I was pregnant. I was too ignorant to use any form of protection or birth control so I was also a perfect candidate for STD’s. My mother is a nurse and educated me well but again since she said it, I had to do the exact opposite.
REAL TALK- As a parent of three teenagers, this topic gives me anxiety. I am thankful my teenagers are more thoughtful than I was and are not afraid to ask questions. I remember the first time they brought the topic of sex to me (asking a question about something they heard at school that I had to look up myself) I almost vomited everywhere. First I was shocked because I could not believe the questions they were asking. Second, that “ain’t” what I send them to school for. Third, I wasn’t ready to cross that bridge with them; I was still using baby words like “wee-wee” and “privates” LOL! Honey, I felt weak in the knees, I started sweating, my face turned red, and I was stuttering like a mug! You would think with my prior experiences I would have been okay but not even close. I am THANKFUL for my other half because if I handle that first real conversation alone, those poor babies would have walked out more confused than when they came in. I am much better now but I didn’t think I was going to make it! I have learned to pray and ask God to direct my words because making the transition from child to teenager has not been easy. It was especially hard at first because I was not a “normal” teenager so relating to their “simple matters” (compared to what I was doing at their age) was difficult. Once again that’s when prayer for direction comes in.
So my questions are: Do we (parents) stick to the abstinence only teachings? Do we teach abstinence but incorporate sexual responsibility especially since oral sex is the new kissing? Do we try to develop an open and honest communication line with our teenagers that makes them comfortable enough to tell us if they have urges? Do we take our daughters to get birth control or buy or sons condoms if they express their struggles? Do we ignore them and throw Jesus in their face? How do we handle teenagers in their sexual curiosity? If we ignore them how can we get mad if they come back with a baby or STD when we could have opened our minds and possibly prevented it?
I am a preachers kid so I am clear on what the bible says (my mom made sure of that). I am also not naive to the extreme pressures these kids are fighting against. I have expressed my preference of abstinence to my teenagers with my reasons why. I also stressed the importantance of honesty and openess. If the topic came up as an interest, after picking myself up off the floor, I honestly don’t know what I would do. Let me know what you think and keep it REAL.
Santelli, J., Ott, M.A., Lyon, M., Rogers, J., Summers, D., & Schleifer, R. (2006). Abstinence and abstinence-only education: A review of U.S. policies and programs. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38, 72-81.