As a teen, I was taught abstinence-only sex education. I pledged purity, and I made it known to all the boys around me. In my freshman year of high school, I was even voted “Most Likely to Wait Until Marriage” by my peers. The very next year, at age 15, I became pregnant.
Today, nearly half of American high schoolers, aged 14 to 18, are sexually active, according to a Centers for Disease Control survey. Even Christians aren’t waiting until marriage. Among unmarried adult evangelicals under 30, 8 in 10 have had sex.
Somebody has to say it: Our approach isn’t working, and it’s time to rethink “the talk.” It’s time to expand the conversation into territory where many evangelical parents dare not go.
“Your body is a wrapped lollipop. When you have sex with a man, he unwraps your lollipop and sucks on it. It may feel great at the time, but, unfortunately, when he’s done with you, all you have left for your next partner is a poorly wrapped, saliva-fouled sucker.”
I cringed behind the wheel, appalled at the quoted words I heard coming from my audio copy of Half the Sky as authors Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof discussed this statement uttered by Darren Washington, an abstinence educator, at the Eighth Annual Abstinence Clearinghouse Conference.
Sadly, it wasn’t too far off many Christian messages I’ve received about sex.
But let’s go back to the beginning.
With their “True Love Waits” jewelry, conferences and T-shirts, Christians may be the face of the abstinence movement, but Muslims and Hindus are more likely to abstain from premarital sex.
That's the conclusion of a new study in the American Sociological Review, which also found that Muslims and Hindus -- at least in the developing world -- are more likely than Christians and Jews to refrain from extramarital sex.
“All major world religions discourage sex outside of marriage, but they are not all equally effective in shaping behavior,” said Amy Adamczyk of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who co-authored the study with John Jay doctoral student Brittany E. Hayes.
Drawing on the Demographic and Health Surveys funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the study included data from 31 developing nations collected between 2000 and 2008. The authors focused on individuals' responses to questions on religious affiliation, marital status, and sexual behavior outside of marriage.
Adamczyk said the study evolved from another study she was doing that found countries with large Muslim populations have very low rates of HIV and AIDS. "I was trying to figure out why that would be,” she said. One reason she considered was lower rates of sex outside of marriage.
The statistics, some evangelicals say, can no longer be ignored.
Eighty percent of young evangelicals have engaged in premarital sex, according to a new video from the National Association of Evangelicals. and almost a third of evangelicals’ unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.
It’s time to speak honestly about sex because abstinence campaigns and anti-abortion crusades often aren't resonating in their own pews, evangelical leaders say.