Abstience is a Good Policy

Y’all, I just want to say up front that I made a chart for you, to illustrate this post, and so I expect some gratitude, since it took me a long time to figure out how to do it.

But then I want to say that, as much as I remain committed to the belief that Focus on the Family hates you, I do agree with them that abstinence is a good policy. Where we differ is that I believe sex ed in schools ought to go something like this, “Waiting to have sex until you really want to is the best way to go and there’s nothing wrong about not wanting to have sex yet. But, if you do want to have sex, here’s how bodies work and here’s how to keep yourself safe” and they believe that sex ed in schools should be limited to “Here’s how bodies work and the only way to keep yourself safe is to never have sex. The end.”

So, we were talking about that this morning, what lessons we wished they’d covered in sex ed. Here are mine:

  • Everybody says they’re having shitloads of great sex. Very few of them actually are.
  • Have sex because you want to, not because everyone else is doing it (which they aren’t) or because your girlfriend or boyfriend wants you to.
  • If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again. You can try something different or try it with someone different.
  • Using sex to manipulate people into doing what you want is a pretty shitty way to get by in life.
  • There’s nothing wrong with waiting.
  • Virginity is a social construct, though, and being a virgin doesn’t really mean anything.
  • Having sex is not so magical that it’s suddenly going to make you an adult. There’s no instant transformation.

Anyway, I wonder what a frank and honest talk about sex with teenagers would be like. Are there things y’all wish you’d been taught at that age?

Damn, after all that, I almost forgot my chart!


18 thoughts on “Abstience is a Good Policy

  1. Poop. It is so big when I open your pretty chart that I can only see the top left corner of the pie and it reads, "Typical Sexual acti and then cuts off and I see 14, 1, and 5%, but can’t tell what they’re a percent of. In any case, it is an impressive pie… even if I only get some crust…

  2. I like all of your points except for "Virginity is a social construct." (true) "It doesn’t really mean anything." (not true)Obviously to the people who value virginity until marriage, it is a meaningful social construct.Social constructs carry meanings within the society that constructed them. They are constructed for various reasons. It may not mean anything to those who choose to abstain from that particular society, but that doesn’t translate to lacking all meaning.

  3. Sounds like a sex ed social norms campaign. This is a recent and growing advertising method that is supposed to focus on informing people of the "True" social norms (most people aren’t have regular, great sex; most don’t binge drink regularly; most don’t drive drunk; most men do respect partners’ sexual limits …) rahter than punishing those who fall outside.I’m all for not coercing people out of fear, but I have to get over how much I think it’s about coercing people to conform. If it’s what we already do, then okay. But I’m still worried about the herd mentality anyhow. So, I like it with reservation. http://www.socialnorm.org/http://www.edc.org/hec/socialnorms/theory/

  4. Coble, I should have worded that more carefully, but what I’m trying to get at is that, for a lot of girls I went to school with, once they had sex, they felt kind of shitty about themselves, since the message we got was that typical virgin/whore bullshit. And there’s just a world of difference between pure virgins and dirty whores–on the one hand–so that one can have sex and make decisions about sex and whether or not to continue having sex without the whole "well, I’m already fucked [oops, nice pun], might as well keep on keeping on" stuff.On the other hand, too, we all have stories about the things the girls we knew did to preserve their "technical" virginity that really has more to do with keeping the letter of the law than the spirit.Prof, I think that, for adults, it is really bothersome. But teenagers already feel so much peer pressure that exposing the truth about what’s going on, even if it’s in hopes of getting them to abide by it, has to be beneficial, I think.

  5. I think B isn’t saying virginity isn’t real BECAUSE it is a social construct but those are two separate claims. Sure, it matters to many people, but what is it? No can can define virginity in a satisfactory way. If it’s penetration of the vagina by a penis, then anal sex or mutual masterbation or oral sex is okay. But I don’t think that a man who wants to marry a virgin would be okay with marrying someone who’d given blowjobs to 50 guys. So, where does it stop? Kissing? French kissing? Petting? Heavy petting? Nudity? Arousal?

  6. " But I don’t think that a man who wants to marry a virgin would be okay with marrying someone who’d given blowjobs to 50 guys. "Try not to suck any dick on your way through the parking lot!!!!I get where you’re coming from, and I really mostly agree with a Sexual Honesty campaign. Especially in light of society’s exaggerated portrayal of sex and sexuality. They honestly need to have one for adults, too. One where people understand that if you are married and over 30 it’s not "abnormal" to have sex fewer than 3 times a week. I just would hate to be a parent who emphasises the value of virginity (I will) and has her daughter come home from school with the message that keeping your virginity is no big deal.

  7. Yes, but as that kind of parent, won’t you already be doing a lot of work to prepare your children for the fact that the world as a whole doesn’t share your values and that the messages they get in the world have to be tempered against what they’re taught at home and at church?

  8. Yes, of course. That’s just good parenting 101. But I’ll also be the kind of parent who pays property taxes and doesn’t necessarily think that something taught to my child in direct opposition to what I believe is something that I need to pay for. Why should I be the one to de-indoctrinate my kid?

  9. If not you, then who?I tease. I see what you’re saying. I just don’t know where the line between respecting beliefs and imposing them is in this case.

  10. re: your original question – this isn’t about the whole sex ed class, but I remember hearing this myth that the girl would share a special bond with her first, she’d always love him, blah blah blah…THAT was total bullshit. I lost my V at 16 and had the clear thought "well, glad that’s over with and out of the way." I never wanted to see the guy again. In regard to sex ed, I think it is best that parents do the educating – sadly, that’s not realistic. My Mom and I had the discussion a few months back about this topic and I said "well, I found it really weird that you just handed me a book* and said ‘read this’ especially b/c of the fact that you’re a nurse and should be more intune with talking to people about their bodies and how they work." She agreed and admitted she had chickened out.*The book was totally useless.

  11. Fascinating discussion."…Why should I be the one to de-indoctrinate my kid?"Damn good point, Katherine Coble.I think we could easily get into a philosophical discussion about the very nature of child education, which could, then, understandably veer onto a tangent about the values of homeschooling.I have a seven-month-old daughter, and in a few shakes I’ll be tackling these issues head-on. As a taxpayer, I don’t want something I’m paying for to be counterproductive (from my viewpoint). So should I send my child to a school where she’ll be ostracized for not saluting the flag or saying the pledge of allegiance? Should I send her to a parochial school from which I’ll have to deprogram her of someone’s medieval/colonial ideas about God’s will? Should I bite the large-caliber financial bullet and go the Montessori route? (My wife and I are currently leaning toward the latter option.)The problem with sex ed in schools is that it seems unable to extricate itself from issues of morality. Morality, in turn, is an issue of both individual and collective choice/responsibility, and we all know that there are a virtually infinite number of concepts regarding morality. So where do we draw the line? Do we avoid teaching any sex ed in schools, trusting that parents will do it at home (the unattainable ideal, in my view)? Do we continue biting and scratching over the implied and/or explicit moral parameters of the sex ed curriculum?This takes me back to Katherine Coble’s question, and my personal answer is that it is my wife and I who have the primary responsibility for educating our daughter. Given our complete lack of experience, our future success is obviously a nebulous question mark. However, I know that as she matures Isabel will be learning a great many things independent of my wife and me. Some of it will be good, some of it will be Fox-News-like, some of it will depend on how the sun hits it. More to the point of this discussion, though, some of what our daughter learns in any school won’t meet with our approval. This goes for historical and political indoctrination as well as for sex ed. It will be our responsibility to keep tabs on that and attempt the necessary revisions. An Herculean task, to be sure, but we expected as much when we decided to procreate.

  12. You said, "Are there things y’all wish you’d been taught at that age?"You know, I’ve been asking myself that question for years now. And in the past couple of years or so, more specifically, "How will I teach my children about sex?"I was not a virgin when I married. I know, I know, shock and awe, you’re picking your jaw up off the floor, right? Me the good Church of Christ girl. My husband is the only man I’ve ever been with but we did not wait until marriage. And do I dare say, I fell into your 1% category (grins sheepishly).I felt really guilty for a very long time (but ironically not guilty enough to stop). I felt such relief when we married and it was finally, "not a sin" anymore (that kind of harks back to a recent post of yours!) I got over it. I made my peace with God. But I still wonder if there was anything that could have been said/taught to me when I was 17 that would have made me rethink my decision? And what will I tell my children? Sometimes I think I wish someone would have told me how complicated sex can be and I don’t just mean physically. Even in marriage it’s an emotional rollercoaster at times. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean all the pieces magically fall in place and you live in sexual bliss for the rest of your life. But I’m not sure even that information would have altered my decision.And the next time we see each other, remind me to tell you the one thing I really wish my sex-ed teacher had LEFT OUT of his talk!! I really don’t want to recall it here, it’ll make me cringe telling it to you, I can’t even imagine writing it out!So there’s my Internet confession. Don’t you feel lucky?

  13. B, you forgot a category in your chart – girls who wait for religious reasons, but think anal doesn’t count. Precious little angels. ;)

  14. De-indoctrination does sound like a big problem for parents, but I guess sex education doesn’t seem to me to be a place of indoctrination. I’ve never understood the argument that informing people about their bodies and sexual health means encouraging sexual activity or making condoms easily available makes people promiscuous. I don’t think any literature supports this as factually true. Any sex education that doesn’t include abstience in a realistic way is bad sex ed. I was afraid of sex in high school because of my bad Catholic education that was so full of disease and pregnancy scares that I thought all sex did involve punishment. Of course, fear didn’t stop me for that long, but I’m only now learning how to really communicate through and about sex in ways that are more rewarding than painful and frightening.

  15. "De-indoctrination does sound like a big problem for parents, but I guess sex education doesn’t seem to me to be a place of indoctrination."The ONLY thing that I would see as indoctrination would be the claim that "virginity doesn’t matter." Because while on one scale it doesn’t, it does matter morally to many parents. Things I wish I had been taught in sex ed:1. For females, masturbation can actually make sex with a partner better. (I don’t have the data on males, but would be surprised if it were any different.)2. Basic fertility cycle signs. I was 23 before I understood the variety of female fertility signs. I kept thinking that there was something wrong with my body. 3. That not everyone experiences the same level of sensation in various erogenous zones. In short, there is a lot of mechanical stuff that is left on the table. I think before values/morals get taught we should focus on the nuts and bolts that leave whole wastelands of inexperience. Then again, I suppose that masturbation has value/moral connotations as well.

  16. Well, once again, I seem to be missing what all the fuss is about. As the father of two daughters, I feel somewhat out of sorts when it comes to sex ed. However, I can reflect on my own formative years. I was a late bloomer as it were, sexually speaking, but not for lack of trying. It would seem that most of the girls I tried to make had their own agenda, and my personal conquest and ego was not at the top of their lists. That said, I really don’t see the need for establishing some sort of game plan for keeping our children pure. I do not shove religion down my children’s throats, yet they are well aware of what is wrong and right. I laugh with them, I talk with them, I poke them in the ribs when they cry, and I do my best not to let them see me drunk or naked, or any combination of the two. They are intelligent human beings, and when the time comes, I hope that their mother and I have been open and honest enough regarding sex that they’ll make good decisions. I don’t need Dr. Spock to tell me how to deal with it. There is little I can do to lessen the peer pressure that they will certainly face. I CAN express to them my own struggles with the issue. Their mother can do the same. It’s not about sex. It’s about decisions. The decision to get in a car with a drunk driver seems of much more import to me than does their first sexual experience. While sex can certainly lead to death, it’s probably less likely than some drunken football player with a hard-on plowing into an oak tree.

  17. That sex starts long before clothes are flung around the room… but that long sex, as in the Sting Tantric 8-Hour Session is 1. REALLY too fucking much, unless 2. you are on a month-long vacation…no, even then.

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