Is sex before marriage always wrong? Is it a bad idea to tell young people that, if they choose to have sex, they should take precautions?
Yes and yes, say those in the abstinence-only movement. Their supporters challenged me recently after I suggested that a better name for Reality Check 2000, a “say no to sex” rally for 9,000 schoolchildren held in April at the UIC Pavilion, would have been “Morality Check 2000,” and that a message of fear and shame was not the best way to encourage sexual responsibility.
To help move the conversation forward, Melissa Merrill, a spokeswoman for the National Abstinence Clearinghouse (abstinence.net) in Sioux Falls, S.D., has agreed to join me in the Rhubarb Patch, a Web site for e-mail discussions that begin here then continue for several more rounds on the Tribune’s Web site. She goes first.
To Eric Zorn:
Since the “free love” revolution, when individuals backed away from the abstinence-until-marriage standard, enormous problems surfaced that society is now endlessly struggling to resolve. Chanting: “Have sex. Just use this pill, potion or condom. It’s safe,” young people freely experimented.
The end result of this “safe sex” philosophy is our current decay. We are seeing emerging problems in family structure, fatherlessness, an increased number of unwed pregnancies, increased abortions and a tragic dramatic rise in sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are fatal.
Before entering college, I had a standard physical. As the doctor noted my age, he began inquiring about my life. I explained that I had been dating my boyfriend for two years but that we had made a commitment to true love by throwing aside harmful instant gratification and rightfully choosing to develop character, integrity and genuine care for each other by waiting for sexual activity until marriage.
He immediately responded with words that broke my heart: “That’s best. But if you do choose to have sex, be sure to use a latex condom to prevent pregnancy and STDs.” Astonishingly, he was willing to give me advice that would not only put me in physical and emotional danger, but also foster the problem that “safe sex” has created!
Society’s current situation is the fault of those advocating “safe sex,” a message that has consistently failed youths. While individuals believe they know more about sex than ever before, they in fact are being denied truthful information. If this generation was fed the truth instead of lies, everyone in it would choose to wait for marriage. Sadly, society has failed them.
To Melissa Merrill:
I don’t share your gloomy view of society in decay, nor do I believe that an unmarried person is necessarily lacking in character, integrity or caring because he has sex.
The abstinence-only movement’s focus–to the point of obsession–on the real and imagined dangers of premarital sex strikes me as alarmist and disingenuous, a handy cover for what is, in fact, a moral position that for unmarried people to have sex is capital-W wrong.
I’m sure you would concede that this is not a majority view today, that roughly 85 percent of people are not virgins on their wedding day. This doesn’t make it right, of course, but I’d suggest to you the reason 17 out of 20 people reject your absolutist approach is that, in certain situations, such intimacy seems right and feels appropriate.
Having said that, though, I would agree sexual frivolity is generally ill-advised and results in many problems. And I’d agree that abstinence, self-restraint and caution deserve a respected, prominent place in our education system and our culture.
To the extent that organizations in the National Abstinence Clearinghouse lend support to anyone who chooses or is inclined to choose abstinence, I’m with them. But where they try to scare kids instead of encourage them and where they tell them that abstinence is the only rational choice an unmarried person can make, I part company.
Your doctor said just the right thing, in my mind. As we take this conversation to the Internet, let me ask, what would you have wanted him to say? What does “sexual activity” include? And what truths would you like to impart to this generation?
To Eric Zorn:
Perhaps you don’t share in my gloomy view of society in decay, but your generation has provided directionless information to young adults. Adults are saying “youth can’t wait, do whatever you want,” setting no standard, thus causing heartbreak to the upcoming generation. Believe me, I know. I am one of those young adults.
You may not feel the decay, but it is written all over my generation. My peers fear getting married because we have seen marriages fall apart faster than a cheap pair of shoes. So many adults before us couldn’t figure out healthy relationships before the “I do’s.”
My peers struggle with trusting others because they have been raised in homes filled with pain or not knowing a parent. My peers are shooting others on the school ground, being molested, and 25% of girls my age are raped. My peers are finding out they are infertile and/or dying because of something we were told was “safe.”
Some of my peers do not understand right and wrong. Our elders failed to provide us with a compass because they didn’t want to make anyone feel “bad.” Unfortunately, this tolerance has provided nothing but increased pain. We want standards to be raised, and we longingly wish for you “adults” to quit failing us and start providing us with healthy direction. My generation is scared because the decay in our society is a self-evident reality.
The charge that the abstinence-until-marriage movement is alarmist has been raised often. This is a weak attempt by the opposition to avert the power of the reality that the abstinence until marriage message delivers.
Anti-drug, alcohol, and gun-use campaigns abound in our schools and they are applauded as necessary for the future of our youth. While each of these behaviors has their dangers, most of the people involved do not have an end appointment with death. However, the dangers of the behavior are real and, therefore, the warnings are worthy and necessary. Misdirected sexual behavior is no different. People do suffer and die from consequences of premarital sex.
While this may come as a shock since you feel the abstinence-until-marriage message focuses on the “imagined dangers of pre-marital sex,” allow me to provide some information.
Currently, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the number one sexually transmitted disease in our country. HPV is a viral infection often with no immediate symptoms. If symptoms exist, the infected individual will experience recurring warts on the genitals, anus, cervix and throat.
The disease has “safe sex” providers in a tailspin because there is no protection. HPV is a skin-to-skin contact disease and once you have this lovely disease, it’s for life. Even more, many individuals will not notice symptoms, yet is a gift that keeps on giving. This possible death sentence can pass on symptoms or be symptom free.
Once an individual has HPV, their future is questionable. Individuals are making routine trips to the doctor to have the ugly warts lasered off their body. Since it has been linked to as many as 99.7% instances of cervical cancer, woman as young as teenagers are undergoing radical hysterectomies leaving them with no chance of having children in the future.
If it is not caught in time, a young woman with HPV may be one of the 5,000 American women that die of cervical cancer each year. Would you call cervical cancer and impending death an imagined problem?
Thankfully, Rep. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma recognized the National Cancer Institute’s statement that condoms are “ineffective” in stopping the spread of HPV. Now, just as there are warning labels on snow blowers, cleaning supplies, and children’s toys, so too will there be on condoms, providing the bill passes the Senate. Earlier in May, the bill passed the House of Representatives 421-1. The labels will warn that condoms do not prevent the transmission of HPV.
While the opposition would argue that this is instilling fear, this is an objective reality. Young people deserve to know that engaging in premarital sex can have very serious consequences. Just as supporters of comprehensive sex education have been saying for years, we do want our young people to be informed. We don’t want them to be ignorant. Interestingly, the “safe sex” movement has realized this fatal flaw in their message and has once again changed their terminology to compensate.
Webster defines safe as, “free from damage, danger, or injury; secure, involving no risk, trustworthy.” It is obvious that the definition does not accurately describe “safe sex” since 20% of the American population is currently infected with an incurable sexually transmitted disease and people are dying. Therefore, they have changed their term from “safe sex” to “risk reduction.” While we know that even this is not always true, the opposition has finally recognized that the term “safe” does not apply.
Recent statistics show that over half of high school students are virgins, and everybody desires a healthy relationship. No one wants failure. Furthermore, the statistic that 85% of people are not virgins when they marry does not mean that they are happy about it. A majority vote does not confer “rightness.” If everyone jumped off the cliff would that make it the right thing to do?
Certainly the consequences remain and hurt just as bad. In fact, just before finishing school, a young man who has now found the woman he wants to marry confronted me with the enormous pain he feels because he can no longer give his virginity away to his wife. Every time he closes his eyes he is revisited by images of the past. Do you think he would claim himself proud to be part of that 85%? Obviously not, and that is why secondary virginity, or the commitment to wait until before having sex again, is sweeping across the country.
Our society continues to place the highest approval of sex within a marriage context. Just because something seems right and feels appropriate in the heat of the moment does not mean that it is right. That is lust and it minimizes us to the likes of dogs in heat with no self-control. The idea that something should be done because it feels good is the core of anarchy.
This is where my doctor was completely wrong. If my doctor asked me if I was using IV drugs, and I answered “no,” should he have said, “That’s best, but if you do decide to use drugs, be sure to know your pusher?”
The same is true for sex. He should have affirmed my decision as the most successful course, preventing me from all sexually transmitted diseases, unwed pregnancies and most importantly, helping me to develop true love. He should have said that he wished more singles would choose the same so that he could cut down on his cancer and pre-cancer operations, reduce the cases of infertility that he is attempting to treat and to see more successful marriages in the future.
I was glad to hear that you agree that sexual frivolity is ill advised. The abstinence-until- marriage movement does not promote the message that sex is bad, but instead promotes sex as the safest and most fulfilling in the marriage context. We like sex, within marriage. (6-12-2000)
To Melissa Merrill:
Let’s not get too bogged down in a glass-half-empty / glass-half-full debate over American society circa 2000. People have more freedom and more opportunity than ever, yet these freedoms and opportunities have led in some cases to unfortunate consequences. It’s not possible to isolate the sexual revolution from a variety of other factors that have changed our world dramatically in the last 50 years — in fact it’s hard to determine what is a cause and what is an effect as things swirl on. And it requires a certain kind of tunnel vision to insist that the relaxing of sexual mores and the increase in sexual freedom has been all bad.
Among my peers (and yes, I am twice your age) I find very few if any who regret all or even most of their pre-marital or non-marital sexual relations (which is distinct in this discussion from extra-marital sex, which I am not defending).
Do they wish they had been virgins on their wedding nights? No. Did they find some of these experiences enlightening, rewarding, fulfilling, pleasurable and non-regrettable? Yes. Do they feel that in some ways these experiences helped them make sensible decisions about marriage and ultimately enriched their marriages? Yes. Yet do they, on the other hand, regret some of these experiences and wish they’d been wiser and more restrained at times? Yes. The response is mixed.
So I reject what I see as your attempt to analogize non-marital sex with shallow, self-destructive behavior such as the use of intravenous illegal drugs or jumping off cliffs You might as well be talking about juggling chain saws from the way you dwell so exclusively on the risks, when the fact is that nearly everything we do or can attempt to do contains elements of risk. The last time you drove to a movie or a restaurant or a party at night, you were taking your life in your hands — tens of thousands of people die in car crashes every year!
Best to abstain from cars ? Or best to say, OK, on balance it’s worth taking the statistical risk of death in any one excursion — about 1 in 4 million — in order to enjoy some of what life has to offer outside the walls of your home, and better still if you can better my odds by practicing “safer driving;” buckling up, not speeding, not drinking beforehand, not proceeding if the driver is drowsy, using a car that is in good working order and so on.
Now before you accuse me of making a frivolous and inexact analogy myself, let me say that all I’m trying to suggest here is — —
Most actions people take — from the extremely foolhardy to the highly prudent — -involve potential risks and benefits. We proceed when, consciously or (usually) unconsciously we decide that the benefits are very likely to outweigh the risks (or negative consequences) to ourselves and others.
In order to make a risk / benefit analysis we must take an honest and thorough assessment of *both* in as quantifiable a way as possible.
By exaggerating the risks of non-marital sexual activity (what does the term entail in your opinion? I ask again. And must gay people remain eternally celibate since society refuses to allow them to marry?) and virtually denying its capacity to offer rewards, I find that the abstinence-only advocates skew the discussion hopelessly from the start.
Sex has the capacity to be pleasurable and expressive in ways that mere words, conversations and gestures do not. I believe that it’s far more than a messy procreational exigency that we must dutifully perform in order that humankind continue, and I suspect you believe this, too. One place you and I differ is that I believe that the emotional expressions and feelings of connection unique to sexual relations can be appropriate for unmarried people; that it can be and mean different things at different times with different partners, and that this flexibility does not diminish its pleasure and beauty within marriage.
To put this another way, I don’t attach much importance to virginity at marriage because I don’t think it makes the bond more intimate and because I think a focus on virginity until marriage places too great an emphasis on the sexual component of marriage and may in fact hasten people into marriage who are otherwise not ready. That you believe differently is, really, fine with me. I haven’t the slightest interest in talking you out of your views or disparaging them.
But I suspect you would feel the same independent of health or pregnancy risks. Am I right? If all adolescents could be given an injection that would provide 100 percent protection against STDs and pregnancy (with the anti-pregnancy effect negatable at some point after marriage) you would still devote yourself to encouraging pre-marital abstinence. Again, am I right?
If I am, you’ll perhaps understand why I’m suspicious about the way you toss around health statistics to your advantage and why I suspect you’re using them the way a drunk uses lampposts, as the expression goes — for support rather than illumination. Because, as you may know from some of my previous writings, I’m of the view that yours is a moral movement thinly disguised as a public-health campaign.
Having said all that, though, let me add that I think you have a strong point in your advocacy that young people today — and not only young people — are receiving far too many irresponsible messages about sexuality. Sex is overemphasized, cheapened and decontextualized in our culture and the detrimental effects are undeniable. Our levels of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and of abortion, while dropping, are still unacceptably high. The shrinkage of the time of innocence in childhood due in large part to the coarseness of culture is sad and dismaying.
One can’t blame high divorce rates, school shootings or crimes of violence on a loosening of sexual mores — there are simply far too many other changes in society to be precise — but one also can’t deny that sexual irresponsibility has had negative consequences. You’re eager to pin the blame for any negative consequences on adults of my “generation,” saying we “provided directionless information to young adults,” told you, “do whatever you want,” set ” no standard” and “failed to provide (you) with a compass.”
I assume you’re talking about comprehensive sex education here, and I think you do have a valid if outdated point. When we were teens in the classroom, we learned all about the reproductive organs and their functions, we learned all about contraception and we learned about the venereal diseases (as they then were called) but nobody — not at my school, certainly — even mentioned abstinence or restraint or delay as an option. Very little was said about the emotional power of sexuality. This was wrong. This was incomplete. This was also generally remedied. Today’s kids generally get a message that includes such options and indeed encourages them (“abstinence first”).
When you talk about “direction,” “standard(s)” and a “compass,” you are, it seems to me, straying into a moral area that is appropriate for parents, church leaders and perhaps community or private school leaders, certainly advocates such as yourself, but not for public policy.
In order to advance this moral agenda, you get rhetorically slippery. There is, for instance, no “safe sex” movement. Those who first advanced the term “safe sex” were borrowing from a common cultural cliche — we all know of “safe”-schools programs, booklets on “safe”-driving techniques, courses in “safe” mountaineering and so on. Of course schools, driving and mountaineering can never be totally safe, despite the term of art, and the more precise, accurate names would be “safer-schools,” “safer-driving” and so on. Accordingly and in response to criticism, a decade ago or so the term “safe sex” gave way to the term “safer sex” in the health-educators’ lexicon, which I’m sure you know. Citing the old term and trotting out your dictionary to discredit this phantom enemy is, simply, disingenuous.
Similarly, for you to take my expression “real and imagined dangers…” , remove the “real and” part and then write as though I were so out of touch as to deny that there are dangers is a pretty cheap rhetorical trick. I suppose I left myself open for it, though, by not writing “real and grossly exaggerated dangers.” So I stand amended.
Latex condoms do make sex safer; they do diminish the real dangers of sex. One of my concerns is that in your zeal to underscore their imperfections you’ll persuade kids who do become sexually active that they might as well not bother with condoms at all.
As I reach my word limit, I’ll end with another concession: I’ve been oblivious to the spread of HPV and my check with the Centers for Disease Control indicates your facts — while limited and still needing context — are correct. You’re right to raise awareness on that subject and I trust we’ll get more into HPV as our dialogue continues. (6-16-2000)
To Eric Zorn:
While I would like to say that I could look to the Baby Boomer generation as role models, they are in fact the very individuals that sparked the problem our society is now paying the price for. Therefore, for you to use the confessions, or lack there of, of your friends as the guidepost for premarital sex, you are making a fatal error. Furthermore, to insist that your friends would be an accurate measure is anecdotal. Let’s deal with premarital sex and major trends.
Allow me to let you in on a secret, people tend to make memories rosier than reality. They don’t like to admit they have made mistakes. As a result, people lie about their regrets and deny the downside of the unhealthy things they do. For example, drug addicts praise the merits of this or that unplanned high. Statistics tell us that 20 percent of the population have genital herpes, yet do we see 20 percent of the population brag about having uncomfortable open sores and lesions on their genitals? No.
Additionally, husbands and wives do not find it attractive to hear about their spouse’s past sexual escapades. That wouldn’t exactly be “romantic.” Prior sexual experiences do not enrich or enhance a marriage. If they did, we would all be looking to marry prostitutes, but you don’t see guys down on their knee with a diamond ring on those street corners. Instead, you see exploitation. True romance is two individuals together for the first time on their wedding night who are able to look each other in the eye and say, “I love you so much that I waited for you and you alone.”
For people of your generation to say they have no regrets means nothing. Lack of regret is no measure for right and wrong.
Reality is that many people do have regrets. This year there will be approximately 15 million new cases of STDs in our country, and 2/3 of cases occur in people ages 15-24. Today, one in four teenagers have a sexually transmitted disease. While many of them used “protection,” a countless number still suffer lifelong consequences or an incurable disease that could take their lives. Have you ever had to look at one of these young people and sit with them as salty tears stream down their swollen faces because they made a choice they couldn’t take back? I have. This is regret, up close and personal. There are always emotional consequences. Because they aren’t still crying when they are in their forties doesn’t make the regret disappear.
And it doesn’t end there. Just recently, I saw a young woman come into the Crisis Pregnancy Center where I volunteer. She was engaged and her pregnancy test was positive. While she was happy, she was also scared. In high school, she had been sexually active with her boyfriend whom she expected to marry. Soon after they started their sexual relationship, they broke up. Not surprising since the average teenage relationship lasts around three weeks following the initiation of sexual intercourse! When her “love” left her, he also left two lifelong presents she would never have asked for. First, she had a broken heart. Second, she was infected with genital herpes.
This young woman longed for her pregnancy to be like it should – exciting and filled with anticipation. But she didn’t know if she would be able to have a natural childbirth. Active herpes could infect her baby and cause devastating neurologic complications. The doctor might need to do a cesarean section. She wished things could have been different. Do you think she has regrets?
Thousands of other young married couples would like to start a family but are infertile due to an STD. Others are being told they have pre-cancerous or cancerous cells. One in five women will become pregnant using a condom. This leads to many single young women raising children alone. The children never know what an intact family is like. Still other young women make the tragic choice for abortion and later suffer with Post Abortion Syndrome. People are experiencing herpes flares, lesions, sores, irregular discharges, infertility, shaky marriages, unhealthy relationships, emotional trauma and the list goes on. Do you think they have regrets? Do not believe the rosy pictures people paint. They don’t want the truth- that they have an STD, abortion pain, emotional pain, etc.- broadcast to the world.
While you have compared these risks to those of driving a car, that is a false analogy. There are no consequences to driving many different cars in your lifetime. Is a wife a car? Would a husband lend her out for a little test drive? You do admit there are unique feelings of connection and intimacy brought about by sexual intercourse. I agree with you and doubt that you would express that same kind of relationship with your car.
Let’s explore the “emotional expression” and “intimacy” sex entails. While you admit that sex is powerful, you completely underestimate the power it has. Sit in any counseling room with unmarried individuals and you will see.
When speaking, the Abstinence Clearinghouse sometimes gives students a mental picture about premarital sex using duct tape. We stick duct tape to someone’s arm as though they were my sexual partner to represent the bonding associated with sex. The first time it sticks very well. Then, we break up.
As we break up, the tape is ripped off his arm along with several arm hairs.
When I find my next boyfriend and sexual partner, I can stick the duct tape to his arm, but it won’t stick as tightly as the first time. The tape sticks less and less with each sexual escapade and eventually will not stick at all.
The bonding can’t be as special or powerful, and with each relationship you carry the garbage from the past right along with it. Would you call that a healthy, loving relationship? I most definitely would not.
The deep bonding and “emotional expression” that only sexual intimacy creates must be limited to marriage. One cannot be deeply bonded with many people. That would contradict the very definition of intimacy. Do you think that prostitutes have many deeply bonded friendships just because they have had sex with so many people? It is this faulty bonding and “emotional expression” that leads to increased divorce and abandoned families.
As I looked through your last article, I searched for a place where you supported your side as being a good, healthy choice to make. Unfortunately, I could not find one place where you supported yourself, only attacks on the abstinence-until-marriage position.
You have yet to show me what protections condoms offer. If this is a focal point of your message, you must prove it. You must be able to deal with the false sense of security that they promote which leads to more dangerous sexual practices. You need to figure out a way to deal with the tendency people have to discard condom use after a relationship has endured a long time, which in today’s society translates to about four weeks! You need to be able to explain the oxymoron of why you should even have to protect yourself from an act of intimacy and bonding.
Although you claimed otherwise, there is in fact a “safe sex” movement. The CDC used the term in regards to HIV prevention. It is the message that you are supporting. The movement was a misguided effort to suggest that sexual avoidance was unnecessary for people with a fatal, transmissible disease. Then, the public utilized the term to promote contraceptive use. If the CDC had offered a responsible public health approach, they would have recommended sexual abstinence. Since the installment of the safe sex approach, all STDs have risen in frequency.
Because you were unaware of HPV, the number one STD in our country, you may be oblivious to the current consequences of sex before marriage, which are much worse than in your day. In the year 2000, premarital sex is dangerous. I agree with you that sex truly is a wonderful thing, but if we hold the well-being of youth as first priority, then we must advise them in the way most beneficial to leading a healthy life. The sexual revolution came and went and it lost. Lets move on. Abstinence until marriage is the only healthy choice. (6-26-2000)
To Melissa Merrill:
Did I neglect to spell out specifically that non-marital sex can be a good choice and a healthy activity for some couples? I thought I’d made that clear.
I believe, and I’m certain that vast experience underscores, that from an emotional standpoint, sexual activity is a wonderful, enriching, pleasurable, meaningful, thrilling part of many intimate relationships that do not have the imprimatur of clergy. We Baby Boomers are far from the only generation that appreciates this, and while my observations are admittedly anecdotal (you seem fond of anecdotes, too, Melissa) I’m confident that reliable cross-generational surveys would not find substantial percentages of married people who were not virgins on their wedding nights wracked with regret over it.
For you to suggest, particularly from your vantage point, that their memories are “rosier than reality” is awfully patronizing.
I agree with you, however, that there are certain health and even emotional risks involved in non-marital sex (and, to be sure, in marital sex in certain circumstances). And that those who are coming of age or are considering sexual activity ought to be made fully, frankly and honestly aware of those risks and how and to what degree they can be reduced or eliminated.
But first let’s go right to the (duct) tape.
Clearly, the semi-illustrative analogies we make in this area are going to be inexact, but your effort to equate the capacity for sexual intimacy with the adhesive material on duct tape is worse than inexact and betrays a very peculiar and one-dimensional understanding of human sexuality. You seem to view sex as either utterly profane (pre-marital variety) or utterly sacred (marital variety) without understanding that it is not just one thing for all people at all times, but a subtle, complicated, intimate yet sometimes isolating, expressive yet sometimes inchoate, serious yet sometimes jolly, spiritual yet sometimes coarse, spontaneous yet sometimes rote interaction both within marriage and without that it defies easy generalities.
Again, nothing I say here is aimed at trying to covert you or anyone else who has chosen abstinence into a sexually active or experimental lifestyle. Unlike you, I’m not looking to cast aspersions upon someone else’s morality or views of what they believe the role of sexuality should be in their lives.
With that in mind: Sexual intercourse is often both an expression of intimacy and an aid to building intimacy. It tends to make love relationships more intense even as it often reflects the intensity of the relationship. And part of maturing as a young adult is the personal growth one experiences in intense love affairs. One learns what sex is and what it isn’t; what sexual attraction means and what it doesn’t–how to negotiate the often rocky path of profound emotional involvement.
My experience tells me that such relationships have the capacity to strengthen the adhesive quality on one’s metaphorical duct tape; that “experience,” by which I mean deep and somewhat sustained romantic and sexual involvements, has value when one is embarking upon what’s hopefully a life-long and monogamous commitment. To put another way, I would not have wanted to marry a virgin nor would I have wanted to be a virgin on my wedding day nearly 15 years ago. I was and am deeply in love with my wife an am utterly unthreatened and unconcerned with the fact that she’d had serious relationships before I came along. We share so much that is special and unique — our three children, all the wonderful times we’ve had together–that we were not the first to share certain forms of intimacy is of the smallest possible relevance. The idea that our bond is somehow lesser — that her experience makes her in some way analogous to a prostitute — is both shallow and, frankly, insulting.
Taken to an extreme, I suppose, my position could be used to justify promiscuity, whereas your position could be used to justify the sorts of strict pre-marital isolation from the opposite gender that marks societies and cultures that most Americans would consider highly repressive. I don’t think, however, that you are arguing that boys and girls should not date or fall in love or hold hands or hug or kiss (though, again, and this question will keep coming up until you answer it — what lines do you draw where and what do you mean by sexual activity?), and I assume that you don’t think I am arguing for indiscriminate “experience.” In fact, to clarify, I am arguing only that a one-size-fits-all prescriptive approach in this area is not appropriate, and that when you write that “the deep bonding and `emotional expression’ that only sexual intimacy creates must be limited to marriage. One cannot be deeply bonded with many people. That would contradict the very definition of intimacy,” you are expressing a moral point of view and imperative that works for you and are defining intimacy as you wish to define it for yourself.
When you write that “the sexual revolution came and went and it lost,” you are expressing a personal wish, but not a fact. It’s not just my generation that by great, wide majorities rejects the idea that non-marital sex is always wrong. Yours does too. And, for better and often worse, so does our culture. Teens are not irresponsibly having sex because baby-boomer newspaper columnists are saying, “hey, you know, in moderation, in the right context, with proper precautions, it can be a positive experience.” They’re having sex in part because songs, movies, TV shows, books and advertisements reinforce what their bodies–raging with hormones and sexually primed–are telling them. I believe that the role of responsible sex educators is to give them encouragement and support in delaying their sexual indoctrination and all the information they ought to have about disease and pregnancy prevention when the time comes, as it so often does, that they reject your message.
I’ll take the liberty at this point of anticipating that you will want to cite surveys and studies that show that pre-marital sex and pre-marital cohabitation don’t lead to higher levels of marital success as measured by divorce rates; that research shows that wedding-night virgins are more likely to stay married than non-virgins.
But the studies I’m aware of show correlation but not cause — a critical distinction. Think of it this way: If a researcher found that young men who are fans of professional hockey are more likely than average to be charged with domestic battery, it would be irresponsible to conclude that watching hockey causes men to hit their wives or that hitting their wives prompts in men an interest in watching hockey. If this correlation were true (and I’m not saying that it is, please!) it could simply be that a variety of social and cultural factors come into play such that the kind of people who like hockey are more often than not also the kind of people who settle problems at home with their fists.
About the young woman who came to your crisis pregnancy center in tears: I have no doubt she has regrets, as that is a regrettable situation. I would say that all teens should be counseled on the virtues of waiting and also of using contraception, particularly condoms. Had she and her boyfriend been using condoms?
When you write that “People are experiencing herpes flares, lesions, sores, irregular discharges, infertility, shaky marriages, unhealthy relationships, emotional trauma and the list goes on” I think you’re conflating unrelated phenomena for propagandistic purposes, which is typical of your movement.
I had occasion to look into the HPV facts and figures for a column I decided to write on the subject, prompted in part by this dialogue. For someone who began by insisting that young people be given truthful information, it seems to me that you’ve attempted artfully to skirt the real picture of HPV:
An estimated 19 out of 20 of those who contract HPV never have any symptoms. About 1 percent get visible warts, which are almost always easily removed. Nine in 10 detected cases simply vanish in two or three years.
Yes, in rare cases it does lead to cervical cancer — 5,000 deaths a year is a reasonable approximation. But nearly all those deaths could be avoided with early detection — through regular pap smears.
Wanna save lives and diminish heartbreak? Tell young women you counsel that whenever they become sexually active — be it on their wedding night as you advise or at some point before should they not totally buy into your message — they should begin having regular pap smears.
And tell them that, again, if they don’t choose to wait until the honeymoon, they should use condoms. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than your off-the-cuff figures suggest–when used correctly and consistently they vastly reduce transmission of HIV and many other STDs and are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. (7-23-2000)
To Eric Zorn:
I am delighted you believe that “those who are coming of age or are considering sexual activity ought to be made fully, frankly and honestly aware” of the risks associated with premarital sex. That being said, lets speak truth.
I am astonished by your trust in condoms, your willingness to trust a young person’s life to a thin piece of latex. There are very significant problems with the message that condoms will protect. First of all, you have repeatedly stated that abstinence-until-marriage is the best choice to make, but if someone chooses to engage in premarital sex, they should use a condom.
Do you honestly believe this is responsible advice? Let’s explore the confusion this condom message creates.
My younger brother, Grant, is in high school, and in my completely unbiased opinion (of course) is a handsome young man. He is actively involved in drum line, marching band, and drama, and in the outside community he is involved in outreach, making people laugh and using his cooking skills to surprise people in need. So, here is this beautiful young person with a heart of gold that is going to have to make some important sexual choices that will affect his life forever. Understand that my little brother is one of my best friends. I love him with my whole heart and want the best for him. We all know a special young person like this in our lives. Who is this young person for you?
Let’s imagine I sit down with Grant to discuss his choices. I look him in the eye and say, “Hey, Grant, I love you and want what is best for you.” We discuss consequences to sex outside of marriage – the horrible STDs that one in four of his classmates carries, the risk of bringing a baby into this world that would be dependant on him for life and direction outside of a stable marriage relationship and the “safe sex” lies. More importantly, we talk about his heart. We talk about the person Grant is and his dreams. He wants to be a chef, doctor, lawyer, or a teacher … a career where he can help other people. By waiting until marriage to have sex he can achieve his goals without obstacles that arise from non-marital sex. I see before me a beautiful person of value, wonderfully made, that does not deserve to be used and abused. He deserves the best and so does his future wife. Grant deserves to be respected and he should respect others. He is not a raging hormone, but a person with self-control. He is a person of integrity that can hold his head high as he blesses this world with his goals, contributions, personality, respect and true love for others. I look into Grant’s eyes and I see the amazing future of our society.
Inside, Grant is thrilled. He is thankful someone believes in him. Someone knows that he has self-control, that he knows respect and true love, that he doesn’t use and abuse. Grant is appreciative that someone spoke the truth.
Mostly, Grant is thinking, “Thank you for truly loving me and believing that I can meet the standard.” He knows abstinence until marriage is the best choice, understands right from wrong and will, most likely, choose right.
Unless, I continue. If I were to go on and say “but if you choose differently use a condom” what just happened? That young person just heard their mentor, whom they admire, say “You have hormones like a dog in heat and probably won’t meet the standard and since I don’t believe in you I will advise that you just take this ‘precaution.'” Is that young person still saying thank you for believing in me? Furthermore, you, as a mentor whom they listen to, just suggested “protection” that won’t protect from HPV, which the CDC says over 50 percent of the sexually active are infected with one or more type of genital strains. Moreover, condoms often fail to prevent other STDs and pregnancy. You, as a mentor, just offered advice with consequences as severe as death. Is that young person saying “Thank you for giving me the best?” No. I would never give this advice to my little brother. You, as a mentor, have just placed that young person’s life on the line and said he or she is no better than the family dog. That is in no way responsible, loving or caring.
However, if that young person is vulnerable and doesn’t know the truth, he or she may heed their mentor’s advice. These are not bad young people. I know.
I see them every week. Many times, they are hurting people suffering the consequences from an action that someone they trusted told them was “safe.” News flash – this little piece of latex called a condom fails 20 to 25 percent in preventing teenage pregnancy. One in five teenage couples who use a condom will become pregnant this year. Single parent households are skyrocketing because children having “safe sex” are having children.
Metaphorically speaking, condoms are like brakes on a car. When someone is going faster than they should, the driver applies the brakes to prevent an accident. When someone is moving faster sexually than they should before marriage, they apply the “brakes” – a condom – to prevent an “accident.” What if a car’s brakes failed 20 to 25 percent of the time? Would you still feel “safe” driving? Would you still recommend others to drive and use their brakes knowing that it would cause an accident at least one in five times?
Do you think the government would just sit back and call it “safe?” No. All vehicles would be recalled because with a failure rate that high, safety ceases to exist. There would be too many accidents. Yet we are telling today’s youth that condoms are safe, that they will prevent “accidents,” that they can trust them. What a lie.
Worse yet is that the 20 to 25 percent failure rate is only for pregnancy.
Young people live through pregnancy. Unfortunately, they may not always survive an STD. When figuring condom failure rate for STDs as a whole, a percentage cannot be given. However, we do know that they “protect” 10 to 30 percent of the time from chlamydia, which can lead to infertility. We also know that they offer no protection from herpes, a virus that one in five people carry in our society. And, of course, the condom will offer no protection from the HPV virus that potentially kills. Safe? A condom will protect?
Concerning HPV, you need to be more informed before advising pap smears as a cure. First, the assertion that “19 out of 20 of those who contract HPV never have any symptoms” should scare you, since one in two sexually active persons carry the disease and still spread it to others whether they have symptoms or are symptom free – the recipient is simply unaware they just received a deadly gift. Sexually transmitted diseases often spread because people do not know they are infected. Although you suggest pap smears as a way to “diminish heartbreak,” pap smears are not a preventative measure. Instead they inform patients of cancerous cells. I would recommend a pap smear and STD testing to anyone who has not waited for their future husband or wife, but if cancerous cells exist, they already have the disease and there is no cure. Unless, of course, the disease is detected in its early stages, in which case a young woman could have a radical hysterectomy.
Diminish heartbreak? Not hardly. Furthermore, it’s interesting that you referred to the CDC concerning HPV prior to your column and had their mind-blowing statistics, but in the column ASHA became the experts. While ASHA has medical information, they are an advocacy group and much of their data is speculation, not fact.
Are you picturing that special young person in your life? The “abstinence but” message hurts physically and emotionally, and to tell them that a condom will protect leads only to destruction. Youth that have believed a condom would protect desperately wanted to believe in the advice their mentors gave, but they were lied to. Sadly, they and many newborns are suffering the consequences of irresponsible, unloving guidance.
Since you agree with me that “there are certain health and even emotional risks involved in non-marital sex,” believe young people can make good choices. Believe that they are able to meet a standard, have self-control, respect others and respect themselves. Trust in that beautiful young person instead of a faulty piece of latex. (8-11-2000)
To Melissa Merrill:
I can’t help noticing how, yet again, you are ducking the question of what you consider “sexual activity.” Come on! You need not be graphic! Take the case of your brother, Grant, and assume he has a serious girlfriend — been dating for more than a year, thinks he may well marry her someday. “OK, sis,” he says, “you’ve scared me to death about these horrible STDs. I’m not going to have sexual intercourse until I’m married. But where should I draw the line in expressing physical affection with my girlfriend or any other serious girlfriends I might have until that time?”
Since this is my last argument in this rhubarb, it’s also my last opportunity to ask you to address this and some other key questions.
Here’s another: What’s your advice to gay people? It’s not legal for them to marry, a prohibition I’ll wager the abstinence-only crowd supports, so their only options under your system would be to remain abstinent or attempt to change their sexual orientation through therapy.
Here’s another: Don’t you worry that telling kids to wait until they get married to have sex will encourage them to marry at a younger age than otherwise they might? Given the astonishingly high failure rates for teen marriages, it seems almost irresponsible to in effect urge young people who think they’re in love to hasten to the altar.
Here’s another: Do you believe that a wedding ring automatically transforms sex from an act of licentious rutting (“dogs in heat,” as you put it) to an appropriate, loving expression of intimacy? If so, then may I fairly conclude that this moral outlook inspires your participation in this puritan crusade and that your focus on STDs and pregnancy is tangential? Were medical science to come up with a pill tomorrow that would wipe out all STDs and serve as a foolproof contraceptive, I doubt your stance would change in the least. Indeed I expect you and yours would campaign vigorously against the introduction of such a pill, as it would deprive you of your favorite weapon: Fear.
You have often cited an allegiance to the truth, but I suspect that facts are not your main concern. You prefer to adduce only studies or scraps of data friendly to your cause — condoms fail up to 25 percent of the time!!!!! — and disregard the context and range of implications as well as other studies.
On June 12 and 13th of this year, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration were among the agencies that convened a meeting in Bethesda, Md. titled “Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness and STD Prevention.” A 28-member panel reviewed 137 research papers and will soon (probably in September, 2000) release a report. That report is likely to show that condoms are dramatically effective in preventing pregnancy and HIV, and are likely very effective in preventing the spread of other “discharge” STDs such as gonorrhea. They are less effective, sometimes to an unknown degree, in preventing “ulcerative” STDs, such as syphilis. The reason, which I never heard spelled out at the abstinence rally I attended, is that condoms often don’t cover the infected areas that can spread STDs on contact.
Condoms don’t make sex risk-free. That’s a fair point. But are you going to be willing to relay objectively in your presentations what the data actually show and what the levels of risk are? Are you going to be willing to look at and present the overall numbers, not just the ones that might frighten children into behaving the way you want them to?
What percentage of condoms break or leak? The average batch of condoms tests better than 99.7 percent defect free, and the actual breakage rate is variously reported as between 0.4 percent and 2 percent. So why would a study show a 25 percent failure rate, at least 12 times higher than the product’s physical failure rate? Simple. User failure. The users put them on too late or incorrectly, took them off too early and didn’t always use them, and so on. The price of ignorance.
Let me use your automobile brake analogy for a moment (though it is, of course, typically hysterical … brake failure almost always causes serious injury or death while condom failure does not: You have a situation here in which, for every 13 car crashes attributed to brake failure, 12 of them are actually caused by drivers mistakenly hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake — misusing the product. Your conclusion is that brakes are too risky to rely on and that we ought not teach drivers how to use brakes correctly. The message drivers get from you is “Brake pedals don’t work, don’t bother applying them.”
Unmarried people fall in love and become deeply attracted to each other.
Their physical desire is not necessarily bestial, unnatural or shameful — it can be very meaningful, profound and appropriate. But either way, couples often behave unwisely in order to satisfy that desire. Risky, dramatic, passionate gestures are often part of that immense experience we call romance. This has been true since ancient times and will likely always be true. No one generation started it or has a monopoly on it, and the assertion that it is always bad until the union is sanctioned by law is, quite simply, an opinion.
Responsibility requires that educators do their best to find and present the most accurate and thorough data on contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases and present them in an age-appropriate manner to students.
Responsibility requires that abstinence or limitations on activity be presented to students as a cool, creditable, often wise alternative — the safest and healthiest choice they can make — but that those who choose not to be abstinent be presented with the resources and facts to proceed as wisely and healthfully down that road as possible.
Kids know or will figure out that your 25 percent condom failure figure is a crock — a reefer-madness style claim designed to scare them into submission.
They’ll catch on that all your sepulchral exaggerations about HPV aren’t meant to inform or even guide, but to frighten.
They’ll sniff you out for what I believe you are: a quasi-religious moral crusader who’s slipped in the side door of the public schools. And most of them will tune you out sooner or later (another question — what is the “failure rate” for abstinence pledges?).
Will that help or hurt? Is it better to give kids a full range of information including honest risk/benefit analyses of their options? Or is it better to tell them “Just say no” 100 different ways and cross our fingers that they cross their legs? Which approach will leave us better off?
Every prestigious non-ideological public-health organization I’m aware of advocates for comprehensive sexuality education and against abstinence-only-until-marriage education. Why? Because studies show what logic suggests Comprehensive sex ed. works better. It does a better job in realizing goals that you and I share.
- Reducing teen pregnancy and abortion rates.
- Delaying the age of induction into sexual relations
- Reducing the incidence and long-term negative health consequences of sexually transmitted disease
To summarize my position, I hold — along with, apparently, the vast majority of Americans who behave accordingly — -that sex before or outside the context of marriage is not necessarily wrong or regrettable. It can have much to recommend it, in fact.
I believe that students should be instructed about sexuality in age-appropriate ways that explore its power and consequences, and that the benefits of delaying induction and of abstinence should be highlighted.
Those who choose abstinence should feel supported by the curriculum. Students should be given the best, most accurate information about contraceptives and STDs, but they and their parents should be allowed and encouraged to make their own decisions on such behavior based on their own values.
I certainly don’t want you, Melissa, or anyone else using the imprimatur of public education or other color of authority to tell my sons or my daughter what decisions to make in this most personal area any more than you’ll want me telling your children what to do when you have them and they reach adolescence. Information, yes. Preaching, no.
One last question: I came to this discussion to explore and seek areas of compromise — to see how your views and interpretations might be integrated into other views and presented in a way that’s productive and fair. I don’t, however, sense any willingness to compromise from you. Am I wrong? Is there any common ground here, or are we destined to holler across a chasm?
Thanks for your contributions. I hope those who read this sometimes testy exchange come away with a sharper understanding of both points of view. And please, don’t forget as you take the last word to answer my questions. Use all the space you want! (8-25-2000)
To Eric Zorn:
As we wrap up our debate, I am thankful you believe that is the responsibility of educators to find and present the most accurate and thorough data to youth in an age appropriate manner. I agree. That is why I give the information that I do.
Since the question has been raised to define “sexual activity,” I question your ability to provide accurate and thorough data because it is only having a clear understanding of sexual activity that one can give accurate STD information. To let you know, any genital contact can put individuals at risk for the spread of some STDs. Therefore, there can be no contact with the genital area to remain risk free. This is true for all people.
Understanding that there is no protection from these risks, you further push the question by asking about my support for a “miracle pill” (if there ever were one) that would wipe out all STDs and pregnancy. First of all, it is extremely doubtful there will ever be one. We still cannot cure the common cold. We thought we had gonorrhea beat but now all kinds of resistant strains are arising. There is no protection against HPV. Every time the technology improves, the microbes are a step ahead. Second, this “miracle pill” would undoubtedly fail 100 percent of the time in protecting from emotional pain. Our hearts are the core of who we are, and when that is damaged, we are damaged. Since I work with young people all of the time, I know they are more than just a physical being. I know they are special people with dreams that momentary hormones can crush. We need to protect the heart and your “miracle pill” would fail to do that. So instead of being a thriving success it would be a perfect failure.
Furthermore, your question underlying these thoughts is filthy and destructive. The question should not be, “How far can I safely go to satisfy my momentary urges?” That question smacks of selfishness. The better question to ask is, “How can I keep myself free from emotional and physical pain and keep myself pure for my future spouse?” This question is not one of selfishness, but one of maturity and love. Since we have established that there is no ‘safe sex’ outside of marriage, the mature single person loves the future spouse by sparing them the risk of incurable STD or emotional baggage that will undermine marriage. This question looks at the big picture. This question causes individuals to make healthy choices and truly love the person they are dating.
While you claim that in encouraging abstinence-until-marriage I am likewise encouraging teens to rush to the alter, it is quite the opposite. What I am encouraging is the practice of self-control with their sexuality. The self-control will follow suit in all other areas of their lives, including marriage. I am encouraging integrity and character. That integrity and character will reflect in all their decisions and avoid hasty decisions. Self-control doesn’t come by saying ‘I do.’ It is something that must have been practiced and refined over a period of years.
Our practices prior to marriage will carry into our marriages. Do you honestly believe that someone’s character will change by walking down the aisle? Individuals from the “safe sex, free love” revolution have proven otherwise. They had free sex before they got married and now my generation, as their children, is carrying the pain from parents who don’t trust each other, infidelity and skyrocketing divorce rates. I have heard of the popular book from the 70s, “Open Marriage.” I don’t hear about any now. Guess the dream of an idea didn’t play out so well in reality. Young people want something better than what the previous generation has shown us, and that begins by making healthy choices before saying “I do.”
And do you really believe that people need sex so bad that they will need to rush to the altar? What kind of relationship is focussed on momentary hormones? If this is the mentality, then better keep the Sexual and Love Addicts Anonymous telephone number handy in the Rolodex. If the unrestrained practice of sex is so good, why did news stories several months ago tout new heights of sexual dysfunction in our society?
You say that unmarried people fall in love. I am quite aware of this, and despite your criticism, I know what healthy romance is. In fact, I’m glad that you asked about the high school person saying he/she had dated for more than a year. My boyfriend and I began dating at the age of 16 during our junior year of high school. Today we are 21 and engaged to get married next year. You are correct to say that there is physical attraction, but it is faulty thinking to believe that physical attraction and love equal sex. We are in love, not lust. We want the best for each other. We have self-control, trust, integrity and character that will create a lasting marriage. And, on our wedding day we will give each other our lives knowing that neither of us has regrets or a selfish past, or a third or fourth person that is going to jump out of our baggage and into our marriage. We will know that both of us have loved each other for who were are, not what we do. True love waits for marriage; lust and selfishness do not. Be careful not to get the two confused.
Now before the accusation is once again made that I think sex is a “licentious act” as though it were horrible, take time to look at the abstinence-until-marriage message. Sex is not a bad thing. In fact, sex is seen as a wonderful act that uniquely bonds two individuals together. But because there are so many risks to sex outside of marriage, marriage is the only safe context for sex. Because of this fact, information must be given to youth so that they understand why this is true. And while you claim that this is simply my opinion, society agrees with this message. A survey of almost 4,980 people by Wirthlin Worldwide discovered that 71 percent of the national respondents believe couples should wait for sex until marriage. Furthermore, a study commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that 95 percent of both adults and teens felt it was important that high school students be given a strong abstinence message from society. And, even if one would go so far as to claim that these statistics are wrong because some unmarried people are involved with sexual activity, a study from Emory University shows otherwise. In a survey of 1,000 sexually active teen girls, 84 percent said they would like to learn how to say no. If individuals practice self-control prior to marriage, the wedding ring makes sex safe, regret-free and right.
Despite this information, you have claimed that the best education is comprehensive sex education. However you cited no studies to support this claim. There have been studies to explore the nature of teen sexual health, which found the exact opposite to be true. For example, Westmont College published “The Sexual Abstinence Message Causes Positive Changes in Adolescent Behavior: A Circumstantial Review of Relevant Statistics” in 1998, showing with statistical data that the numbers of teens involved in sexual activity and having abortions was on the rise until the onset of abstinence education programs. Likewise, a 1999 report by the Consortium of State Physicians Resource Councils entitled “The Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion Rates in the 1990’s: What Factors Are Responsible” also took an objective look at the issue and reported that the correlation between condom use and unintended pregnancies is the exact opposite of the claims made by the public health community. The study reported that increased condom usage was associated with an increase in out-of-wedlock births, citing a 29 percent increase in out-of-wedlock births in spite of a 33 percent increase in condom usage at last intercourse.
Throughout this debate, I have given only conclusive facts. Facts that can be verified. Particularly in the case of condoms, since you seem to be such an advocate of their “safety,” I have shown time and time again that they fail. They fail one in four times in teen pregnancy and they cannot stop the spread of many STDs, some of which cause infertility, cancer, and even death. Today, one in five American’s has an incurable STD. This number has been on the rise since the 1980’s when people first began pushing condom use, yet the problem has continually gotten worse. To complicate matters more, latex allergies are on the rise.
To counter this truthful message, the charge has been made that abstinence-until marriage uses fear to produce a message. This charge is like the earlier claim the abstinence-until-marriage advocates think sex is bad. It is a failed attempt made by risk-reduction advocates to try to weaken the truthful message that abstinence-until-marriage advocates deliver. You have just come to realize that, in reality, the truthful consequences to all premarital sex is scary and all the truth that has scared you is not going to change until we once again make “sex is only for marriage” the standard. Social science shows that fear is a temporary impediment. The real mind changer is having hope for the future.
You have never cited any data that would prove pre-marital sex to be a healthy choice. Never have you shown that even “protected sex” will free people from long-term damage. Instead, you have spent all your time making weak attacks on my position rather than strongly supporting your own. And while you have attempted to weaken my position, abstinence-until-marriage has always remained strong. Risk reduction advocates have nothing to stand on other than personal desire which they say does not need to be managed, just protected
As an adult that youth and your own children will look to for advice, you have an ethical responsibility to give them the best message that will cause them no harm. Therefore, you need to give them the true facts, love them and believe in them. The risks to premarital sex, “protected” or not, and the benefits of waiting for marriage need to be presented in a caring way, and from there, these individuals can make their own choices, but at least they will know the serious risks they are taking.
It is our job as mentors to teach them the right choices. The next generation should benefit from what the previous generation has learned from their mistakes. It is our job to tell them the whole truth and give the best advice. If you were telling a teen to not smoke, yet you found out they were going to smoke anyway, you wouldn’t say, “Ok, just use a filter.” You do not lower the standard, because there are still risks. If they were to come back and say, “I used a filter and I still have cancer” it would be your fault. The same holds true for premarital sexual activity. If you lower the standard, you may very well have a crying young adult – pregnant, infertile, with cancer or emotional heartbreak – look at you and say “you told me this was ok.” Compromise is not an option. If you don’t aim at the bull’s eye you won’t even hit the target. Abstinence-until marriage never hurts, never kills, it only loves.
My ultimate hope is that you value these young people’s hearts more the hope that they will negotiate the minefield of safe sex. My hope is that you value their physical and emotional health and long term future more than their passing desires, the heat of the moment. I hope you take a stand that loves them.
There is a saying that goes “we reap what we sow.” If we sow a message of “risk reduction” we are sowing a message that will reap destruction and heartbreak. And, we will indirectly continue to worsen the very problem we are trying to solve. However, if we sow a message of abstinence-until-marriage, we will reap a healthier society. There will be no further spread of STDs, unplanned pregnancy or emotional heartbreak. There will be intact families, kids with fathers at home, less domestic violence and child abuse. We will see a society filled with young adults of integrity, self-control, enduring relationships and eternal happiness. Abstinence-until-marriage is the only answer to society’s problem. Spread the word. (10-11-2000)