There’s another new study out saying that teenage ‘virginity pledges’ are ineffective. In fact, they are counter-effective. Teenagers who pledge abstinence until marriage are just as likely to have sex as those who don’t, but they are less likely to use contraceptives than those who don’t.
The fact is that in spite of all our puritanical shudderings about sex, the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. The lowest? For several years running, it’s been the ultra-liberal Netherlands. And it’s a big difference, too. The teenage pregnancy rate in the U.S. is 44 pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls per year. In the Netherlands, that number is 5.
In other words, the little country infamous for legal drugs and prostitution does a better job of keeping its teenagers from getting pregnant than the good ol’ USA, Land of Sexual Repression. I believe the Netherlands also has the lowest rate of STDs among young people on the planet.
From reading several articles I take it the Dutch have what we would call a “permissive” attitude toward sex, and they also provide the kids with frankly explicit sex and birth control education. Middle-school age children practice putting condoms on broomsticks, for example. It seems all the parents are OK with this. Here, it would start riots.
I do not know if teens in the Netherlands are likely to begin having sex at an earlier or later age than American teens, but when they do have sex they are prepared for it. Our teens wrap themselves up in so much denial some of them probably can’t admit to themselves they have sex even while they are having it.
I don’t think most teens have sex because they read about it somewhere and they are curious. I think they have it because nature built into us all manner of bells, whistles and hotspots that make the act extraordinarily compelling. And I don’t think we’re being helpful to young people to allow them to spend time alone with potential sex partners and expect them to just say no. This takes self-discipline and maturity, and we’re talking about teenagers. Be real.
If it’s of paramount importance to parents that their children remain chaste until marriage, or at least until they graduate high school, the kids are going to have to be chaperoned. Our great-grandparents realized that. If we could dig them our ancestors and reconstitute them, they’d tell us we are nuts to allow young people of opposite sexes to spend so much time alone together.
If they’re not going to be chaperoned, then teach them to be prepared.
My personal opinion is that promiscuous behavior among emotionally immature young people is not good for their psychological and emotional development, and I would encourage them to postpone sexual activity as long as they can stand it. But HIV or pregnancy isn’t good for them, either.
Maybe we should be thinking about how to provide young people with more supervision while Mom and Dad are both working. But our current policy of allowing teenagers to be unchaperoned and unprepared at the same time doesn’t seem to be working.