Engaging Culture

The Press Got it Wrong on Abstinence

This month, major news outlets like CBS trumped the results of a recent Johns Hopkins University study with headlines like “Virginity Pledges Don’t Stop Teen Sex.”  CNN questioned the value of virginity pledges, and the Chicago Tribune proclaimed that “Premarital Abstinence Pledges are Ineffective.”  Basically, the mainstream media wants us to toss old fashioned concepts like sexual restraint, and suggest that if we parents actually believe our kids can wait until marriage, we’re dreamers.  After going through multiple news reports of the study, I started
feeling the same way.  And then I realized it simply isn’t true.

The study in question is called “Patient Teenagers?  A Comparison of the Sexual Behavior of Virginity Pledgers and Matched Non-Pledgers.”  It’s published in the January 1st edition of Pediatrics.

The Wall Street Journal turned me on to U.S. News and World Report, who’s health editor Dr. Bernadine Healy saw the disconnect.  She said, “Virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general – a fact that many media reports have missed cold.”  She meant that it’s not really about the virginity pledge – but the more conservative values and morals in their home that make a difference.  The truth is, compare those kids with teens at large, and the differences are incredible.  For instance:

•    These conservative teens generally have less risky sex and fewer partners.
•    These teens are less likely to get pregnant or have friends who use drugs.
•    These teens have less pre-marital vaginal sex.
•    When they lose their virginity, they do it around 21 rather than 17, like the rest of the population.
•    Finally, at least 25% actually do keep their pledge – something I never read about anywhere else.  Even though they get no support from schools, communities, many churches, or the media.

Is it a perfect world?  Absolutely not.  But for the mainstream media to totally discount young people who are actually trying to take a responsible attitude about sex is morally reprehensible.  According to most reports, we parents are idiots to actually think our kids could wait until marriage, when the truth is, in spite of prime time entertainment, sexually oriented advertising and media, no encouragement toward abstinence from schools or communities, a significant number of teens are waiting.

For the media not to celebrate that fact is beyond me.

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