Serial Bus

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‘Fostering’ Teen Virginity

with 2 comments

Abstinence-only sex education is one of those curious and contentious ideas that raises its hood every now and then in the American society. The latest was a study published in the journal Pediatrics (authored by Janet Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) which reported that virginity pledges taken by teenagers don’t work. This was proven by Britney Spears several years back but an academic paper based on real statistics is surprisingly more convincing. Conservatives and worrisome parents might be wishing its conclusion away. When Darwin’s Theory of Evolution first became known amongst the gentry of London, an aristocratic lady apparently remarked, “Let us hope that what Mr. Darwin says is not true; but, if it is true, let us hope that it will not become generally known.” Unluckily for the gentry of London and conservatives of the US, Theory of Evolution and the Pediatrics study respectively have received rampant press.

The study reports that pledge-takers are as likely to have sex as the ones that do not pledge; more devastatingly, it appears that these holier-than-thou kids are less likely to practice safe sex. The study goes on to the describe how a conducive social environment is more effective towards delaying sexual proclivity than a simple pledge. This is where things become really funny.

Based on the analysis of the teen population that was more sexually restrained (sex at 21 but not at 17), the report apparently indicates 7 factors that ‘foster’ teen virginity. I am fascinated by the use of the word ‘foster’ as it assumes teen virginity is valuable and therefore, worth fostering (like environment, diversity and peace). Anyways, the less promiscuous kids exhibited the following traits:

1. Fewer friends who drank or used illegal drugs

2. Greater participation in weekly youth groups

3. Less sexual experience by age 15

4. More negative feelings about having sex or using birth control

5. Strong sense of guilt about having sex, with a bit of worry about upsetting mom

6. Old-country values, in that sexually restrained adolescents tended to be foreign born, with a high percentage of Asian births

7. A greater level of religious beliefs and involvement with religious activities by both teens and their families

So, if you want your child to remain virgin for longer, you must ensure that at least a few of these traits are hard-coded into him/her – the more the better.

Before excited advocates of abstinence-only sex-ed begin promoting these traits, let us take a close look and check if these traits are actually worth promoting. I have no issues with nos. 1 and 2. Weekly youth groups are great towards channeling energy into productive areas (unless they are frat parties and orgies in the disguise of ‘youth activity’). And, nobody ever became happy and successful because of drinking and drugs – may be despite them but never due to them. Number 3 is useless as it is not a trait, just an obvious co-relation.

However, let us evaluate other traits, for instance nos. 4-5. We all know how preconceived notions about anything are harmful. If kids are raised in a way that they associate sex and birth control with negative thoughts and guilt, chances are that they will form unsubstantiated opinions just about everything else. Agreed they will avoid sex for longer but the chickens will come home to roost in other ways. They will end up being intolerant, pliant and worse still, potential carriers of HIV when they do copulate.

Being of Asian birth and bathed in conservative values of one’s family, a kid is expected to belie peer pressure to indulge in sex at a younger age. This is perhaps due to a tighter lid on social activities by parents, as well as less exposure to explicit media (if not raised in the US). However, you can not be selective about old-country values. If you train your son to be more deferential to yourselves, he will also grow up to be less inquisitive, more aloof and socially inept. And, it is not possible to shut out media from a kid’s life in these times. The only way to do so is by living in a cave with no access to TV or books – neither practical nor wise.

Letting religion have its way appears to be a safe method as any religious pronouncement is argument-proof. If the priest or the pundit or the mullah says premarital sex is sinful, it better be horrendously sinful. This unique quality of religion also makes it equally potent as a subversive tool; without allowing to be questioned, religion can be used to sanctify hatred, divisiveness and prejudice in the minds of the young. If the world has to choose between religious terrorists and atheistic libertines, I think we are any day better off by letting people make love to each other.

And all this brouhaha for what – just to stop teenagers from enjoying sex? Surely it must be physiologically harmless, otherwise why would the glands start secreting those hormones in dollops as one hits the teens. Guilt-less sex will only help the teenagers develop into healthy adults, as long as they are aware of the pitfalls of unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

So the moot question really is this: as a parent, do you really want your kid to be psychologically warped, prudish, confused, ill-informed, regressive and orthodox? If one must choose between being like this and losing one’s virginity, what path would you allow for your kid? Which option would you take, if it were for yourself? Hand on heart, I think any sensible and rational person would understand that virginity is less indispensable than one’s mind and character. And, if losing the virginity is made less cumbersome and safer, it appears to be a win-win situation. Therefore, it’s time we got rid of the immoral imperative of curbing sex and focused on a more pragmatic and humane goal – letting young people read the fine print before they get the urge to make out.


Written by serialbus

January 3, 2009 at 8:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. I like the title of this one. Someday somebody should conduct a study on the reverse too – middle age virginity.


    January 8, 2009 at 5:05 am

  2. I received an e-mail forward. I refer to this statement in your blog “I am fascinated by the use of the word ‘foster’ as it assumes teen virginity is valuable”

    I request you to correct your implicit statement that virginity is not valuable, as market valued it one case –


    January 16, 2009 at 2:30 pm

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