Sex Talk: Abstinence

I was listening to the radio the other day, and the morning show was talking about the “Top 10 Worst Reasons to Marry Her” from AskMen.com. And the subject steered towards sex.

“Just because you’re doing the horizontal tango doesn’t mean that you have to consider staying together forever,” was the general consensus.

And a statement that is accepted by a good majority of the population suddenly seemed so crass. Two people are going to share something so personal with each other, and it’s ok if the subject of forever isn’t a thought, or even a planned thought, in that equation.

I’ve been giving the thought of sex a whole lot more thought because it has become a topic of general discussion in our household, especially between me and my 12 year old daughter. When it was first brought up, the sex talk was incredibly uncomfortable on all counts. But through time, we have revisited the conversation, allowing it to become a more familiar topic to touch upon. Now, my daughter and I are able to talk about this with minimal looks of disgust, and with actual shared discussion.

The most recent talk was actually a reflection on a friend’s wedding. In a move unheard of in much of our society, my friend had chosen to save herself for her wedding night. At 32 years old, she married the man of her dreams in a beautiful ceremony last weekend. And before any preconceived notions are made about this friend, let me tell you that she is a highly successful, incredibly beautiful woman. My daughter and I discussed the magnitude of such a decision she made, and how it must have been incredibly hard to wait. But the end result was that she was able to share something so personal with the man she would be with forever.

“She’s my hero,” my daughter told me.

Each year there are 19 million new infections of STDs among men and women. Nearly half of that number belongs to young people ages 15 – 24. In 2008, almost 350,000 women under the age of 19 contracted chlamydia, a disease that can affect future fertility and pregnancies, as well as being highly contagious and uncomfortable. (Center for Disease Control) An even more frightening statistic? One in five Americans has contracted herpes, a disease that has no cure at all. And 80% of that number has no idea that they even have the disease. Scarier still, two-thirds of that number is young people under the age of 25. (Stats on Herpes, by Global Herbal Supplies) Birth control pills, Depo-Provera, and the IUD do not prevent the spread of STDs. Condoms help to prevent the spread of many diseases, but are not 100% fail-safe. And some diseases can still be contracted even while using a condom.

Contracting a disease that might have a permanent effect on a young person’s life is only one of the reasons why NOT considering the promise of forever is a risky decision.

Of course, deciding to say no is much easier than actually saying no. As teens get older, the reasons to have sex start to multiply. Everyone is doing it (truth: less than half of teens are doing it). My sexuality will be questioned if I don’t do it. He’ll break up with me if I say no (truth: love does not include pressuring someone to do something they’re not comfortable with). She’ll think I’m less of a man if I tell her I’m not ready. I want to feel more mature (truth: sex does not equal maturity). I want to feel less lonely (truth: having sex can actually create deeper feelings of loneliness, especially if feelings of love are not returned).

The reasons to have sex include wanting to emulate the “fireworks” that exist on TV or in the movies. It seems like a way to seal a bond or hold on to someone. It’s wanting to get that first time over with, to lose that “virgin” status once and for all. What isn’t generally in that decision is what the future holds. What kind of person does your teen want to be? What are their ideals? Is the decision to have sex being made for themselves, or to please the other person? Will this be a decision they’ll regret once they actually do have sex? Is the person they are willing to share their body with deserving of it? Are they able to discuss sex, including what’s comfortable for them and types of protection, with their partner?

It is my personal wish that my daughter waits until marriage to have sex. At the very least, it is my wish that she respects herself enough to wait for someone who loves her just as deeply as she loves him.  But this is a decision that she will need to make for herself, and one that I can only guide her in but NOT force ideals on her. At 12, she is of the frame of mind that waiting is the only answer she has for her love life. But that decision is going to be a harder one to live by as she gets older and relationships get more intense. She might suffer heartache because of it. She might change her mind and decide that she really doesn’t want to wait. When it all comes down to it, it is a decision that is hers alone to make.  All I can do is share with her what I know, and let her go from there.

What are your thoughts on including abstinence as a part of your sex talk with your teen?

13 thoughts on “Sex Talk: Abstinence”

  1. Awareness and education about “all” things give youth opportunities to not just make decisions but guess what? They really do care about What mom or dad think? I remember that age and getting all of the information …..Went like this: “wait because it will go better for you but if you do we will take you to the doctor to get on the pill ..we are not saying its okay we just dont want to raise your children.” Was it right? wrong? there were 7 siblings older than me and I think my parents sat me down as an individual and dealt with me on my maturity level as they did each child before me. It was a mixed message in one way and for boys I think the loudest voice is the one that says “RESPONSIBILITY”.

    God does that…he deals with us on our maturity level. We are given his insturction for our good, when we obey it it will go well (better) for us…..does it mean that we choose obiedience 100% of the time….?

    Telling youth of all of their options so they know you are involved is critical. When they look back they will realize you cared enough to direct their path.

  2. Abstinence is the only 100% guarantee against STD’s and unwanted pregnancies. That is an undeniable fact.
    Sex is arguably the most consequential activity in which a person can engage. It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.
    Life, as a new human being can be created.
    Death, as the wrong STD will kill you slowly and painfully.
    If, as the article states, some diseases can be contracted while using a condom, then so can AIDS. Like it or not.
    Sex is the most intimate and vulnerable relationship you will ever be in.
    Take it seriously.
    The old”I don’t want you to do it BUT if you do blahblahblah…is a copout.
    The word “BUT” negates all prior words in a conversation.
    Young folks must be told these things eyes open and without mitigation.
    To do otherwise is bad parenting at its worst.
    Good on the author for at least telling her daughter some truth.

  3. You raise good points in talking a lot about casual sex, but you miss a much larger one.

    When you deal with a longer term relationship, sexual compatibility is as critical as the rest of the needs of both partners – and there are plenty of long term relationships that don’t end up in marriage.

    And that’s fine. It’s what dating is all about, once you get past the dinners and trips and awkward moments. You make mistakes. You figure out your needs and in turn what you can give your partner, and you eventually get to a place where you know both well enough so that you can find the right partner.

    If you take sex out of the dating equation, not only are you eliminating a huge pool of potential partners, but you’re also taking a lot away from your daughter in her ability to know herself well enough for a great husband down the road.

    If you want to warn her against casual sex, fine. If you want her to wait until marriage like your 32 year old friend, then I’d point out you are going to have to change her views on your own relationship failures and the ethics of getting divorced.

    She’ll have to do so because she either hopes she equivalently wins the lottery her first time out with a guy, or follows her mom into divorce court since she can get married – and then discover that marriage is either merely a step on the road of a great relationship, or a fancy expensive party with someone you realize you shouldn’t have been with in the first place.

    Work on teaching her that, and you’ll do much better for your daughter.

  4. Abstinence is a portion of comprehensive sex education. It is not sex education. Every teen deserves to make decisions based on factual science based sex education.
    Your teen shares your views, thats great for your child. But what about every other teen?
    Are they to be denied an education based on your beliefs? No. An educated person makes wise decisions for themselves based on their beliefs.

    1. Concerned, you are absolutely right. Sex Education should include all parts – abstinence, birth control, protection, STDs, pregnancy, comfortable and uncomfortable touching… There are so many aspects that they couldn’t possibly be covered in one sitting, which is why having “the sex talk” should be an ongoing discussion whenever something relevant comes up. Abstinence is only one part of what that discussion should entail. And if my daughter decides ultimately that she will not be practicing abstinence, that decision is hers alone to make. And I’d prefer that she makes her decision, one way or the other, knowing everything there is to know about the weight of that decision. So yes, talk about abstinence, but don’t leave out talk about ways to protect against STDs, pregnancy, and the good and bad realities of sex. And in the same token, talk about protection. But don’t leave out the choice of abstinence.

  5. Sex education is, first and foremost, the responsibility of parents to impart. The “But what about every other teen?” argument grew from the time when government decided parents were too stupid or malicious to perform their natural function re: passing their morals, experience and beliefs on. It has since been used as a bludgeon to ridicule and silence principled opposition to the disaster that is the Sexual Revolution.
    This column is about one Mom and her 12 year-old daughter, but it applies to all families. The evidence is clear; the verdict is in; a child educated and given license by a trusted authority(schoolteachers or parents)to do whatever feels good, will usually choose to heed the advice that involves the least discomfort and self-control.
    Conversely, respect for yourself and others, and an acknowledgement of the consequences of our actions, tends to allow more folks to decline the inevitable invitations gracefully and with an inner strength.
    Some things actually are a really bad idea, like casual sex and drunken driving, and there is nothing wrong with parents drawing a clear line and saying “don’t do that!”
    They may not always heed our best advice, but we should never be intimidated into failing to give it. Lovingly; clearly and often.

  6. Overall, I really agree with (most) of the points that have been made here — education about sex is important, and it is super important for a young person to know ALL of their options, and how to stay safe and make responsible decisions, whichever path they choose to take.
    Reasons for young people deciding not to wait were sited, including social pressure and relationship pressure, but I don’t think that one of the top contributers to teens gettin’ naked together was addressed — the rush of chemicals pouring through their blood and telling their brains that NOW is the time, that they are healthy and strong and full of life ahead of them, so they should get procreating RIGHT AWAY. It is all fine and well to suggest a teen just ignore those hormonal urges, but I think, perhaps, people making that suggestion forget how loud a hormone can shout at that age.
    I’m not suggesting (of course) that teens should give in to their every chemical nudge, or that they shouldn’t practice constraint and self-control and learn to tell those hormones ‘no’…just that sometimes, at that tempestuous age, young people aren’t entirely SUCCESSFUL at setting those feelings aside. Which is why I believe it IS important to educate growing young’ns on ALL of their options, so that if they DO end up ‘doing it’, they will do so safely, and minimize their risk of disease and unwanted pregnancy. Abstinence is fine and good, but in the right situation, good intentions sometimes go out the window…i know that there were a couple guys in MY high school days with whom I would have made some SERIOUSLY bad decisions, if the chance had been offered, and both my mother and I slept better at night knowing that if I were in that situation, I would know what precautions to take to keep myself safe.

  7. Wonderful article. I have an 11 year old daughter and I am equally mortified by the emotional disconnect which has facilitated women volunteering to be a man’s whore in our nation. Women don’t seem to realize that this is what has taken place here. “Here, use me and let me know when you’re done using me so I can clean up the house before I let the next man use me like this.”

    Well, what do you expect when we’ve let 3% of the population dictate what “moral” is? Smart people like you and I need to get more involved in every aspect of our community, stand up and speak up and refuse to take immorality and self-worship for an answer.

    Great article! I’ll be following you now! (Not in a stalker kind of way, mind you. LOL – Just following your column.) 🙂

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