Monday, December 29, 2008


It appears that "virginity pledges," promoted by the Religious Right and abstinence-only activists, are ineffective according to a new study done at Johns Hopkins University. Duh. The Washington Post has a good article on it, very much worth the read. Money quote:
Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

"Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."

While these results shouldn't be surprising to us, we should remember that methodologically speaking, teenage self-reporting on the subject isn't that reliable. That issue aside, one of these days we will grow up when it comes to matters of sex and sexuality. Hopefully, we now can start to take sex education more seriously, but why do I still doubt?


Darren Staley said...

Teenagers want to have sex? I'm stunned!

Drew said...

Exactly. And we all knew that these types of pledges NEVER worked. A young teenager can rationalize anything away in the heat of the moment.

Anonymous said...

We here so many studies about teen sexuality and the prevalence of teen sex. I unfortunately didn't know any of these girls in high school.


Anonymous said...

What I always want to ask the pro-abstinence folks is... ummm... were YOU a virgin when YOU got married?

The most prominent pro-abstinence politician right now is none other than Gov. Sarah Palin. Of course, Ms. Palin was pregnant herself when she got married, and history has repeated itself for her daughter Bristol and her pill-popping baby daddy.

Becky Knight said...

The quote you shared is the reason why as a parent and sexologist, I cannot support abstinence-only education. While there are certainly good reasons why we may want teenagers to abstain from sex, the REALITY is that the vast majority of people do have sex before marriage.

I also feel that this is a public health matter, as well as a sexual health and well-being issue. I see clients come into our counseling and education center every day who are suffering the consequences of lack of sexual education from their parents, schools and communities.

While I enjoy all the aspects of my work, one of my greatest joys is leading workshops for parents to equip them in the important task of educating their kids about sex, as well as encouraging their kids to be wise in their decisions regarding sexual behavior.

THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON TEENAGE SEXUALITY IS THE QUALITY OF RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR MOTHER. Fathers are important too, but studies show that it is the teen's perception of an "open and honest" communication with their mother that influences their age of first sexual intercourse, their number of partners, and their likelihood to have "safer" sex.

Drew said...

Thanks for your insight Becky! I appreciate it. First, what exactly is a sexologist? Someone who studies sex or someone who teaches sex ed. (or both)?

And, second, how come it is that the mother's advice to the child is more valuable than the father's?

I hope that you stick around, Becky, and share more of your insights. Also, have a good New Year's.

Mandy said...

I like your title.

Anonymous said...

In Northern VA there was a big push for sex-ed and abstinence only a few years back. Well - there happended to be an alarming rate of girls getting caught--em-on their knees. It became such an issue that it even made the Howard Stern show.

Here is an exerpt about it from the Washington Post:

The mother of an Arlington teenager will never forget the phone call she received from Williamsburg Middle School, where her daughter was in the eighth grade.
"I'd like to invite you to a meeting about girls at risk," said Latanja Thomas, the eighth-grade school counselor.

"What risk?" the mother asked. "Eating disorders?"




"Well, what is it?"

"Oral sex."

"I about dropped the phone," the mother recalled. "I was stunned."

So were other parents of girls at Williamsburg who took similar calls that evening and showed up for a meeting in the school library a few nights later. The principal, Margaret McCourt-Dirner, told about 25 assembled parents that as many as a dozen girls and two or three boys had been engaging in oral sex through most of the school year. The teens, 13 and 14 years old, were getting together at parties in one another's homes and at local parks.

The news dropped like a bomb just over a year ago in the mostly upper-income community of elegant brick homes, leafy sycamores and stone walls, where wealth is acquired by working long hours at top professional jobs. These parents were unaware of a disturbing pattern of middle-schoolers' adopting an "anything but intercourse" approach to sex. Eager to avoid pregnancy and hold on to virginity, an increasing number of teenagers are engaging in oral sex, according to school and health officials.

"It's now the expected minimum behavior," said Michael Schaffer, supervisor for health education in Prince George's County for the past 15 years. "The kids say if you're not going to have sex, at least do this."

Not sure what the solution is but the problem is greater then a simple sex ed class. What would have made us have sage sex in high school????

Drew said...

Anon 6:53,

I have been thinking about that question for a couple days now: how can we encourage safer sex among teenagers? While I think that talking about pregnancy and STD's is effective, I wonder if those concepts are relatively abstract to this audience.

What if we bring it home to something more concrete. Talk about the devastating socio-economic effects of unsafe sex. Having a baby at a very young age handicaps the socio-economic future of that teenager. During this age, teenagers are starting to worry about money (getting jobs, buying video games), their education, and their vocational future. Add a baby to that equation, the their future goals goes up in smoke. Get a young woman who can provide a face and testimonial to this narrative.

Sounds potentially more effective to me. At that age, I was worried about money and my future.

Drew said...

in the last comment i said "this audience" i did not mean the readers of this blog, but "teenagers."

Anonymous said...

Your suggestion of testimonials sounds great--in theory. I have witnessed mothers telling their children that "you (the teens) aren't going to college until you give me a grandbaby". If we are talking about Southwest, Virginia the spirit of the region is broken. With the unemployment rate at an all time high, having a baby and getting SSI is pretty close to what you would earn working. It has to be a pretty convincing testimonial!!!

Chad said...
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Chad said...

Oops! The previous url was bad. Try this link.

Original comment: You should do a follow up post on this story from Fox News that yields differing results.