My husband just forwarded me an article from The New Yorker entitled Red Sex, Blue Sex – Why do so many evangelical teen-agers become pregnant?
It’s basically comparing the views and practices of pre-marital sex between liberals and conservatives. I don’t have time to write a thoughtful commentary on the information, so I’ll just pull out some quotes that I found interesting and leave you to read the article and share your thoughts in the comments.
First, a comforting statistic.
Close-knit families make a difference. Teen-agers who live
with both biological parents are more likely to be virgins than those
who do not. And adolescents who say that their families understand
them, pay attention to their concerns, and have fun with them are more
likely to delay intercourse, regardless of religiosity.
Now for a more startling statistic.
According to Add
Health data, evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than
Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. On average, white evangelical
Protestants make their "sexual début"—to use the festive term of
social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major
religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.
Although, keep this in mind.
belief apparently does make a potent difference in behavior for one
group of evangelical teen-agers: those who score highest on measures of
religiosity—such as how often they go to church, or how often they pray
at home. But many Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals,
and who hold socially conservative beliefs, aren’t deeply observant.
Particularly interesting to me is the story of the teenage girl in the 2005 documentary, "The Education of Shelby Knox." This is a teenager sworn to sexual purity who ended up becoming an activist
for comprehensive sex education because…
while abstinence pledges are lovely in the abstract,
they don’t acknowledge "reality."
This kind of sums it up.
Like other American teens,
young evangelicals live in a world of Internet porn, celebrity sex
scandals, and raunchy reality TV, and they have the same hormonal urges
that their peers have. Yet they come from families and communities in
which sexual life is supposed to be forestalled until the first night
of a transcendent honeymoon. Regnerus writes, "In such an atmosphere,
attitudes about sex may formally remain unchanged (and
restrictive) while sexual activity becomes increasingly common.
Of all variables,
the age at marriage may be the pivotal difference between red and blue
…women who marry before their mid-twenties
are significantly more likely to divorce than those who marry later.
And younger couples are more likely to be contending with two of the
biggest stressors on a marriage: financial struggles and the birth of a
baby before, or soon after, the wedding.
Back to the teenage activist Shelby Knox:
She testified that it’s possible
to "believe in abstinence in a religious sense," but still understand
that abstinence-only education is dangerous "for students who simply
are not abstaining." As Knox’s approach makes clear, you don’t need to
break out the sex toys to teach sex ed—you can encourage teen-agers to
postpone sex for all kinds of practical, emotional, and moral reasons.
A new "abstinence-plus" curriculum, now growing in popularity, urges
abstinence while providing accurate information about contraception and
reproduction for those who have sex anyway. "Abstinence works," Knox
said at the hearing. "Abstinence-only-until-
marriage does not."
I’m tempted to agree. What say you?
The article is long, but well worth a read. Let me know what you think!