Abstinence, the Real Deal

March 26, 2004

There is a heated battle going on in Arizona, a fight for money.

On one side, a million dollars sit in Washington, packed and ready for Arizona.  This million is designated to go to educators around the state who teach our children about sexual abstinence until marriage.

On the other side, there is a strong campaign to keep those dollars in Washington and let them grow mold.  And the strange thing about this campaign is that its organizers insist that they believe in the value of sexual abstinence.

“Don’t let them teach your children abstinence,” they keep shouting.  “We teach abstinence!  You don’t need them.  You need us!”

What does it matter who teaches our children?

What’s the big deal?  When talking about abstinence, what separates the million dollar abstinence from the regular old everyday variety of abstinence?  It’s a hard question to think about when we’re talking about sex.

It’s an easy question to answer when we talk about football.  Yes, football.

This is the time of year when grown men cry.  Hearts sink.  Dreams fade.  As the last sixty seconds tick off the play clock, one side of the field is a sight of celebration.  On the other side of the field, grown men hang their heads and come to terms with a broken dream.

So what’s the big deal?  It’s just a game.  And it’s just a silly football.  So what if you lose.  Not everybody can win.  In fact, everyone is going to eventually lose.  If you just prepared for losing, it wouldn’t be so hard.

Why don’t coaches have at least one session where players watch game films of teams who know how to lose with a smile?  How about a sideline coach on losing?  When you fumble the ball, you can sit with the coach and have him remind you it’s no big deal.  It’s just a game.

Sound ridiculous? Of course, it does. We know the point of playing football.  Losing happens.  But we plan to win.  It may be just a game.  But winning is the goal.  We set a goal, we train for the goal, and we believe in the goal.

The “million dollar” abstinence teachers are like the best NFL coaches.  They believe that sexual abstinence until marriage is a worthy goal.  They offer the medically accurate information that proves the inability of condoms to protect our children from serious life-long STDs.  They tell our children the truth that condoms approach a 20 percent failure rate with young people in preventing pregnancy.

“Million dollar” abstinence teachers are not afraid to stand on an uncompromising message that sexual abstinence until marriage is worth a million dollars.  They know most children dream of a future where they can enjoy a happy, loving marriage and one day raise a family.

“Million dollar” teachers set about coaching and planning to reach that goal.  They believe in children and their capacity to succeed.  They coach, mentor, encourage, and cheer for our children…just like the best of the NFL coaches.  They refuse to sidetrack their lessons with lessons on how to fail and enjoy it.

There is another way to teach abstinence.  It is possible to tell children that abstinence is hard to do, that not everyone can be abstinent, and that in fact, if you do it “responsibly,” losing at abstinence can actually be fun and “somewhat safe.”  It is possible to tell children that “mature” people have sex, and that when our children are ready to be “mature” they will put abstinence behind them.  Marriage?  Well, it’s not for everybody.

Currently, many millions of dollars are paying the teachers who make “losing at abstinence” look like fun.  If we really want our kids to succeed at staying sexually abstinent until marriage, we should be willing to put a fair share of money behind those teachers who consider abstinence a worthy goal and are willing to coach our kids to win.

There are many ways to “talk about” abstinence with our children.  But not all of them are worth a million dollars.  Abstinence as a goal–winning at abstinence–that’s the real deal.