April 11, 2005
Years ago, reading endless attacks on abstinence education in the newspapers, I decided to see for myself. I called up abstinence programs and asked if I could sit in on their classes.
From the beginning, abstinence educators were open and willing to share their message. “Yes,” they invited me. “Come, and sit in a class. Talk with the students. We would love to have you.”
It was a good thing I went. Because I was shocked. In less than five minutes of entering a middle-class, racially diverse high school classroom, I was struck dumb by what I learned.
Sitting discreetly in the back of the outside row, I read the student book as kids gradually finished chatting and took their seats. Looking up to check for the teacher, I caught the eye of a pretty young girl. We smiled at each other, and I decided to break the ice. “What do you think of this class?”
“I like it,” she answered. “I’ve never heard this before.”
“Really?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
“Well, like being abstinent and not having sex,” she clarified.
I blinked. I tried to think of something to say. “Really?” I commented, not expecting her to answer back. It was just impossible to know what to say as I sat and contemplated a beautiful high school junior who was hearing someone for the first time in her life encourage sexual abstinence until marriage.
That class, and every abstinence class I have visited since, was a friendly honest room filled with open dialogue. Medically accurate information reinforced possible consequences of having sex even as one or two highly charged boys made it clear they favored sex, even if there were consequences. Even as talk focused on serious decisions, students and the teacher knew how to joke and tease. It was a safe place where students could be challenged with the truth and encouraged to choose abstinence.
The young girl’s comment has stayed with me ever since I first heard it over six years ago. “I’ve never heard this before.” At first, I couldn’t believe her. Then I started to attend to the movies, the music, the magazines, the news…and I understood how easy it is in the American teen culture to never hear abstinence validated and advanced as the healthy life choice.
When one considers American insistence on portraying sex as a recreational activity, it is amazing that abstinence education is able to impress students with its “new message.” But it is. Just this week, a series of student comments came to me from an educator friend. Her students let her know their hearts.
“Before, I was practicing risky business. After this class I now realize how my behaviors affect my goals, so I am going to make a 180! Thank you so much for showing me how to respect myself and my values. I can definitely wait until I get married.” A young girl, 16, heard…and changed.
“Realizing that having sex before marriage can be a major risk in my life, and that’s not what I want in my life, I want to enjoy my life and be risk free. I enjoyed your class and learned a lot of things I did not know. I will choose to live a risk-free life.” Is this another student who heard abstinence affirmed as a positive choice for the first time?
“I think secondary virginity wouldn’t be a bad idea for me. I haven’t had sex a lot. I am going to stop. I know now that I am worth waiting for.” A male, 16, has been validated as a man for having the courage and intelligence to save sex until marriage.
Kids are learning…one by one…thanks to tireless teachers who care enough to affirm students and their ability to use self-restraint to make healthy choices. And that’s enough to keep my friend going. Her own comment says it all, “I love this soooo much!!!!!!!!!!”
Whether it’s the first time they hear it, or the tenth…abstinence from sex outside of a loving and healthy marriage is a message that empowers kids. And like all truth, when students hear this message, they know it makes sense.
That’s enough to charge the batteries of at least one teacher. It’s why she teaches abstinence.
April 30, 2004: Condoms: A Failure to Protect
I remember the challenge from one female teen on my radio program who demanded to know, ‘Why can’t I have sex in a casual way with a number of people if it feels good? My mother couldn’t give me any good reason.’ But, I asked, can you feel really good if you know that ultimately nobody cares about you, nor you about them, much at all? Isn’t that a lonely thought–a lonely feeling? She quietly said, ‘Yes.’
–Dr. Laura Schlessinger