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Adolescent Abstinence and Self-Delusion

May 8th, 2006

A very informative story in the L.A. Times today, showing up the utter fallibility of abstinence-only sex education:

Virginity pledges, in which young people vow to abstain from sex until marriage, have little staying power among those who take them, a Harvard study has found.

More than half of the adolescents who make the signed public promises give up on their pledges within a year, according to the study released last week.

The findings have raised the ire of Concerned Women for America, a prominent conservative organization that advocates adolescent sexual abstinence.

“The Harvard report is wrong,” said Janice Crouse, a fellow at a Concerned Women for America think tank.

Yeah! How dare they suggest that teenagers, especially ones who promised not to have sex, actually go and have sex! I’ll bet that never really happens! Especially not my kids! Even if I had them!

I guess that this is an excellent example of “faith-based reasoning,” as opposed to “reason-based reasoning.” The idea that your kids are going to be perfect angels, that Christian kids are going to be less libido-driven than other kids, that you can actually get teenage kids to overpower their mammoth sexual drives by telling them nothing about sex except that they should promise not to have it until “marriage,” which, to a teenage kid on hormonal surge, might as well be never. Complete, utter denial.

The conservative group, however, claims to have proof for how wrong those Harvard ninnies are:

“This study is in direct contradiction with trends we have been seeing in recent years,” Crouse said. “Those who make virginity pledges have shown greater resolve to save sex for marriage.”

Ah, nothing like facts and figures to resolve an argument. Well, at least from the Harvard people, who have an absolutely killer explanation as to why these conservative researchers are in the dark, aside from the obvious reasons, of course. The Harvard researchers, dealing with a survey population of fully 14,000, had the smarts not just to interview kids when they took the pledge, and then interview them again one year later–no, they were smart enough to come back again, five years later, and re-interview the grown-up people, with all that nonsense and adult-supervised pressure long absent from the scene, so they could get some honest answers.

And guess what? They found that of the kids who said they didn’t have sex a year after they took the pledge, fully 73% fessed up to lying five years later. They did have sex, but were too embarrassed to admit it. Five years afterward, having grown up some, they were more willing to be open about their activity as teenagers.

Who’d have thought? Teenagers who promised not to have sex, actually having sex, and then lying about it! No! It can’t be!

No wonder the “Concerned Women for America” were fooled. Moms pressuring their kids into making abstinence pledges, the kids breaking the pledge, and then swearing to mom that they didn’t have sex. A completely unforeseeable course of events.

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