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Definition of "abstinence"?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I hope this topic isn't too risqué for some members, but I figure the report was made public on the CNN site, so why not discuss it here? Apparently not only Bill Clinton has trouble defining acts other than vaginal intercourse as "sex".

http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/03/18....ap/index.html
Over the past few years, I've read other reports about studies whose findings indicate that encouraging teens to remain sexually abstinent isn't very effective in combatting AIDS and other STDs, and may actually promote unwanted teenage pregnancies. I've lived in a very "permissive" country for over two decades, and still find that the "usual" local practice of getting a gynecologist to prescribe the pill for your daughter as soon as she reaches her 13th birthday a bit "over the top". On the other hand, promoting abstinence, rather than making sure kids are well-informed about every possible consequence of their sexual behavior, and accepting them as sexual beings, doesn't seem to be the right path, either. I was a teen in the post-pill, pre-AIDs 70s, and felt that the sex education usual in our area schools then (and I attended a private Catholic high school in the U.S.) was well-balanced and extremely helpful.
Surely a middle-of-the-road approach would protect young people more?
post #2 of 16
I took a course called Sexual Behaviors a couple of years ago and found it be highly interesting. According to massive amounts of research, using the abstinence only way of educating kids is counter-productive. Attempting to scare someone out of something like that is highly ineffectual. If a situation arises where there is the potential for sex, it would be rare to find a person who thinks of all of the horrific images they saw while in class. Instead, it seems that we push these kinds of images OUT of our heads in those circumstances. Not only that, but abstinence only tends to not educate kids on ways to keep themselves safe. It is inevitable that young people are GOING to have sex (or other kinds of sexual activities), so through the studies it has shown that the most effective method has been, like you suggested, a middle of the road approach. They discuss abstinence as an option, while also allowing kids to understand the right things to do if they ever ARE in that situation and decide they ARE going to go ahead with it. It has always seemed foolish to me that we would try to tell our kids "just don't do it" and then not explain about the various methods of birth control and how to keep themselves safe. It's just ridiculous to think that that is enough. If our kids decide they are ready for those kinds of situations, which most will at some point regardless of whether we're telling them to abstain, wouldn't we all rather they know how to protect themselves rather than not have a clue?

The other finding that has been proven time and time again is that the most effective way to get people to do something is to have them say it out loud. For instance, if sex education included a part where each kid were to stand up in front of the class and say, "Hi I'm __________ and I only practice safe sex," they would be much more likely to do so. This neat finding comes from the idea of cognitive dissonance. Everyone wants to believe that we are who we say we are, so when our actions don't match up to our ideas of who we are as people it causes cognitive dissonance. In order to relieve that dissonance one has to make the decision as to whether they are going to keep their original thought about themselves or whether they need to change their original thought to the current one that is causing us trouble. Generally we will stay with the original. We don't want to appear as though we are not who we say we are.

This topic has been of high interest to me, as I'm sure is evident with my ramble, so I'm sorry for going on and on here. I've just done a lot of studying on it and read a lot of research. It's all quite fascinating!
post #3 of 16
I read that article the other day and was interested that even though they're abstinent, teenagers will use other means to have sex. Seems that however the teenagers are being taught isn't working, and is in fact endangering them even more.

My definition of abstinence is no sex... anything that has the word sex in it is. Since I don't have any children at the moment, nor do I forsee myself having this discussion for another decade or more, I'm not sure what I would do... I agree with Katherine though, it's pretty much inevitable that teenagers are going to have sex so why not teach how to handle that, rather than teaching abstinance and ignoring the need to teach about protection.
post #4 of 16
Perhaps because for a long time oral sex was considered taboo (it's still illegal in some states, though not enforced ), when someone says "I've had sex" I know I first assume they mean intercourse. I think most of us would agree that we'd at least feel the need to qualify the statement with the word oral, to avoid giving the wrong idea. So I find the word sex interesting, because it first and foremost covers penetrative sex, but also covers a wide variety of other behaviors as well. Most kids, I think, believe the term abstinence in sex ed classes usually means avoidance of any activity that could cause pregnancy. I think it means avoidance of any activity that has a high probability of allowing the transmission of an STD. My brother, who is a "conservative Christian", if you will allow the label given the desire to be brief, believes abstinence means avoidance of anything more than hand holding and perhaps a genteel kiss or two. I think part of the problem with our sex ed programs, and with what parents tell there kids can be summed up in this paraphrase of Bernard Shaw: the biggest problem with communication is the assumption that it has occured. If you use a word, and don't make sure you all agree on what you're talking about . . . . . hmmmmm.
post #5 of 16
I think it can easily be explained by the fact that telling a kid and making them promise not to do something makes all that much more intoxicating for them to try. It's the sneaking around that's the fun part. Those who can remember being a kid can understand, I'm sure. Smoking and drinking are huge among teens because there parents make them promise not to do it. Sex is the same thing. Keep it a mysterious evil thing, and it becomes a lure. Sit kids down and say, "hey, we know what you're doing", and then really show them that you believe that statement by giving them a talk on safe sex and STD's and pregnancy, and it takes most of the fun out of it.
post #6 of 16
JCat, I agree with the middle-of-the-road approach! It is too hypocritical of our society to expect young people to abstain from sex when sexual themes are so prevalent. I remarried only 4 years ago; as an adult, I was surprised at the number of men who felt that dating included sex, since it would be "between consenting adults";as the mother of 2 teenage daughters, I couldn't gallivant & then tell my girls to abstain. So when we find a program that makes sure that all the adults in our society comply with all the Biblical standards, then maybe we can preach "abstinence only"; until then, reality-based programs are the only practical approach.
post #7 of 16
I've learned firsthand that those who brag ad nauseum about being abstinent probably aren't.
Case in point: a friend of mine growing up, a "born-again conservative Christian." He said that he and his girlfriend were not going to do any more than hold hands until they got married. One pregnancy and shotgun wedding later, baby makes three...
I believe in being REALISTIC with what we teach/preach to our children. If you tell your children "Stay out of the cookie jar, stay out of the cookie jar, stay out of the cookie jar", what is the FIRST thing they are going to do once your back is turned?? Same tends to go with alcohol and sex. Most of the crazy drunks that I knew in college were never allowed so much a sip of their parents' beer, so they made up for lost time once away from home. This reasoning is why abstinence-only "education" programs will be major failures.
post #8 of 16
As I have teenage children, I have been getting pretty frank with my daughter lately. She asks questions, and I am only too happy to provide answers, which is something my mother would never do.

Recently, she asked about a friend of hers, who has a very steady boyfriend, and some of the experimenting they have been doing, not including intercourse. I told her that I considered it inevitable that as she goes through high school more and more of her peers would move toward engaging in some type of sexual behavior. Whether adults like it or not, that is the plain truth. She has another friend who is pretty sexually active and, from what I understand, not too discriminating. I told her that I out and out did not approve of that behavior. I feel there is a world of difference between the 2 girls.

I think the best way to get your point across as a parent is to have the lines of communication open long before it becomes an issue, so that when it does, parent and child can discuss frankly and openly.
post #9 of 16
Deb, though I am not yet a parent, I could not agree with you more. My parents were very open with me about any topic I wished to discuss. Because of that, I think I've made some very responsible decisions over the years. You are putting your daughter on the right track, without a doubt. You're also ensuring that, if (God forbid) something bad ever happened, she would know that she can come to you and talk about it.
post #10 of 16
Believe me, it helps me sleep at night. A couple of months ago, she briefly dated a guy who is/was a friend, who she had previously told me was 'experienced'. I told her right off the bat not to let him push her into things she wasn't ready for. Luckily, it only lasted 2 weeks.

The big thing among teens these days is that they are all 'bi-curious', as my kids put it.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deb25
As I have teenage children, I have been getting pretty frank with my daughter lately. She asks questions, and I am only too happy to provide answers, which is something my mother would never do.

Recently, she asked about a friend of hers, who has a very steady boyfriend, and some of the experimenting they have been doing, not including intercourse. I told her that I considered it inevitable that as she goes through high school more and more of her peers would move toward engaging in some type of sexual behavior. Whether adults like it or not, that is the plain truth. She has another friend who is pretty sexually active and, from what I understand, not too discriminating. I told her that I out and out did not approve of that behavior. I feel there is a world of difference between the 2 girls.

I think the best way to get your point across as a parent is to have the lines of communication open long before it becomes an issue, so that when it does, parent and child can discuss frankly and openly.
I don't have my "own" kids, but that's the way my sister, sister-in-law, and many friends handle it, and I follow suit when my nieces and nephews (or students) pose questions. I have to laugh about how my mother has come round. Both my parents were quite willing to discuss sex and enlighten us, but preached abstinence until marriage. Now that my mom is dealing with four grandchildren, and has been informed that none of her children were virgins when they married, she's taken a different stance, and is very much against pledges to abstain replacing sex education.
post #12 of 16
Don't 'knock' abstinence. (<---small pun intended ) Not everyone has sex before marriage. And going into marriage without having sexual partners in the past (and all the emotions that go with that) and being STD free are not negatives. They are pluses.

If one person can be abstinent, another person can. The question really is, do you want to be? And if you don't, you won't. And if you don't want to wear condoms, you won't. No matter how much 'education' you hear on any subject, it comes down to an individual practicing what is being preached.
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
I'm a bit cautious on this subject, because a "double cousin" , i.e.,first cousin on my dad's side, 2nd cousin on my mom's side, ended up marrying somebody who was very much into S&M ( read wife beating).Sorry, but that's unacceptable, as far as I'm concerned. Don't even mention the "sanctity of marriage" in that connection, because you'll get a very "intolerant" response from me.
post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by jcat
I'm a bit cautious on this subject, because a "double cousin" , i.e.,first cousin on my dad's side, 2nd cousin on my mom's side, ended up marrying somebody who was very much into S&M ( read wife beating).Sorry, but that's unacceptable, as far as I'm concerned. Don't even mention the "sanctity of marriage" in that connection, because you'll get a very "intolerant" response from me.
Being abstinent doesn't give the person you marry the right to abuse you. Just the same as being sexually active doesn't give any person the right to abuse you. Married or not--abuse is wrong. Marriage 'should' be between two people who love and cherish one another. It shouldn't be a sanction or a haven for abuse.
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrsd
Being abstinent doesn't give the person you marry the right to abuse you. Just the same as being sexually active doesn't give any person the right to abuse you. Married or not--abuse is wrong. Marriage 'should' be between two people who love and cherish one another. It shouldn't be a sanction or a haven for abuse.
I really think that if my cousin had slept with the guy for several months before she married him, his proclivities would have come to light, and she could have avoided a lot of pain and legal expenses. She's a very strict Catholic (even got an annulment), but nevertheless counsels her kids (2 boys and 2 girls in their late teens/early twenties) to "test" potential spouses' preferences before making a final commitment. The weirdest thing was that when L. "confessed" how bad her marriage was, my mom had her get in touch with a friend's daughter, whose experience had been almost exactly the same (B&D).
post #16 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by jcat
I hope this topic isn't too risqué for some members, but I figure the report was made public on the CNN site, so why not discuss it here? Apparently not only Bill Clinton has trouble defining acts other than vaginal intercourse as "sex".

http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/03/18....ap/index.html
Over the past few years, I've read other reports about studies whose findings indicate that encouraging teens to remain sexually abstinent isn't very effective in combatting AIDS and other STDs, and may actually promote unwanted teenage pregnancies. I've lived in a very "permissive" country for over two decades, and still find that the "usual" local practice of getting a gynecologist to prescribe the pill for your daughter as soon as she reaches her 13th birthday a bit "over the top". On the other hand, promoting abstinence, rather than making sure kids are well-informed about every possible consequence of their sexual behavior, and accepting them as sexual beings, doesn't seem to be the right path, either. I was a teen in the post-pill, pre-AIDs 70s, and felt that the sex education usual in our area schools then (and I attended a private Catholic high school in the U.S.) was well-balanced and extremely helpful.
Surely a middle-of-the-road approach would protect young people more?
The last time I went to my OBGYN, she told me that they are cutting back on giving teenage girls birth control methods, such as the pill, the shot, the patch, because its a free ticket to unprotected sex. They have started prescribing 25mg of zoloft for girls complaining of cramps, and PMS, and found that it works. I took the pill due to ovarian cysts, and they pretty much lost their severity. I also take zoloft, and can vouch that it does help with cramps, and the over all crappy feeling associated with a period. Not to mention mood swings were more under control.
I think that if doctors quit giving the pill and found an alternative, girls may think twice before having unprotected sex. At least with condoms, there is the protection against diseases, not to mention pregnancy. And I am not sure the pill is really as safe as they say...to be 13 or even 16, and adding hormones...I am not so sure thats a healthy approach at all. My sex education classes were not at all very informative. But I do agree that a middle of the road approach is better.
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