Thursday, June 07, 2007
What would Jesus do? You don't mean.....
Let’s pray together but would you take your pants down first?—It sounds just wonderful. Premarital sex is wrong, it’s a sin. Don’t do it. Evangelicals even throw virginity proms so the kids can publicly take vows of chastity. Kids coming from Catholic parochial schools have it drummed into their heads. Orthodox Jews tell their children not to do it, and the very Orthodox arrange it so that it is virtually impossible. All of this would be of just passing interest (I wasn’t the only non-Catholic teenager to discover that girls from parochial schools were pushovers) except that current government policy in combating AIDS, poverty, and under-age mothers has been taken over by Christianists who insist that this policy concentrate exclusively on abstinence. They also battle, often successfully, against sex education in schools. The fact that this strategy doesn’t work--or worse--doesn’t register. Why should it? Science is not part of their world.
In fact, abstinence pledges work for only a minority of kids and then often for not very long. Sociologist Mark Regnerus at the University of Texas, did a study on just how seriously these pressures work, and like everyone else who has studied the issue, his answer to the question in his book, Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers is: it depends. Mostly, it doesn’t work at all.
Much of the publicity has been on the failure among evangelicals to make it work. Evangelical teens actually are more likely to loose their virginity before marriage than are Catholics and mainstream Protestants. Indeed, they tend to lose it at an earlier age (16.3 years) than the others (16.7). And they tend to do it with more partners than the other kids. (Regnerus points out there is a problem with definitions. Many who list themselves as evangelicals may belong to an evangelical church but that doesn’t mean they buy the program. Also they tend to be of the lower economic class, which makes them more likely to have sex, and many are African-Americans, who really tilt the statistics.) Promising, often in public, to refrain from sex doesn’t help much. On average, studies show that the kids taking the vows keep the promise for about 18 months and then jumped into the sack with someone or got a rear seat dirty.
Worse, the young evangelicals in the study were more ignorant of sexual matters than their peers and tended to get knocked up at a greater rate, so a good argument could be made that their parents did them no favors. There also is the difference between religiosity and religion. Kids who were profoundly religious (about 16 %), as opposed to the ones walking around with religion on their sleeves, were likely to keep their promises and refrain. Those going through the motions will quickly lapse. Working against the abstinence model is the overly sexual nature of modern American society. You’d have to cloister kids (as very Orthodox Jews do) to keep them even partially immune.
Perhaps those writing our government policies might want to reconsider. Nah, won't happen.
So, where does a guy go to get laid, you may ask? Regnerus's data would recommend staying away from Asian girls who go to church; you are probably wasting your time with Mormons (but not, I assure you, fallen Mormons), so you ought to find himself a nice Catholic or mainline Protestant girl. Jewish girls are less amenable to rolls in the sack, although Regnerus (and others) point out they are more likely to enjoy it when they do it. Until, as Woody Allen points out, you marry them.
The rear end above belongs to the actress Lindsey Lohan, who, to the best of anyone's knowledge, has made no such pledge.