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05 April 2005

Stuff I promised about VIRGINS! last month

Okay, the last time I promised The Straight Skinny on Thousands of Teenage Virgins Having Sex, I provided a link, and if you click on that link, a Large Corporation will electronically give you a lot of crap and make it hard for you to read the story about the thousands of virgins having sex. I try to deliver on my promises, so here is the story.

And this is exactly where we've been bumping into that Old Dead White Man, Thomas Malthus (I'm only mentioning him again since finding out that Nephew Kwak goes Schoolyard and Postal every time he sees that name). Malthus thought the solution to exponentially growing population was to get Youth to volunteer not to screw and make babies until later, like when they were 22 or 25. Specifically, the Anglican Curate referred to it as Postponing Marriage. That was 1798.

At the bottom of the smutty virgin story I promised, you will find references to two national USA organizations that try to convince Youth not to screw until very shortly After Marriage (like, an hour or two, or maybe three if there's a good band at the reception): True Love Waits, and The Silver Ring Thing.

"True Love Ways" is a teenage love geezer song by Buddy Holly, which many people mis-hear as "True Love Waits." (People were beginning to take drugs in those days, and they also mis-heard Jimi Hendrix sing: "'Scuse me / While I kiss this guy!")

If these aren't enough well-scrubbed faith-based un-pierced, un-tattooed Goody-Two-Shoes for you, you can also hit Promise Keepers, but this one's just for us guys who are Trying to Do the Right Thing by our women pals.

And don't forget our previous mention of a new group of young girls somewhere to the right of those whacky, liberal, partyin', birth-controllin', diversity-acceptin' Girl Scouts: the American Heritage Girls.

So anyway ... whaddya think? Was Malthus on the right track here? Was he on to something? The Bush Administration seems to think so. These organizations seem to think so.

But, as you will see from this lurid story of thousands of teenage virgins having sex, you would be wise to be very cautious if you have vile designs on these virgins, even the ones with valid photo i.d. You could get Cooties.

Incidentally, there was already talk, and possibly even some action, about Artificial Birth Control back when Malthus was a divine. Malthus himself was horrified, and thought the very idea was Satanic, and rejected it entirely as policy for dealing with population control. If you're going to not be a virgin, he felt, procreating exponentially (Not For Fun!) was the only acceptable object.

* * *

The Washington Post
Saturday 19 March 2005 / Page A03

Teen Pledges Barely Cut
STD Rates, Study Says

by Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer

Teenagers who take virginity pledges -- public declarations to abstain from sex -- are almost as likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease as those who never made the pledge, an eight-year study released yesterday found.

Although young people who sign a virginity pledge delay the initiation of sexual activity, marry at younger ages and have fewer sexual partners, they are also less likely to use condoms and more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex, said the researchers from Yale and Columbia universities.

"The sad story is that kids who are trying to preserve their technical virginity are, in some cases, engaging in much riskier behavior," said lead author Peter S. Bearman, a professor at Columbia's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. "From a public health point of view, an abstinence movement that encourages no vaginal sex may inadvertently encourage other forms of alternative sex that are at higher risk of STDs."

Rates of Disease

The findings are based on the federally funded National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a survey begun in 1995 that tracked 20,000 young people from high school to young adulthood. At the start of the project, the students were 12 to 18 years old and agreed to detailed, sexually explicit interviews. They were re-interviewed in 1997 and again in 2002, when 11,500 also provided urine samples.

Virginity pledges emerged in the early 1990s based on the theory that young people would remain chaste if they had stronger community support -- or pressure -- to remain abstinent. Programs vary, but in most cases teenagers voluntarily sign a pledge or publicly announce their intention to abstain from sex. Often pledgers receive a pin or ring to symbolize the promise and team up with an "accountability partner."

Since it was founded in 1993, the virginity group True Love Waits claims 2.4 million youths have signed a card stating: "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, those I date, and my future mate to be sexually pure until the day I enter marriage."

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that 20 percent of those surveyed said they had taken a virginity pledge. Bearman and co-author Hannah Bruckner broke them into two categories -- "inconsistent pledgers" and "consistent pledgers" -- to reflect the fact that some changed their status or their responses between interviews. Among those youngsters, 61 percent of the consistent pledgers and 79 percent of the inconsistent pledgers reported having intercourse before marrying or prior to 2002 interviews.

Almost 7 percent of the students who did not make a pledge were diagnosed with an STD, compared with 6.4 percent of the "inconsistent pledgers" and 4.6 percent of the "consistent pledgers." Bearman said those differences were not "statistically significant," although Robert Rector, who studies domestic policy issues at the conservative Heritage Institute, said he interpreted the data to mean that young people committed to the abstinence pledge were less likely to become infected.

The study did not detect major geographic differences but found that minorities were far more likely to have an STD. About one quarter of African American girls in the survey tested positive for at least one STD in 2002.

In terms of high-risk behavior, the raw numbers were small, but the gap was statistically significant, Bearman said. Just 2 percent of youth who never took a pledge said they had had anal or oral sex but not intercourse, compared with 13 percent of "consistent pledgers."

Debate on Abstinence

The report sparked an immediate, bitter debate over the wisdom of teaching premarital abstinence.

Deborah Roffman, an educator and author of "Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent's Guide to Talking Sense About Sex," said youths who take virginity pledges are often undereducated about sexual health. "Kids who are engaging in oral sex or anal sex will tell you they are practicing abstinence because they haven't had 'real sex' yet," she said.

Ralph DiClemente, a professor at Emory University's School of Public Health in Atlanta, compared virginity pledges to adults' efforts to make New Year's resolutions.

"I wish it was that easy. We'd all be a lot healthier," he said. "If we can't do it as adults, why would we expect kids to be able to handle those issues?"

But Joe S. McIlhaney Jr., chairman of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, said the study offers an incomplete picture because it could not say whether sexually active teens who did not take a pledge had been pregnant or treated for an STD before the 2002 testing. The analysis "doesn't prove or disprove" assertions that virginity pledges are flawed, he said.

On the other hand, Bill Smith, public policy vice president for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, said, "Not only do virginity pledges not work to keep our young people safe, they are causing harm by undermining condom use, contraception and medical treatment."

Conservative academics said the paper overlooked earlier important findings about adolescents who take virginity pledges, most notably that they have fewer pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births.

"It's hugely successful on those variables," Rector said. "Bearman has focused in on the one variable he thinks can show they [pledgers] don't do better."

President Bush has requested $206 million in federal funding for abstinence-only programs this year.

Several True Love Waits officials were unavailable Friday, according to a receptionist. Telephone calls to another virginity group, the Silver Ring Thing, were not returned.

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Blogger Amy said...

Interesting stuff there. Not really that surprising to me though that the incidence of STD's in "i was a teen virgin" group is just as high as the "virginity? what's that?" group. I wouldn't have thought it all had to do with the other forms of not-real-sex, though (we have Bill Clinton to thank for teens thinking that oral sex is not real sex).

I think alot of the kids who participate in these kinds of pledges are sometimes kidding themselves. I wonder what proportion of these kids are coerced into signing these kinds of agreements are urged by their parents, youth pastors, etc? In other words, maybe these kids are signing an agreement or wearing their little pin/silver ring in order to reassure their parents that they aren't fooling around. But, having been a teenager (albeit, I haven't been a teenager for like 9 years or so), I'm sure we all know that urges are pretty strong, regardless of the stupid peer pressure to have sex (supposedly).

I also wonder how many of these pledge signers are kidding themselves. As if their little silver ring is going to protect them from all the harm (STDs/pregnancy/etc) in the world. They are kidding themselves because they are probably more likely to assume that, when they do get married and do the wild thang for the first time with their partner, that based on the fact that both of them don those little pins or rings that they both must be virgins, therefore risk free! I wonder what teenaged pledge-maker turned pledge-breaker would be willing to quit wearing their little symbol of virginity? For certain, their parents will notice! And of course, imagine the horror on little Johnny's mother's face when he comes down with something like strep throat that turns out to be gonnorhea. He was supposed to be a virgin! I fear that other symptoms of an STD might not be so obvious, and if the parents are in denial about their kids sexual activities, then they might not seek out appropriate medical attention.

(I mention the above because one of my friends in high school joined a group called "Making Waves", I believe it was called, which was basically another of the no-sex-til-marriage things. While she freely wore the t-shirts and pins and junk that came with her signature on the pledge card, neither her nor her boyfriend were shy about the fact that they often engaged in "real sex").

Anyway, my next point is that I read somewhere that many women in African countries only have one male partner, but because their husbands are or have been previously slightly more permiscuous, they end up passing those nasty STD's to their wives. I figure that could be the case in this country too.

I'm not encouraging teens to go out there and get jiggy with it. I don't think teenagers really understand the ramifications of doing the horizontal tango at such a young age, but they can be at least informed about being safe when and if they end up doing it before they are adults/married.

To end my rant, I'll just say that I don't always support abstinence-only programs. I think people that insist that it is the only way and it can work are kidding themselves. Encouraging them to get married at a younger age so that they can go and have all the guilt-free sex that they want isn't advisable either. Heck, I'm almost 28 and I'm just barely old/ready enough to deal with the whole idea of marriage.

Blogger Bob Merkin said...

Amy -- that's worth a whole goddam pizza! When are you coming East so I can buy you your Miss Florence Diner meal? Or how far do you live from that big meteor crater in Arizona? I owe you a lot of food.

Now it's my turn to be exhausted and faw down go boom, but more about this getting teenage jiggy stuff soon.

Oh, I forgot to mention Straightedge. I like these kids. They don't drink, smoke or skroo, but they're not Goody Two Shoes either, they mosh and have lots of tatts and pierces and they'll beat the crap out of their peers who are smokers and drinkers and drug-takers. There's something appeallingly schizo about them -- clean and pure, violent and angry.


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