Someday you’ll regret it.

If there is one message that rang through loud and clear during my teenage years it was that sex was something to regret. Virginity was sacred. You can’t get it back. Wait until you are ready and give that gift to the right one, otherwise when the right one comes along you will wish you hadn’t wasted it on someone else.

What’s so precious about virginity? Was the first time the best time for anyone? I promise you, I have given way better sexual gifts since then. Unless you consider a fifteen year old’s awkward commitment of okay let’s get this out of the way  against the soundtrack of EMF’s “Unbelievable” a most sacred gift. And some of you might.

But it means nothing about my life today. I only regret that I actually bought into the idea of becoming a born again virgin, and that I wasted even a moment thinking I should regret anything because of god.

Yesterday the Friendly Atheist’s Facebook page shared an old post about some bad premarital sex advice from Matt Walsh. He was responding to a teen who felt like an outcast for choosing to wait until marriage for sex. Not all of his advice was horrible; after all, there is nothing wrong with waiting and no one should be telling teens the right and wrong way to feel about their sex choices. At first Matt is simply saying what we already know he will say.

Then he steers the car down that dark road of shame and regret. Matt wants this kid to know that everyone who has premarital sex regrets it. “If they tell you they feel happy or neutral about the fact that they gave themselves to someone other than their spouse, you’re dealing with someone in a very dysfunctional marriage. Any honest person in a healthy relationship would tell you they’d erase those moments from their life if they could.”

But even more enjoyable is where he says that millions have had to look at their spouse and say, “I have nothing new to give to you.” Friendly Atheist’s Jessica Bluemke says all I want to say and more in the post, but seriously? This guy is really obsessed with the physical act of sex. It’s apparently everything that matters. Also, it’s all bullshit. I have been married for nineteen years and we could not be happier. Premarital sex AND no god? Matt Walsh would certainly call me a liar.

That brief period of time before my husband and I were married but we still believed what Matt believes was the only time it caused us any trouble. Because shame and regret are things religion forced us to imagine for ourselves.

I recently had several men answer a questionnaire on purity culture. Regret was unanimous. Each one regretted not having sex sooner and more often (so much for Matt’s theory). Teenage guilt was also unanimous; split between masturbation and a belief that they had somehow damaged all those girls they did not have sex with. That last part was news to me.

I suppose spiritual leaders aren’t supposed to convince their girlfriends that god doesn’t mind things like hand jobs and oral sex. But come on, guys. We read our Bibles and knew all about the sin of lustful thinking, too. Did you really believe your sales pitch was so inspired that it made us forget about Jesus? We knew what we were doing. We also knew that we did not have the courage to cut off our hands or pluck out our eyes. So we did what we did best: we asked for forgiveness and tried to feel unworthy. The way god planned.

Oh, if only we could go back with a little more information and a lot less guilt.

Losing faith will force you to think differently about sex. It will not force you into a life of sexual crime. Are you kidding? That kind of repression takes years to sort out. But unlike sins such as murder and stealing, the biblical morality code on sex is not our default setting. It turns out that maybe masturbation and premarital relations weren’t really one-way tickets to eternal torture after all. For some, they were missed opportunities.

Why are we so hung up on connecting shame with sexuality? It isn’t enough to lose god. There is a reason we created religions that make us feel guilty about sex, and it extends far beyond the spiritual realm. But that isn’t where I’m going right now. I want to focus on the messages we are sending to teens and what kind of education we’re offering. Because they do go hand in hand.

If you are having safe and consensual sex you will only get better at it. And there’s a good chance you may never regret a thing. Are there emotional risks? Absolutely. If we want to teach teens about sex we should have that discussion. Some people make poor decisions about who they allow into their hearts and they may continue on that path for their entire lives. But it is never because their sex lives aren’t biblical enough.

I know a Christian cannot get past what the Bible says. An abstinence-only sexual education will always be taught in those households and it will probably work. After all, Jesus scared me out of having intercourse. And many teens simply will not be ready for sex and it has nothing at all to do with the Bible. And that, too, should be discussed and supported. Peer pressure is rough.

The thing is, I’m not as worried about them having access to contraception. But teen pregnancy and STDs are a reality for many others, and this can be avoided. One thing abstinence-only supporters seem to miss is that it isn’t just about Jesus, or even about reducing the number of teens having sex.

I came across a blog post today that opens with, “You’ve heard it so many times. They’ve thrown out the polls and “scientific studies” that really weren’t scientific. Abstinence only doesn’t stop children from having sex, and it doesn’t keep them safe from STDs. Of course what nobody tells you is that all they are doing is lying through their teeth.”

The blogger then goes on to reference a 2010 study that compared two groups of middle school children. One group participated in an abstinence-only class, while the other group participated in a comprehensive sex-ed class. Within 24 months the study found that only one third of the abstinence-only students started having sex compared with a whopping 42% of the comprehensive sex-ed group.

Well, that settles it. If this is true, then clearly abstinence-only education stops teens from having sex and keeps them safe from STDs,  just as the blogger said. Unless you are the one third of students having sex after that abstinence-only class. But who cares about them?

And here is where Christians need to step up and finish solving the equation. Forget the difference between “a third” and 42% and any margin of error one might find to explain that math. It doesn’t matter. Lowering the number of teens having sex should not be enough, even from a Christian’s point of view. The problem is serious and must be addressed when a third or even 1% of our kids are at risk. So, what is the best way to eliminate teen pregnancies and STDs?

Abstinence.

Congratulations, Christians! What do you win, you ask? A problem that doesn’t go away just because you are right. The question has never been whether or not abstinence solves the problem. In fact, plenty of sexually active teens would agree with that answer. But we have overwhelming evidence that the best answer is irrelevant to a large percentage of a population of people who like to fuck.

Christians, you cannot control this. Tell yourself it’s the devil, man’s evil heart, the price of sin…. whatever you need to get through it. But can we please move on to phase two of the Christian plan; or is “we don’t care about the fornicators” your final answer?

Which is the better scenario: 42% of students having safe and emotionally healthy sex, or 33.3333333% of students having unsafe and shameful sex?

That, specifically, is where the two sides disagree. I don’t care about any other talking points until I hear about the abstinence-only education plan for teens who choose not to abstain. And I’m not talking about offering a little more safe sex talk along with another healthy dose of fear and guilt. That isn’t helping. If you want that discussion, please see my other posts about purity culture.

What is wrong with complete honesty about sex? If they are old enough to have sex they are old enough to be given all the information and decide for themselves. Remember, they will learn about sex with or without our input. I’m going to guess around 90% of what I learned about sex as a teen came from books, movies, TV, and other teens. Peer pressure was far more influential than my parents, and definitely more influential than my social studies teacher.

It is crucial that teens fully understand three things about sex: how to protect themselves, how to define consent, and how to value self-worth. If you want to add a fourth item of eternal damnation to that list I can’t stop you; but maybe you shouldn’t cancel out the other three in favor of the fourth. And right now, that is exactly what you are doing. Go back to the drawing board, Christians. Because if there is one thing we don’t need more of, it’s regret.

 

5 thoughts on “Regretting an Abstinence Education

  1. Well considering the abstinence only has a higher rate of success than the comprehensive sex ed then it should be pointed out that it is doing a better job of addressing the problem. It would be doing an even better job if it didn’t have to compete with a message that having sex outside of marriage is just a given and so we might as well just accept it. Poor morals are not an excuse for poor behavior. The argument that the 42 percent were having safe sex and the 33 percent were having unsafe sex is simply a lie. The use of birth control and condoms is essentially the same. Total use of birth control is 98 percent, and 65 percent use birth control consistently regardless of whether the person was educated by abstinence only or comprehensive sex ed. That’s the national average, and So not only are the abstinence only waiting longer, they are still using protection when having sex. So in every measurable way abstinence only education is working, and a higher percentage of people are benefiting from it.

    1. My question was quite clear: “I don’t care about any other talking points until I hear about the abstinence-only education plan for teens who choose not to abstain. And I’m not talking about offering a little more safe sex talk along with a healthy dose of fear and guilt.”

      Your best answer to that particular question seems to be that those who choose to have sex after an abstinence-only education also use birth control so it is not necessary. You also mentioned that “poor morals are not an excuse for poor behavior.”

      Listen. I get that you are trying to show how an abstinence-only education lowers the number of teens having sex. But my whole point of how this isn’t about lowering the number? I think you may have missed that. Which is why I wrote this in the first place. You want to make it a comparison between abstinence-only and a more comprehensive sexual education, but I’m not making that argument. I’m asking you to look at the holes in an abstinence-only education and do something to make it better. Ignoring the holes in favor of pointing out the holes in another plan isn’t helping.

      Your answer isn’t good enough.

      I lost my virginity before becoming a Christian. If access to protection had been easier I would have used it. But I didn’t, because it wasn’t. My sex-ed teachers had zero impact on my choice to have sex, but they absolutely could have made an impact on whether or not that sex was safe. What would you have offered me? Condoms, or a lesson in morality? Because I sure got plenty of that lesson once I became a Christian and that is the last thing I needed more of.

      Stop arguing and comparing, and start discussing this. Stop pretending that abstinence-only isn’t failing some kids. Sex isn’t everything, and you do not set the bar for morality. If you really care about this issue you will start listening to those who criticize purity culture and attempt to understand where it is failing people. Only then will you be able to contribute toward solving those problems which fall in between the cracks of your statistics. We can do better.

    2. abstinence…is doing a better job of addressing the problem.

      You seem to be referring to unmarried people having consensual sex in and of itself as the “problem”. Kind of assuming your conclusion there.

  2. Wow . . . that blogger knows literally NOTHING about how statistics work….33% and 42% are WELL within the margin of error for two test groups. In fact, two test groups compared can hardly constitute ANY scientific or statistical significance. It’s like saying, I have an apple that is 33% red from and one tree and an apple that is 42% red from another, so obviously the second tree produces apples that are red and the other does not. /end science rant =P

    On a much more related note, the only thing I regret is not having sex sooner and more frequently, i.e. before I got married. With my wife and with other people. In fact, if there is anything that I regret about being raised a christian, it is that.

    1. Seriously, every single man who took my questionnaire said the same thing. If they were raised Christian but have now lost faith they all wish they would have had more sex. That tells me that regret is something specific to religion. But we already knew that. Sex is only a sin in religious circles. And there is so much more to that story….

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