A Sexy American Majority

Abstinence Good for Some

Of course, abstinence can work well for some people. "Abstinence is great in that there are a number of risks of sexual intercourse. Sexually transmitted diseases are an obvious risk, but there are also emotional risks to having sexual intercourse because it is such a loaded, emotional experience," said Ogden.

Abstinence programs, however, may not always target the appropriate ideas. "Abstinence-only programs are fear-based. They are less concerned with STDs and emotional health and more concerned with impressing a certain moral standard," she said.

Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services, defended the suggestion that the abstinence-only programs deliberately demoralize sexual behaviors. "The Bush administration does not believe the government should be regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults," he said in a statement.

Government-funded abstinence-only programs speak to a minority of Americans, since the majority of Americans practice premarital sex.

America's Youth Embraces Study Trend

Regardless of what programs the government supports, many young adults believe in premarital sex. "It's fine, great and recommended," said Bret Silverberg, 24, of Sharon, Mass.

"I think sex is a normal, habitual life experience. Marriage should not play a large part in the decision to have a sex life," he said.

Religion may not always play a large part in the decision to have a sex life either. "I think most Catholics do [have sex] before marriage," said Maria Hagerty, 24, of New York.

"If you are devout, it's a question to confront. But I think most people follow social norms before religious ones," she said. Maria was raised devoutly Catholic, "but I am no longer practicing."

Survey's Social Impact

Even if premarital sex is the social norm, as this report suggests, it probably won't throw the country into a new sexual revolution. It certainly hasn't yet, and this trend has been ongoing for a while. "It's a constant reforming of statistics -- the tenor goes up and down," said Kuriansky.

"It's become a much more common phenomenon," said Kuriansky. But between these reports and the abstinence supporters, "there is a sort of law of physics," she said. "When surveys like this appear, the groups who promote pledges for virginity tend to speak up a bit, and make themselves heard."

There is reason to remind young people, and any people, that abstinence is an option. "I don't think sex is something that people should treat lightly," said Kuriansky. "That's what concerns me."

But safe sex education is important too, because sex can be an important emotional and physical part of a relationship. "To some extent, sex is a very important part of a marriage relationship, and people can have serious problems after marriage if they haven't explored that aspect of their relationship when they get married," Kurianksy said.

For more details on the report: Guttmacher Institute. http://www.guttmacher.org/

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