At the end of our surveys, we ask the students if they have any questions. Most say they don’t, a few ask specific questions about a term they haven’t heard before and others ask off the wall ones. One question that stuck out to me recently was, “Do you really believe in abstinence?”
The obvious answer is, “YES!!!” Abstinence is the only 100% sure way to not get pregnant, not transmit sexually transmitted infections, not create depression from sexual activity, not cause premature bonding with others… the list goes on and on. So, yes, when someone practices abstinence it works. It is the only safe approach.
But what people say when they say that it doesn’t work isn’t about the facts above. It isn’t about the benefits, the outcomes or anything that actually applies to the “problems.” So the area that I think he is really asking is, “Do you believe that teens could actually practice abstinence?”
That’s really what it comes down to isn’t it? It isn’t that abstinence doesn’t work, it is a realization of our belief that teens can’t or won’t practice abstinence. So what is the real “problem” with abstinence? The problem is in the expectation.
After speaking to and with 1,000’s of teens, an all too often response about “the talk” comes down to, “Just don’t get pregnant!” or “Don’t get anyone pregnant!” Some parents even add in a condom or two. “After-all,” they reason, “kids are going to do it anyway!”
In other words, we are just lowering the bar to meet our low expectations and not teaching, training, building up and holding accountable the teens to step up and meet a very reachable standard. Please don’t fall into this trap. Teens can, meaning they are capable to make the choice to practice abstinence. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you are teaching, training and equipping your child.
If you put a low expectation out for a teen, they will meet it. The lower you set it, the more teens will hit it. So when someone comes along and puts a higher expectation on them, they aren’t used to it, end up not hitting it and go back to aiming for the lower expectations.
This isn’t anything new. Not every teen is a typical teen and just slouches on the sofa with their nose in their phone, radio playing and TV on. There are teens who won’t live down to the definition of a teen. We see this in different areas. Do Hard Things is a great example of elevating the bar far above even what it was before a “teenager” existed. We know that young men and women can and do make decisions to stay abstinent until marriage. We have heard their stories.
Just the other day, a former student that we got to know through clubs and other groups contacted Jenna to talk. When Jenna asked what it was about, the girl just stated it was too much to talk over the phone and she would share when the met. This usually sends red flags up for us. But when they met, it was quite different. She had committed to living a purity based life, keeping abstinent until marriage. Her cousin and her were going to do this together. Then she went to college and the group of students she had to be around due to her studies were very vocal about their not waiting. Then she found out her cousin has sex with her boyfriend. She felt the world falling around her and she needed some confirmation, reassurance and encouragement to keep living out her commitment.
Teens can choose to live a purity based life and they can live it out. The more students who choose it, the easier it will become. With direction, education and encouragement and support, teens will make the choices that will lead to healthier relationships now and in the future. Teen pregnancies will drop, teens being infected with STI’s will drop, depression rates will drop and future divorce rates will drop. You just watch. Raise the bar and watch. It will happen.
Rob and Jenna Crenshaw are founders of Crossroads Club