I had a friend on my high school volleyball team who after the summer between our junior and senior year, came to practice with a silver band on her left ring finger. We'll call her Monica. I asked Monica if she had a new boyfriend or something else juicy that I had missed in the time I hadn't seen her. No, she said. Monica's dad had given her this ring. The ring meant she would save her virginity for her husband and they had a whole ceremony. I was kind of creeped out that she had even discussed virginity with her dad, much less accepted his strange non-wedding wedding band. Why did Monica need a ring, I thought? All she needed was comprehensive sex education; mine specifically.
In Catholic school, I saw all manner of sexually transmitted disease, pregnancies, births and other things a 12 year old's eyes shouldn't have seen via slide show. That scarred me for life - I'm not kidding. Ask me about it, I'll share my permanent damage. My teacher - a former nun - talked to us about sex and at the same time made it clear we would burn in H-E-double hockey sticks if we tried it. Heck, we'd burn if we even thought it. In an ironic twist, two of her three daughters got pregnant in high school; the Catholic high school.
In 9th grade, I received the complete sex education course including information on the Pill, condoms and other strange - at the time - forms of birth control. Between the two tactics the fear of God, pregancy and crabs were firmly instilled in my young brain.
So imagine my surprise when the country got a huge newflash this morning: teens who take abstinence pledges still have sex and even more surprising, don't usually use protection! From the Washington Post:
The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.
"Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."
I survived my teen years without any gifts that keep on giving. I don't know if Monica made it to her wedding day a virgin, but she didn't get pregnant before graduation. All the other kids I noticed with "the rings" got married about five seconds after they turned about 20.
I'm grateful for the education I got in school, but I am nervous for the kids who've grown up under abstinence-only training. Not only are they breaking their pledge (surprise!) but they have no idea how to protect themselves when it comes time for the main event. I'm glad President-elect Obama has committed to bringing back comprehensive sex education. In the meantime, skip the rings and talk to your kids. It's better than being "Grandpa" at 45.