It would seem too many people beat the drums for sexual abstinence by imparting false information: that abstinence-until-marriage materials incorrectly suggests that HIV can pass through condoms because the latex used in condoms is porous. (Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, the Vatican’s septuagarian celibate in charge of family values also peddled that canard); another abstinence advocate described condoms as « flimsy pieces of rubber » that students should not trust.

According to surveys in the U.S. 46.8 per cent of all high school students reported having had sexual intercourse. For high school seniors this figure reaches 63 per cent. The mean age for first sexual intercourse in Canada is 16.5 years.

The executive director of the American Public Health Association said ethical and human rights concerns arise when abstinence is presented as the only option.

John Santelli, professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University, says: « The demographic reality is that abstinence-only is out of touch with the reality of young people. »

Do you agree?



  1. 1
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Santelli is right. Abstinence is a concept linked to the Catholic Church’s stance that sex is for procreation purposes only and a sin otherwise. Maybe sin was a deterrent for the staunch believers but how many of those are left today? And even back then, when considering the number of illegitimate babies in Quebec orphanages and the number of those orphanages all over the province up to 1973, I doubt it was ever efficient, here or elswhere. Don’t misread me, since 1973, the teen agers pregnancy problem has been papered over by foster homes and other means but it still is there.

  2. 2
    SUZANNE Says:

    Suppose you give kids contraception to have sex. What happens if the contraception fails…are they able to cope?

    Abstinence is the ONLY answer.

  3. 3
    Joe Agnost Says:

    « Abstinence is the ONLY answer. »

    You know what else? Peace is the ONLY answer for war. Food is the ONLY answer for hunger. Houses are the ONLY answer for homelessness.

    All obvious but useless statements in the REAL world.

    Abstinence education should be taught along side contraception. To do otherwise would be disasterous. Just look at the pregnancy rates going up in U.S. states that have accepted federal money for sex-ed!
    Old Bushy talked to god and decided that states which accept federal money for sex-ed can ONLY teach abstinence. Most states took the money (it was substantial) – but after several years, and sky rocketing teen pregnancies (which had been in steady decline until Bush’s policy), several states are refusing the money because of the damage the abstinence-only education is having on teens!

    Suzanne doesn’t realize the REAL damage a stance like her’s has on teens…

  4. 4
    Joe Agnost Says:

    « Suppose you give kids contraception to have sex. »

    Suppose you teach them ALL of the results sex can have? Suppose you deter them as much as you can but teach about contraceptives too…

    Nobody is being told: ‘here’s a condom, go have sex’. It’s not about that – it’s about educating them!!

    Your low regard for teens and what they can deal with (and learn) really doesn’t help! Give them some credit would ya!

  5. 5
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    I do agree with Joe. Feeling the adult’s trust respect , teens are capable of unsuspected things. Granted 3% to 5% of them will get off the tracks. That leaves 95% to 97% on the tracks. Not a bad record.

  6. 6
    jim Says:

    Teens should be taught to « be careful », not don’t do it (boring). Show them some army films on diseases aquired thru sex, that will cure them for at least 60 seconds, enough time to give them a chance to think.

  7. 7
    Chimera Says:

    « Suzanne doesn’t realize the REAL damage a stance like her’s has on teens… »

    Yeah, she does. She just doesn’t care.

    The Catholic attitude that comes from the Vatican is that everyone should do what the old men tell them without asking annoying questions for which they have no answers they are willing to give.

    Information is power. Give the kids ALL the information, and I do mean ALL of it! Give them details. Give them books. Give them diagrams. Give them movies, games, novels, news stories, poetry, art, music — whatever it takes to keep them whole and healthy, unburdened by our fears before it’s their time. Don’t filter it through fear and ignorance and interpretations that may not apply to them. They already don’t trust adults, and with good reason — we keep lying to them, and they keep catching us at it, and we refuse to stop lying.

    The kids are our future. How long are we going to allow people to keep them crippled and uninformed, essentially sending them into battle without armor or weapons?

  8. 8
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    Abstinence is not necessary when there is committment. That is where the education needs to be guided. Young people soon realize that infidelity is a bad choice. Making out on the other hand is experimentation and should be enough.

    I like to watch shows like Gerry Springer on television. The young people on stage are usually involved in some crazy multiple sexual relationships. Their peers in the audience continually boo them on their
    behaviour. Thats education.

  9. 9
    dez Says:

    All parents want to protect their children. Where we go wrong is thinking that keeping them in the dark is protecting them from the hazards of sex, and everything else in life.

    I’m a big believer in being honest with your kids. If you teach them WHY they need to be careful, you can then step back and trust them to make an informed choice when the time comes.

    Actually, that works for any moral lesson. Explain WHY we need to treat others with respect. Explain WHY we shouldn’t steal, or torture animals, or break the law, or do any of those things that are wrong. There are reasons behind the rules, and they should be aware of them. Just saying DON’T DO THAT teaches them nothing.

    This is why religion is so bad at teaching morality. There are rules for behavior in our society, and they need to be taught well. Telling kids that a big invisible man in the sky doesn’t want them to touch themselves is just not working.

  10. 10


    A staple of Catholic moral thought is that there are reasons to do good and avoid evil. Check out Natural Law theory. In fact, the notion that x is wrong only because God says it’s wrong (he could have said otherwise), is generally taken as erroneous. If all religion offered to the discussion on morality was unsupported divine commands, then, yes, I’d agree that it would be a bad teacher of morality. However, religion brings much more to the table than “don’t do this ‘cause God said so” declarations.

    As to your question Neil, while I don’t advocate the use of contraceptives, I think the issue of teenage sex requires responses beyond abstinence programs. Like any social/moral issue, it doesn’t exist in isolation, and cannot be effectively addressed without also addressing larger contexts and peripheral issues.

  11. 11
    Chimera Says:

    Peter, the concept of « fidelity » is not relevant to most teenagers today (if, indeed, it was at any time). « Commitment » is also not on their table. And they’re beyond simply « making out » (did you just show your age, or what?), as well. If you refuse to relate to them on their own level, they will simply ignore everything you’re trying to tell them.

    Kyle: So…what are the Catholic reasons? Find a priest who will provide them. All of them.

  12. 12
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    Chimera, infedlity is a blog word. Teenagers or anyone else who have sex with someone and one of the partners is caught having sex with another person doesnt usually go down very well. There are of course exceptions. Foreplay or making out usually ocurrs before intercourse. This is the time people make a decision to stop or go all the way. Are you saying that people who tie the knot are not commited? Your age ,whatever it is, on this subject, has not arrived yet and I dont think it ever will.

  13. 13
    Chimera Says:

    « Chimera, infedlity is a blog word. »

    Sorry, but you’ve lost me on that one. Do you mean as opposed to « infidelity » — ie, the correct spelling?

    I’m aware of what « making out » means. I was refering to the vernacular, not the practise. That term — like the term « all the way » — was used years ago. I haven’t heard teenagers using them lately (they use the terms, « hooking up, » and « booty call »). I was not attacking your age when I pointed that out, but simply making an observation.

    And if « tying the knot » is equal to making a lifelong commitment, then how do you explain the divorce rate? Until adults can prove that they’ve got it right, maybe we should let the kids make their own decisions? They certainly can’t bollix it up any worse than we already have done.

  14. 14
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    Chimera, I concede I am a lousy speller. « Bollix it up’ What the hell does that mean. But then again, it might be teen age lingo. I didnt know you were that young.

  15. 15


    Do you mean the Catholic reasons for doing good and avoiding evil? Or are you asking particularly about reasons for abstinence?

  16. 16
    Chimera Says:

    Kyle, I should have referenced what you said when I replied to you. Sorry. This was what you said: « A staple of Catholic moral thought is that there are reasons to do good and avoid evil. » And then you said, « However, religion brings much more to the table than “don’t do this ‘cause God said so” declarations. »

    I was asking you to be a little more specific about what reasons a Catholic would get if he asked a priest. Most of the priests I’ve ever talked to about reasons why this is good or that is bad say precisely what you say is erroneous: God said so. But if Catholics actually have more and better reasons than that, then why aren’t they being told when they ask?

    Peter, I was trying to save Neil’s sensitivities when I used the word « bollix. » He doesn’t like us to use language that’s ripe enough to ferment into wine, so I used a euphemism for « f*%#ed it up. » It’s an old expression — REALLY old. And what the hey…sometimes I am that young! 8^D

    But I still didn’t understand what you said: « …infedlity is a blog word. »

  17. 17
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    Chimera, I meant infidelity is a blog word. I wouldnt use it if I was advising a young person. I would probably say cheating. Very few people like to be cheated on.

    Your right I am an old person.

  18. 18

    My response is sure to be inadequate to the question, Chimera, but here goes. In consideration of religion’s contribution to moral thought and practice, I will focus on the Catholic Church, not because it has a monopoly on right moral thinking, but because it is the religion with which I am most familiar.

    First, let me say I’ve never known a priest who would give only divine commands for the reason to avoid evil and do good, but I don’t doubt that they are out there.

    Here are some reasons why one should do good and avoid evil that are taught by the Catholic Church and its priests:

    1. The effect that virtue and vice have upon the human person and upon society – The language of virtue we get from Aristotle, although theologians like Thomas Aquinas have developed the concept of virtue in light of reason and revelation. Aristotle taught that virtuous behavior, developing good habits, makes the person whole, while vicious behavior corrupts the person and enslaves him to his passions and vices. Freedom, fullness of identity, and happiness are found in the life of virtue. Enslavement, loss of self, and despair are found in the life of vice. Artists such as Dante, Shakespeare, Tolkien, and Paul Thomas Anderson have given this idea literary illustration.

    2. Another moral language used by the Church is also a language first developed outside the faith, namely the language of rights. Whereas the language of virtue and vice give an interior reason for good action, the language of rights offers cause exterior to the acting agent to do good and avoid evil. Now what the Enlightenment meant by rights and duties is somewhat different than what the Church means by it. The church teaches that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and hence in the created order have a special dignity. Rights are understood and particular extensions of that dignity.

    3. Principles such as love, justice, friendship, solidarity.

    4. One should live rightly by living in accordance with the law. Now for Catholics the law is not an arbitrary whim of God or human beings, but exists in conformity and correspondence to what things are. The law is made for man, not man for the law, the saying goes. The moral commandments are meant to guide human beings toward their proper end, their perfection in God. The law, in other words, is a means to an end, not the end itself. The law exists for the sake of human beings. So to say that something is right or wrong by pointing to the moral law or the commandments of God and leaving it at that doesn’t give the full explanation. Murder is wrong not simply because God says so, but because human beings have such a dignity and worth that obligates us to respect and respond appropriately to human life. God says so because it’s true; his saying so doesn’t make it true.

    On a side note, in the development of ethical thought, both inside and outside religious circles, we are seeing philosophical projects aimed at articulating an ethics that isn’t dependent upon a metaphysics: an ethics as first philosophy or postmodern ethics.

    I don’t know if this meager answer does justice to your question, but I’d certainly be happy to continue the discussion, if Neil doesn’t mind the tangent from his original question.

  19. 19
    Chimera Says:

    Peter: Ah, okay…now I understand. You were telling me that my language is a little more sophisticted than that used by today’s teenagers, and they might not understand my use of the word « fidelity. »

    You might be right. But I try not to assume people aren’t as smart as me when I talk to them. Two reasons: First, I’ve had it done to me, and it’s insulting. And I try not to insult anyone without a really good reason. And second, if no one ever uses more sophisticated language with you, how do your language skills grow? Most people learn by osmosis, and teenagers are adept. They learn more easily than most, because language is one of their unstated passions, even if they don’t consciously realize it, themselves. Listen to them, sometimes, when they « discover » a new word or phrase — they try it out in every direction, giving it a workout that would make an olympic athlete groan.

    You’re « old? » Chronologically, maybe. And I’m right up there, myself. But only chronologically. My philosophy is that age is purely a state of mind. I usually adapt myself to the « age » of whomever I’m with. Sometimes I bounce briefly into a different « age » just for effect.

  20. 20
    Chimera Says:

    Kyle: Not a « meager » answer at all. Thank you!

    I wouldn’t mind continuing the discussion, myself. Maybe if you take it to your place, we wouldn’t have to impose on Neil’s hospitality, and disrupt his thread.

  21. 21

    Carry on. You are most welcome to carry on the interesting discussion here.

  22. 22
    jim Says:

    Frankly, I thank the Roman Catholic Catholic Church for having taught me the best Judeo-Christian religion I’ve ever run across. But don’t call
    me, I’ll call you frock. The more spirituality I acquire the less religion impresses me. I have learned to keep it simple. I like Echhart’s « The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me. » It’s just a little something to help me keep on the straight and narrow.

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