Head-desking for purity.

False, the enemy is Ross Douthat.

Want to know why monogamy matters?  The New York Times’ resident arch-conservative Ross Douthat is here to tell you, pulling together a couple recent studies to argue imply that 1) today’s young people are waiting to longer to have sex, 2) this makes them happier, and 3) abstinence-only education is responsible, and we should fund more of it.  Douthat says:

“In 2002, the study reported, 22 percent of Americans aged 15 to 24 were still virgins. By 2008, that number was up to 28 percent. Other research suggests that this trend may date back decades, and that young Americans have been growing more sexually conservative since the late 1980s.”

Really?  This has been going on since the late 1980s?  I’m going to go ahead and say that ads like this one might have something to do with it:


There’s also this one:


And another updating this theme for the texting generation:


Since the 1980s, kids have grown up with a slew of public service announcements communicating the same basic message:


Even this would be an improvement (I’m getting a little video-happy here, just roll with it):


Contrast that with this slideshow of safer sex ads from Holland and Germany, where (according to Slate) rates of HIV infection and teen pregnancy are six times lower than those in the United States.  Looking at alternative, sex-positive approaches to sex education, it’s no wonder that people who deviate from the sexual activities and expressions that American culture promotes through institutions like abstinence-only education should experience greater anxiety and unease than those who stick to the script, as it were.  Monogamy doesn’t inherently make all people happier any more than does sexual libertinism–the former might satisfy some, and the latter others.  The point is that we should equip young people with the knowledge to protect themselves and their partners should they choose to be sexually active.  That’s not cynical, that’s realistic–and looking at data from across the pond, it seems to work.  After all, the study that Douthat cites about abstinence-only education, discussed in somewhat greater depth here, only showed that fewer 12 and 13-year-olds who were given a relatively brief abstinence-only education course had engaged in intercourse after two years than those who received a similarly brief safer sex course.  Not that they had lower rates of teen pregnancy or STD infection, they simply reported having sex with fewer partners.  If that’s how conservatives measure success, they’re certainly setting their horizons pretty low.  Maybe they’re the cynical ones after all.


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