by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Just in time for spring stirrings, Abstinence Awareness Week  kicked off on March 6. At a large urban church in Washington, D.C., the keynote Abstinence Awareness speaker and author Tara White [http://www.youtube.com/andrearwilliams#p/a/u/0/zvSiOwMmpLM] spoke to teens about the power of abstinence, the wisdom of waiting, and her new book, “Don’t Curse Your Wedding Bed Before You Say I Do .”
Ironically, just days before Abstinence Awareness Week, Brandon Davies, a 19-year-old starter on the Brigham Young University basketball team turned himself in based on the BYU honor code that you are not allowed to have pre-marital sex. He admitted to having sex with his girlfriend. As a result, he was suspended  from the nationally-ranked BYU team. The story made headline news on ESPN and sports blogs.
By the time teens turn 19, Brandon Davies’ age, 70 percent have had sex , according to the Guttmacher Institute. Seventeen is the average age when most American teens lose their virginity. Forty-six percent of high school students have had sex at least once, according to The National Campaign . A lower percentage, about 34%, are currently sexually active. Roughly 80% of sexually active teens report using birth control.
Whether or not you believe in abstinence as a realistic choice for teenagers, these stats make it clear that as a parent, you’re crazy not to educate your kids about sex. Kids need reliable, accurate information to empower them to say no, or to explore their sexuality safely.
First you tackle the facts. As awkward as this can be for parents, it's pretty straightforward. You know, the birds and the bees. It's impersonal...the mechanics...nothing about your kid per se. The earlier you start talking with your kids about sex, the easier it goes and the better you become at covering sexual topics without blushing red as a tomato.
The later, far more complicated phase regards your kid’s personal sexuality. Abstinence may be part of the conversation, but it can’t be the only option, even if it’s the choice you advocate. Long before you suspect your child is contemplating sex, you owe it to them to discuss birth control, such squirmy subjects as safe places for sex to take place (your house???), date rape, and the risks of combining drinking and drug use with sex.
And oh yes, every parent’s favorite, masturbation.
Pressure on teens to have sex, teen promiscuity, and unwanted pregnancy are epidemic is some communities. Teaching kids to respect their bodies and value their sexuality is a critical societal goal. However, I worry about proponents of abstinence who rely on shame as a tool to pressure teenagers to behave responsibly. What is the moral dilemma of teen sex as long as it is safe and consensual? Sex can be a lifelong pleasure – or twisted guilty sin. To me, making kids ashamed of their sexual desires is fraught with more moral risks than promiscuous sex itself.
Sex ed, like every facet of parenting, is personal.
I believe firmly that my kids decide when they are ready to have sex. Maybe this will be one their wedding night. Maybe not.
The timing, location, frequency, and with whom, is none of my beeswax.
What is my business is that they MUST use birth control every single time, and they need to be aware of the dangers of drinking and drugs mixed with sexual experimentation, the risks of contracting STDS, and the reality that clear, consistent consent by all parties is imperative. Maybe abstinence will be part of their personal development. But shame plays no positive role in my kids’ sexual education.