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February 3, 2010
A teen chastity State of the Union
By Christopher Stefanick
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to give a “state of the union” on teen chastity.
It’s been more than 40 years since the start of the sexual revolution and it’s certainly made an impact on young people. For lack of space, I’ll just share a few “highlights.” According to recent studies, nearly 9 million people under the age of 24 get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) every year. Forty percent of sexually active girls have HPV, which, even with the new vaccine, sometimes causes cervical cancer. More than 20,000 women become infertile in the United States every year from STDs, and more than 500,000 Americans have lost their lives to AIDS (think of the Vietnam War Memorial times 10), both of which are very real risks for teens. And in a culture where countless young men are raised on a steady diet of hard-core porn, 20-25 percent of college-age women have experienced attempted or completed rape.
But the problems of promiscuity aren’t just physical. Sexually active high school girls are three-times more likely to be depressed, with 12-16-year-olds being six times more likely to attempt suicide. Sexually active boys are two-times more likely to be depressed. Sexual activity also impacts a teen’s future happiness. Those who didn’t wait in high school are 50 percent more likely to divorce as adults. And on average, they will earn 16 percent less than teens who waited—that’s about $370,000 less over the course of their lifetimes. Perhaps that’s because sexually active teens don’t often go to school thinking about…well…school.
So much for “sexual liberation.” Sin offers freedom but always makes us slaves.
But in the midst of all this destruction there is very good news to report as well. A new revolution is occurring among young people—a pure revolution. Since 1991 sexual activity rates among teens have been on the decline, and nearly twice as fast among boys! Two-thirds of high school students are not currently sexually active and more than half of them remain virgins throughout high school. Among those who didn’t wait, 77 percent of girls and 60 percent of guys admit that they regret their choice. And among upper-classmen, only 5 percent of virgins were embarrassed about it. This is in stark contrast with my own high school experience, where I was looked at like I had two heads when I revealed that I was waiting until marriage.
This new trend toward chastity certainly is not happening because of the media. Seventy percent of the shows popular among teens in recent years feature sexual content, almost never mentioning responsibility. It isn’t happening because of most public schools, who, in their “comprehensive sex education” courses devote six times more content to contraception than to abstinence and make virtually no reference to healthy relationships or marriage. It isn’t happening because of the government. More than half of the states have rejected the $50 million in grant money offered for abstinence education, despite the fact that more than 30 scientific studies have proven how effective abstinence education can be.
So, what can account for this new trend? It’s because the truth is an unstoppable force. The culture at large is noisy, like a shallow stream, but truth runs deep and quiet, like a mighty river. It can’t be stopped.
The more teens see the empty promises of sexual liberation for what they are, the more they reject it. The more they see the truth about chastity the more they choose it. Chastity is not about repression. It’s the path to authentic and selfless love. It’s the only sure defense against love’s imitation, a lust that would use and put us at risk. The pure revolution isn’t about saying “no” to sex, but “yes” to authentic love, and since we were made for love, this message is very attractive.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing the power of the chastity message countless times. I give assemblies to both Catholic and public high schools around the country. After an hour of telling kids to wait until marriage one might expect tomatoes, but the responses are overwhelming, ranging from standing ovations to e-mails saying that I didn’t just impact their decision to wait, but changed their lives. That’s not necessarily because I presented well, but because the truth about love is attractive and young people are longing for it.
Parents should never underestimate their power to convey the chastity message. In a recent survey teens said the number one influence on their sexual decisions was their moms and dads. Only one in four parents guessed that answer right. When the mighty truth is carried by the voice of a parent, all the powers of MTV can’t compare!
In a sex-saturated culture, the pure revolution can be tough to see, but if this trend continues, it will be impossible to ignore.
Christopher Stefanick is the director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver as well as a speaker and author. For more information, visit www.chris-stefanick.com
AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' PURITY RALLY
Wanna see the pure revolution at work?
Join hundreds of teens (grades 7-12) from 3 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Feb. 28
at St. Thomas More Church for a purity rally
featuring Christopher Stefanick and several other speakers.
Visit www.stthomasmore.org/youth-ministry for more info or call 303-220-3388 Ext. 1.