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Is Sexual Abstinence A Practical Option In College?

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By the time individuals begin attending college, they should possess basic sexuality knowledge. Unfortunately, many students arrive on campus with little actual knowledge about sex due to abstinence only instruction in high school. There is nothing wrong with teaching kids to abstain, as long as it’s not the only sex education they receive. The “Just Say No” message has been around for many years and it has failed. Vows of abstinence are often broken, especially in today’s atmosphere of growing peer pressure and the sexual influence of the media. Millions of young people continue to make the choice to engage in sexual intercourse each year. Withholding information that can preserve their health and save their lives is unfair, counterproductive, and immoral.

While abstaining from intercourse is the most effective way to avoid pregnancy and disease, fewer than 50% of young people are abstinent. When abstinence is presented as the only choice, students who have already rejected that choice are made to feel condemned and guilty. This stigmatization may harm them emotionally. They may become isolated and depressed.

Teaching young people that there is only one acceptable choice does not help them develop critical thinking skills, clarify their own values, and achieve empowerment – all things one learns in college. Good education isn’t just for today—it’s for life. Very few people will choose life-long sexual abstinence. Young people need to acquire the information and decision-making skills that will guide them throughout their lives For the sake of their health and lives, these young people need and deserve straightforward information on sexuality— this includes information on abstinence, but shouldn’t be limited to this type of information. The goal should be to promote healthy and satisfying sexual relationships. Appropriate knowledge and skills will help young people to become sexually responsible and healthy adults when they are ready.

Young people need to know the potential consequences of sexual intercourse before heading to college. As adults, they need to make decisions based on facts and not conjecture. Every young person urgently needs accurate information about contraception, STDs, and unintended pregnancy. Consider the following:

  • By the age of 21, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four young people are already infected with a sexually transmitted disease like Chlamydia, syphilis or gonorrhea.
  • One-half of all new HIV infections occur among people ages 25 or less.
  • One-quarter of all new HIV infections occur among people under age 21.
  • The human papilloma virus—genital warts—is so common that experts believe three-quarters of all the sexually active people in the world have been infected with it.

Proponents of abstinence-only education assume that, if young people do not learn about contraception, they will not have sexual intercourse. We know this to be false. Today, highly effective methods of birth control are available, if one knows about them and has access to them. Many abstinence-only programs discuss modern methods of contraception only in terms of failure rates (often exaggerated). Thus, many of these programs keep young people in ignorance of the very facts that would encourage them to protect themselves when they eventually become sexually active. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking they won’t eventually become sexually active. By age 18, about 71% of U.S. youth have had sexual intercourse. By the time young people reach age 20, about 80% of males and 76% of females have had sexual intercourse.

Sexual urges are healthy and normal for young people, and they need to learn how to handle those feelings in ways that are responsible and caring. Sexual intercourse is a natural behavior that most human beings practice at some time in their lives. When it is respectful, responsible and healthy, it can be a positive, life-enhancing experience.

College is often a more liberal environment than students are accustomed to and often sex is regarded more casually than in high school. This may limit the influence of abstinence programs in college. Thoughts on sex can change drastically from high school to college and remaining abstinent can be hard in an environment based on sex and alcohol. Sex may no longer be thought of in a momentous, life-altering way. The freedoms of college, including sexual freedom, might mean that abstinence is harder to sustain.

A recent study by the American Psychological Society (APS) found that over 60% of college students who had pledged virginity during their middle or high school years had broken their vow to remain abstinent until marriage. No program of any kind has ever shown success in convincing young people to postpone sex from age 17, when they typically first have intercourse, until marriage, which typically occurs at age 25 for women and 27 for men


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tilda rice about 5 years ago tilda rice


even safe sex by way of condoms is not 100% effective. many diseases are spread through genital to genital contact. how to prevent them 100%? answer is u need to abstain 100% till you marry and then be loyal to your spouse post marriage. this is the only 100% effective way. i dont know why we talk sex with condom when it is not 100% safe.

Peter over 8 years ago Peter


It's not just about sex, it's about the emotional upheaval, promises that get broken, and roller coaster ride that accompanies sex outside of marriage and trust. I try to promote the success young people can have outside of sex. Yes, sexual urges are normal, but that doesn't mean you need to cheapen yourself and give into them. Like stealing, a lot of people have the urge to take something that doesn't belong to them, but that doesn't make it right. I say don't just abstain from sex, but fill the mind with more useful things, and fulfilling things. Peter http://winnerswait.blogspot.com/

Ruthie Davidson over 9 years ago Ruthie Davidson


You contradicted yourself in that last sentence - I'd say the abstinence programs must have been successful for those other 40% wouldn't you? That means that all those young people avoided STD's and unplanned pregnancy. Sounds like a 40% success rate to me. Can you promise a 40% success rate - meaning no pregnacies and no STD's for youth who practice "safe" sex? What information do you find so valuable in sex ed that, in reality, the American kid doesn't already know? Have you been inside a middle or highschool recently? What can they teach other that, "hey, use a condom." We need a whole semester for that? Other aspects can easily be taught in a Human Anatomy science class but will only serve to stimulate a youth's interest in sex and desire to experience it. Why open that door at such an early age. Amazingly, abstinence worked for thousands of years before and people happily had families, good sex and reproduced. The STD epidemic is mostly modern, otherwise the infertility it causes would have killed us all off by now. I know, I should post my own article, but I do appreciate opinions of those on the other side of the "opinion" fence, so respond if you wish, to: jdavidson19@cfl.rr.com -Ruthie :0)

Michael Ejercito over 9 years ago Michael Ejercito


Why would anyone in college WANT to abstain? Why would men want to follow a lifestyle that would cause others to look down upon them, to feel that they are less of a man than other men?