- Lower legal marriage age
- The B.F. Skinner approach -- apply painful shocks whenever they think of sex
- Abstinence-only sex education
- Strict segregation of the sexes until adulthood
- Remind kids that their parents have sex, and make it "uncool"
Despite the silliness of the poll answers, it's still a serious question. What is the best way to prevent premarital sex among teens? STD's and unwanted pregnancies seem pretty straightforward -- safer-sex education that teaches about condoms and reliable birth control methods -- but what about getting teens to set the bar higher than losing their virginity on Prom night or when "you've met the one"? That is still a laudable goal, isn't it? I would imagine that breaking up with a sexual partner is going to carry with it a whole new dimension of heartache beyond what already comes with losing a boyfriend or girlfriend.
I have to admit, I'm a little disturbed by the comments I've read by some critics of abstinence-only education. While I can understand and even agree with comments based on the program's failure to make any difference, it seems like some people find the idea of abstinence itself to be fatally flawed and laughable.
And I find that disquieting. Do we really see "friends with benefits" as a good thing? Do we really think that serial monogamy is equal to or better than waiting until marriage and having one partner for life?
I know the abstinence option isn't an easy one to take -- it never has been, as shotgun weddings throughout history will attest -- but it can be done. I'm sure it can even be done these days, even though our society increasingly is saturated with sex. And I have to agree with my friend Rykie, who points out that it's "silly and a touch hyprocritical" to tell young adults to delay marriage until their late 20s and 30s, when their parents probably didn't wait until they had established themselves professionally before getting married.
In any event, while I'm no moralist, I do think the biblical exhortations against premarital sex are there for our good, not just to ruin our lives, or to leave us feeling hot, bothered and frustrated for years on end. And if we want to use the nature argument, it does seem contrary to nature that our culture enforces delayed maturity -- emotionally, psychologically, professionally and educationally -- when our biology is still signalling full maturity by 20 at the latest.
(As a tangent, I note with interest that societies traditionally either try to suppress female sexuality, like Islamicist cultures and some branches of Christianity; or they enthrone and worship it, as our society increasingly is doing. And yet either way, women are denigrated as objects of lust, rather than valued as human beings created in the Divine image. What's up with that?)
So the question is, what can be done that actually will encourage people to wait until marriage for sex? There's always the control option that gets a lot of push from fundamentalist groups and those who are angry at the way society has gone, but I've never felt comfortable with the notion that Christ wants to push us back into an imagined Golden Age, as much as that he wants to lead us forward into a new and real one.
What can be done? Or is it stupid even to try?