In Praise of Purity
- Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I've written several articles lately approving the new trends toward abstinence that have led to reductions in teen sexual activity, teen births and teen abortions. Expressing these views has brought howls of protest and filled my e-mail box to overflowing with verbal abuse from readers who hold the notion that uninhibited, promiscuous sexual activity is the key to the good life. They are happy to let me know, sometimes in the rudest possible terms, that I am unrealistic, prudish and sexually repressed.
The fact is that despite the wholesale repudiation of traditional Judeo-Christian moral values relating to sex and marriage by a large majority of the elites - as well as many of the general public - there are still some of us who think that chastity is a virtue and that virginity is one of the most priceless gifts a couple can give to each other in consummation of their nuptial vows.
The idea that valuing virginity equates to being sexually repressed is, of course, patent nonsense. One might as well try to make a logical argument that back in the 70s and 80s the avoidance of smoking meant that one was antisocial.
One recent correspondent was incensed when I reported a new study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that linked teen sex with depression. This person volunteered that he/she had been intent on getting rid of his/her virginity at the first opportunity. I wanted to ask how it was because magazines periodically run supposedly funny features recounting how various people "lost their virginity." Inevitably, such features make for sad reading; the writers recount embarrassment, frustration, awkwardness and disgust for themselves and their partner.
Logically, the benefits of going into marriage unencumbered by the emotional fallout and the health consequences that often go with sexual experimentation and promiscuity have not changed. But we know - and have known since the days of the Greek philosopher Aristotle - that persons are persuaded not just by logic (logos) but by emotions as well (pathos). Moreover, the strongest arguments come from persons with credibility and charisma (ethos) who combine the force of logical arguments with emotional appeals.
Those who defend traditional morality today, however, are at a distinct disadvantage in terms of persuading teens who are living in today's popular culture and not the logical, factually-based side of things. For teens willing to consider the evidence carefully and clearly, it is blindingly obvious that casual sexual experimentation (often fueled by drinking and drugs) is a terribly inferior proposition compared to the fantastic joys of experiencing sexual intimacy as the seal of a marriage commitment to the love of your life. However, this requires long-term thinking. It requires valuing an experience that you can only dimly imagine.
The persuasiveness of logic by itself is often insufficient in the face of the emotional counter forces with which young people have to deal. On the one hand, there is the strong temptation of the excitement associated with sexual experimentation, and on the other is the fear of group ridicule for sexual abstinence.
It would be bad enough if only peer group pressures drove teens in the wrong direction. However, far too many of today's leaders promote the idea that "sex is no big deal." These veterans of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, now aging Baby Boomers, have spent a long time telling themselves that their momentary sexual thrills were worth the bad stuff they've lived with ever since: the "complications" in their relationships with their spouses and children. The emotional wreckage littering the landscape for the last 30 to 40 years is like the elephant in the corner that everyone pretends not to see. Yet it doesn't take a psychologist to recognize that avoidance is ineffective in dealing with the relationship messes and destroyed dreams. The trends show that many teenagers are seeing that "elephant" and thus are valuing virginity.
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