Abstinence, Abortion and the Hook-up Culture

After a great Easter with my family last week, I boarded the bus in Newark, New Jersey, to make the four-hour trip back to Washington, D.C. As I was trying to mind my own business, and get some reading in before the sun set, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a few college students sitting in front of me:

Girl to guy: “well what about that girl you were interested in?”
Guy: “Ugh she has a boy friend.”
Girl: “well did you at least sleep with her???”
Guy: “Nah, but I could have if I wanted to.”

They then went on to discuss their April Fools’ jokes, each of which included the topic of hooking up, or sex. One of the girls kept talking about how funny it was that she told her friends that she was pregnant, and how hilarious it was that they all believed her.  I couldn’t help but think, sadly, that the topics of pregnancy and sex—topics that bear tremendous weight and have serious ramifications in our lives– have been reduced and diminished (at least to these students) to bad jokes. 

This is the lifestyle that that Donna Freitas recently wrote about in her Washington Post piece about the effect of the hook up culture that permeates American college campuses. After interviewing over 1,000 students in the United States about their attitudes and their peer’s attitudes about sex, Freitas concluded that “being casual about sex (even if only by gossiping about who’s sleeping with whom) has become the norm.” 

 Freitas, who, for the past eight years, has been studying the sexual life-styles of students on college campuses, explains the social pressures, and even feelings of “obligation” that students experience on college campuses when it comes to sexual experimentation.  Fretias points out  “Of students who reported hooking up, 41 percent used words such as ‘regretful,’ ‘empty,’ ‘miserable,’ ‘disgusted,’ ‘ashamed,’ ‘duped’ and even ‘abused’ to describe the experience.” Obviously, the hook-up culture is not delivering on its promises of fulfillment. 

Fortunately, for the self-identified “disgusted, miserable and empty” students and anyone else who is interested in living a healthy lifestyle, the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) offers a different path for young people through their Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) programs.

SRA programs recognize the enormous potential that young people have. According to NAEA, SRA programs are a “holistic approach that provide practical skills that empower teens to resist pressures to have sex, recognize healthy relationships, avoid dating violence, and set goals for the future.”  Abstinence is an all-around beneficial lifestyle for teens and unmarried young people. Studies show that teens who abstain from sex have better academic performance and experience other social benefits, which their peers who are not abstinent miss out on. 

SRA programs are not a “no” to sex, but a “yes” to a healthy lifestyle. Students are taught about healthy relationships, how to get out of abusive relationships, goal setting, how to achieve those goals and how to make good decisions. They are also given information on the risks of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), contraceptives, and their effectiveness in avoiding pregnancy.  

Donna Freitas, in her interaction with college students, recognized that many students wanted to stop “hooking up”, and be in long-term relationships, but that the current social sexual pressures make them feel that they can’t be. The skills that students are taught in the SRA programs will help them resist these kinds of negative pressures, and live a much healthier, truly empowered and fulfilled life. 

Lastly, abstinence leads to fewer unplanned pregnancies and therefore fewer abortions. 

The Beverly LaHaye Institute reports that abstinence is the only way to prevent unintended pregnancies, and therefore the only way to prevent abortions of unintended /teen pregnancies. Sexual activity among teens has declined steadily since 1991, teen pregnancies have been declining since 1994, and teen abortions have been steadily declining since 1988. 

Teen abortions peaked in 1988 at 44 per 1000 but today have dramatically decreased to fewer than 20 per 1000. 

Abstinence is not only the most effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs, but it the healthiest way for teens and young people to grow and become the successful individuals that they are meant to be.  Let’s get the word out about these programs so that the college students interviewed by Freitas, as well as those sitting near me last week on the bus, will have a much more healthy and hopeful approach to sexuality, and life, in general.


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