If you believe the news, you might think that our children are finally seeing the light of day and swearing off sex until marriage. Yeah, whatever....
Every now and then, some mass media outlet comes out with a story about how today's teens are seeing the value in abstinence. While that is all well and good, it's difficult to document the truth of that assertion with any degree of accuracy. We repeat it because it makes those of us who are parents feel good about ourselves. For those of us who can remember our teenage years, though, how many of us WEREN'T looking for an excuse to copulate like mad rabbits? Admit it; you had the motive- all you were lacking was the opportunity. Lord knows I was....
Why am I not buying this? I'll tell you why. I first saw this story in The New York Times in the early 1980s. "A new generation of teens are deciding to delay sex until marriage ... blah blah blah." And then I saw it four years after that, and four years after that, and so on until the big Newsweek cover story in December called "Choosing Virginity."
If you got all your information about the sexual habits of teenagers from the mainstream middlebrow press over the last 20 years, you'd be convinced we're a nation of eunuchs and ice queens who reproduce through osmosis. The Chaste and Proud Youth story has become a journalistic evergreen, just like other staples such as The Last One-Room Schoolhouse and America's New Breed of Businessman: No Button-Down Collars for Us.
So my question is: If we have one of these "new virgin" stories every four or five years, with youth reacting AGAINST the prevailing trends, why don't they alternate with stories announcing Sex-Crazed Teenagers Are Fornicating Like Energizer Bunnies? In other words, if they're CHANGING their behavior, how come the media are silent when the behavior changes back to good old-fashioned illicit lust?
But listen to this. You almost need a trumpet fanfare to back up the steroided prose of Newsweek. "Rejecting the get-down-make-love ethos of their parents' generation," write Lorraine Ali and Julie Scelfo, "this wave of young adults represents a new counterculture, one clearly at odds with the mainstream media and their routine use of sex to boost ratings and peddle product."
Joe Bob Briggs manages to talk some sense about this issue, and for him the issue is that teenagers are the same as they ever were.
Listen up, people. There is no such thing as a "new" teenager. The hormones that pumped through the veins of dissolute aristocrats in 1912 are at the SAME level today when they happen to be found in the bloodstream of suburban-dwelling Nebraskans.
There's no time in human history when a 17-year-old boy has decided, "Oh well, I guess sex is overrated." In fact, there's some evidence that, the more you preach against it, the more the hormonal indicator tends to fly off the scale.
For those biblical scholars out there -- since many of these abstinence movements are church-based -- I'm referring to St. Paul's observation in the book of Romans that anything we're consciously against, we're subconsciously subject to....
If I had a 16-year-old son who claimed he didn't want sex, I'd probably take him to the Johns Hopkins Gender Clinic to get checked out. But just in case there are a few moms and dads who are genuinely clueless out there, let me point something out about teenagers:
They'll usually say what you want them to say. When two of them both want sex -- even if they've taken the pledge - they've eventually going to do something very intimate together, whether you call it sex or not.
The basic problem here is that most of us adults can barely remember our horny-teenager years, especially the things that we did in our hormone-overloaded state. Frankly, I'm grateful for my fuzzy memory; I'm not sure I'd want to deal with the embarrassment (I did WHAT?!?).
The next time you read your local Fishwrap Gazette trumpeting the virtues of the "new teen abstinence", please try to stifle a yawn. I think we may have been here before.