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Archive for Saturday, April 24, 1999

TEEN-AGERS AND SEXUAL ABSTINENCE

April 24, 1999

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There are plenty of reasons why teens should choose abstinence. Here are 15.

The decision to become sexually active as a teen-ager is like agreeing to ride an emotional roller coaster. On the up side, there can be a period of emotional highs and physical pleasure. On the down side, there's anxiety about sexual performance and the appearance of one's body, intense worries about rejection, eventual rejection, anguish, depression, feelings of confusion and worthlessness, and an inability to concentrate on anything but one's troubles. There's also exquisite fear -- of pregnancy, disease and AIDS.

A decision to abstain from sexual intercourse leaves teens free to make a success of their lives, live up to their goals and values and prepare for a stable, loving, mature partner who will be true to them. Below are 15 of Sex Smart's "501 Reasons" why abstaining from sex is the smartest decision for their futures:

  • A decision to abstain means you are giving yourself, your future marriage partner and your future children the best possible chance for success and security.
  • When young men and women are in their 20s, they are better able to handle relationships with maturity, judge one another's characters, understand the meaning of commitment and settle down to married life.
  • The pain and bitter disappointment of failed teen-age sexual relationships can damage a teen's self-confidence and self-respect, making it harder to date and marry a strong, confident, mature mate.
  • Married sex is the best sex. When partners are mature and committed in marriage, they communicate better about their sexual needs. Discussing each other's sexual needs is too embarrassing for most young people, so teens, especially girls, may get little out of sexual intercourse.
  • Sex is not the same as love. Sexual attraction often exists without love or commitment. Equating love with sex leads to heartbreak.
  • When teens begin having sex, the focus of the relationship often becomes SEX, not real emotional intimacy. A couple's time together may be scheduled around opportunities for sex, instead of around activities that help the relationship grow and become stronger.
  • A decision to abstain gives you the freedom to learn to communicate better with the opposite sex. When sex is added to a developing relationship, partners can find an unexpected wall of worry and self-consciousness thrown up between them.
  • The problems, anxieties and insecurities caused by sex can lead to a breakup of the relationship.
  • Teens who keep sex out of their relationships are more likely to develop a lasting friendship, respect, trust and understanding with their partner.
  • If teens' experiences with sex are negative and depressing -- as is often the case -- sex may lose its charm and excitement. By giving into sex too young, teens may cheat themselves out of the sense of joy and specialness of sex with a lifetime partner.
  • Couples who marry as virgins are more likely to remain faithful. Partners who had premarital sex are more likely to believe that adultery is acceptable. Adultery is one of the most common causes of divorce.
  • A decision to abstain from sex leaves teens free from worries about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
  • Teen-age girls who have babies and teen-age boys who father children and owe child support for 18 years are less attractive to future marriage partners.
  • One out of three teen girls gets pregnant. Hundreds of thousands of unplanned babies whose futures are dismal are born to teen moms each year.
  • STDs can damage your health and your ability to have children. Broken dreams and disappointment over not being able to have children can cause divorce later.

If you wait until you're in your 20s and married before having sex, you will be better able to deal with the complex emotional issues of love and sexuality.

Those who say that youth is the happiest time of our lives must have forgotten how hard it is to be a teen-ager. The truth is that your happiest years lie ahead. If you accept the challenges of getting a good education, making solid friendships, staying healthy and learning how to combine love, respect, restraint and responsibility, your future is aimed at success.

-- This is part seven of an eight-part series of columns on teen-age sexuality by Susan Pogany, author of "Sex Smart: 501 Reasons to Hold Off on Sex," available in local bookstores.

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