Letter to the Editor

Abstinence: Just what the doctor ordered



Barbara Dickenson’s September 5, 2007 op/ed piece in the Providence Journal “Parents — be realistic about teen sex” cites a study — the authors of which admit is a failed meta-analysis — to strike fear into the hearts of parents. Turn they must, she says, to Planned Parenthood’s safer sexresources.

Dickenson correctly notes that oral sex is rampant and considered safe by teens. Perhaps Planned Parenthood’s promotion of outercourse for birth control has something to do with that.

According to the Planned Parenthood Web site outercourse is non-penetrative induced orgasms. The site misleadingly includes oral and anal sex in the same section since these acts can never result in pregnancy.

Enjoy sexual ecstasy without the fear of pregnancy the site touts, so long as you do not give into the moment and actually have vaginal intercourse. So always have condoms on hand, the site advises. Sounds safe to me. No risk of date-rape, STD acquisition or pregnancy there. We all know what level-headed decision makers teens (and adults for that matter) are in the throes of passion.

Parents who came of age in the 1980s should recall that their own sexual experimentation was likely shaped by Planned Parenthood’s values neutral sex education. Those of us who committed to abstinence despite this did so because we were taught a values-based save sex curriculum at home.

Many studies have found that parents have a significant impact on their teen's sexual behavior. Delay of teen sexual involvement is found in families with high levels of parent-child connectedness, and clear parental disapproval of their teens using contraception and becoming sexually active.

Excellent resources for families include “Restoring the Teenage Soul” by Margaret Meeker; “Dateable: Are you? Are they?” by Justin Lookadoo and Hayley Morgan; and the Web site: www.medinstitute.org.

Meeker’s book aids parents in establishing a secure attachment with their teens. “Dateable” is straight talk about dating and sex games written by young adults for teens, and the Medical Institute has a wealth of factual information about sexually transmitted infections and related issues.

Parents should talk to their children about their growing bodies throughout childhood in a way that instills a reverence for their sexuality. Puberty is a natural time to begin speaking about marital love, sexual intercourse, disease and pregnancy. However, discussions should not include a “how to engage in sexual experimentation” manual.

Parents must maintain open communication, clear rules and consequences with regard to all high risk behaviors. Parents should guide their teens to develop their talents and build healthy friendships, model the importance of friendship, forgiveness and sacrifice within marriage, and give an unequivocal abstinence message. This will lead teens to respect their sexuality and each other. Only then will they find what we really all desire: pure love.

Michelle A. Cretella, MD