An Orgy of Abstinence

Federal Funding Pushes No-Sex Education Into the Mainstream

Religious zeal seems to tinge Brandt's angry comments—and, indeed, has helped fuel the entire war over teen sexuality. While there are plenty of good reasons to discourage sexual activity—not the least being the possible ineffectiveness of condoms against some sexually transmitted diseases, such as HPV—the sex education debate inevitably circles back to values on which Americans disagree. Although the Abstinence Clearinghouse is secular, and federal money comes with the stipulation that recipients can't proselytize, religious groups, including Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, abound at the conference. Exhibitors sell an array of religious items, including "purity crosses" and "Bod 4 God" bumper stickers.

For the religious groups that have received taxpayer dollars—and there are many, including Mid-South Christian Ministries in West Memphis, Arkansas; Roseland Christian Health Ministries in Chicago; and the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which received the largest chunk of New York State's abstinence money—the challenge is conveying their message without violating government restrictions or alienating nonbelievers.

One Christian educator, Peggy Hartshorn, devotes much of her talk to this delicate matter. Hartshorn is president of Heartbeat, a chain of so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which offer pregnancy tests and counsel young women who test positive not to have abortions. If the test comes back negative, Hartshorn seizes the moment to encourage "born-again virginity," which she tells her clients is "God's plan for their sexuality." For those crisis pregnancy centers that have landed federal funding—and a remarkable number have—Hartshorn instead recommends more generically inspirational messages, such as "This is the first day of the rest of your life." According to Hartshorn, though, the reference to God bolsters the argument.

Even the strongest message sometimes falls short, of course. Among those leaving the rally on Thursday was a 14-year-old named David. Like the others in his group, David was wearing a "Virgin Territory" T-shirt and had received his "Don't Be a Sucker! (You're Worth Waiting For)" lollipop upon exiting. But when asked if he could imagine being a virgin at 25, like Dirk Been, David shook his head no. What about getting through college? Again, no. High school? David looked both ways, narrowed his eyes, and again shook his head. Then, lollipop in hand, he went off to join his friends, who were happily jostling and elbowing each other as the adults looked on worriedly.

Click here to read the sidebar "Graham Crackers and Other Chastity Devices."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
 
Loading...