A college student, whom we will call Ann, was writing a paper on abstinence. She called Dr. Crouse to ask questions about sexuality that she thought many college students wanted answered. Here are some questions and answers from the interview that took place this week.
Ann: What do you, and the Beverly LaHaye Institute, define as a healthy way for teenagers to express their sexuality?
Crouse: Sexuality must be awakened and the longer it remains dormant the better because those drives are powerful and can become all-consuming. Once awakened, sexuality must be governed at any age and any marital status. We are not at the mercy of our hormones at any age! Self-control is necessary in many circumstances (illness, necessary separations such as war, work, family responsibilities, etc) even for married couples. Parents need to zealously protect their children from losing their innocence too soon. They also need to zealously guide their children toward productive activities and involvements so that they are growing intellectually and socially during their formative years — rather than getting sidelined into premature sexual involvements that short-circuit their potential and produce emotional turmoil. Teens need to stay very busy in activities — sports, church youth groups, competitions, studying, community service. During their teen years, young people need to be developing social skills, educating their minds, discovering and developing their talents and abilities, and maturing as persons; they do NOT need to be exploring or expressing their sexuality — there is PLENTY of time for that later in appropriate circumstances and environments.
Ann: What do you find the long-term effects, if any, are on students who have been enrolled in abstinence education programs?
Crouse: There are some valid studies by respected groups that indicate strong effectiveness of abstinence education programs. There is absolutely no question that teens do better to wait until marriage for sexual intercourse. Any program that encourages otherwise is harmful to children and teens and damages their well being FOR LIFE. It is reprehensible and unconscionable for adults to recommend sexual activity outside marriage. The data is clear and unequivocal — married couples that remain virgins until marriage are the happiest and best adjusted of all adults — across every category and demographic.
Ann: How can one teach the benefits of waiting until marriage to have sex to non-religious teenagers?
Crouse: Stay with the facts; present the evidence.
Ann: Does “abstinence only” alienate gay students (in that it advocates no sex until marriage and they’ll never be able to marry)? How do abstinence-only educators address the topic of homosexuality in their teaching?
Crouse: The question assumes that homosexuality is an inherent characteristic. Instead, homosexuality is a choice; one made by someone, I believe, who has been deeply hurt by a relationship (or relationships) gone wrong. Talk to anyone who identifies himself or herself as “gay” and you’ll find someone “messed up” by abuse (either sexual, physical or emotional) and/or rejection. That person turns to someone who offers “love” albeit, counterfeit.
Ann: How did you arrive at your stance on sexual education?
Crouse: Observation of young people through teaching on a college campus and observing numerous young people of my acquaintance navigate the shoals of pre-teen, teen, and twenty-or-thirty-something years.
Ann: I’ve recently read statistics stating that the number of teenagers saying that they are virgins has increased over the past ten years. Do you attribute this to abstinence-only education, and why/why not?
Crouse: I attribute it to smart kids who observe their peers getting STDs, unplanned pregnancies, broken hearts, etc. And, to smart kids who observe broken marriages and have figured out that carrying in a lot of emotional baggage is not the best preparation for a successful relationship. And, I believe that teens are getting better, more complete information today. However, too many are still being mislead by the myths of popular culture and the misinformation of misguided adults who believe that teens are compulsively driven by their hormones.
Ann: How does one deal with rebellious teenagers who tend to want to do whatever they’re told not to in your abstinence-only programs?
Crouse: Rebellious teenagers are, in my opinion, the result of poor parenting or poor choices of friends. To make a difference in their lives, it is necessary to build trust. That requires building a relationship that takes time and an investment of emotional energy — difficult and time-consuming at best. If an adult is responsible for a class, it is necessary to establish authority and keep to the planned agenda — regardless. Within that context, then, the adult must try to break through resistance and gain trust — it usually comes when the teen learns to respect competence and discovers (through trial and error) that the adult has their best interests at heart.
Ann: How do you deal with criticism from groups advocating comprehensive sexual education against abstinence-only, such as that it is limiting for teenagers and does not prepare them for the realities of sexual behavior?
Crouse: Present the facts — they are incontrovertible. The problem is that too many so-called “liberal” spokespersons have their own agendas and do not present truth — truth is flexible for them and spin is second nature so it is difficult at best to debate with them. The major abortion providers, ironically, are the major information providers (Planned Parenthood, etc.); major amounts of money are at stake in keeping teens sexually active. But, in the end, truth does prevail and all we can do is present it as effectively as we can and pray that teens will hear the truth and follow the path that leads to the best outcomes for their future health, well-being and happiness.