Sin City. A hotbed of glitzy casinos, glossy hotels and glamorous shows swimming in a sea of neon lights. Hundreds shuffle from one casino to the next, hoping to score inside at the craps table or outside on the bustling streets. A burgeoning supply of prostitutes just a phone call away all on Las Vegas Boulevard. It was the strip and we were working it.
But instead of advertising sexual favors, our calling cards carried a different message. The faces of six beautiful women were pictured on the front of the cards but the only thing these women were giving away was the message of abstinence. In place of a prostitute’s plea for business, these wallet-sized “Good Girl Cards” carried a bold statement:
Why choose abstinence? There is no scientific evidence that condoms prevent the transmission of most sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including chlamydia, syphilis, chancroid, trichomoniasis, genital herpes and HPV (human papilloma virus). Source: NIH, 2001.
We were the virgin brigade a conservative cadre of teens, youth counselors and abstinence educators hitting the strip on a Friday night in June, countering the message of promiscuous Vegas sex.
Did it work?
“We are here to pique awareness,” said Christina Espenscheid, Education Program Coordinator at the Abstinence Clearinghouse, the group sponsoring the “Good Girl Cards” and holding its annual convention 20 minutes from the strip.
Some took the cards warily; others declined. At Siegfried and Roy Plaza, Leslee Unruh, president of Abstinence Clearinghouse, approached a handful of men who were escorting a young woman. Cracking jokes about STDs, Unruh tried to engage them into a conversation about abstinence. The four men laughed, professing their sexual prowess, but the woman didn’t find their comments amusing at all. Instead, she became silent. Ignoring the men, Unruh gave the woman a card and asked her to call.
Outside another casino, two teenage girls were walking along in tee shirts and miniskirts when one of them was handed a “Good Girl Card.” She read the card aloud, laughing through the STDs. But when she read that married people live longer, are healthier, happier, have more money and even have better sex lives than their single counterparts, her tone became more serious.
“Abstinence.net,” she said. “I’m going to hold onto this. Hey Molly, look at this.”
Our abstinence-touting army passed out 500 cards in less than an hour. But what right did we have to preach purity to Sin City? Who were we to ride in and ask people to jump on our moral bandwagon?
The truth is, our excursion had nothing to do with morals or religion. It had everything to do with the facts.
A national study released last week by the Heritage Foundation found that girls who begin sexual activity at age 13 are twice as likely to become infected by a sexually transmitted disease as girls who begin having sex at the age of 21. The study also found that nearly 40 percent of girls who start having sex at ages 13 and 14 will give birth outside of marriage and they’re more than three times as likely to become single mothers.
Early sexual activity seriously undermines girls’ ability to form stable marriages as adults and is linked to higher levels of child and maternal poverty, according to the study.
The truth is, one out of every four sexually active people we were passing on the strip already had an STD but many had not even been tested. And in the same day we chose to hand out a smattering of abstinence cards, 8,000 American teens were becoming infected with a new STD, some of which are incurable.
Our message wasn’t about morals. It was about health. We were standing in the heart of a sex-saturated culture, giving people a message of hope for their physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. We weren’t handing out chastity belts. We were handing out truth.
We definitely piqued awareness that night. Television crews captured the event on camera and articles appeared in newspapers across the country. But the true test of those cards will be what people will do with the information they’ve been given. Those four men out on the town have long parted ways with the young woman. Will she continue to serve as an escort to other men? Perhaps. But maybe she held onto the number for the Abstinence Clearinghouse. And maybe she’ll start to believe the message that she really is worth waiting for.