Thursday, May 31, 2007

Evangelical Teens MORE Likely To Have Lost Virginity Than Either Mainline Protestants or Catholics

Today, two of my favorite writing topics infiltrate this blog yet again: Sex and religion.

This morning, Slate has a new book review of Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers by Mark Regnerus. Essentially, the book argues that teens who identify themselves as "evangelical" and "born again" are more likely than those from Mainline Protestants or Catholics to have had sex. Hanna Rosin writes:

Evangelical teens are actually more likely to have lost their virginity than either mainline Protestants or Catholics. They tend to lose their virginity at a slightly younger age—16.3, compared with 16.7 for the other two faiths. And they are much more likely to have had three or more sexual partners by age 17: Regnerus reports that 13.7 percent of evangelicals have, compared with 8.9 percent for mainline Protestants.
This is attributed to two reasons:
1) The explosion of the Evangelical church, with mega churches and the like, that have dramatically lowered "barriers to entry" for any prospective believers, and
2) It's difficult to be a teenager in America and not have sex in a sex-saturated society:
"Be in the world, but not of it," is the standard Christian formula for how to engage with mainstream culture. But in a world hypersaturated with information, this is difficult for tech-savvy teenagers to pull off. There are no specific instructions in the Bible on how to avoid a Beyoncé video or Scarlett Johansson's lips calling to you from YouTube, not to mention the ubiquitous porn sites. For evangelicals, sex is a "symbolic boundary" marking a good Christian from a bad one, but in reality, the kids are always "sneaking across enemy lines," Regnerus argues.
Other interesting statistics from the book/book review:
  • Religiosity determines sexual activity more than religion - 16 percent of American teens who describe religions as "extremely important" are less likely to break a pledge of abstinence
  • 84 percent of Asian-American church-goers are virgins.
  • Mormons are extremely unlikely to have had sex before marriage and if they have, they are unlikely to repeat the experience.
  • 30 percent of Catholics/Mainline protestants have had sex before marriage
  • 17.6 percent of Jews have had sex before marriage, but Jews are more likely to say that sex is pleasurable.
As readers of this blog know, this is a topic I've written about before and that's near and dear to my heart. I hope Regnerus' book serves as a wakeup call not just to the Evangelical church, but to the Christian church as a whole.

The Church needs to confront the growing reality that what it's doing right now and the way it's educating kids about sex simply isn't working. Not only that, it makes our teens physically and emotionally worse off than they would be otherwise.

Evidence that this will not happen: Did you guys see this? We, as Christians, can't even seem to confront scientific realities and confirmed facts; how will we address something much more serious (for our lives, anyway) and much more disputed?

Related Articles:
-The Romeo and Juliet Effect
-Premarital Sex: Where Christians Get It Wrong

1 comment:

Jill said...

I'm not sure where you're getting your statistics about pre-marital sex, but I can assure you the last one about only 17% of Jews having sex before marriage HAS to be wrong.

The part about "enjoying" it, though, is correct. I would think that probably closer to 100% of Jews (except, possibly those in ultra-Orthodox sects) engage in pre-marital sex. We have far less guilt on the subject, and I doubt if many Jews (again, not those in sects) marry without having engaged in a vigorous sex life with their intended. Not to do so, not to test compatibility in one of the most important things about marriage would be extremely irresponsible.

This doesn't mean that extra-marital sex is in anyway condoned.

The problem with "prohibiting" sex before marriage is that it basically "forbids" a really human act. These Christian teenagers, told that vaginal intercourse is forbidden, turn to oral and anal sex, which is really the same thing. They're sexual acts, no matter what oriface is entered!

Jeez, better to do away with the "sinfulness" of sex (for older teens, of course).