The XX Factor

The Sexual Pendulum Swings Right

The Girl Scout Research Institute has a new report out on the beliefs of school-age children and teenagers, and according to the press release, they’ve found that, “American teenagers are apt to make sound ethical and responsible decisions on a range of issues from smoking and drinking to premarital sex than they were just a generation ago.” Certainly it is good that 62 percent of youths surveyed said they would not cheat on a test, compared with 48 percent from the 1989 survey . But I found the results of the premarital-sex question troubling. 33 percent of seventh to 12th graders said they would wait until marriage to have sex, up from 24 percent in 1989.

It’s troubling news because the teens who say they will wait until marriage will beat themselves up when they inevitably fall short of that goal. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 95 percent of people have sex before marriage , and the vast majority of people have been having premarital sex for decades, so it doesn’t look like this statistic is going to change much. In addition, teens who make virginity pledges are less likely to use condoms if and when they do have premarital sex, and are equally likely as non-pledge-making teens to have STIs.

What’s also upsetting is that “waiting until marriage” is being referred to by the Girl Scounts as an “ethical and responsible decision,” along with not cheating on a test. So it follows that not waiting is on the same level as outright deceit. In my moral universe, that’s not a positive development.

But there is much good news in this report, particularly when it comes to diversity. Teens are much more accepting of homosexuality and minorities than they were back in ‘89. Perhaps this bodes well for the eventual passage of gay marriage laws … as long as the gays wait to have sex until they’re married, of course.