Teenagers today are more abstinent than they were 20 years ago. The Center for Disease Control released its 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report last Thursday, reporting an overall increase in abstinence in high school students since the reports began in 1991. This report is great news, as it proves that sexual abstinence is becoming more popular among teenagers. The CDC releases its Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report every two years. When it was first conducted in 1991, the report found that 54% of high school students had had sex. This number fell to 46.8% in 2013. This decrease is even more significant in males: in 1991, 57.4% of male high school students reported having had sex; today only 47.5% of male high school students have had sex.

These new statistics demonstrate that sexual risk avoidance education programs in schools are becoming more and more effective. Sexual risk avoidance education, also known as abstinence education, is being taught in schools either in tandem with comprehensive sex education, and in some cases instead of it. Teenagers are learning from these programs that abstinence is the one and only 100% effective way to prevent pregnancy and avoid sexually transmitted diseases.

Comprehensive sex education advocates make the assumption that most high school students will not consider abstinence as an option, making it imperative that sex education focus on birth control options instead of the supposedly unrealistic goal of complete sexual abstinence before marriage. The fact that less than half of high school students today have had sex proves that high school students are weighing their options and deciding that complete sexual risk avoidance before marriage is the best choice for themselves, physically and emotionally. Additionally, studies have found that students who receive sexual risk avoidance education are no more likely to have unprotected sex if they do become sexually active. Basically, teenagers are making safer choices about sex and are realizing that abstinence is the safest option.

Physically, no one can deny that abstinence is the best way to prevent pregnancy and STDs. Even Planned Parenthood admits this! On its website, Planned Parenthood describes abstinence as “100% effective in preventing pregnancy…and STDs” and says that abstinence has “special advantages for teens.” Only abstinence delivers a 100% guarantee of avoiding the physical risks of sexual behavior.

Moreover, sexual risk avoidance education has many advantages outside of the physical benefits of preventing pregnancy and STDs. Sexual risk avoidance education programs teach students that abstaining from sex before marriage means being healthier emotionally, both personally and in relationships. Abstinence teaches self-control and having the confidence to set personal and sexual boundaries. Additionally, marriages in which the couple refrained from sex before marriage are less likely to end in divorce than those who had multiple sex partners before the marriage.

Sexual risk avoidance education programs are needed in our schools, but they are most effective when these principles are taught and encouraged at home by the parents. Abstinence produces strong families as it creates happier marriages and therefore creates a better environment in which children can grow up. In a time when the media and Hollywood present the image that sex is meaningless and without consequence, sexual risk avoidance education is extremely important in ensuring that teenagers understand the negative effects that sex – even protected sex – before marriage can have physically and emotionally.

Admin's note:  This post was written by Natalie Wyman, one of our 2014 summer college interns.