Apr 4, 2014

"Just Say No" Doesn't Work

I had never heard of Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915), but as soon as I read this quote by the French writer and philosopher, I immediately liked him:

"Of all sexual aberrations, perhaps the most peculiar is chastity."

Go Remy! I couldn't agree more. We are meant to love one another and show our love in physical ways.

It all starts when we're teenagers. Our hormones are on overdrive. As Ingrid Michaelson puts it simply, "Girls chase boys chase girls."

"Let's not make it harder than it has to be," Ingrid sings. And thus it continues for most of our lives. We humans are driven by the need to be desired, loved, cherished.

Denying the fact that we're sexual beings just gets us into trouble. "Just say no" may work up to a certain point, but eventually, the vast majority (95 percent) of young women and men have premarital sex.

And the age when they have sex for the first time is dropping; as of the last report, the median age was 17.6 years.

The study's author, Lawrence Finer, said this about the findings: "Abstinence programs face an extremely high hurdle. Is it really feasible to make it normative behavior to have everyone wait until they're married to have sex?"

In fact, the study was used to evaluate the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Dr. Doug Kirby, a giant in the field of adolescent sexual health who served as director of research for Advocates for Youth in the 1980's, reviewed 115 sexual education programs to determine which were the most effective.

He couldn't find one abstinence-only program that was effective. What was most effective were programs that supported both abstinence and contraceptive use. And despite what the nay-sayers want to believe, Dr. Kirby found that none of these programs led to increased sexual activity or earlier onset of sex.

Let's take a chapter out of that book when it comes to educating teenagers about the dangers of tobacco. None of us want to promote teenage sex, drinking or tobacco use. But we must educate them to how to experiment wisely and not take unnecessary risks with their health.

Teenagers are going to experiment with cigarettes and e-cigarettes, now that they're out there and in the hands of over 3 million people.

A CDC study found that the number of high school students who had tried an e-cigarette doubled between 2011 and 2012. That's not at all surprising. But the CDC failed to ask how many had actually purchased an e-cigarette and using it on a regular basis. My guess would be that the numbers would go down dramatically.

The other argument that really slays me is making a claim that e-cigarettes are a gateway to the real thing. I mean, who would switch to something that they know is way worse for you and that costs a lot more? Certainly no teenagers or adults that I know!

We all have our temptations and like most humans, we give in to them. Remy said, "Demons are like obedient dogs; they come when they are called."

But when we give into our demons, let's be smart and safe about it.

And let's also arm our teenage kids with information about how they, too, can be smarter. And safer.

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