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CULTURE DIGEST: New study debunks ‘technical virginity’ among teens

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A study appearing in the July issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health found that teenagers do not appear to commonly engage in oral sex as a way to preserve their virginity, contrary to a claim by abstinence opponents that such pledges had resulted in a generation of so-called technical virgins.

The study, ironically conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm for Planned Parenthood, said analysis of a federal survey of more than 2,200 males and females age 15 to 19 found that 55 percent reported having oral sex. But those who described themselves as virgins were far less likely to say they had tried it than those who had engaged in intercourse, The Washington Post reported.

“That suggests that oral and vaginal sex are closely linked,” Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute said. “Most teens don’t have oral sex until they have had vaginal sex.”

Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said the study invalidates the suggestion that technical virgins account for the rise in oral and anal sex among the nation’s youth.

“Sexually experienced teens were almost four times more likely to engage in oral sex and 20 times more likely to engage in anal sex than their peers who were virgins,” Huber told The Post.

The NAEA called on health professionals and educators to address the risk of sexually transmitted diseases associated with oral and anal sex by redoubling abstinence education efforts in light of the study.

“Teens are confronted with the dominant cultural message that says that sex, in all its varieties, is expected behavior and without consequence,” Huber said. “It’s a message young people receive not just from mainstream media but in classrooms that teach so-called comprehensive sex education. …

“This research shows that risk begets risk, so the risk avoidance approach of abstinence-centered education remains the healthiest message for teens to receive,” Huber said.

TOLERANCE FOR DIVORCE GROWS — More Americans than ever believe divorce is morally acceptable, according to a survey of about 1,000 adults in May that found 70 percent held that opinion compared to 59 percent in 2001.

Tolerance for divorce is comparable to public acceptance of gambling, the death penalty, embryonic stem cell research and premarital sex, Gallup’s annual cultural tolerance survey found.

“Since 2001, acceptance of divorce has risen across society, and, as a result, it is now considered morally acceptable by a majority of nearly every major demographic category of Americans,” Gallup said in a May 19 news release. “This is a shift from 2001, when fewer than half of adults aged 65 and older, Republicans, self-described political ‘conservatives,’ and highly religious Americans thought divorce was acceptable.”

The bottom line, Gallup said, is that couples who choose divorce decreasingly feel the sting of moral condemnation as a consequence.

Pro-family groups took the news as motivation to strengthen existing marriages and encourage stable foundations for future ones.

“Divorce violates the condition of the marriage vows, especially for Christians, because we commit to each other and to God until death us do part,” H.B. London, vice president of church and family clergy at Focus on the Family, told CitizenLink. “Marriage is a commitment that God instituted, and it is not up to mankind to determine what constitutes marriage and what doesn’t.”

Mike McManus, cofounder of Marriage Savers, said more attention must be paid in the church to reversing widespread divorce.

“The church hardly ever preaches on the issue of divorce or cohabitation or marriage,” McManus told CitizenLink. “It’s God’s first institution, but it’s often the church’s last institution. The good news is that the church can turn it around.”

McManus suggested that churches train healthy couples to mentor other couples, teaching skills of communication and conflict resolution in marriage.

As further symptoms of the state of the culture, the Gallup poll also found that Americans have become more accepting of sex between unmarried men and women as well as of homosexual relations. They have become less accepting, however, of medical testing on animals and the use of animal fur for clothing.

Among the results: 63 percent of Americans surveyed said they believe gambling is morally acceptable; 62 percent approve of the death penalty; 61 percent believe sex between an unmarried man and woman is acceptable; 55 percent said having a baby outside of marriage is okay; 48 percent said homosexual relations are morally acceptable; and 40 percent approved of abortion.

Meanwhile, 90 percent said polygamy is morally wrong and 91 percent said married men and women having an affair is unacceptable, Gallup found.

The surveys were conduced via nationwide telephone interviews May 8-11.

BOY SCOUTS BATTLE FOR AUTONOMY — Another historic Boy Scouts chapter is fighting for its Supreme Court-approved First Amendment right to exclude from its membership those who participate in deviant lifestyles.

The Cradle of Liberty Boy Scout Council in Philadelphia has been meeting for 80 years in a building the Scouts constructed in 1928. Though the city owns the building, the Scouts have spent about $60,000 a year to maintain the structure and about $1.5 for renovations in 1994, the Associated Press said.

The Scouts have been renting the space for $1 per year, but they filed a federal lawsuit May 23 after city officials ordered them to vacate the premises by May 31, open their doors to homosexual members and staff, or pay $200,000 in annual rent.

AP said the lawsuit accuses the city of censorship for targeting the Boy Scouts while allowing free or nominal lease agreements for other private groups that limit membership, such as church groups and The Colonial Dames of America.

The Boy Scouts have a national policy that declares: “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs.”

A 1982 Philadelphia city ordinance bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and other grounds.

“We’re not punishing them for not admitting homosexuals, but they can’t get free rent and violate our policy,” city solicitor Shelley Smith said.

AP reported that the Cradle of Liberty Council oversees about 300 troops in the Philadelphia area, serving 70,000 children including 50,000 in the city. The Scouts contend higher rent would force them to cut programs, and the lawsuit said the increased rent would amount to sending about 800 needy children to summer camp.

“They’re providing a tremendous public benefit,” Jason Gosselin, a lawyer for the Boy Scouts chapter, said, according to AP. “They’re giving back a whole lot more than what they get from the city.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts as a private group have a First Amendment right to keep open homosexuals out of their membership.

“It’s incredibly ironic that the city is begging for millions of state dollars to combat urban problems while at the same time trying to force out one of the greatest crime deterrents in all of Philadelphia — a character-building youth program that serves 70,000 boys,” Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council said, adding that the case could have national implications either way it ends.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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