They Really Think We're Dumb

Perhaps you saw the blitz of headlines several days ago trumpeting the failure of teen chastity pledges to in any way alter teen sexual behavior? Turns out the study compared teens who make such pledges with other teens who are deeply religious and share their conservative views. Bill McGurn puts the smackdown on the study and the cheap press conclusions here. McGurn shows that teens raised in conservative home and social environments:
generally have less risky sex, i.e., fewer sexual partners.

- These teens are less likely to have a teenage pregnancy, or to have friends who use drugs.

- These teens have less premarital vaginal sex.

- When these teens lose their virginity they tend to do so at age 21 -- compared to 17 for the typical American teen.

- And very much overlooked, one out of four of these teens do in fact keep the pledge to remain chaste -- amid much cheap ridicule and just about zero support outside their homes or churches.

Additionally, he shows how cheap the media assumption is. Mr. W. always laughs at people who read the Bible for the first time, find some apparent inconsistency, and smugly dismiss the whole thing as nonsense -- as if no one ever noticed the problem before, and as if there were no further questions to be asked.

In this instance, the media assumption is that parents think a chastity pledge is like a rabbit's foot protecting their child from wantonness.

Most parents appreciate that a pledge of virginity -- a one-time event that might be made at an emotional moment in a teen's life -- is not some talisman that will magically shield their sons and daughters from the strong and normal desires that grow as they discover their sexuality. What these parents hope to do is direct these desires in a way that recognizes sex as a great gift, which in the right circumstances fosters genuine intimacy between a man and a woman and at its freest offers the possibility of new life.

This is not the prevailing view, of course. And these parents know it. Far from conformists living in a comfortable world where their beliefs are never challenged, these families live in an environment where most everything that is popular -- television, the movies, the Internet -- encourages children to grow up as quickly as possible while adults remain locked in perpetual adolescence.

Nor do these families believe their children are better than other kids. Unlike the majority of health experts and their supporters in the press, however, they don't believe that the proper use of the condom is the be all and end all. For these parents, the good news here is that the striking behavioral differences between the average American teen and the two teen groups in this study show that homes and families still exert a powerful influence.

How dumb must you be to think other people are that dumb?