How to encourage teenage girls to stay abstinent

prettyndsweet12 asks: Recently I had an encounter with a boy over text message saying he wanted to do certain things with me (not “going all the way,” but…). I knew the boy and I liked him, but he wasn’t willing to make me his girlfriend and that was NOT ok with me. I told him no but he threatened to put the text message online so everyone could see it. I have to admit I was scared at first, but then I thought about it, and I was proud for sticking up for myself and respecting my body. The experience taught me that my virginity is like a gift…kind of like a one million dollar necklace. And you wouldn’t just give that gift off to anyone would you? Of course not, you would save it and give it to someone you love and someone who deserves it. That’s why I’m practicing abstinence and I’m committing to no sex until marriage. I feel that if I was able to motivate myself to do that, then I can help motivate other teen girls to do the same. So I was thinking about starting a campaign against underage sex, and teen pregnancy – and also inform them about what to do if they have the same encounter that I had. Do you have any suggestions on where and how I can start my campaign, and any tips?

Hi prettyndsweet12 –

You’ve been with me long enough to know that I am a huge supporter of people, especially girls, owning their own boundaries.  I am so proud of you for standing up for yourself, especially in the face of that boy’s nasty, cowardly threat to you.  The important thing to me isn’t as much what you said no to, as the fact that you gave yourself the right to say no to what bothered you, whatever it was.  Congratulations.  I bow my head to you!

When it comes to your question about the campaign, though, I have a few questions.  What the boy wanted from you would have kept you (officially) a virgin, and wouldn’t have caused pregnancy.  So while your story is a good one for teaching girls to take pride in their rights, it’s not exactly about that issue.

Now if this experience has led you to want to campaign for total abstinence from all sexual activity (including feeling around, etc.), that’s another thing.  I’m just a little unclear about what you’re suggesting.

I will say one other thing about it, just based on the experience we’ve had in my country (the United States) over the past few decades.  Because of sexual rules in society getting more and more lax, there have been lots of attempts at Abstinence Education, teaching children and teens that abstinence is the only way to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  The bad news is that the statistics have shown that teen pregnancy actually increases when this happens.  It seems to be because the kids are being taught that birth control methods (whether condoms, pills, etc.) don’t really work, so they end up having sex without them.  The truth is, birth control methods like those are very effective, and work in the vast majority of cases.  So I’m not a huge fan of these education programs.

Which is not to tell you that you shouldn’t do your campaign – but not as a way to avoid teen pregnancy, but as a way to empower girls!

I don’t know if you’ve read my letter about the time a boy dog got really insistent with me.  You can find it on the AskShirelle site (the person who asked the question was named HarrietteS).  The important thing about that case wasn’t that I intended to save myself for marriage, but just that I didn’t want what he wanted at that time.  And it was very important for me to give myself that right.  And while teenage boys might not mean anything bad by it, they do have very strong urges, and it’s important that girls not feel pressured or manipulated into giving in to them.

So what can you do to help your campaign?  Well, the first thing I’d suggest is to do an Internet search to see about other campaigns like it.  You might find that you just want to join with one of them, and save yourself a lot of trouble!  But look at them deeply:

Many are religion-based, which might feel right or not to you.  Take a good look at how the campaigns talk to the girls.  Some of them work to empower, while others seem to come more from the viewpoint that a girl owes her future husband her virginity – that it’s really not her “million dollar necklace,” but his, and she’s just taking care of it for him.  Now that’s a very romantic viewpoint in some ways, but it also sounds a bit like the attitude that the boy in your story had, that he had the right to demand this of you, that it wasn’t your body to make your own decisions about.

As you can see, prettyndsweet12, this is a very complex issue, with a lot of other issues involved within it.  Be sure that you know what you want to be doing and saying.  Because when you get this going, you’re going to be doing something that can change girls’ lives, and even the world.  As a song Handsome likes says:

And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Congratulations again.  I’m so impressed with you!


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