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May 21, 2005

Column #1,238


                               A Class in Sexual Abstinence                                


     CHARLESTON, S.C. - Last November I wrote about a course in sexual abstinence that is so effective that the percentage of 7th and 8th graders who become sexually active in a year falls from 16 percent to only 4 percent. 


     That result is so stunning that I attended a Heritage Keepers Life Skills Education class of 9th grade African-American boys. All wore baggy pants. Some slunk in hoods while others had a great variety of hair styles. Many slouched in their chairs.


     I thought, "If these guys can be taught abstinence, anyone can be."


     The teacher was an attractive, upbeat 31-year-old named Byron Rounds. He began with a question: "Can anyone tell me what abstinence means?"


      "Abstinence means saving your virginity until you marry," replied one.


     "Can anyone get closer?"


     An eager young man said, "It means not participating in any sexual activity outside of marriage, but saving sex for the best time, marriage."


     This was from a class where few came from homes with married parents.


     A brief video said, "One out of five men have chlamydia and do not know it.  The majority infected by HIV don't know it....This is a condom. It can't protect your minds or your heart. And 2-4 percent will slip or break during use, while 15 percent of condom users get pregnant in the first year. It is useless against HPB (Human Papilloma Virus)."


     The video then began to illustrate "refusal skills." A boy in a car put his arm around a girl and said "Put out or get out." She opened the door, "See ya." and walked out.


     A boy coos, "I won't tell anybody." She courageously replies, "There is nothing to tell."


      A voice over says to those who resist the smooth lines, "You are not alone.  Half of kids between 15 and 19 are virgins." "Oh," says a guy. "I thought I might be the last one."


     A good-looking young man asserts, "Sex is not a game. I can decide what I'm going to do today, and tomorrow and the day after. Abstinence is not a dirty word."  Another handsome boy adds "I'm not risking my life for a cheap thrill."


     Rounds tells the class, "Your parents might have been born in 1960. How many STDS - Sexually Transmitted Diseases - were there then? Only five, with two major ones, Gonorrhea and Syphilis. Now there are over 22 major STDs and 24 in all, and climbing."


     He shows grotesque slides of a boy with genital warts covering his sexual organ. The male class groans aloud, "UGH."


     "A condom provides little or no protection for this. Today, more than 32,000 kids in America will become infected. That is 1,430 in the next hour. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died of AIDS... The most common STD, HPV, causes all cervical cancer.


     He shows slides of a woman with HPV and her genital warts, and says "There are 2.5 million viral infections of HPV per year." The boys groan.


     "You know, a couple can be intimate, without being sexual. A couple can know each other's pain or joy. In fact, you can be intimate with your mama or your dad.  That is called emotional and mental intimacy. You can be intimate without being physically intimate."


     The teacher, who has been married for three years, says "Let me give you a glimpse of the best sex. Number One, it is when all worry about STDs are removed.  Number Two, it is when you are not worried about that female leaving you or cheating on you. Three, when you are not concerned about her becoming pregnant.


     "How do you do that? You have sex when you are in a truly committed relationship of marriage, a lifelong commitment that you will grow old with this person together."


     Rounds then asked: "If you knew you could have sex with Halle Berry and had a 96 percent chance of not getting HIV - how many would take a chance."


     Not one hand went up. I was amazed.


     But he asked the question again: "A fine female drives up beside you and says, "I want to give you the night of your life, something to remember. I want to have sex with you."


     "How many of you would go ahead?"


     Six hands go up. The other boys turn on those kids, "She might hurt me, man."


     "Do you want that stuff on your penis? Who else has hooked up with this lady?"


     To learn how to get this class into your school, call Anne Badgley, (843) 863-0508. (Full disclosure, an organization I lead has cooperated with Heritage Community Services on marriage.)

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