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August 16, 2011


Monica F

Hi Cady!

As a product of the public school system (I'm now in college) who has experienced sex education "in the trenches," your post really interested me. I was about to post a comment sharing my perspective when I realized that it was rather long for a comment and would perhaps be better off as a post of its own.

Does Modestly Yours take reader submissions? If so, who would I need to get in touch with? I've read and enjoyed it for a long time, but I've always wondered. I can be reached at emflei@gmail.com.

Thanks for your help!


It really comes down the parents. Your parents stressed abstinence, my mother stressed condoms and taking care of my self emotionally and physically. My-knocked-up-twice-in-high-school-religious cousins parents thought the church would have taken care of the need to talk about sex. Public sex ed is, (and I say this as one who is supportive of sex ed) at best a bandaid for bad parenting. Now, bad parenting comes on both sides, but it's naive to assume pre-martial sex never happened in the good ole days, or that somehow the irresponsible teenager who can't seem to wear a condom is going to be more apt to abstain from sex. It's less, how do we do away with public sex ed (which, can cover some of the more medical aspect the average parent doesn't know) and how do we encourage parents to actively teach their children responsibility, which can take the form of either abstinence or responsible safe sex techniques.

As far as the girl in article, genital herpes can be spread via asymptomatic viral shedding, and HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be transmitted between the mouth and genital area via any fluids and even skin to skin contact. Given that herpes can be spread so easily, even through something as innocent as sharing a drink, sometimes it's less a case of obvious prevention and more of life isn't fair. The girl in question seems to be uneducated in that herpes is often spread asymptomatically. Given the high numbers the author is stating, these are probably lower-income girls from unstable families, which complicates matters even further.


The following is a link to an article that mentions teen pregnancy as being at a 70-year low. (it's #3 on their list, on the second page). I don't think graphic sex ed is necessary, but some education and understanding of our bodies is necessary. They don't know what to attribute this statistic to, by the way.

I did not receive (much) sex ed either in high school or at home. However, having seen my eldest sister get pregnant out of wedlock at 21, I determined at the age of 16 to wait until I was married. And I did. Honestly, I think not dating, kissing, making out, or breaking down those natural barriers helped immensely. We are such sensitive creatures, and even kissing and cuddling create intense responses that, the next time around, are near impossible to resist.

That being said, I do believe it is important that we know we are human, we understand the intricacies and beauty of our bodies. But I don't think public school is the place to be taught those things. Parents, relatives, trustworthy family friends, those are the people that ought to be teaching the knowledge and addressing the issues.



You got great points there, so I always check your blog, it seems that you are an expert in this field. keep up the good work, My friend recommends your site.

Cady Driver

I would love to hear some opinions from some people that have been through Sex Ed in the public school system. Pros and cons?

Personally, as a parent, I feel that it is the parent's responsibility, not the government's, to teach their children about sex. Now in CA, parents can no longer opt out of objectionable sexual lessons and kindergarteners are taught about homosexuality! This is wrong on so many levels and children at that age are developmentally not able to deal with this kind of information.

It's so sad.


I'll offer the perspective of someone who was raised in a religious family but also went through three different phases of sex ex in the public school system (5th grade, 7th and 9th). I am a believer in saving sex for marriage, though not virginity, necessarily.

Public school sex education is a very valuable way to educate our children about the practical considerations that need to be addressed when one makes a decision about having sex. In my classes, abstinence was always mentioned as one option among many, and as the safest option. I am grateful for the thorough and informative education I received about sex in public school.

My family is also religious and I learned from a young age that sex was something that belonged in a marriage as an expression of a marital commitment, and also that lust was something that needed to be controlled, not indulged. My religious education about sex never included any mention of God punishing me, or that I might go to hell, etc..., as that is not part of my theology.

Now, in my opinion what is lacking from public school sex education is any discussion of how to choose abstinence in the face of intense pressure in the other direction. I was always taught that that was an option, but only in Sunday school and at church camp did I ever learn about the practical reasons that I would choose that option, or how to justify it when everything around me was telling me that sex is good. It seems to me that this missing piece is a result of the shift toward value-neutral education that began in the mid- to late-60s. We don't want to our public schools making any moral impositions on our children and so we are unable to teach them about a "moral" choice like abstinence. But we seem to forget what a critical role that education and environment plays in our children's development, and that it can sometimes even overpower what we attempt to teach our children at home.
Now my story ends that I did decide to have sex in my 20s, and ultimately the experienced reinforced everything that I had been taught about why to wait. But I also did it safely, having been given thorough information about that half of the equation as well.

Cady Driver

That is an interesting perspective, Rocky, thank you! I suspect that government schools' sex ed classes lack a moral punch b/c they decline to teach children about what's right and wrong. It's kind of a moral vacuum b/c without God, there's no reason to wait and if we "all came from monkeys", then why should I say no to something that is fun for the moment?

I've been reading this book called Nuture Shock and it discusses how teens' brains are actually not cognitively developed in the area of recognizing future consequences for present actions. That's why teenagers tend to make impulsive, stupid choices that can sometimes negatively affect the rest of their lives. I just don't feel that teens should be given the option to have sex. It's not something that their brains are ready to process...all of the future consequences.

I think that we should be training and giving teens every tool that we possibly can, every way to say no, every educational tool and trick in the book to assist them in waiting....it protects their future and the future of this country and it's worth it for them to the wait.

I have NEVER met a woman who said...."man, I wish that I hadn't waited until marriage to have sex", but I've met many, many women who look back with regret and claim that they really wish they had waited and, "why didn't someone warn me?"



I would just add that I don't think abstinence is or needs to be a religious choice. There are plenty of practical, non-religious reasons to abstain; we all know them. And sex ed programs that discuss the merits could easily do so without any "moral" or religious imposition (can't we just call it "ethical"? like everything else that is actually moral). You can be atheist and still understand that it is in the best interest of a teenager -- emotionally, physically, psychologically -- to at least wait until a more mature age, and a healthier relationship to have sex.
And I think any change in this direction would be easiest to affect if abstinence education were presented in a non-religious way, and separated from other traditionally religious teachings, like creationism. Whether or not we came from monkeys doesn't have any real bearing on whether it is practical and intelligent to abstain from premarital sex. Granted, I think most religious people would agree that having a theological foundation helps teens understand why they are making that choice, as long as fear of hell fire isn't the only thing impelling them.


Our public schools are already failing to teach our children the basics like history and we expect them to teach sex ed? The thought is frightening to me. Teaching "safe sex" by demonstrating how to properly use a condom or other forms of birth control only defeats the message of abstinence, which is the only true method of safe sex. I agree wholeheartedly that parents should be the ones to teach their children about sex because I believe the oversexualization of American culture gives the false impression that abstinence is not possible.

Cady Driver

Very well put, Ben. I've often thought that "safe sex" is such an oxymoron. There really isn't such a thing as safe sex before marriage. All sex before marriage carries significant risks.

What if parents taught their girls to dress modestly and to protect their virginity? What if dads were actively involved in teaching their sons self-control and modeling respect towards women? What if mothers guarded what their children see and who they are influenced by? This nation would be the better for it. There is nothing wrong with delayed gratification and sex falls within that category. Delay it until the person is an adult and is ready to start a family within the bounds of marriage.

I don't really blame the public schools....No matter what the schools are teaching, it is still ultimately the parents' responsibility and if enough parents put up a stink about the gutter subjects that are being taught in government schools, things would change. I think that most parents have bought into the whole lie.


"What if parents taught their girls to dress modestly and to protect their virginity? What if dads were actively involved in teaching their sons self-control and modeling respect towards women? "

Why wouldn't boys be taught to protect their virginity? Why is "virginity" something girls should protect, but "self-control" is something boys should learn? If a girl is raped did she fail to protect herself, should she be shunned for it? I'm sorry, but I find that distinction, that virginity is important for girls to have, but not as important for boys, disturbing. If you're going to promote abstinence, it should be promoted fully for BOTH genders, there is nothing any more sacred about a womans virginity to a mans virginity, and setting up that double standard hurts everyone.

Cady Driver

Shanna, when fathers teach self-control, it means that they are teaching their sons to wait until marriage through the act of self-control. There is a distinction between what we teach our boys and our girls. I am a mother of a boy and two girls and I recognize the impulsiveness of boys. I also know that girls aren't as inclined to be so impulsive. The example of a father teaching a young man to control his urges and respect women will naturally translate into that son waiting for marriage as well.

It is important for boys and girls equally.

The rape issue is comparing apples to oranges here. Obviously no one is blaming a victim in any way for failing to protect herself. That's not even an issue to discuss.


My problem is that the language implies that virginity is more important for a girl then for a boy. While I know you expect boys to value and keep their virginity, without outright saying it, by not including the word virginity, it makes it seem like it is less important.

Language is important. And quite honestly, a lot of teenage sex is impulsive, and both girls and boys are guilty of that impulsiveness. If believe virginity is important for a boy, don't try to "man it up" by calling it self-control. He should be vigilant about protecting his virginity like the girl in your example.

A lot of the feminist boards I frequented would have women who came from conservative christian backgrounds, some of them where raped or molested. They would tell about the shame they felt in not fighting enough, or not being vigilant enough. They told about the shame and lectures their parents subjected them to. How the community brushed over the assault, and they were shunned for daring to accuse such an upright member of such a crime. How they thought they were dirty and fallen and would go to hell. You are too intelligent a person to let that happen to your own children, that extreme burden of what happens to virginity lost. It always sticks out to me when virginity is used for girls, but self-control or some other trait is used for boys. This makes virginity a quality girls should subscribe to, and self-control one boys should subscribe too. Surely, you can see the difference between saying a girl should "protect" her virginity whereas a boy should "learn" self-control. If abstinence in marriage is important for both genders, then preach it as such. Don't gloss over the importance of virginity for boys. Don't set up the double standard.

A Man

I suppose that you're all entitled to your opinions, but can we agree on the facts? That the pregnancy rate in the US for teens has not noticeably changed in the last 30 years despite billions of dollars spend on abstinence only education by the federal government. That we have double the teen pregnancy rates of most EU countries, countries that have condom machines in schools, emergency contraception and comprehensive education on sexuality and birth control. That an overwhelming majority of research indicates that abstinence only education simply does not work. These are not opinions, they are facts.

If you want to teach your children that you believe that it's best to wait until marriage for sex, that's your business I suppose. But I don't understand why that means they can't learn about sex, and how to have it as safely as possible?

Cady Driver

There is no such thing as "safe sex". There just isn't! And the sooner people realize this, the better. Abstinence was expected of all children for hundreds of years in this country, it was the parent's job to teach their children about sex and school was for the three R's.

Studies have shown that the more information children are given about sexual activity, the earlier they will start experimenting with and having sex.

Children are given too much information too early. When a 7 year old tells my 11 year old daughter that "she's hot" and wants her phone number (for what? to date at the sandbox????)....it's a sign that our children are overly sexualized and have been given too much information too soon. They don't even know what to do with that information and b/c their cognitive development is unformed in regards to the future consequences of sex...it's truly a disaster in the making.

Teenagers need to be taught that there isn't anything "safe" about sex. There just isn't, but we've all bought into that lie....that kids need to be taught "safe" sex. It's ridiculous.

A Parent

I didn't say it was safe. But some kids are going to have sex and I just don't understand why you wouldn't want to teach them to have it "as safely as possible".

You're correct in saying that "Studies have shown that the more information children are given about sexual activity, the earlier they will start experimenting with and having sex.". But it's disingenuous to leave out that the reason that it's true, is because they're aware of the consequences and are choosing to have safeer sex. Teens given abstinence only sex ed still choose to have sex and it results in more STD and higher pregnancy rates due to a lack of knowledge of how to have safer sex


I think


puts it very well

"There have been many increases in the rates of negative sexual outcomes in the adolescent population. Rising STD rates and teen pregnancies are an indication that adolescents need more education, and need to be more aware of sexual consequences. Although remaining abstinent is strongly supported by both parents and adolescents alike, abstinence-only programs can provide inaccurate and misleading information that teens need in order to protect themselves. The literature that has been viewed in this paper shows that in order to decrease the rates of teen pregnancy, HIV, and other STD’s children must be informed about the consequences of their actions and ways to prevent these through a comprehensive sex education program.

Although promoting abstinence and waiting to have sex until marriage is a very good and beneficial concept, abstinence-only programs are not the best way to protect all teens because not all teenagers are going to stay abstinent. In the perfect society, parents would discuss sexuality issues, values, and religion with their children so the curriculum would not be left up to the taxpayers to choose, but unfortunately, not all parents do. As a nurse it is essential to provide young patients the information that those parents, schools and the government try to leave out ... it is important to teach them the things they need to know in order to grow and develop into a healthy adult making healthy sexual choices."

But that's just me.


I think what is missing is the practical question of how does a person structure their social life so that they won't feel pressure to have sex. Refraining from dating can be helpful. Not being alone with the other person. Staying sober. Being productive and busy, so that people don't act out of boredom. If so many people are not interested in marriage until their mid to late 20s, why is it reasonable to expect two people to maintain a multi-year relationship without developing strong desires which are hard to resist?

Robin Goodfellow


Tell me, because I am still a (male) virgin, at 26, and waiting till marriage to the best of my ability.

What does it matter whether I am a virgin or not? What am I "protecting" by remaining so?

I have yet to meet a woman who was waiting herself who would reject a man because he was not a virgin like her.

[Males] aren't taught to "protect" their virginity because its not sought after. We also have less compunction against pushing off anyone we feel is a threat to us (indeed, it's expected of us as "men"), so if there was a female "cherry chaser" after us, we wouldn't feel bad about telling them to get lost. At all.


Well, society doesn't think highly of male virginity because it's considered "unmanly". That ugly double standard.

But, mainly, I emphasize it that abstinence should (if it's going to be taught) stressed for both genders, because logically when boys are raised with the idea that it is both good, natural and expected for them to have experience, well, they're probably going to have sex. And they're going to have sex (usually) with girls. It takes two to tango. If only one gender is taught the importance of withholding, more people are going to give in so to speak then if both are taught to withhold.

I wonder though, would you reject a woman if she was not a virgin? And if so, if you were not a virgin, would that be fair? Why do you think female virginity is sought after?

Robin Goodfellow


In the interest of not turning this thread into a personal soap-box, I invite you to contact me on Facebook* (I won't share my e-mail on a public page like this). I use the same name and avatar.

*and anyone else is welcome to as well

However, I sometimes use Socratic method when defending a stance, and I can not guarantee my answers to be pleasant. I could answer in a politically correct fashion, but I would be lying by denying how I felt simply to make [you] happy. I trust you're too good a person to make me (or anyone) do that?

With respect, that's all I want to say here.


Bravo Cady! My parents also taught me abstinence from a young age, and I always feel empowered and secured by being able to wait! I feel I'm extremely fortunate to have parents who taught me to protect myself.


That we have double the teen pregnancy rates of most EU countries, countries that have condom machines in schools, emergency contraception and comprehensive education on sexuality and birth control.

Europeans are dissappearing. Europe has very low birth rates and too many immigrants replacing the native population. Are you advocating for sterility/suicide, "safe sex" (oxymoron) or both?

But I don't understand why that means they can't learn about sex, and how to have it as safely as possible?

Right... that's what they said in the 1960's, the 1970's and so forth. But it didn't stay that way. It has instead "progressed" and become more "enlightened". In what ways? "Safe sex" has morphed from clean biological advice on sexual reproduction to full-on advocation of pornography, homosexuality, prostitution, transgenderism, promiscuity, hypersexualization of children and whatnot (sexual "pleasure" at all costs). Instead of looking at modesty, start looking at sexual liberal mores and scrutinize your own belief system.


This may sound crazy, BUT it could be possible that the SEXUAL DEVOLUTION and SEXUAL MISEDUCATION is the reason we are trillions in debt! No one is touching on this--there is NO perfect birth control, and do you notice that they are prescribing CONDOMS?!
If condoms worked so well, we WOULDNT HAVE DUMPED SO MANY HORMONES IN OUR BODIES, etc.
Women still get pregnant, and they look to the government for assistance--which leads to TRILLIONS IN DEBT

Leia Rhyne

There are a few things about this that have completely disturbed me here. I'll start out with saying that yes I do believe in god, and I believe that sex can have bad consequences such as STDs, or STIs, however, this can also happen inside marriage. People with STDs get married to people without STDs all the time, and people that are married still have a good chance of contracting said STDs when their partner may have been born with an STD such as AIDS.

Next, Darwin's theory does not suggest that we came from monkeys, it suggests that humans and chimps had a common ancestor, as both possess traits seldom found in other species.

Another thing I was wondering about is why shouldn't homosexuality be taught in kindergarten? Kindergarteners see people who are different in the world all the time. Are you trying to tell them that it's not okay to be different?

A couple more things I was wondering about, how can you deny a person what they are allowed to do with their own bodies? Teenagers are humans that do not always make the right decisions, no, but how can you attempt to deny them the option to make their decisions? Adults also make wrong decisions, under God we are all sinners.

Teaching your kids abstinence is your own choice, and also your kids' own choice as whether to adhere to your teachings, or decide for themselves to have the safest sex they can (using a condom, birth control, and only having sex with one who has been tested). One can attempt to control their teenagers' decisions, but they are teenagers, rebelling is part of their nature. Also, Shanna stated that "it's naive to assume pre-marital sex never happened in the good ole days, or that somehow the irresponsible teenager who can't seem to wear a condom is going to be more apt to abstain from sex," and frankly I agree wholeheartedly. I have not however only seen irresponsible teens get pregnant, it is also among those who are ignorant of the use of condoms to save themselves from pregnancy.

As this is probably something you do not want to hear, and comments are moderated, I do not expect it to appear on your blog, I just thought it might be some food for your thoughts.


thank you Wendy Shalit, I'm very happy you wrote the book (Return to modesty) even tho people told you not too. As i'm 21 male, in a world of mixed messages and confusion thanks.

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