If I had teenagers of my own, I would consider handling the topic of sex in a different way. Instead of teaching them that premarital sex is wrong, I would instead ensure they are adequately informed about sex and contraception, and guide them in terms of learning what responsible behaviour, respect for oneself and one’s partner, negotiation, communication, and commitment are all about.
This holistic approach to teenage sex, which focuses on personal responsibility rather than on abstinence, seems to be quite effective.
. . . comprehensive and balanced information about sexuality and clear expectations about commitment and prevention [of] childbearing and STDs within teenage relationships, are hallmarks of countries with low levels of adolescent pregnancy, childbearing and STDs.
This approach seems to be far more progressive than a finger-wagging, ‘thou shall not’ abstinence-only message. And there is some weight to the argument that responsible sex before marriage can be beneficial: through premarital experimentation, a person can get a fair idea of what they can give their future spouse when they finally marry.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with abstinence per se, even though some might argue that it encourages teenagers to marry at a young age. If a teenager decides to abstain, that’s fantastic, and her or his decision should be respected. But, as a general solution to societal problems related to sexual activity, I think the goal of abstinence is unattainable: like it or not, there are many teenagers who are going to experiment sexually, even if you teach them to wait until marriage. It is more important, therefore, to teach them how to experiment responsibly.