Here is a question from a regular reader:

“What role do you think the choice of abstinence should play in sexuality education?”

Well, I think it’s critical. All teenagers must know, absolutely, that the choice to have sexual intercourse is first and foremost theirs to make about their own body. And making the decision to not have intercourse is often a wise one, given just the physical issues involved with sexual intercourse. To elaborate, it is often useful to ask teenagers what their goal is with having intercourse. If it is sexual pleasure, there are many ways to achieve that without intercourse. If it is physical and emotional closeness with their partner, there are many ways to achieve that without intercourse. If they feel pressured, well, that’s a huge red flag (see above). If they want to get pregnant, well, they probably need more experience with babies, and they should get a job or volunteer at a daycare center to get a sense of what babies are really like.

But the critical thing about all of this is that these pieces of information can’t just be thrown at the teenagers – they need to come to these realizations on their own. It’s hard as a parent, educator, friend, to let them do this. But it’s the way that has the largest impact on them. And they can and will, through some good conversation with adults where the adults are primarily listening and asking the occasional question, come to those realizations.