There’s a quiet revolution happening on the nation’s school and college campuses. While the students still live in a sex-saturated culture, and while researchers claim that at least 75 percent of college students are part of the “hook-up” generation, more and more students are opting out of the sex scene. It is far too early to declare a new trend, but there are encouraging signs of a new respect for abstinence and dating, instead of recreational sex.
Part of the change of attitude and behavior comes from college students seeing the consequences and repercussions of recreational sex.
- College counselors report that they are seeing a dramatic increase in sex-related problems on campuses. A just-published article in Professional Psychology reveals over three-quarters of clinic directors (77.1 percent) noted increases in “severe psychological problems.”
- Over the past decade, counselors report that depression cases doubled, suicidal students tripled and sexual assault cases quadrupled.
- Sexually transmitted diseases are rampant in a culture where it is not uncommon for students to have sex with several partners; they call it “concurrency.” About one in four women and about one in five men have HPV. Other STDs, like Herpes, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia, are also common among students — an estimated two-thirds of STDs occur among those under age 25.
- The prevailing message about abortion is that it is a “choice,” but far too many of today’s college women have seen a friend be abandoned by a guy or coerced to have an abortion when he finds out she is pregnant.
Wonderful books are available and are having impact with college students and young careerists. Wendy Shalit’s book, “The Good Girl Revolution: Young Rebels with Self-Esteem and High Standards,” and her original book on modesty, “A Return to Modesty,” are having profound influence. Miriam Grossman’s “Unprotected” lays out the consequences of promiscuity. Carol Platt Liebau’s, “Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Damages Girls,” reveals the “minefields” that today’s students have to navigate in their sexually “ramped up” world. Julie Klausner warns smart women not to be reckless with their hearts or bodies in “I Don’t Care about Your Band.” Joe McIlhaney Jr. and Freda McKissic Bush have written a book of scientific data on casual sex, “New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting our Children.” Laura Sessions Stepp, author of “Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both,” describes the shift of “power” away from women in the hook-up culture and noted that many young women cannot handle the physical and emotional battering that they suffer in the new hook-up landscape. Meg Meeker’s “Your Kids at Risk: How Teen Sex Threatens Our Sons and Daughters” is also a no-holds-barred treatise about consequences. In her book, “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus,” Kathleen Bogle writes about how co-eds long for a return to traditional dating. All these books, and numerous others, are being read by today’s generation of students, and they are having a positive impact on student behavior.
Plus, there are some very savvy outreach programs gaining popularity on college campuses. Foremost among them is the Love and Fidelity Network, which currently has chapters on about two-dozen high-profile campuses, including Princeton, Harvard, and Notre Dame. This very popular program, with distinguished Princeton professor Robert George in leadership, provides well-attended forums and discussion groups promoting abstinence, sexual integrity, and marriage. The Ruth Institute, headed by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, provides speakers for campus events and quality research on the benefits of marriage.
In addition, there are some pop cultural changes afoot with pop stars sending countercultural messages. Lady Gaga created a media frenzy recently when she told the press that she was going celibate and suggested that others do the same. Former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson released a song, “I Don’t Hook Up,” where she declared that she didn’t hook up and she didn’t “come cheap.” On Facebook, there’s a girls’ group called “Bring Dating Back” for girls who want guys to take them out on a real date rather than head straight for a bed.
But arguably, the most influential cultural statement lately among the youngest teens was a few subtle lines in a No. 1 hit song, “Fifteen.” Taylor Swift, one of the most popular of today’s country music stars, sang poignantly about “realizing bigger dreams” than the high school boyfriend, and about crying with Abigail “who gave everything” to a boy who “changed his mind.” She said in a recent interview, “I wouldn’t be a party girl even if I wasn’t doing this [songwriter and performer]; that’s just not the way I live my life.”
At last, our young people are hearing the truth from some pop stars, and they are getting solid information, including the quality abstinence programs that have been given wider distribution over the past decade. Today’s youth are hearing from multiple sources about the benefits of self-respect, self-restraint, and learning to say “no.” Perhaps a trend is underway after all; we can only hope and continue to challenge the nation’s young people to live up to their highest potential.
Janice Shaw Crouse, author of “Children at Risk,” is Executive Director and Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.