Last year I read a very well-written piece featured on the Good Men Project and Yahoo Parenting written by Danielle Campoamor called Why I Won’t Teach My Son Abstinence. Unlike Campoamor and her partner, I will be teaching my two sons and my daughter about abstinence. Though I think her article is well-thought out and an interesting read, the fact is, Ms. Campoamor and I simply disagree. She says, “We want to let our son know that it is okay to have sex before marriage because, well, we did. His father and I explored our sexuality and learned about our bodies long before we found “the one”. Those encounters are why we are the people we are today.”
My husband and I have had the exact opposite experience, and it also plays a a part in who we are today—which is one reason it’s the experience we want for our kids. We believe that the Bible clearly says that we should not have sex before we are married, and that’s what we will tell our kids. And despite all the other reasons abstinence before marriage is good for you, I want to be clear that following God’s commands, and choosing what He says is best for us—a.k.a straight up obedience—is the main reason we will do so. But just so you know I’ve though long and hard about this, let me throw out some other reasons as well. (And let me also say that our oldest is 11, and we have had “the talk” with him and are intentional about teaching him these things continually. It is NOT a “one and done” thing.)
Campoamor says she fears that teaching her son abstinence will also teach him that he is “less than” or “better than” because he has had sex. She wants to make sure he knows that neither of those things are true, and so do I. When I teach my kids abstinence, I will emphasize to them that sexual sin is the same as any other sin in the eyes of God. It doesn’t make them better or worse than any other of the 1 billion imperfect sinners on this earth. However, I will teach them that it can have much more grave consequences than other sins. Lying or stealing doesn’t get you pregnant, doesn’t catapult you from kid to parent in an instant, doesn’t give you a possibly devasting sexually transmitted disease. Other sins that are destructive, like gluttony, for instance, don’t also take something away from another person like sex before marriage does. I will teach my kids that if they choose sex before marriage, they are taking away something from their sexual partner, from their partner’s future spouse, and from their own future spouse. When you have sex with someone, it creates a bond that is only meant for a husband and a wife to share, and sharing that with only them is something you—any your sexual partner(s) can never get back (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).
Another reason Campoanor says she won’t teach her son abstinence is this: “We want to teach our son that women are not just their sexual history.” Well, okay, I want to teach my son that as well, and my daughter the same about men. Teaching abstinence and teaching them to choose to follow God’s commands about sex, in no way demeans one who hasn’t chosen that themselves. We are ALL sinners, we all make mistakes, and we are ALL offered forgiveness and grace that makes us whole again. While the consequences of a person’s sexual history may never fully go away, they don’t define one’s value any more than their employment history does. All men and women have immeasurable value simply because they were created in the image of God—and that is what I will teach my kids about how to assign value to the people of the opposite sex.
One argument I hear a lot against the teaching of abstinence is that people don’t want to teach their kids that sex is “dirty” or “wrong”. And I do believe in the church that we have failed our kids in this area for years. But the truth is, when you teach your kids about sex the way God designed it, the way He outlines it in the Bible, you are teaching them that it is a good, beautiful, pleasurable thing designed by God because of His great love for us. It brings husband and wife closer together and builds trust in the marriage. It is a way to yield unselfishly to each other, to put each other first, and to be refreshed. There is absolutely NOTHING dirty or bad about that. There is nothing shameful about sex. Sex is not a sin! Like ALL of God’s gifts, it only becomes wrong when we distort His good purposes for it. Campoamor says, “We want our son to feel comfortable with and in his body, regardless of how that body looks or the ways in which that body functions. We want him to know that our forms can do some incredible things, but with that ability comes an overwhelming responsibility.” There is NOTHING in that statement that conflicts with the teaching of abstinence when it is done correctly. It’s just not a good argument against abstinence at all.
Finally, what I want to say is this. I will teach my kids abstinence despite the argument that it’s “unrealistic”. I know it’s a lot to ask. I know it’s not the “norm”. I know it will be hard, because I’ve been there. But I also know that my kids can do all things through Christ. There is no command God gives us that we cannot undertake with success and joy if we seek Him first and ask for His help. Would I set my kids up for failure? Hell no. Would my God who loves them WAY more than I ever could set them up for failure? Absolutely not! His good and perfect love enables them to obey—and be more than conquerors.
But what if they mess up? Like this wonderful post says, they sure might. So many do. Wonderful, Jesus-loving, God-honoring kids slip in this area all the time. Some get away without consequences that you and I can see, and some don’t. The way I handle that will be shaped in part by how I have seen others handle it, and by a conversation I had with my own mother when I was a teen.
One day when I was about 16 my mother and I were riding in her car and somehow, the subject of teen pregnancy came up. I can’t remember how, or why, but what I do remember is what my she said to me. It is what I will say to my own kids: “If you ever come to me and say you are pregnant (or have messed up sexually) I will hug you and I will cry and I will say it will be ok.”
To my sons and my daughther: You are NOT your sins, of any kind, sexually or otherwise. There is grace, there is forgiveness, there is brokenness made beautiful. I love you, and if you mess up, it will be ok. I will teach you what is right, and I will pray that you will choose it. But in the end, it is you who will decide your actions. It is my job to teach you what it right, and my job to love you unconditionally. And those are two things my loves, that you can count on your mother to always do.