The 29-Year-Old Virgin

Slightly off topic, but bear with me here. This deserves special notice. The Feds have now expanded the audience of their abstinence-only message to include unmarried adults up to age 29 according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

I understand that many people — especially parents — want their children to refrain from sexual intercourse while they are in high school. But to not engage in sexual activity until age 30? That seems more than a little preposterous to me (and to the rest of America; over 90% of persons in their 20s are sexually active). Currently, the average age of marriage for females is 25 and it’s 27 for males. This new policy really shows that the government is serious about its abstinence-only guidelines: that people should remain abstinent until marriage.

As a 38-year-old never married female, I have to admit that this administration would be disappointed in my behavior, so I am more than a little biased here. But I cannot imagine that very many people are going to take this suggestion seriously. And is it even healthy — not just physically, but emotionally and mentally — to not engage in sexual activity for such a long period of time?

If this sort of policy takes hold in our educational system, the Internet is really going to have to step up in its role as sex educator. With no information about contraception, STDs, or sexual pleasure reaching anyone before marriage through the schools or community programs (the elephant in the room, of course, is the assumption that somehow people are going to magically get this information on their wedding day), the WWW is going to become more heavily relied on for persons of all ages who want basic sexual health information.

I know a lot of places that are up for the task for teens such as Cool Nurse, Sex Etc., and Teen Wire but what about adults? Hopefully there are some great sites for them too as they are kept in the dark about even the most basic sexual health information.


One thought on “The 29-Year-Old Virgin

  1. I don’t think lack of information is a problem for any literate adult (or any socially connected adult, for that matter). The quality of information may or may not be very good, depending on the sources used. However, as a sexually abstinent thirtysomething, I can tell you that a wide range of all kinds of information about sex is readily available to me. For me, the problem is not the lack of quality information. Rather, it is finding information that provides me with a level and focus of specificity and authoritative knowledge that I find appropriate to answer my questions. I find these sources on and in my public library. Often, I talk about my questions and my discoveries with friends and my boyfriend, who is currently sexually abstinent only because he loves me and respects my choices. I also talk about sex with my mom, who is one of my best friends and who thinks sex is a fabulous thing (yes, my boyfriend thinks this aspect of my relationship with my mother is creepy).I agree with you that some knowledge of sex is essential for every physically maturing/mature human being. I also agree with you that abstaining from sex for over a decade is an option few young people (comparatively) will choose. However, I don’t think sexual abstinence for long periods of time is unhealthy, mentally/emotionally or physically. As far as I know, there are no automatic negative physical side effects to sexual abstinence. Most of what we experience in life is framed by what we expect of those experiences, and if we expect to have sex in our mid-twenties, or consider ourselves weird for choosing differently than our friends, then probably we will be frustrated, depressed, or otherwise emotionally disturbed regarding our sexual activity (or lack thereof). But these negative effects are only associated with the specific situation involving sexual abstinence, not a direct result of sexual abstinence itself. I’m not being coy about the real desires for sex that most physically normal adults feel. However, neither am I being coy about the reality of taking responsibility for the possibility of creating another human life (or endangering your own, depending on the sexual health of your partner) whenever one chooses to have heterosexual sex. There are a wide range of views on abortion, I know, and I have no desire to verbally flog anyone for disagreeing with me about the seriousness of the choice to be sexually active with no desire to take responsibility for the emotional and physical health for any children that may result from one’s actions. I know a range of people, whose intelligence and ethics I respect, who hold viewpoints all over the map on this issue. But I have the right to consider for myself whether to act in a manner that, to me, shows social responsibility as well as the ability and will to be faithful to my spouse, whoever that person may be (my boyfriend and I do hope it’s him). Here’s my point (finally!): labeling abstinence as potentially harmful, without offering proof of its dangers or demonstrating respect for those who choose to practice it, is just as irresponsible an action in this debate as is the choice to teach only abstinence to teenagers who probably will choose to be sexually active. Not all abstainers are prudes–just as those who are sexually active are not automatically well-adjusted. Have a little respect, okay?

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