Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable,” observed G.K. Chesterton. The British social critic’s words have never been truer, especially when applied to the health and well-being of America’s teenagers.
By Kelly Boggs
Men do not differ much about what things they will
call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call
excusable,” observed G.K. Chesterton. The British social critic’s words
have never been truer, especially when applied to the health and
well-being of America’s teenagers.
America’s cultural and educational elite vehemently
condemn adolescent smoking as an inexcusable evil. At the same time,
sex is treated as an inevitable behavior that teens are going to engage
The elite believe nothing can be done to curb
adolescent sex. Instead, they want to provide teens with comprehensive
information so kids can make informed choices. Even the most casual
observer would have to admit that our current dominant culture accepts
teenage sex as a lesser evil than adolescent smoking.
Take the way smoking has been addressed in the United States in recent years.
In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report on
the ill effects of smoking. One year later, all cigarette packaging was
required to carry a warning label that called attention to the dangers
of smoking. And in 1971, smoking advertising was banned from television.
While the warning labels and advertising ban were
aimed at the general public, they were also designed to have an effect
on teenagers as well. The theory was that by stressing the danger of
cigarettes and limiting exposure to positive images of smoking,
adolescents could be convinced to not smoke.
In 1988, the cartoon character “Joe Camel,” featured
by tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds in its print advertising, was banned.
Both Houses of Congress were convinced the cigarette-puffing camel was
persuading children to view smoking in a positive light. Hence, he was
The campaign to curb smoking has been successful.
Prior to the push to highlight the negatives of smoking, approximately
45 to 50 percent of Americans smoked. Now only about 23 percent light
up. Among teens that figure is 28 percent.
Not only are fewer people smoking, but instances of
characters lighting up in movies or on television are almost
nonexistent, not to mention the number of smoke-free environments that
Can you imagine if the same approach was taken toward teenagers and sex?
How about putting warning labels on condoms?
Warning: This product does not provide 100 percent protection from
pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. Unmarried and promiscuous
sexual intercourse can have negative psychological consequences,
especially for teenagers.
A recent study discovered that teenagers who were
exposed to television with a significant amount of sexual content were
twice as likely to engage in sexual intercourse. If you know anything
about the media currently being marketed to teens, you know that it is
saturated with sex.
What if music, movies and television aimed at
adolescents could not contain depictions of sex or sexual innuendo? If
“Joe Camel” can be put out to pasture, why not the overt and
irresponsible sexuality in the media peddled to kids?
Interestingly enough, a recent study found that
teenage sexual activity has declined. The National Center for Health
Statistics said that for girls ages 15 to 17, the percentage who had
ever had intercourse declined from 38 percent in 1995 to 30 percent in
For boys, the agency said the decline was 43 percent to 31 percent.
When I read the aforementioned statistics, what I
found as significant as the decline was the year: 1995. You see, it was
in 1997 that the federal government began to provide funding for
abstinence-based sex education.
In spite of the correlation between abstinence
funding and the drop in teen sexual activity, the elite still does not
get it. A recent CNN report commented that abstinence programs showed
little change in teen sexual behavior since their start in 1997.
Teenage popular culture has changed little over the
last seven years. Condoms are still readily available and
adolescent-oriented media continue to depict unmarried and promiscuous
The only aspect of teen culture that has
changed in the last seven years is that more adolescents are being
exposed to abstinence as a viable alternative.
Imagine if our culture approached teenage sex
the same way we do adolescent smoking: the numbers of sexually-active
teens would diminish dramatically.
So long as teenage sex is an evil that is excused, it will continue to be a significant social problem.