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Ask Dr. P


Dr. Galdino Panzarone


Dear Dr P, A recent speaker, Amber Madison, seemed to assume that most if not all her coed listeners were sexually active, even with multiple partners. Do you see ANY value in limiting your partners or waiting until marriage?

I see MUCH value in limiting your romantic or sexuoerotic relationships or even waiting until marriage.

I can not assume that all of my students in my Human Sexuality class or students here at Roanoke College are sexually active.  I have learned from my teaching experience and from reading the personal journals of thousands of students, that a large number are indeed NOT sexually active, at least in partnered relationships, and do see personal value in remaining celibate or in a monogamous relationship until marriage.  I applaud their decision.

I personally see value in delaying partnered sexual interaction until such time that a commitment might be made for a long-term responsible, mutually caring, mature monogamous relationship and/or marriage.  I have also learned from students that those who pass through a state of reckless sexual experimentation, sometimes involving multiple partners in sequence or simultaneously, often come to regret their youthful abandon as a result of the consequences of their choices and behaviors.  They often say they would not wish the same adolescent sexually irresponsible life histories on their own children.

The consequences of early and unsafe sexual activity is likely exposure to, and infection by genital herpes, HPV causing warts, pre-cancerous cervical changes and now we’ve learned oral cancers also.  HIV the cause of AIDs, gonorrhea, chlamydia, are  other campus “favorites.”   Even on our insular campus there are HIV positive students!  The national estimate is that one in every 250 college students is HIV positive. This works out to 8 to 10 HIV positives on our 2000 student RC campus!  None of these normal-looking people wear red “HIV+” badges.  Most are not gay, since HIV is now increasing most quickly in the heterosexual population.  The exposure risk of STDs increases with the number of sexual partners.  The STD risk is zero with no sexual partners.

The usual outcome of sexual activity among American unmarried youth is unwanted pregnancy.  We in the U.S.A. have the highest—I repeat—THE HIGHEST teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates of all of the technologically advanced countries.   There are 21 countries with lower teen pregnancy rates!  Three to four of 10 teen girls become pregnant at least once before 20 years of age!  For a woman to delay pregnancy until her twenties (and marriage) provides many health, educational, financial, and social benefits (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2002).  Additionally, we have one of the highest sexually transmitted infection rates (see above).  All of this is for the same reason.  When compared to Europe, the good-old U.S. of A. is a rather sexually repressive country, which then suffers from “the minister’s daughter syndrome.”  When forcefully repressed, sexuality strives for expression even more strongly and often without regulation.

Providing a comprehensive sexuality education beginning at the earliest grades with age appropriate information, which continues through the high school years, results in a significant delay of first sexual intercourse until the later teen years.  Knowing—theoretically, at least—what sexuality is all about results more often in a decision to wait.  Sexual knowledge (not practice) results in choices for sexual abstinence and/or more responsible sexual decision making.  In fact, education of any type seems to be instrumental in the delay of first coitus until one is older.  Graduate school oriented students seem to avoid pre-marital sexual relationships while they pursue their academic career goals more than do high school dropouts or graduates.  Indeed, according to McCammon, Knox and Schacht (2004) “Some individuals practice abstinence in order to better focus their energy on personal, academic, or professional development without the distractions of sexual involvement.”

For the libidinal energy that needs discharge, Joycelyn Elders, Surgeon General during the Clinton administration, controversially advocated  autoeroticism,  “outercourse,” or V.E.N.I.S. (Non-Insertive Very Exciting Sex).  This activity was much safer than ordinary coitus or other ‘insertive” sexual activities

Finally, another reason to exercise good judgment in deciding about partnered sexual involvement is that there can be no sexual interaction with a partner without a subsequent emotional bonding.  Oxytocin secreted during sexual arousal and orgasm provides for a psychological fusing or bonding between partners.  There really is no “casual sex.”  Without commitments, the pain of broken hearts, the feelings of being exploited and guilt over having exploited are things to be regretted and avoided.

I advocate academic knowledge, not Biblical “knowledge” regarding human sexuality.

Knowledgeably yours,

Dr P