Why Wait?

Is there any reason for a professional in the education and health field to introduce to young people ideas of waiting for or delay of sex?

For many young people of faith the main reason for choosing to wait until they are married is the values taught by their faith. This is not because their faith believes sex is bad. It is rather that they so affirm the place of sex within the security of marriage that they reject it anywhere else. [1] 


Is it possible to create mainstream education and advice settings where this is affirmed and supported while also offering sound information and advice to other young people who do not have their beliefs and motivations?

Some professionals may think: ‘Didn’t the Bush era ‘Abstinence’ sex education programmes fail to make any measurable difference to young people’s sexual behaviours?' [2] Didn’t they leave them with negative views about contraception that left them more exposed to unsafe sex and unintended pregnancy?’ We agree that some of them were not effective, while others were. However, professionals need to be aware that there are very good reasons other than religious faith for helping all young people to make choices not to have early sexual experiences.

A major reason is explored in the (non religious) work of Jo Adams Associates [3] which stresses that our society creates peer and media pressure on young people to have sex without being ready for it.  This readiness includes emotions, relationship skills, self-esteem and assertiveness as well as knowledge about contraception, STIs and pregnancy. “Research tells us many young people regret and don’t enjoy early sex. This approach looks at ways of helping them meet emotional needs through means other than sex – for example through supportive friendships - until they genuinely are ready for this.”

Secondly, the knowledge available to us as professionals about the risks involved in early sex and promiscuous sex, while not being the focus of our work, should be in the background.  STIs are steadily increasing among 16-24 year olds [4], Pregnancy and Abortion figures [5] for under 20’s remain high, if dropping.  The mix of alcohol abuse and early sex is known to be common. [6] Abusive and violent relationships [7]. So, although .., focusing on scare stories and the negative aspects of sex is a real turn-off, and doesn’t equip young people with either the skills or the knowledge to negotiate relationships in the real world.”[8]

There is good reason to help young people find healthier, safer, wiser ways of relating. One good way is to use the resources within their own faith and faith communities to help them do this.



[1] Clinton. C (2011) Bad or in the Right Place? [Article] 

[2]  Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education: Assessing the Impact - Debra Hauser.  available at  http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/623?task=view

[3] Jo Adams Associates: Apple Loft 

[4] http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=2206

[5] (over 40,000 a year in 2008) http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsStatistics/DH_099285

[6] Alcohol and teenage sexual activity NSPCC 2006 found at https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/healthy-sexual-behaviour-children-young-people/

[7] Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships.  Barter, McCarry, Berridge and Evans Bristol University / NSPCC 2009


[8] Are you ready? Young people’s views of sex and relationships. FPA.  London . 2007  http://www.fpa.org.uk/sites/default/files/are-you-ready-young-peoples-views-sex-relationships.pdf