It just sort of happened. I wasn’t planning on losing my virginity. He was cute and he told me he loved me. The next day he pretended like he didn’t know me at school.
—Jenny, age 15
Since when is being a virgin a bad thing? I’m proud of my abstinence, and I will continue to wait until I marry.
—Sherri, age 15
The numbers surrounding teen sexuality today are both hopeful and disturbing. Some good news: the teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion rates in the Unites States have reached their lowest level in almost four decades and the number of teens who report having had sexual intercourse is dramatically lower than twenty-five years ago. Now the bad news: 47% of teens between the ages of 15 and 19 say they have had sex, and the rate increases with the age of the teenager. Only 18 percent of boys and 13 percent of girls had sex by age 15, but by age 19, two-thirds of both boys and girls have had sex. Regarding oral sex, the rates of teen involvement are fairly close to those we see with sexual intercourse. In recent years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 50% of teens have had oral sex. If this isn’t enough to cause parents concern, according to the CDC, sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis increased dramatically recently and that of the 20 million new STD infections each year, the majority affect 15 to 24-year-olds. In the United States, one in four teens has contracted an STD.
Clearly, the teenager in your home is growing up in a highly sexualized culture. Yet, despite what the media may report, many young people today do have the will and desire to live a life of sexual integrity and purity. Everybody is not “doing it.” With the incredible amount of unhealthy influences from the world around them, your teen will have to go against the tide of culture and have the courage to stand for sexual integrity. It won’t be easy, but more and more studies are revealing that parental influence and role modeling is one of the major factors in helping teenagers make good decisions about their sexuality and relationships. In both liberal and conservative studies on healthy sexuality, it is agreed that the more positive, healthy, value-centered sex education kids receive from home, the less promiscuous they will be.
Many parents are willing to do everything possible to make sure their teen stays pure until his or her wedding day. But locking a teenager in your home from now until the day of the wedding isn’t realistic or legal. Intimidating your daughter’s boyfriend will only go so far (I cannot confirm or deny whether we tried this with our daughters’ dates). While the idea of helping to preserve your teen’s chastity is noble, we can and should do so much more for our kids. We can help them establish lasting sexual purity and integrity that extends throughout their lifetime.
The Bible speaks clearly about sexual purity, and for good reason. It is ultimately for the health and well-being of our relationships. If your teen commits to a lifestyle of sexual integrity, it will help his or her marriage and family in the long run. How many wives and husbands do you know who still carry “baggage” in their marriage from unwise decisions about sex and relationships in their younger years? I’m afraid there are too many to count. I’ve spoken and written about marriage for years, and I’m always amazed at how often sexuality is a key factor in a broken relationship. This is why I encourage young people and their parents to live by the Purity Code. Here is the commitment I challenge teens and their families to make:
The Purity Code Pledge
In honor of God, my family, and my future spouse, I commit to sexual purity.
• Honoring God with my body (1 Corinthians 6:20)
• Renewing my mind for the good (Romans 12:1,2)
• Turning my eyes from worthless things (Psalm 119:37 NTL)
• Guarding my heart above all else (Proverbs 4:23)
As you can see, choosing to live by the Purity Code is the opposite of what’s promoted in today’s sexualized culture, where teens go from one sexual partner to the next. Your teen will need all the help and guidance possible.
Many churches and youth ministry organizations provide support for Purity Code events, where teens are challenged to commit themselves to a life of purity. I’ve seen thousands of teens take this pledge and strive to follow through on their commitments. Special programs like these can definitely spark good conversations with your teens, but honestly, nothing is more effective than when parents have dialog with their kids about healthy sexuality. You can do this! Part of your job description as a parent is to take a proactive approach to communicating with your teens about sexual purity. Don’t forget, you are the most influential person in your teen’s life! It might be awkward, but your influence is most important.
 U.S. Teen Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion Rates Reach the Lowest Levels in Almost Four Decades, Health News Digest, April 11, 2016, reporting on a Guttmacher Institute study. Accessed online on May 16, 2016 at http://www.healthnewsdigest.com/news/Teen_Health_290/U-S-teen.shtml
 U.S. Teens Waiting Longer to Have Sex: CDC, Health Day, July 22, 2015, reporting on a study published in the July 2015 issue of the CDC’s NCHS Data Brief. Accessed online on May 16, 2016 at https://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/u-s-teens-waiting-longer-to-have-sex-cdc-701550.html
 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Key Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth, August 2015. Accessed online on May 17, 2016 at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/key_statistics/s.htm#oralsexmalefemale
 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Fact Sheet – Reported STDs in the United States, November 2015. Accessed online on May 16, 2016, at http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats14/std-trends-508.pdf
 Forhan S, Gottlieb S, Sternberg M, et al. Prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Female Adolescents Aged 14 to 19 in the United States. Pediatrics. 2009;124(6):1505-1512.