A review of Epidemic: How Teen Sex is Killing our Kids. By Meg Meeker.
Lifeline Press, 2002.
Epidemic may not be too strong of a word to describe the crisis in teen sexuality we face in the Western world. Although this volume describes the American scene, it would be true of most other Western nations as well. Young people have been sold a bill of goods regarding sexuality, and they are paying the penalty, big time.
Consider some of the statistics: In the US in 2002 up to one quarter of sexually active teens were living with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Each year over 15 million Americans will contract a new STD. Around a fifth of these will be teenagers. Indeed, while teens make up just 10 percent of the population, they account for 25 per cent of all STDs. That means every day in America 8000 teens will become infected with a new STD.
The truth is, the sexual revolution of the 60s has unleashed an untamed monster. When I was growing up one seldom heard of venereal diseases, as they were then called. And there were really only two: syphilis and gonorrhoea. And they tended to be something people other than sailors and prostitutes never worried about. Today there are at least 50 STDs. And with multiple strains of mutating viruses, that actual number may be as high as 100.
Thus a whole new batch of STDs have emerged in line with the no-holds-barred sexual revolution. Chlamydia for example was not even identified until 1976. Thus we have a whole new vocabulary as part of our dictionaries, with disease like genital herpes, HPV, HIV, and a range of new viral infections.
And the problem is many of these diseases are at present incurable (like HIV) and many are asymptomatic (that is one often does not even know one has the infection). And many are quite infectious, easily spread, and hard to control. Herpes for example lives on the skin and is easily passed on.
While antibiotics can stop bacterial STDs (like chlamydia) they cannot stop viruses. And even the bacteria are hard to control, with many mutating into more devious germs, becoming resistant to antibiotics.
And the problem of promiscuity makes matters even worse. Simply put, the more sexual partners one has, the greater the risk of being infected by an STD. If a teen has six sexual partners (and they have all had six sexual partners) he or she risks being exposed to the diseases of 63 people. This is like lighting a match to gasoline. It is also like playing Russian Roulette.
Doctor Meeker does not just warn against the physical dangers of casual sex. She also speaks to the emotional, psychological and social harms. The safe sex myth (just use a condom, etc) is not only physically harmful, as most contraceptives are far from foolproof, but the risks of a broken promise, a broken relationship, and a broken heart cannot be protected by the condom culture.
Dr Meeker reminds us that teens are especially vulnerable to negative emotional and psychological side effects due to early sexual activity. And that translates into an epidemic of teen depression and suicide. And the problem compounds itself. Depressed kids in turn are more likely to turn to sex, as many turn to drugs, to deal with their grief.
Losing one’s virginity at an early age often leads to a loss in self respect and self worth. A loss of trust and expectation also is part of the downside. The innocence of childhood is ripped away and replaced with a premature burden of adulthood.
The truth is, the condom culture and the explosion in comprehensive sex education have not helped matters, but made them worse. We have never before had so much sex ed, and we have never before had so much teen sexuality, abortion and STDs. There seems to be a clear correlation between the two.
And a major missing ingredient in most sex ed courses is what teens really need to hear: how to say no to sexual pressure. Abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in marriage is the only guaranteed safe sex. Yet this message is seldom being taught to our young people. It certainly is not the message of popular culture.
Critics will simply shrug off this volume and accuse the author of scare mongering. But try telling that to a young person who is now permanently affected by an STD. Try telling that to a young girl whose future is in doubt because sexual experimentation has lead to an unwanted pregnancy. Try telling that to those who have become infertile due to promiscuous sexual activity.
The consequences of the sexual revolution are very real indeed. It is time we had some straight talk on the many dangers of, and downsides to, teenage sex. The good news is we are not animals and we can control our desires. But when all around us are telling our young people that they should just go for it, the message of sexual responsibility is easily drowned out. Thus the importance of this book.
One Reply to “A review of Epidemic: How Teen Sex is Killing our Kids. By Meg Meeker.”
I was really relieved after reading this book reivew. I an Indian sitting in Mumbai, has always been led to believe that sexual abstinence is out of fashion in the Western world , but your book and its review has opened my eyes and ears , because there are many in this city who are openly aping what is happening on that side of the firing line . You should see to it that copies of the above book are freely available in India.