The first time I visited my wife at her parents’ home when we were dating I noticed she had a poster on her bedroom wall that read, “If you love me, you’ll have sex with me.”
It was part of an abstinence campaign that was meant to be an ironic play on words. The underlying message was if I truly loved her we would one day be married. Sex could wait. At that moment I knew that she had a spiritually-rooted, healthy and slightly tongue-in-cheek view of sex that would make us quite compatible.
Abstinence campaigns are often criticized by those who advocate for more “progressive” forms of sex education. They are often portrayed as being unrealistic and destined for failure. But the truth is that – with the proper message – they can and do work quite often. My wife and I are just one example.
In her new book Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns, Christine Gardner takes an in-depth look at American evangelical abstinence campaigns, comparing them with campaigns in other cultures where HIV/AIDS is more of a threat. In summary, she feels that abstinence campaigns have had a good amount of success. But she also fears that by making marriage “all about sex” we may be setting young people up for disappointment if sex isn’t great after marriage.
You can read an interview with Gardner about her new book at ChristianityToday.com.