A Power Greater Than Jesus: the Adolescent Sex Drive

17 September, 2009

It surprises me (why, I don’t know, since it has happened often enough) when an anecdotal experience from my (rather boring) youth serves to perfectly illustrate something happening in the world today.  For instance, take this story of  narrow-minded authoritarian zealotry:

When I was in eighth grade (middle school in Maryland), there was a nice, quiet, and very, very religious girl a year younger than I.  I played little league (not capitalized because we weren’t part of Little League) baseball with her brother, so we knew each other.  Tangentially, but we did know each other. 

Her family attended a church over in West Virginia.  They billed themselves as a Christian bible church.  They were biblical literalists — very word in the King James version of the Bible was the absolute, literal and unchanged word of god. 

Of course, her church firmly believed that teachers in public schools should lead children (of whatever religion (or no religion)) in prayer.  They thought that Ronald Reagan was semi-divine and that Jimmy Carter was the anti-Christ.  They also believed that sex-education was for the parents, not the school.  After all, the school might teach that barrier-protection methods are, when done right and with redundancy, rather effective (which our sex-ed class did teach).  (Odd that they had no problem with praying to an imaginary sky-daddy (which not every one believed in), but had conniptions over the idea of some forms of education (human biology).)

This young lady became enamoured of an older man.  He was in tenth grade but already had his driver’s license (I think he failed a year (which is not necessarily a bad thing — I repeated my sophomore year of high school).  Her parents decided that, since he’s a good Christian, and a member of their church, this was a good thing.

I’m sure you know what happened next.  From what I heard, they were in the back seat of his car (a late ’70s Monte Carlo) and decided to ‘express their love for each other.’  Since she was going to be a virgin ’til marriage, and her boyfriend (from what I heard) convinced her that once he had an erection he had to use it or suffer, when that moment came, they were not prepared (and he was a boy scout, too). 

Five months later, she went to visit a relative.  Five months after that, she was back at home and her mother had presented the family with a little baby boy.  Cute kid.  Black hair.  Mom had red hair and dad was a blonde.   Not that anyone was fooled, of course.  We all knew what had happened.

So since her parents did not believe in contraception, and since she was not allowed to participate in a rather limited sex education class, she gave birth just after her 14th birthday. 

A study by a researcher at Drexel and Pitt’s medical school looked at the correlation between religiosity and teen pregnancy.  Religiosity was measured by biblical literalism.  Allowances were made for abortions and other factors.  And, big surprise, the more religious the state, the more teens giving birth.

This study (and all quotes are from MSMBC)

The relationship could be due to the fact that communities with such religious beliefs (a literal interpretation of the Bible, for instance) may frown upon contraception, researchers say. If that same culture isn’t successfully discouraging teen sex, the pregnancy and birth rates rise.

Researcher Strayhorn said,

“We conjecture that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself.”

As PZ Myers writes, “Fancy that. The adolescent sex drive is a power greater than Jesus.”

John Santelli of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University calls the study “well-done,” adding that the results are not surprising.

“The index of religiosity is tapping into more fundamentalist religious belief,” Santelli said. “I’m sure there are parts of New England that have very low teen birth rates, which have pretty high religious participation, but they’re probably less conservative, less fundamentalist type of congregations.”

So religiosity is not the determining factor.  There are plenty of more liberal Christians who actually tell their children the truth about sex and birth control.  It appears to be the fundamentalist and evangelical chunk which cant quite get the kids to understand the  connection between sex and babies, and the role of contraception.

So, once again, we have yet another study linking fundamentalist literalist Christian education practices with either higher teen birth rates or sexually transmitted disease rates.  I’m not sure which is more depressing:  the fact that I find it important to write about this subject so often, or the fact that narrow-minded authoritarian zealotry has replaced parenting in so many American families.

The girl who I knew (I lost track of her in high school) is now 42.  Her son is now about 28.  I wonder if she has figured out the relationship between fucking and pregnancy?  And I wonder if she passed that on to her children?

I think the giant winged porcupines are more likely.  No matter the orifice out of which it appears.



  1. It IS depressing to have to write so often about how the failure to properly educate kids about sex and rising teen pregnancy rates, isn’t it? I’ve done a shitload of it myself for many, many years, quite likely annoying the hell out of those of my family members who’d rather I shut up; whether because I’ve offended some belief or another of theirs, or have railed a little too strongly or in too much detail about things they did/do to make the problem worse.

    These are our KIDS, we owe them the truth so they can make informed decisions. Allowing superstitious fuckwittery to get in the way of PUBLIC HEALTH education is a crime against the American people.

    Some of us are passionate about this not just because of religion, but because we discover one day that we WERE LIED TO in order to cover up unmarried pregnancies and that our “family tree” is really two: one biological, one a thoughtfully crafted deception. It’s justified as a “loving” or “Christian” thing to do, to create this public version of reality when in fact it’s born of shame, delusion and willful ignorance. Liars for Jesus. They’re everywhere.

    How cruel is it that there are people out there whose minds were blown to find out their “sister” gave birth to them, or that they and that “cousin” who look so very much alike share a parent? I’m 47, there are quite a few among my family and friends.

    Lying to kids is bad enough. Lying to them when it’s clearly fucking them up in large numbers – and insisting on your right to keep on lying, should be a hanging offense.

  2. So I wonder if she’s soon to be, if not already, a great grandmother.

    Btw, here’s an interesting view of Christian fundamentalism, from a Christian Right guy no less.

  3. So I wonder if she’s soon to be, if not already, a great grandmother.

    Btw, here’s an interesting view of Christian fundamentalism, from a Christian Right guy no less.
    OH! You’re my new favorite blogger fyi

  4. It appears to be the fundamentalist and evangelical chunk which cant quite get the kids to understand the connection between sex and babies, and the role of contraception.

    Having grown up in a fiercely evangelical Christian family, and having known a number of teen peers who got pregnant outside of wedlock (as the saying goes), I want to comment on this remark. My teen friends and I (regardless of degree of religious commitment) all knew the connection between sex and pregnancy. Those who were less religiously committed were more likely to be adequately prepared for sex than those with “deeper faith.” The more faithful ones tended to think that they’d be able to resist the urge to fuck, or stop somewhere short of intercourse, or, having slipped once and felt guilty as hell about it – never go that far again. Needless to say, more often than not, they were wrong about all of those things. With few exceptions, most of my friends who got pregnant before marriage were faithful Christians. They weren’t uninformed about contraception; they were, however, grossly misinformed about the power of God to protect them from themselves, and sadly unrealistic about their abilities to refrain from having sex.

    Having said all that, as an adult, I have known evangelical Christian teens and young adults who were (to my shock and dismay) utterly uninformed about birth control. Sad to say, it seems that, in some areas, widespread, common education about contraception has regressed rather than advanced.

  5. Interesting post, thanks. I would agree with the reserach that religiosity can create too narrow of a focus for Christians. I also don’t see that it automatically makes a Christian worldview corrrupt or invalid.

    • There’s no single aspect of Christian worldview that makes it automatically corrupt of invalid. But if you add up all the various negative aspects, you get one stinking pile of dung.

      • What about how it’s all predicated upon an unsupportable premise?

  6. Rox: Lying to children is part and parcel to American-style upbringing: Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Jesus cries if you touch yourself in certain places, etc., so why should reproduction be any different.

    Philly: Very possible, though her first born was a boy, and it is (usually) older boy/ younger girl when dating or marrying. Thanks for the image, though.

    Crazy for God is one of the books on my ‘must read’ list.

    Philly: I’m surprised at you. Spam-commenting with someone else’s web site. Not gonna delete that asshat’s absurdity (I’ve gotten a little sensitive with accusations of deletions, so . . .), but all beware — the second Philly Chief comment is not Philly Chief.

    Chappie: You are correct. I was sloppy (and I blame the ease with which I can edit posts (never happened when I wrote term papers on a typewriter)). The sentence should have read: “It appears to be the fundamentalist and evangelical chunk which can’t quite get the kids to understand the connection between responsible sex and the role of contraception.”

    Still not exactly your take on it, but, from personal experience, my take.

    Mark: Glad you could stop by. My writing must be far better than I thought. Here I was, innocently pointing out the dangers of the radical fundamentalist approach to sex education and birth control, and you read it as an attempt to show the entire fantasy world of Christianity to be corrupt or invalid. I applaud your ability to read between the lines. My glasses aren’t that good.

    Spanqi: An the stinking pile of dreck is composed of a great deal of willful ignorance.

    Philly: Just because the doctrine was created ex post facto doesn’t necessarily make it unsupportable.



    It does.

    Never mind.

  7. Sex might work the other way around too. I remember my quite younger girlfriend in high school to this day. When we got within ten feet of each other we could see god and all the stars and the creation of the whole damned universe. Actually touching and making out and all that was like living in a whole other world, other universe, and setting it on blazing, raging fire.

    Older and wiser, I’m sure now that it was pheromones. But what a rush! I’d love to feel that again, but it sure as hell wouldn’t turn me away from being the biggest bloody damn atheist on my block.

  8. I found your article quite useful and interesting. I have bookmarked the site for later usage. Peter

  9. This is a serious question: why the fascination with children and sex?

  10. Back in 1883 Edwin Abbott wrote ‘Flatland’. He uses it to give an understanding of contiguous geometric worlds, each existing at a higher level of dimensions. Today ‘Techie Worlds’ is available. Written for people with a mechanistic understanding of our world, it looks at ridiculous Christian teachings, such as Trinity, soul, resurrection and judgment. In so doing, ‘Techie Worlds’ follows science’s lead in examining phenomena in the light of theory. Contiguous dimensional worlds provide a logical, mechanical explanation for those phenomena.
    So an intelligent, intellectually honest and open-minded person has excellent reason to hold religious views. In the light of Pascal’s wager, people would be foolish to deny the Christian teaching of love or to hold Moslem or pagan beliefs.
    ‘Techie Worlds, Visible & Invisible’ is available from amazon.com.

    • What a ridiculous comment. When scientific examination means more than dreaming up rationales for “ridiculous Christian teachings” like “contiguous dimensional worlds”. Creating and maybe even understanding those rationales might require an ample intelligence but those rationales are from from suitable reasons for holding religious views. And lastly, how you can cite Pascal’s wager, which is a false dichotomy, as a reason for accepting Christianity while simultaneously citing the existence of alternative options like Islam escapes me. You may not be able to grasp the false part, but you should at least grasp the dichotomy part (ie – ONLY TWO OPTIONS).

  11. I don’t know, I was able to abstain until marriage, thanks to Jesus! Of course, that led to far more problems than premarital sex would have caused so I am inclined to agree with you. Abstinence doesn’t work. Even if a couple does make it to marriage, that doesn’t mean that was a good thing! Having sex before marriage would have saved me a helluva lot of agony and pain.

    • Sexual compatibility is just one of many compatibility items for a relationship, so why is it understandable to test as many of the others as possible yet not sexual compatibility? Imagine if couples waited until marriage to talk?

  12. Ric: Well, some men and women do shout, “Oh, God,” at certain moments. Even one atheist I know has done that.

    Peter: Thank you for the commercial.

    Matthew (or is it Mathew?): I have a problem with people who use education as a chance to proselytize or flat-out lie. And since children are the ones who are more likely to participate in educational programs, well . . .

    GeorgeRic: I have never argued that “an intelligent, intellectually honest and open-minded person” cannot believe in god(s). And as for Pascal’s Wager? Thor will be pissed.

    Philly: Great.

    Laura (and Philly): I agree. Compatability at all levels is very important.

  13. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was a pregnant unwed teen. If it was ok for her, it is ok for every pregnant teen.

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