Opinion: Finding Meaning

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The Power of Moms

“The sexual revolution was a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior,” so says Wikipedia. If you accept that mothers are the primary defenders of their children’s innocence, it was an unequal battle. Poor mom, just one person, taking on a social revolution to protect her child. Almost everyone believes the sexual revolution won that fight. But what if the moms actually won and no one noticed?

There’s hard data, recently updated. Governments have an interest in protecting the sexual health of children, so back in 1991 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began the biennial Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, reporting the risky things kids do. It monitors, for example, the percent of high school students who ever had sex, whether they had sex before the age of 13, how many sexual partners they had, etc. Another report measures teen pregnancies and births.

So, how are the moms doing at protecting their children? In 1991, at the height of the sexual revolution, 54.1% of high school kids questioned acknowledged prior sex. In the most recent 2019 report, that had dropped to 38.4%, a 29% reduction. The majority of high school kids had become abstinent. It’s become the smart thing to do—recent surveys of Harvard freshmen show over 60% are virgins. The next question is a sad one, sex before the age of 13. In 1991, 10.2% reported sex before 13. In the most recent 2019 report, that had dropped by 71% to just 3%, real progress in protecting the vulnerable.

Here are two more examples: In 1991, 18.7% of high school kids surveyed had four or more sexual partners. By 2019 this had fallen to 8.6%, a 54% drop in this measure of promiscuity. The CDC also tracks teen births, children having children. In 1991 there were 61.8 teen births per thousand girls. It was shamefully the highest number among modern nations. By 2019, teen births had dropped to 16.7 per thousand, a 73% reduction and a historic low in recorded data. (The reduction isn’t due to higher rates of teen abortions, as births and abortions declined together.)

Advocates of the sexual revolution touted the unproven policy of “safe sex,” and condoms became freely available. How did that work? According to the CDC survey, 46.2% of high schoolers in 1991 didn’t use condoms during sex. Despite billions spent on safe sex campaigns, in 2019 the number was even lower, at 45.7%. Moms would agree with one expert: “It’s easier to get minors to abstain from sex than get them to use condoms.”
This isn’t to minimize the role of dads in guiding their children, but a prominent religious leader recently acknowledged women as “society’s guardians of morality.” Remember the “Ladies’ Home Journal” motto, “Never underestimate the power of a woman”? Hah. There they stand, our moms, taking on all comers, unvanquished, protecting their children. God bless them. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach”. Email: [email protected]

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