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Monday, 16 October, 2000, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Should we promote virginity?

A new £2m sex education campaign in the UK has come under fire after claims that the government is trying to promote virginity.

The UK has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe, with more than 90,000 girls under the age of 19 becoming pregnant each year.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Scheme (BPAS) has compared the scheme's value to government spending on the Millennium Dome, and says the money would be better spent on helping sexually active young people avoid pregnancy.

How can teenage pregnancy be avoided? What is the best way of getting the message across to teenagers?


The government is only trying to fill a void placed by the parents of these children. Since it is obvious that the parents are not advising them properly. Someone will have to deal with this problem. i.e. the government.
As a girl in my early twenties I am proud to say that I am a virgin, and I have my parents and my religion (Islam) to thank for it.
Natalie, Bahrain

Are we for banishing welfare for teen mothers, no matter what the costs?

Dean Jones, Germany
Although it is necessary to put out funds trying to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies, it is also important to remember that although welfare for those with children who cannot afford them should not be handed out freely, it is important not to punish the child. Are we for banishing welfare for teen mothers, no matter what the costs? Lives other than our own or those of the mothers are affected here as well. Therefore, an easy solution, best for all, does not exist.
Dean Jones, Germany

Britain is too restrictive and repressive of basic natural emotions, compared to other European countries. That's why soccer games go wild. That's why individually they develop unhealthy attitudes towards sex. Maybe if the government promoted sex, people would start having less unwanted pregnancies?
George Murzin, Canada

Teens will not do what you tell them to do and will do what you forbid them to do. Remember, they're rebels without a cause: you tell them, "Get a haircut, hippy", and they grow long hair; you say, "Smoking's bad", and they smoke marijuana. The more vigorously you enforce Victorian values, the more enthusiastic they'd be for breaking the rules. Sex education should just say that abstention is the best guarantee from pregnancy and STDs, and still distribute free condoms.
Andrej, Russia

Promoting virginity does work. There are abstinence education programs here in the US that have lowered rates of pregnancy among girls involved. The argument that teens will do it anyway are false. If that was true all countries at all times would have high pregnancy rates. In the past when parents and society were responsible in teaching morality and birth control was unavailable teen pregnancy rates were much lower.
Jim Summers, USA

I am a teenager my self. I can only say one thing: promoting virginity will only have the opposite effect. I believe that sex education in UK is poor and spending one lesson with a nervous and shy teacher is not going to do much good. We need more.
Bala, UK

Spend 2 million publicising virginity and then throw another 2 billion in welfare handouts at those who fail to get the message. Are we not throwing good money after bad? Stop rewarding the careless and they will learn that parenting must be their own responsibility.
Richard Lack, USA British

The government should not reward irresponsible people (those having children they cannot support) with financial assistence. It promotes multiple generations of such behavior.
John, US

Let's back and encourage this positive initiative

Veronica Kerr, Glasgow, Scotland

At first I was amused, and then a little saddened by the 'accusations' that the government are actually 'promoting' virginity. "Hell, if this gets out, we're ruined!" I hear the media cry! Yes, we need a crack down on the filth on all our TV screens, newspaper articles, magazines, adverts, etc, etc... before we go anywhere with the 'promotion' of healthy attitudes. At last the Government is taking steps in the right direction for ALL. "Ooh!" I hear you liberalists gasp," but that's curbing individual's freedom!" Well, NOT SO! Thank God we enforce the laws on the roads, otherwise, what would happen when one 'individual', in exercising their 'freedom', decided to cross over the barrier onto the onflow of trafic? Why don't we try to be smart for once, instead of trying to out-smart ourselves? By exercising our freedom, and right to say no to sex, and have our media and society rid of this immature obsesion of sex and the irresponsible 'anything goes' attitude. For Gods sake, let's back and encourage this positive initiative.
Veronica Kerr, Glasgow, Scotland

Sex is about more than having 'fun'! Relationships are about more than just sex. Let's teach the proper value of this sacred act and return it to it's rightful dignity. Surely we are able, as intelegent beings to control ourselves and resist being led by instinct alone, as the dogs are.
Veronica Kerr , Glasgow, Scotland

As an 18 year old girl just starting at university, I think the new policy on promoting virginity is absolutely ludicrous, schools should instead educate their pupils on safe sex and the effective use of contraception. You will never be able to disuade young people from having sex, especially when it is coming from the government but instead you can educate them and make condoms etc more widely available so that teenage pregnancy's can be prevented.
Emily , England

Virginity is not a monopoly of "Christian Puitanism"

Pirjo Savinen, Finland

The value of virginity - or at least sexual moderation - is not a monopoly of "Christian Puitanism", as some contributors have suggsted. It is in fact something innate in every human, and it is related to pride and self - esteem. We've had experience over decades with this in the Nordic countries; a liberal attitude towards sex does NOT make you happier.
Pirjo Savinen, Finland

Better teach Islam to the puiblic. Teenage pregnancy will automatically vanish.
M Khalid Khan, India

I am now in my mid 20s and I am very proud of the fact that I am still a virgin. Tbe problem with teenagers today is that they would rather drink and have sex than sit around in a group and talk about religion and the sanctimony of marriage
Dave Anderson, UK

At last someone's dared to say it - "It's OK to not have sex" !!
Dave Houlton, UK expat in Belgium

Yes, virginity should be promoted as a way to avoid the emotional and physical problems that can result from pre-marital sex. This doesn't have to mean we're espousing a prudish moral code. It should be considered an encouragement to live a healthier lifestyle, just like we encourage good nutrition and exercise. Let's elevate our expectations from young people. Everyone has a tendency to live up to expectations.
Kim Bergstrom, USA

Gone are the days when 'sex' was considered a taboo and 'virginity' was considered something great. Let's put an end to our hypocritic culture. What is 'sex education' all about? There are certain things which we need not the younger generation. They are quite aware of what is happening around them. We the so-called educationists need not teach them everything we think is good for the teenagers. Instead of wasting our energy by trying to teach them let's try to bridge the generation gap. Dear men and women of purity, nothing can be taught but everything can be learnt. It is reality. Let's come down to the reality and shed away our puritan values.
Albert P'Rayan, India/Rwanda

Send those girls to Pakistan.
Hassan Basra, Pakistan

Anything to stop people getting houses for free! Too many of them abuse it. Looking back at it I should have had a child before I went to the university, got a job, etc. Now I am working full time, yet three of us are stuck in a tiny top floor one bed without any prospect to move.
Bunny, London, UK

Young kids are encouraged to grow up far too soon these days

Paul R, UK
When I go shopping with my 7 year old daughter, I have to skim through the children's magazines she buys to make sure they don't have any references to boyfriends or sex. Young kids are encouraged to grow up far too soon these days. Whatever happened to having a childhood? We used to think it was bad when 15 year olds got pregnant, but when that age is slipping to 12, 11 and even 10 year olds, something is seriously wrong. We need to find constructive ways for kids to remain kids until their minds can cope with an adult lifestyle.
Paul R, UK

Has anyone thought about those teenagers who have been sexually abused during childhood? How do you think they would feel if they are made to feel that they don't measure up to the Government's ideal? Also, it seems to me that it's the girls who are targeted and not the boys, when I'm sure it's the boys who pressure the girls into having sex.
Susannah, Australia

All those who're blaming the problem on too much sex in the media should consider that in the rest of Europe there are fewer teenage pregnancies and no less - probably more - media sex. Let's cut out the baseless opinions and have a few more facts instead.
Andrew Goode, England

Marriage between mature, loving, Christian individuals can still result in a 'surprise' pregnancy. As Tony and Cherie Blair can confirm.
Gill Redfearn, UK

It is legal for a woman to have sex from the age of 16 so why should we be concerned about those who then become pregnant? The issue surely is the number of those under 16 who become pregnant when they have no jobs and usually no partners to support them, and when they are often too immature to be an adequate parent.
Alan Mills, UK

Asking teens not to have sex is like asking a fish not to breathe water

Aris, UK
The reason we're here is to procreate and further the human species. Asking teens not to have sex is like asking a fish not to breathe water. Perhaps if teenage mums had to live at home with their parents instead of being given accommodation and living expenses by the state, they may choose contraception rather than motherhood.
Aris, UK

I always find it very amusing when Government ministers say that schools should teach youngsters about sex in the context of a 'loving stable relationship', but we adults aren't exactly giving them the best example to work from so it's no wonder they're getting pregnant in the thousands. I hear loads of stories from people in their twenties and thirties about their latest trick, be it infidelity, a one night stand, two timing or simply adding another sexual conquest to the bed post. I guess teenagers are only doing what comes naturally - maybe we should just teach them to do it safely.
Gillian, Scotland

I think virginity makes young girls more precious and more respected by men because people often cherish what is hard to obtain.
Tomnguyen, Vietnam

Here in Hull we have an excellent scheme where schoolgirl mums tour schools and talk about their experiences to other teenagers. It is a good way for peers to deglamourise early pregnancy and probably far more effective than promoting virginity.
Nigel Whittington, UK

The difference in attitudes between the UK and the rest of Europe is reflected in our teenage/ unwanted pregnancy rate. Mainland Europeans have much healthier attitudes towards sex, in that it is part of life and everybody does it. Sex is still very much a taboo in the UK with people avoiding talking to their kids about it, turning puce when it comes on TV if granny is there, and shifting responsibility onto teachers for their children's sex education.
E. Coldwell, UK

I do not agree with the liberal approach in dealing with sex behaviour of adolescents. I think they should have open and constructive guidance from parents, teachers and the media.
Urgessa Bedada, Ethiopia

Why do the government have to continue to patronise with puritanical Christian views?

Phil Saum, UK
This campaign seems to be coming from the angle that sex is a bad thing and virginity is somehow purer and better. Why do the government have to continue to patronise with puritanical Christian views? Most people in Britain don't share those views any more, so such a campaign is pointless. Teach our kids how to use birth control and to use it properly. If the teachers can't handle this job (I suspect many can't), give it to someone who can.
Phil Saum, UK

It is a wonderful idea and I strongly support it. Aids is one of the outcomes of unsafe sex, meaning having more than one partner. Being virgin till the night of marriage is something to be proud of, which not many people enjoy. Let's be sure who we want as a life partner. Its just a matter of being loyal to oneself and to your life partner.
Fawad Haider, Pakistan

Unfortunately this approach will not work. It is a real factor in our society that there is an element who will do the opposite specifically because 'the state' or their teachers or parents advise against it. These people are also those who are least likely to consider safe sex in any form. It is my view that any promotion of the virtues of virginity could actually result in more unplanned pregnancies. It is 'cool' to break the mould.
Keith Lomax, UK

Sex-related features within all media (including men's magazines) has become a national obsession, and it is sending out at best very mixed signals to young people everywhere. Until this depressing trend starts to abate (i.e. until the "journalists" that work on these magazines actually find something worthwhile to write about), then I feel we are stuck with this sad situation. One of the teen magazines even has a "position of the week" feature in it for goodness sakes. This type of media reporting is quite simply childish, lazy and above all irresponsible. All the trumping about "great sex" rarely delves into the possible aftermath of poverty and misery that can often result from just five minutes of illicit pleasure.
Dave Strong, UK

Promoting virginity is OK, as long as in doing so you aren't saying sex is wrong. It is important to stress that both are equally moral. Puritanism creates damaging and unnecessary guilt.
Pete, UK

I think if we Dutch can prevent unwanted teenage pregnancies, you English could to

T. Hendriks, Dutch guy, in UK
The Government is doing a good thing. I fully support their campaign. When you compare the number of teenage pregnancies in Holland with those in England you will see that there are virtually none in The Netherlands. How is this possible? Are people in the UK so ignorant or are the youngsters nowadays so focused on sex that they can't abstain? Maybe I am biased but I think if we Dutch can prevent unwanted teenage pregnancies, you English could to.
T. Hendriks, Dutch guy living in UK

Here we go again the Christian right is out in force. Just take a look at the statistics, pregnancy as rate per 100 women has been FALLING for the last 30 years. Why do people not actually look at the statistics? There is not an epidemic of teenage pregnancies. the figures were much much higher 100 years ago. And trying to tell kids to say no when they are bombarded by sexual imagery all and every day is wishful thinkingż
Leslie Williams, UK

Responsibility, confidence, maturity, assertiveness, yes. Virginity - no.

Morality begins with the teachings at home and if these teachings are lax then we can assume that the children will also have the wrong attitude to underage sex. It should not be hidden under the proverbial bushel but nor should it be rammed down our throats day and night from the TV screens. If the children are taught the proper values of love and sex, then this sort of discussion would not need to occur.
John C., Warwick, England

Promoting the concept of abstinence is a good thing. The constant bombardment of explicit imagery sends the message that if you don't do "it", you are somehow abnormal. It is good to see the government at least attempting to restore the balance. Don't forget that boys get STD's just as well as girls!
John B, UK

You are not going to have much success promoting virginity when the whole of the media, TV, magazines, news, radio, films, billboards, are using sexual imagery to sell us everything from Motor cars to ice-cream.
Richard Swain, UK

I notice young people learn from examples and follow these. They copy their peers or what they think their peers are doing. This is a big challenge for a campaign.
Richard Irwin, UK

A clean-up of our television programs should be involved as well. There is no point promoting virginity when TV is constantly advertising teenage sex.
Paul Sparks, UK

After doing nothing but exacerbating the problem of teenage pregnancies by targeting our children with greater intensity and at ever earlier ages with contraceptives, groups like the British Pregnancy Advisory Service should wake up to the reality of human nature and work at fostering chastity among the young instead of inflaming their sexual passions.
John Deighan, Scotland

In today's moral climate, with billions spent in the entertainment's industry promoting a permissive lifestyle, this campaign is a waste of money

Mark, Germany
In today's moral climate, with billions spent in the entertainment's industry promoting a permissive lifestyle, this campaign is a waste of money and more emphasis should be placed on educating young girls in pregnancy preventative methods and making it easier for teenagers to get the pill. I am not condoning teenage sex but as a father of four teenage girls I would be happier if it was easier for my children to get the pill/morning after pill so they don't get pregnant.
Mark, Germany

The whole campaign will fly in the face of the UK governments policy on welfare for single teenage mothers. Why would these young girls choose virginity when the alternative offers them free accommodation, income support and child benefit?
Russell Ayres, Australia

Britain is considered prudish by most other European countries by the taboo treatment of sex and sex education. It's not that teenagers from other countries don't have sex, they are educated better on the subject.
Mike, Germany

Perhaps a liberal dose of reality would encourage kids to start appreciating the very serious implications of what bringing a new life into the world

Sarah, GB
We have incalculable amounts of teenage single mums with no partners and no clue about how to bring up a child because the state does nothing to discourage them and everything to support them.
How about our governments being more stringent with doling out the free cash and accommodation to every young girl who fails to take any responsibility for her actions? Perhaps a liberal dose of reality would encourage kids to start appreciating the very serious implications of what bringing a new life into the world before they can even support themselves financially actually means.
Sarah, GB

There is a definite stigma attached to the fact of being a virgin with teenagers today. One could argue that morals and ideals of youth have changed - if so, why try imposing our morals on them. It would be far better to get them to recognise their responsibilities to themselves and their peers, without openly preaching to them.
Shane McCarrick, Ireland

I think parents should do their part in educating their children to be more

Charmaine Wong, S'pore
I think parents should do their part in educating their children to be more responsible for their actions. This can't be done in days, weeks or months... but they will carry these values with them throughout their lives.
Charmaine Wong, S'pore

Faye from the USA: Cobblers! Virginity does not prevent pregnancy. We've had 2000 years of Christianity as proof of the failure of that idea.
STC, England

Why promote ignorance? Is there the least hint of a reason behind this, or is it just plain puritanism worrying that someone might actually be having fun? I see no valid purpose to this at all.
Julian Morrison, England

About time too! For too long now, virginity has been the sole preserve of religious types. Now at last it might get a chance to be a viable option for all young people.
James Peterson, UK

The only way to prevent unwanted teenage pregnancies is to educate young girls on the consequences of sex. They should be informed of all available contraception and it should be readily available from their GPs even if they are underage. Also all teenagers should be aware of the threat of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and encouraged to use condoms, perhaps through advertisements. Teenagers are always going to have sex so we should enable them to do so responsibly.
Sandra MacEachen, Netherlands

The promotion of male and female virginity before marriage as the best way for a fuller happier life makes eminent sense.
Frederick Serjeant, United Kingdom

It will be difficult for any advertisement not to seem condescending

Maurizio Chen, Canada
Unless the campaign is a long-term one that could change the upcoming generation's opinions about virginity, the effects of a short media campaign will be negligible amongst teens. The promotion of virginity will not work because the campaign has to be a very long one and a very well presented one. It will be difficult for any advertisement not to seem condescending.
Maurizio Chen, Canada

Gay relationships never result in unwanted teenage pregnancies!
Colin Jones, UK

I will advise my own children that abstinence is the only 100% sure way to avoid STDs and pregnancy. I would support the Government in teaching abstinence, as long as it does not do so to the exclusion of proper sex education (including contraception and prevention of STDs). I waited until I was "grown up" and have many friends (male and female) who did too - it's not unrealistic for everyone.
Carolyn, USA

Sex sells, virginity doesn't.

Clive Mitchell, UK
Promoting virginity will not stand the slightest hope of success while we are being bombarded with sexual imagery and innuendo morning, noon and night. Sex sells, virginity doesn't.
Clive Mitchell, UK

For both genders, not only girls. It takes two to tango.
Sireh, Hawaii

The Government is correct in promoting virginity in light of the epidemic of teenage pregnancy. Although critics will dismiss the effort due to its questionable practicality, other similar campaigns are underway trying to combat drink driving and smoking. This ought to be given a fair chance as well.
Saeed, USA

Yes virginity should be promoted. It doesn't matter if you believe the traditional values were handed down by God, or evolved over time - they were designed to allow the individual and society to survive.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

I would think that in this day and age - trying to promote abstinence from sex is wishful thinking. Everybody might agree that it's a good idea - but not likely to happen! I think money would be far better spent on education and practical information about birth control and the future hazards facing a child bringing up a child.
Liz Williams, Canada

This is just another ludicrous plan from the Government and is similar to the stance on drugs. It is time to realise that we have a problem that will not go away. It must be tackled head on. This is just like sweeping it under the carpet. And what about teenage rebellion? If the Government tells a young person to do something do you think they'll listen?
James, UK

What is wrong with promoting virginity or abstinence in addition to teaching about other methods of birth control? Virginity is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy and STDs and it doesn't come with all the emotional baggage of being sexually active before one is ready. Promoting virginity should not come at the cost of education about other methods of birth control, but it should definitely be presented as an option.
Faye, USA

Unless you're religious or under-age, isn't virginity only good for those too stupid to carry and use protection? Come on, this is the 21st century - sex should be seen as just an extension of shaking someone's hand!
Richard N, UK

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10 Oct 00 | Health
'Virginity' scheme under fire
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