The desire for sex is a powerful motivator. In fact, after the desire to survive, it is probably the most powerful desire we experience—at least from puberty through middle age anyway. It’s not just desires for survival and sex that well up in us either. As every parent knows we are hardwired with all manner of desires that trigger impulses for instant gratification. Next to keeping our children safe and healthy, the most important task of parenting is to train our children to delay gratification, to teach them self-discipline and impulse control.
While parents have been training children to restrain their desires for as far back in history as we can see, it’s only been recently that science has been able to show, conclusively, that the ability to delay gratification is the single most important skill that contributes to success and happiness in later life. So, why have we increasingly and collectively been embracing indulgent lifestyles in this country?
America is the second most obese country on earth (having just lost our first place standing to Mexico). And Americans watch more television every week than people in any other country. We have the highest divorce rate in the Western world, and the highest instances of reported rape on the entire planet. The United States is the top video porn producer in the world and hosts 89% of the pornographic web pages available on the Internet. We have the highest rate of sexually transmitted disease for any country in the developed world.
Do we have an epidemic of poor impulse control? I would say so.
This problem affects every area of our life. But right now I’m most concerned with how the problem is being addressed in our schools, particularly as it relates to sex education. For decades, now, there has been a huge debate over what kind of sex education programs should be taught in schools, if any. There are still some groups who believe that sex ed does not belong in the schools at all. Others who want abstinence only education. But the loudest noise these days seems to be coming from the group who wants “comprehensive sex education” to be taught.
In most cases “comprehensive” doesn’t mean what we think it means. Most of us might think that means the biology of sex and the fertilization process, maybe to include some information about avoiding std’s and pregnancy. In reality, though, most who promote “comprehensive sex education” are talking about the details of sexual activity and the varieties of sexual stimulation.
Many such programs include subtle (and not so subtle) encouragement for the students to experiment with same or opposite sex partners, instruction on the nature of orgasm and all the ways to achieve it along with drawings and/or photos that show them how. None of these comprehensive programs include anything, to my knowledge, that helps children learn how to delay gratifying their sexual desires.
To the contrary, most of the material in the “comprehensive” category tell the children that it is up to them to control their body, they decide with whom and when to have sex. No one else should have anything to say about it, not even their parents. Nothing is taught about the emotional and physical consequences of engaging in sex at too young an age, or with multiple same or opposite sex partners (or both), or engaging in some of the more extraordinarily unhealthy sexual practices such as anal intercourse and others.
No. In these “comprehensive” programs, any talk of delaying gratification is given lip service at best. There are no strategies or skills taught to help children succeed in delaying sex until marriage. It’s not a value in these programs.
Instead, these programs inflame the passions of these children to the point where sexual experimentation becomes the norm, even in grade schools. Given the overwhelming evidence from decades of scientific research about encouraging and delaying gratification, it is self-evident that these programs are designed to encourage children to indulge their sexual desires. The programs seem designed to groom children by proxy, preparing them to be receptive to those who are older and more sexually savvy. Either that or the people who are developing and writing these programs, not to mention the involved administrators and teachers, are incompetent.
Walter Michel, while a professor of psychology at Stanford University, conducted groundbreaking research during the 70’s on delaying gratification. His follow up studies demonstrated that the ability to delay gratification, the quality of self-discipline, dramatically improved success in later life. Watch this six minute video that replicates, in part, one of Michel’s studies: http://www.ted.com/talks/joachim_de_posada_says_don_t_eat_the_marshmallow_yet.html
Now, after watching this video, use your imagination and extrapolate from marshmallows to sex. Do you think the sex education program in your schools will help children to be more self-disciplined, or will the program sabotage that objective?