- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2001

For three years, Maria Estella Alves resisted the urge.

She had promised herself she wouldnt have sex until marriage. Her boyfriend promised, too.

But for Miss Alves, of Corpus Christi, Texas, the desire to have sex became too great and she gave in when she was 22.
"I did feel guilty and I said to myself, 'This is not right," Miss Alves said. "I had a strong desire to save myself [for marriage], but he didnt."
Three years later, they married and three years after that, they were divorced. Miss Alves, now 30, has recommitted herself to sexual abstinence.
A significant number of adults now practicing sexual abstinence are in their 20s and 30s, sexual prime time by societys clock. Some are religious people who want to do right by God. Others fear HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Some have had failed relationships and are tired of loveless romping. Others are virgins an unusual status since a majority of Americans have sex by the time they are 17, according to University of Chicago research and are waiting to fall in love with a life-long partner.
"The pendulum is swinging in the other direction," said Dee Dee Fix, a program educator for Worth the Wait, a sexual-education program based in Texas that develops programs and curriculum on sexual abstinence.
Miss Fix said people who have become adults within the past decade have seen how casual sexual relationships have affected them or their friends.
"A lot of the people we talk to have the attitude that 'I am so busy I dont have time for that kind of emotional strain," Miss Fix said. "Its hard enough to break up with someone, but even harder if youve already had sex with them."
Fear of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), date rape and divorce are also influencing young adults to keep their hormones at bay, Miss Fix says.
"They are seeing the lifelong affects of their decisions," she said.
"People are starting to recognize the severity of STDs especially," Miss Fix said. "They are saying, 'This is something that can harm me in the long run."
But no one is quite sure how many adults are taking the abstinence road. Edward O. Laumann, one of the authors of "Sex in America: A Definitive Study," says its hard to believe that many people are abstaining from sex voluntarily meaning they have no other physical, mental or emotional issues preventing them from participating in sex.
Anecdotal evidence shows that people are more accepting of premarital sex, Mr. Laumann says, which suggests sexual abstinence isnt as critical as it used to be. Only about 2 percent of the population has not engaged in sex by age 30, and that number includes those under constraint not to, such as priests, nuns and disabled people, Mr. Laumann says.
"Theres certainly a substantial minority who dont have much sexual activity, but Id be surprised if its happening more," Mr. Laumann says.
But sexual morality is making news, Mr. Laumann adds. Conservative religious groups have mobilized themselves more effectively. Abstinence-based sex-education programs are everywhere. And young celebrities, such as pop-music stars Jessica Simpson and Jaci Velasquez, are singing the praises of sexual purity and virginity.
"People not having sex is newsworthy because its rare and unusual, and that attracts attention," Mr. Laumann says.
For some adults, their own realization of how sex did not add anything significant to their relationship or led to the relationships demise is enough to drive them towards sexual abstinence.
"The fact we had premarital sex says a lot about how our relationship ended up," Miss Alves said. "Looking back, I know I [had sex] with him out of fear of losing him."
Miss Alves, a Christian, said she had hoped that sex would fix a lot of the other problems that had surfaced in their relationship, including her boyfriends reputed drug use and her feelings of distrust towards him. But she was torn between her own guilt for having premarital sex and trying to please him, she said.
The sex continued, but troubles with their relationship did not disappear. They broke up countless times, she remembers. But Miss Alves always returned to him.
They were abstinent during their engagement at Miss Alves request but the damage to their relationship had been done, she said.
A few years into their marriage, Miss Alves said, she realized the distrust and the reputed drug use still plagued their relationship, so they divorced.
Now a year later, Miss Alves credits her religious beliefs for helping her recover from her marriage and subsequent divorce. And she says she has a renewed understanding of sex.
"I truly believe its Gods guideline for me to wait until I am married," she said. "I know he has my spouse picked out for me."
Not all adults who reclaim their virginity do so for religious reasons.
For Valeria Moreno, the danger of STDs was a big concern. The 20-year-old lost her virginity when she was 15.
"At first, I thought this is what I wanted to do because I wasnt looking for a relationship. I thought I would just have my fun," Miss Moreno said.
But knowing the threat of STDs, she said, influenced her to settle down. A year ago, she re-committed to abstinence.
"I want to focus on getting to know someone first," Miss Moreno said. "Whenever I got in a sexual relationship, it got boring and I wanted to get out of it."
Miss Alves, who has recently started dating again, said she doesnt feel as tempted to have sex as she used to because her new beau wants to save himself as well.
She admits its a little easier for them because he lives in Minnesota and they see each other every three weeks. But still, they have agreed on boundaries for when they are together, Miss Alves said.
"I think people need to set up boundaries ahead of time before they put themselves into positions that could lead further," she said. "We hold hands and we kiss, but it stops there."


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