It is unfortunate that the recent PHOENIX editorial (“Loyola leaves students sexually unprotected”) on sexual health did not even mention abstinence. Instead, the Editorial Board decided to abdicate personal responsibility and argue that is the job of an educational institution to make sure its students have birth control (even though the editorial pointed out how easily accessible it is). Since the Editorial Board decided not to offer abstinence as a viable way to avoid STDs and unplanned pregnancies, I gladly will.
I have no problem saying that I have chosen to be abstinent my whole life so far (which is a real shocker since I am the ripe old age of 20). While my Roman Catholic beliefs definitely influence my decision, abstinence is in no way a solely religious decision. In fact, one of the beauties of abstinence is that it cuts across every race, religious belief (or non-belief), gender and sexual orientation. You do not have to be religious or a certain race or sexual orientation to practice abstinence and enjoy the benefits.
Contrary to popular belief, abstinence is not a constraining decision, but a freeing one. It frees you from worrying about when in a relationship you are going to have sex, it frees you to focus on building a relationship and it frees you from many other worries. It frees you from having to worry about STDs or unwanted pregnancies. The editorial focused heavily on the physical effects of sex on the body; HPV and pregnancies, for example.
But why didn’t the editorial take the opportunity to discuss abstinence and how it aids in the health of the person? Abstinence protects us from the physical consequences of sex, which the Editorial Board discussed, but abstinence can also protect us from the mental consequences of sex.
During sex and other intimate activities, our brain produces a chemical called oxytocin, which binds us psychologically to the other person. The benefits of this within marriage are obvious; we grow closer to the other person and it allows us to build trust with them. But when this occurs outside of a committed relationship, the results are negative. It is the equivalent of telling multiple people your most personal secret and then never seeing them again; you stop trusting people.
And that’s a point that the Editorial Board failed to address. While they did a decent job laying out the negative physical effects of sex, they failed to address the negative emotional effects of sex outside of marriage. We can use all the contraception we want to protect us from the physical effects of sex outside of marriage, but only abstinence can protect us from the mental consequences of sex outside of marriage. It is hard to break-up or be broken up with, and it’s even harder when you’ve shared something sacred and intimate with them.
In conclusion, it is not the job of Loyola to provide contraception to its students. The Catholic Church already has a great way to avoid STDS and unwanted pregnancy; abstinence before marriage. It is a legitimate and 100 percent effective way to avoid physical, mental and emotional issues. It will free you from worry, make you happier and overall improve your relationships. It is a decision that is inexpensive and available to people of all races, religious beliefs and sexual orientation. You can feel comfortable pursuing abstinence and chastity before marriage. Yes it can be difficult to practice, but you can do it if you truly want to. Abstinence is a viable option.
Matt Lamb is a contributing columnist. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.