This abstinence PSA (embedded below) that asks parents to tell their children to wait until marriage to have sex might have had a different impact if I hadn't watched ABC News last night. One of the segments was highlights from an interview Charles Gibson did with Fred Thompson where he credited getting married at 17 with turning him from an aimless youth only interested in sports and girls to a man intent on becoming a lawyer.
Out of context that sounds like it reinforces the message of the abstinence PSA. But here is some of the context:
Gibson: "You not only married your high school sweetheart. You married her two weeks after you turned 17. You were young."
Thompson: "Barely Seventeen."
Gibson: "Too young?"
Thompson: "Uh, no, under the circumstances, I [...] It was the best thing [...] It required me to grow up [...]"
Although shotgun wedding wasn't mentioned, the implication of "under the circumstances" is clear. According to Wkipedia this marriage took place in Sept. 1959 and their first son was born in April 1960. Now of course this will cause people to repeat a saying I heard as a child, "First babies often come much earlier than their younger siblings." Of course I was too young to wonder why at birth these first babies I heard about weren't smaller than their siblings.
The message I got from listening to Fred Thompson was that premarital sex (and advice from his new in-laws) made the man. And he's a Republican. Oh, my. Parents, if you want your children to believe that having sex before marriage can only destroy their lives, you'd better not let them watch and listen to this interview with Senator Fred Thompson.
This contrast is one of the reasons that messages like the one in this PSA can leave kids rolling their eyes at those giving them this message and can leave them feeling that there is no substance to the message only prudery. The "wait until you are married" message from parents is often a bad substitute for real, and sometimes uncomfortable, dialogue about sexual ethics, violence, temptations and consequences. It also creates a false binary which adds extra trauma when a child is the victim of sexual abuse or rape.