Opinion | Sexuality

Body Talk: Beyond the Tween Abstinence Lecture

Media shapes how youth see their bodies. What can the church teach them instead?
Body Talk: Beyond the Tween Abstinence Lecture
Image: Matt Kowal / Flickr

Getting an abstinence talk from a parent or youth pastor has become something of a rite of passage for evangelical teens. As evidenced by purity balls and promise rings, our subculture is deeply concerned with protecting youth from premarital sex. But I wonder if our focus on avoiding intercourse is too narrow—especially as today’s youth face a barrage of messaging related to their bodies, appearance, and sexuality.

Young people stumble into sex-conscious adolescence seemingly earlier than ever, thanks to a lucrative media industry bent on marketing sexiness to teens, tweens, and even children. A recent study found that “eight- to 18-year-olds spend more time with media than in any other activity besides (maybe) sleeping—an average of more than 7½ hours a day, seven days a week.” They sift through an ever-increasing onslaught of body-oriented material, from a lingerie company promoting their new adolescent apparel collection to Miley Cyrus’s ...

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