Fear and Dating in Ohio

Mary Anne Mosack loves sex. She just doesn't want teens having it before they're married.

Continued from page 1

Studies regarding what parents want do not agree. A 1995 study by the Kaiser Foundation found that 80 percent of parents polled would prefer their children learn both abstinence and information about contraception. A recent survey by Zogby International concluded in February that a majority (69 percent of parents of kids in fourth through seventh grade) want schools to teach their children the basics of sex education, but disapprove of the more explicit contraceptive guidance commonly used in comprehensive sex-education classes.

Both abstinence-before-marriage and comprehensive sex proponents take credit for CDC stats that report the number of high-schoolers who say they have had sexual intercourse dropped from 54 percent in 1991 to 46 percent in 2001.

Both sides also take credit for the drop in teen pregnancies. The comprehensive sex side contends the drop is because more teens opt for injectable contraceptives, as well as an increase in teen condom use. A study published in last month's Adolescent and Family Health journal determined that abstinence is the primary reason for the decline in pregnancies among teens.

That doesn't mean teenagers aren't having sex. The CDC reports that more than half of high school seniors still lose their virginity before graduation.

No one will deny that sexual activity among teens is a problem. It's just that no one can agree on the solution.

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Until four years ago, Operation Keepsake was known as Responsible Social Values Program of Greater Cleveland (RSVP). Mosack changed the name because of the confusion between her organization and others using the same acronym. Mosack says she chose the word "Operation" because of its "militancy sound, like Operation Desert Storm," and included "Keepsake" because of its definition. "Something that's kept as valuable or precious in remembrance of the giver, which gives a good representation of how we view sexuality."

Her large hazel eyes turn steely as she adds, "I think we need to mobilize seriously and deliberately to dismantle the myth of safe sex to keep our students healthy."

Twenty years ago, Mosack was a full-time homemaker with three children. She volunteered at a Cleveland-area crisis pregnancy center where she says she was struck by the number of girls "coming in pregnant and saying, 'But I used a condom.' "

"When you hear 13- or 14-year-olds repeatedly saying [that], you start to assess whether or not we're giving the right message. A number of us at the center said we need to look around at what kind of education these kids are getting. And the message they were getting was the 'Safe Sex' message," she says. "That message wasn't working."

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Diana Keough
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