WASHINGTON — While books, movies and the Internet portray men and women as being consumed by sex, conservatives say evidence shows a growing interest in abstinence among young adults.
"When young adults are asked what they are looking for, they're not looking for hook-ups. They're preferring romance over sex, relationships over sex. But most people don't recognize that," explained Valerie Huber, president and CEO of the National Abstinence Education Association.
In fact, she says surveys show that more young adults are waiting to have sex.
Referring to a 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biennial survey released this summer, she noted that, "the percentage of young people who are waiting for sex has actually increased by 15 percent in the last 20 years."
"That's really encouraging," she continued, "and if you look at where most of that increase in waiting is among, it's among young men."
David Knopp of counter-cultural Christian group Summit Ministries explained that there is a gap between what the media says young adults want and what young adults are really looking for. This is because the Millennial generation, which has for so long allowed the Internet, TV and popular books teach them about sex, is now questioning the authenticity of those experiences.
"We find ourselves now here basically in a situation where life has imitated art, and over and over we've seen this art, and we've seen the people trying to create this art, and suddenly, we ask, 'is this real?' That's the question we have to ask about the art that's hitting us all the time: is what I expect about sexuality reality," described Knopp.
Knopp said Millennials are realizing that the images of sex and sexuality depicted in television shows, movies and the Internet are manipulated.
He continued: "What we see on our screens universally is not real. It is a slice of the real; and because of that editing, we think if we live inside of these rectangles and what we see through these rectangles is giving us the whole of real life, it's simply not true. Rectangles do not tell us what real life is; rectangles frame things so we can focus on that one thing and figure out what's it's trying to say."
Huber added that teens and young adults are tired of the images of sex and relationships that are dominating the media. Instead, they want to see images that mirror their reality.
"Here is what this generation wants: they want the media to show more youth not having sex. They want to hear more reasons to wait for sex — and this is according to a very broad national study — and they want to hear that waiting for sex is realistic; and they want to know waiting for sex is, in fact, quite normal," said Huber.
Knopp called on "circles" of parents, mentors and peer leaders to step up and take back control of sex education from the "rectangles" of cellphone and television screens, and give young adults a more balanced view on sexuality.
The Institute on Religion and Democracy's Evangelical Program Director Chelsen Vicari urges young Christians to learn to better defend the biblical view of sexuality to their peers inside and outside of the church.
Huber, Knopp and Vicari were featured panelists Saturday at the Values Voter Summit breakout session, titled "Sexuality in the Hook-up Culture."
The Values Voter Summit convened in Washington, D.C. Sept. 26 through 28. The conference is organized by Family Research Council Action, the political advocacy arm of the Family Research Council.