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Can sexual abstinence until marriage be taught in public schools?

Yes, it can, and it is being taught in Baltimore County public schools, thanks to the efforts of Erik Dressel.

Dressel, a committed evangelical youth minister who coaches lacrosse at Perry Hall High School, was troubled as, year after year, he saw young students coming into the school being hurt through sexual activity.

"I could see the pain--it was very visible, especially on the girls' faces," he says.

Erik asked the school health teacher if he could speak to her students on abstinence.

"She said I could as long as I left God out of it," he recalls.

So Dressel, who had worked for Youth for Christ and has a B.S. degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Johns Hopkins University, began delivering abstinence talks to health classes.

The core of his talks was that the best place for sex is in the sanctity of marriage.

The reaction from the students and the health teacher was positive--so positive that the teacher wrote him a letter of recommendation.

He spoke at other schools, and more letters of recommendation followed.

"It snowballed," said Dressel --so much so, that he was given blanket approval to speak at any Baltimore County public school that requests him.

Since he started a year and a half ago, Erik has given over 200 abstinence talks to classes in Baltimore County middle and high schools.

He has also formed Youth 180, a nonprofit organization aimed at turning the younger generation around "180 degrees," away from the harmful influences of a relativistic culture and from destructive sexual behavior.

A member of Faith Fellowship Church in Perry Hall, Dressel is motivated by a powerful faith that has led him to, as a Christian, "speak the truth in love.

"We see the works of the devil very pervasively in our culture," he told a crowd of 150 supporters at a Youth 180 dinner at Oakcrest Village October 28.

"It's nothing new, but I think it's getting worse."

Erik said that typically, junior and senior boys "prey" on freshman and sophomore girls, pressuring them to have sex, and by the time they are seniors, 60 percent of the girls have done so.

Dressel begins his classroom talks by comparing sex to fire, which can be very beneficial, providing light and warmth, in a fireplace, but can be very damaging when it is out of control.

When he asks the students what the "fireplace" is analogous to in relation to sex, they usually recognize that it stands for marriage.

He talks about the physical consequences of premarital sex, and explains that condoms don't do a very good job in preventing many sexually transmitted diseases.

Then he moves on to the emotional consequences and how they affect the dynamics of the dating relationship.

Using an "Intimacy Chart," he shows how the five different types of intimacy--emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual, and physical--grow at different rates.

He helps the students to understand that when the highest degree of physical intimacy--intercourse--occurs, then "the focus is on the physical," overwhelming the other areas, which become damaged and stunted.

Premarital sexual experiences also often create jealousy and distrust in one's future marital relationship, he points out.

Erik discusses secondary virginity, again using the metaphor of fire. Continuing a life of sexual promiscuity, he says, is "like burning your arm and then saying, "Well, that was painful--I might just as well put my whole self in the fire and burn up!' It doesn't make sense."

The message that they can make "a fresh start" is a wonderful revelation to many teens, he says.

He concludes by offering practical strategies for becoming abstinent or maintaining abstinence.

Erik has added two certified youth abstinence speakers to the Youth 180 staff: 17-year-old David Snee and Bethany Toliver, a second year nursing student at Johns Hopkins.

David, a handsome, well-spoken Loch Raven High School senior, told the Oakcrest Village dinner audience that the lives and consciences of his generation are being destroyed by the lies poured upon them that sex is fun and without consequences.

"My generation is tomorrow, whether you like it or not--and tomorrow is going to look pretty bad at the rate we're going, unless we turn it around. That's what Youth 180 is trying to do."

David's impact on high school and middle school audiences has been impressive, said Dressel: "When teens start speaking to teens, it's way more powerful than anything I can say."

He added, "We hope wherever we go, to permeate the culture. It doesn't take a whole lot of people to turn the culture around."

To contact Youth 180 for information, concerning speaking engagements, or to make a contribution, call 410-592-6036 by e-mail.

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