I fully acknowledge the disconnect even among conservative circles with our young women. We still encourage a dating culture. We put our daughters into pageants and we teach them sexy moves when they take competitive dance and cheer. And then we tell them, in shorthand “don’t be slutty.” I can buy the feminist argument that we’re creating a powder keg and hoping against hope our daughters aren’t lighting it. But to go in the other direction and pretend we don’t have a problem is just ostriching.

Some of the ‘good’ girls wait for the right one, for strong relationships that last at least a year. The December study shows no correlation with depression if a female undergraduate is having sex within the context of a committed relationship. But the season of bad decisions is not necessarily skipped, especially the younger one starts engaging in sexual activity. The much maligned “stickiness” example taught in abstinence education is illustrative. The metaphor of a tape that slowly loses its stickiness as it is used is intended to show how marriages can fall apart if the partners have engaged in sex with other partners — they gave the “stickiness” away. There are perhaps problems with that approach, for it can unintentionally cause a loss of self worth for young adults who choose a different path, or, more insidiously, for those who are sexually assaulted and as a result feel tainted. However, the example still works in its pure form. A woman may decide her first sexual experience will be with a trusted and long-time partner, perhaps of a year. The bar for the next encounter, however, is lowered. Perhaps she waits three months with the next guy. Then three dates. Then perhaps casual sex becomes no big deal…but, in reality, in those quiet personal moments, it’s still a big deal.

What will I tell my daughter at that age? I hope to have an open dialogue with her where she can tell me anything, including if she makes a decision of which I may not wholeheartedly approve. But part of that almost-adult relationship with my almost-adult teen would include some frank discussion of the less pretty truths of life, including the emotional costs of sex even when she’s a grown adult no longer living under my roof.