It is Valentine’s Day. In Australia, that means it is also National Condom Day. In an effort to illustrate the care that an individual should have for their own and their partner’s health, Family Planning Western Australia Sexual Health Services coordinates this annual state-wide “health initiative”. According to the FPWA website, the purpose is to “remind people about the risks of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies [while they] are celebrating romance, passion, love, lust and intimacy.”
Meanwhile, across the globe in the United States, college students on 19 college and university campuses, connected via the Love and Fidelity Network, similarly respond to the prevalent sexual activity associated with Valentine’s Day. But, while they likewise claim to illustrate the importance of giving consideration to sexual choices amidst a celebration of romance, love, and intimacy, their message is different. The message these college students are sending to their peers is that their current sexual choices may affect the potential for later desirable life outcomes—from the perhaps more obvious correlation between sexual choices and marital outcomes to the unexpected connection of sexual choices to financial earning power.
The campaign, made up of five different ads, bears the consistent tagline, “My sexual choices now are making a difference.” Statements regarding a future for which most college students undoubtedly yearn precede the tagline. Statements such as “I want to earn 20-30% more than my peers as an adult”, “I want to experience better mental health than my peers as an adult”, “I want to be 34% less likely than my peers to experience separation or divorce”. Regardless of the statement, each ad demonstrates that sexual choices are tied to a variety of desirable outcomes. Each ad further conveys that those who practice sexual restraint are confident that they are more likely to achieve desirable life outcomes than their peers.
Here’s why. A study published in 2010 in the preeminent family studies journal, Journal of Marriage and Family, demonstrated that the timing of a couple’s sexual involvement prior to marriage has a significantly positive association with a number of relationship outcomes, including 20 per cent higher relationship satisfaction and 15 per cent better sexual quality for those couples who waited until marriage to have sex.
Several recent social scientific studies have shown that having multiple sexual partners before marriage leads to higher rates of marital instability, including separation and/or divorce. For instance, another study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2003 found that women who had their first sexual encounter prior to first marriage were about 34 percent more likely to experience marital dissolution. The same study found that for each year that women delay sex, the risk of marital dissolution is reduced by 8 per cent. These studies demonstrate that college students who practice sexual restraint are more likely to experience the benefits of marriage, as two of the ads in the intercollegiate ad campaign demonstrate.
Yet three of the ads focus on outcomes (income, mental health, and physical health) that have seemingly little to do with marriage or sexuality. According to Love and Fidelity Network Founding Director, Cassandra Hough, it is the connection between choices of sexual restraint and marital stability that provides the basis and tone for the final three ads.
“It is known that the sexual habits one has prior to marriage play a significant role in influencing the stability of one’s marriage down the road,” she says.“Marriage is in turn associated with a number of desirable life outcomes, including those addressed in our posters. Many young men and women today wrongly believe that their current sexual behavior and relationship habits will have little influence on the quality of their life and relationships in the future. We want to help students connect the dots between the sexual choices they make now, and how those choices may impact their future. Our message is that it is those who practice sexual integrity now who can have the most confidence in achieving the desirable life outcomes later.”
On National Condom Day in Australia that indeed is a unique and thought-provoking message.
Shirene Urry is Love and Fidelity Network Operations and Programs Manager, based in Princeton, New Jersey.
A note on Love and Fidelity Network
The Love and Fidelity Network equips college students with arguments, resources, and direction regarding the important role the family and the institution of marriage play in society and the importance of sexual integrity in one’s development. The organization currently works with student leaders and student groups on over 40 college campuses nationwide.
Reinforcing the message of the import of sexual choices, 10 Love and Fidelity Network groups from Yale to Notre Dame have hosted events on campuses throughout the week before Valentine’s Day. Event topics ranged from the neurological effect of pornography to social science evidence regarding healthy pathways to future marriage. For more information on the Love and Fidelity Network intercollegiate Valentine’s Day campaign or Love and Fidelity Network-associated campus events, please contact Shirene Urry at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit loveandfidelity.org/blog.