When sexual abstinence is “unrealistic.”

Caught a zika virus segment on the Today Show this morning in which a doctor discussed that the virus can be sexually transmitted. And she had advice for couples who are at risk.

Abstain from sex for a little while, she said, or, and I quote, “maybe more realistically, use condoms.”

To which I say STOP IT.

To call condom use more realistic than abstinence is accurate, in the sense that people are in fact more likely to use contraception than to abstain from sex (for many reasons, not solely to prevent the transmission of the zika virus).

But to call condom use more realistic than abstinence is also to actively discourage abstinence (and, subtly, to shame the people who practice it). It implies that nobody chooses abstinence, or that nobody can — that humans won’t govern their urges because they can’t.

It is to say “YOU SHOULD DO THIS, BUT YOU WON’T.” What if that’s how our parents raised us?

“It’s a good idea to do your homework, but you won’t.”

“It’s a good idea to get exercise, but you won’t.”

“It’s a good idea to pray, but you won’t.”

How many people can succeed at doing what we should when the people who tell us we should also predict to our faces, over and over, that we won’t?

How many people can believe “I can do this” when all the voices around them say “you can’t”?

To call condom use more realistic than abstinence is to be wholly uncritical of a culture in which what humans are created able to do is wildly underestimated.

Even according to the doctor on the Today Show, there are good reasons to abstain from sex (for a while or forever, depending on your circumstances): because you are single and you practice chastity is one of them. Or because you are married and you have a good reason to use NFP to avoid instead of achieve a pregnancy. Because you have the zika virus and you don’t want your partner to get it.

But the doctor did not mention what our culture actually desperately needs to be told:

That abstaining from sex is possible.

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