American culture would have you believe that teen chastity is an oxymoron and that sexual purity among the young is unattainable.
But noted chastity speaker Jason Evert doesn’t buy it, and he is in a great position to know. He has spoken to teens around the country about this topic for the last 15 years, he said, and they are eager for his message of purity.
Evert is hoping for the same response here when he comes to speak in the archdiocese Oct. 2 and 3.
“After having spoken to over a million teens around the world, there is yet to be one single disrespectful audience,” said Evert, 37, who lives with his wife Crystalina and five children in Denver. “They’re sponges when it comes to hearing this message, and I think that’s because I’m not presenting it based on fear, guilt and shame, but upon my respect for them — and I’m respecting them enough to challenge them to a higher standard than the world.”
Although the sexual revolution has been raging for decades and has caught many in its grip, Evert sees clear signs that it is on a downward cycle. He keeps a watchful eye on cultural trends and statistics and is encouraged by what the numbers are showing.
“The majority of American high school students are now virgins,” he noted. “Teen sexual activity rates have been dropping for about 20 years now. The teenage sexual activity rate among boys is going down twice as fast as teenage girls. So, there’s plenty of hope, but you never see it in the mainstream media.”
Evert will speak to audiences ranging from middle schoolers to parents of teens. There may be skeptics in all three groups, but he considers chastity an appealing — and attainable — lifestyle.
In other words, the notion that the most you can do is help teens protect themselves from disease and pregnancy is false.
His own life is a witness. He said that he was a virgin when he got married nine years ago. Even though his wife was not, which she often shares during his presentations, she experienced a deep conversion that propelled her to a life of sexual purity before she married Jason.
In fact, her testimony and their marriage can be an encouraging message for teens who have been sexually active, as well as for parents of teens who have made this mistake.
“We have canonized saints, such as St. Augustine, who had premarital sex, who fathered a child out of wedlock,” he said. “For the young people, I just want to remind them that it’s never too late. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done or where they’ve been. All that matters is where they go from here.”
He has witnessed many transformations in the lives of young people, whom he spends hours conversing with after his talks. One time, he talked with kids at a New York school for seven hours. They poured out their hearts to him about their troubled lives, suffering tragedies like abuse, neglect and abortion.
On another occasion, a girl came up and hugged him after a talk. She had been raped several years earlier, and her then-boyfriend denied it. She did not get the court conviction she was hoping for, and the boy moved out of state.
Then, years later, he came back to confess to his crime. Why? He had seen a video of Evert’s presentation at his school, and felt he needed to set things right.
Maybe the most remarkable story of all came when another person, this time an adult woman, saw Evert on video.
“One woman emailed me that she had seen the talk on a video — I think it was on YouTube or something — and she happened to be a stripper,” Evert said. “After she saw the video, not only did she quit stripping, but she took the video to the strip club to show the other strippers in the back room. And after quitting, she’s now a pro-life speaker.”
Advice for parents
For parents wondering how to keep their kids chaste, Evert has two tips — be chaste yourself and turn off the TV.
“Dad cannot be looking at swimsuit magazines,” he said. “Mom cannot be reading ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ (a sexually explicit novel). This is a virtue that is difficult to practice for everybody. And, it’s so easy to look at the teens as the ones who need to be fixed. But we need to take the cross upon our own shoulders as well.”
Part of taking up that cross can be as simple as the flip of a switch.
“Turn off the TV during dinner,” he said. “If your kid has a TV in his bedroom, he’ll spend on average 400 hours more watching television every year than a teenager who does not have a TV in his bedroom. It doesn’t take a lot of time to just flip off the TV and talk during dinner. They say if you talk to your teens about everything, it will be easier to talk to them about anything.”