NO SWEAT to go to hell if we’ve got a handful of time to kill. All it really takes to be kind to the devil is to delight him by having an idle mind and body. And so, lest our souls be damned, beware of boredom.

“Nothing to do.” In Jefferson, a sleepy town in Missouri, some of the young residents could have moaned their complaint with a yawn. But when sociologist Peter Bearman came to hear the students of Jefferson High for his research in 2004, his ears were as good as abuzz with the birds and the bees. Most of his teenage subjects, he found out, have more than enough time for one thing: sex.

Click here for Election 2010 updates

At least 69 percent of them, or 573 out of 832 high school students who were interviewed, had been into “one or more sexual and romantic relationships” within the 18 months prior to Bearman’s study. To know how far sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) had spread, Bearman tracked the sexual partners of each student who confessed being “sexually active.” What he learned could make stray dogs copulating on the street seem tame in comparison. It turned out the students were linked by common sexual partners in a stickier web than their unsuspecting parents, teachers, and church leaders might have dared to discover. In fact, according to Bearman, 288 of the sexually active students were “chained together” through other sexual partners.

If you thought Bearman’s figures were out of whack, another study in 2005 indicated that “most young people—about three-fourths of men and two-thirds of women—have sexual intercourse by their senior year in high school.”

Does this ring a bell where the Catholic Church looms like a storm cloud while young eyes and ears get swamped with sex videos and songs to make Lady Gaga blush?

Sleazy does it. Thus decency goes on adrenaline overdrive as self-anointed moral crusaders like Rene Josef Bullecer prove their pro-life advocacy by believing we’re living in Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor’s fictional town where “all the children are above average.” But by wearing Puritanism on their foreheads and thinking we’re more virtuous than we are, isn’t that as good as a figment of imagination?

Truth, however, is out there. And it doesn’t need to drone on with statistics till we snore, only to be startled with news about a teenage gang banging on a 16-year-old girl and pumping bullets on her boyfriend.

But Bullecer and company need to get busy. They must go fussy against anything that pricks the bubble of their faith—even if they must suspend disbelief—that the youth knows nothing about playing with fire. Never mind if they, unlike Bullecer and the browbeaters from the pulpit, are sometimes careless and constantly needing to be saved from the scourge of unprotected sex and early or even unwanted pregnancy.

“Immoral and Godless.” Or so Bullecer et al echoed the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, condemning the Department of Health for distributing free condoms to prevent the wildfire of STDs HIV and Aids. It’s as if our youth were immune from hell as well as from the data of the Guttmacher Institute, which provides a wide range of resources on topics pertaining to sexual and reproductive health: Of the 18.9 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) each year, 9.1 million (48 percent) occur among 15–24-year-olds. Although 15–24-year-olds represent only one-quarter of the sexually active, they account for nearly half of all new STIs each year.

Something has to be done. And that takes more than just huffing, puffing, and blowing hot air to be holy. What to do with condoms? These, hopefully, would not be used instead as balloons for children to play.  

(geemyko@gmail.com)