The US has a Federally funded programme which encourages young people to remain celibate until marriage. The programme is known as Silver Ring Thing, because the teenagers involved wear a silver ring (on their finger) as a sign of their commitment to celibacy.
According to BBC news, the US government is considering cutting the funding, following a report that one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. And with some 750,000 teenage pregnancies a year, America has one of the highest teen birth rates in the developed world.
"This national programme which has wasted $1.5bn (£750m) of tax money is a failure and our teens are paying the price," says Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood "We've been wasting money on programmes that don't work and we're seeing the consequences every single day."
“State governments receive federal money they must match to fund abstinence programmes. At least 17 states have opted out of the system and others have suspended funding while Congress investigates whether such programmes work.
Critics say there is no evidence that they delay sexual activity and teenagers who have taken a vow of virginity are less likely to use protection if they break their promise.”
Such teenagers do not get taught about contraception. As 15 year-old Mildred from Arizona says: "We get sex-ed classes in school and that should be where teens get the right information - but that isn't happening."
The argument in favour of abstinence is put by a Texan lawyer, who describes himself as a member of the religious right:
"I am convinced that abstinence is the only way for kids," he says. "You begin by teaching the consequences of bad behaviour and the benefits of proper behaviour and you do that in a way that a child can grasp. "Self control leads to a happy, joyful life. If we can learn to control the most basic of drives - the sex drive - for good, then we can control drugs, gangs, alcohol and abusive anger."
If you’ve already had sex, it’s not too late: Teenagers who do have sex before marriage are given another chance by becoming ‘secondary virgins’. "Of course, if you view virginity as number one, and you've slept with someone, of course it's going to be different and you can never go back - but that doesn't mean there's no tomorrow," explains Ashley, who also says she believes teenagers who experiment with sex are laying the foundations for troubled relationships later in life. "A lot of the young people I know who go around having experiences with lots of different people are just preparing themselves for not knowing how to be committed to somebody. Once you get into the practice of doing whatever you want, it's hard to change when you're older."
16 year-old Josh has this to say: "I have a lot of close friends and we pretty much agree on the same thing so we keep each other in line most of the time.”
There’s plenty of room for comedy in all this. Exactly how do Josh and his friends keep each other in line? Do they spray each other with hosepipes? And how exactly do you control the sex drive ‘for good’? Do you have a special box with a pink ribbon on it called ‘Sex Drive’ that you keep in the attic? And where does celibacy end and sex start? When you hold hands? Or is it more akin to Bill Clinton’s definition of sexual relations? And then there are the secondary – i.e. 2nd class – virgins. Do they have to stand in the corner? Are they infectious?
The Silver Ring Thing began in 1996, but it gained Federal funding in 2003 under one of George Bush’s faith-based initiatives. As a Brit, it’s gobsmacking that this sort of stuff could be taken seriously enough to be funded by a government. It’s understandable that a country might have small religious cults that think like this, but not mainstream society. OK, you have Catholic countries which are in theory like this, but they don’t seem to take it seriously. They just go to the confessional and everything is all right again.
Astrologically, I’d see it as Mars (sex drive) square to Neptune (loss and confusion) in the US chart. Mars in Gemini also suggests hypocrisy (like Eliot Spitzer, with his unaspected Sun in Gemini), as well as there being another side to the issue, which is the glamorization of sex that you get in advertising, the film industry and the media generally.
It is interesting that the Silver Ring Thing got Federal funding in 2003, at a time when Pluto was starting to oppose the US natal Mars at 21 Gemini, and squaring natal Neptune at 22 Virgo. It was an attempt at sexual (Mars) repression (Pluto).
So is there an answer? What would you say to a client who turned up with this aspect, who was by turns priggish and licentious? And liked to play cowboys (Mars-Neptune again) at weekends? I’m not sure what I’d say. But I might start with the Sun square Saturn that you get in the US chart, because this is the major character challenge. It makes for someone – or a country – who is very driven and achievement-oriented, but who over-identifies with this and can never get enough and is not at ease with himself, does not feel a solid confident foundation within himself.
A lot of stuff can come out in the sexual arena when we are imbalanced elsewhere. Sexual excess and compulsiveness can be a compensation for the lack of ease and pleasure in the rest of your life, which Sun square Saturn can easily lead to. Sexual repression can be an expression of guilt about bodily pleasure (and the US has no personal planets in earth) and self-loathing: the over-achievement of Sun square Saturn can be a sort of compensation for this self-loathing.
So this is what I might say: as long as you keep driving yourself like this, as long as you have to keep proving you are number one (negative Saturn is very hierarchical), sex is going to remain a tangled and compulsive issue for you. If you can stop and face yourself, and stop running from the imaginary abyss beneath your feet, then your Mars will have a chance to be a bit more normal. Or as normal as Mars in Gemini square Neptune can ever be! If you want normal, try Mars in Capricorn, which is an expert at the missionary position and doing its bedroom duty. Mars in Gemini is more interesting and experimental and – square Neptune – imaginative.
But what about George Bush Himself, who was ultimately responsible for funding the Silver Ring Thing under his ‘faith-based initiatives’ scheme? I never think of GWB as having a sexual dimension, and I sometimes wonder where it is. I can say for sure that he has had sex at least twice in his life, because he has 2 daughters. Do George and Laura pray together for forgiveness afterwards? Do women have orgasms in his world?
What I feel with GWB is that he views sex as something to be controlled, and has channelled much of his own urge into the pursuit of power. This is complete speculation on my part. His ancestor Richard Bush was a member of the Plymouth Colony 300 years ago, and GWB seems to me to be a throwback to those times.
He has unaspected Mars in Virgo. So it may be quite easy for him to shovel his sex drive off to one side, for it is not well integrated with the rest of his personality. Virgo can have integrity, but can also be moralising, prudish and hypocritical. Virgo is the virgin, but is also associated with ‘oriental moon ecstasies’ (Frances Yates, Astrea, p32). Where does George Bush get his ecstasy? Probably in that more war-like manifestation of his Mars, whether it was blowing-up frogs as a kid, sending record numbers to the execution chamber while Governor of Texas, or creating carnage in his war against Islam.
NB Since publication it has been pointed out that Bush's daughters are twins, so we can only be sure that him and Laura have had sex once. Also, he had a reputation when he was in the Texan National Gurad for his taste in coke and hookers. There's the other side of prudish Mars in Virgo. Classic!