Teens Rally Around Vow of Abstinence
Group Promotes Keeping Virginity

by LESLEY CLARK
MIAMI HERALD STAFF WRITE
R

MIAMI, July 20, 1999—Aemi Kato is a rebel at her high school. But not in the traditional sense: The 15-year-old has signed a pledge to avoid sex until she's married.

``I'm pretty much by myself on this at my school,'' the New World School of the Arts student said with a shrug. ``But sex is supposed to be about sharing your love. It shouldn't just be a hobby.''

On Monday, she was far from alone. Kato and dozens of teens who have signed the ``Pure Love'' pledge took over a downtown plaza at lunch, declaring the advantages of abstinence and encouraging other young people to join them.

"We're hoping to tell the world," Kato said.

Their arrival -- which included a doo-wop dance performance by a group of teens dressed as sexually transmitted diseases -- startled shoppers and downtown workers more accustomed to political protests at the nearby Claude Pepper Federal Building and the Miami-Dade County Courthouse.

``Of course I'm all for it, but this is a little strange,'' said Miami banker Vivian Feinberg as the students paraded past her on their way to the Stephen P. Clark Center, chanting, ``We don't need promiscuity, we uphold our dignity.'' Several toted signs reading ``I'm a Virgin'' and ``Honk for Purity.'' Nearly all of them wore shirts emblazoned with the pledge.

The rally was the fourth U.S. stop for the Pure Love Alliance, a New York-based group formed three years ago to promote virginity until marriage.

Sex before marriage -- and maturity -- can lead to unwanted pregnancies, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, abortion and simple heartbreak, said John Sapp, a Jacksonville college student who doesn't date so as to avoid the temptation.

``Some of my friends treat me like it's not cool, but everyone knows the pain of rocky relationships,'' Sapp said. ``At this point, we don't have the maturity to love selflessly.''

Florida Health Secretary Bob Brooks has been criticized for wanting to increase state spending on abstinence-only education programs, but the teens said teaching youngsters to refrain from premarital sex can work if approached correctly. They said their program appeals to young people with its mix of music, dance and skits, including the dancing diseases and one that involves four teens sharing the same piece of chewing gum and comparing it to promiscuous sex.

``To me it doesn't make sense to hear about delaying sex from a guy who's like 50,'' said Mosook Park, 18, a spokeswoman for the alliance. ``But I listen if it's coming from someone who is living the life.''

Miami resident Rosa Bones, 21, who stopped to check out the rally, said the music caught her ear. Bones, who had a child when she was 16 and dropped out of school, said she might have been receptive to a catchy campaign.

``There's so much out there about sex, that it's OK,'' Bones said. ``This is a good thing that they're doing.''

The teens even took their campaign to the streets of Miami Beach on Friday -- with surprising results, they said.

``With a place with such a reputation for free sex, we expected a confrontation,'' Sapp said. ``But I think people realize this issue is good for society.''

Copyright 1999 by the Miami Herald