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York Co. tries 'do as I do' approach 'Sex Out' day causes a stir


YORK, Pa. -- No sex, please -- we're from York County.

Not for one day, at least.

"We're calling on people of all ages to abstain from sexual intercourse," said Joe Fay, chairman of the Teen Pregnancy Coalition of York County, Pa., yesterday.

Yesterday was the "Great York County Sex Out," an exercise designed to send teens the collective message that you can be close to someone without going all the way.

The Sex Out was part of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Week, March 18-25. The motto of the campaign is "Be aware -- prepare."

"Nobody's saying, 'Did you? Did you?' " said Mary Stough, a nurse at Central York Middle School and a member of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Week committee.

"Everybody talks about condoms," she said, and the Sex Out was just "a clever way" to get people to think about abstinence as an option.

Judging from local response, it worked.

"It just seems like everybody, everywhere today is talking about it," said Mr. Fay.

Eleanor Stover, a York florist, said of the Sex Out, "I think it's a good idea, but I don't know how much difference one day will make."

Kathy Hansford, a stocker in a York drug store, said the Sex Out at least got people thinking about talking to their kids about teen pregnancy.

She said she hadn't talked with her 14-year-old son lately about it, but she probably would.

Yvonne Hoffer, 17, a senior at West York Area High School, said a lot of the girls at the school were wearing green ribbons to remind peers of the teen pregnancy problem.

Asked if the day sparked any dialogue with her family about sex, she said, "Oh, my gosh. . . . Sex is not talked about in my home."

However, Curt Johnson, 16, a junior at the school, said, "It definitely gets you thinking about it. It brings up the subject."

To help kids prepare for sexual situations, Ms. Stough said, sexuality classes teach "refusal skills," strategies to help teens say no.

Teens are encouraged to avoid risky situations and to decide in advance what their limits are, so they don't have to make complex value decisions in stressful circumstances.

The coalition distributed to high schools a leaflet called, "101 Ways to Make Love Without Doin' It," a list compiled by Iowa high school students of ways other than intercourse to show someone you care.

Mr. Fay said the coalition was formed in 1986, in response to teen birth rates in York County, which had been gradually increasing since 1985.

In 1990, a quarter of all births in the city of York were to teen mothers -- the highest percentage of any municipality in Pennsylvania.

Was the day a success?

"I don't know how you'd ever measure how many people actually abstained," he said. "I think in one sense, it's already a success."

Reporters called from far afield, even from Canada.

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