The Myth of Consenting Adults

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2003
One of the prevailing myths of our time is the idea that sex between consenting adults (or teens) is no one else’s business. Despite the fact that all civilized societies have done so for millennia, we are told that it is “wrong,” “bigoted,” and “intolerant” to assume the right to tell anyone else how he or she should live. But more and more people are beginning to realize that they do suffer personally from the sexual actions of others.

The Social Cost of Current Sexual Attitudes

The mounting evidence indicating the leaders of the sexual revolution is impressive. They promised joy, liberation, and good health. They’ve delivered misery, disease and even death.
Vernon Mark, M.D.

One of the prevailing myths of our time is the idea that sex between consenting adults (or teens) is no one else’s business. Despite the fact that all civilized societies have done so for millennia, we are told that it is “wrong,” “bigoted,” and “intolerant” to assume the right to tell anyone else how he or she should live. Planned Parenthood, leading talk show hosts/news commentators, politicians, and others tell us that not only is it none of our business, it is also none of the government’s business what an individual does with his private sex life. Further, it is not the school’s business, parents’ business, or the church’s business. To teach others to restrict their sexual behavior is supposedly “puritanical,” “harmful,” and “repressive.”

But more and more people are beginning to realize that they do suffer personally from the sexual actions of others. The economic cost of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases alone will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars—and all of us will pay for it—including our children and their children.

Some people don’t yet realize that their diminishing health coverage (at significantly higher rates) is increasingly due to the nation’s continued acceptance of homosexuality and its cost in AIDS—as well as other massive financial costs of the sexual revolution. This does not even consider the emotional and social costs.

McDowell is absolutely correct when he warns,

A “private act” of illicit sex can have widespread and horrendous physical, social, political, economical, emotional and moral implications for the society which condones it. Historically, those groups which originated legislation to regulate the sexual activities of a given culture were not primarily religious, such as the Puritans. It was often secular governments who had the common sense to realize that sex is not only a private act, but also one with potentially appalling public consequences and costs. Someone always pays for promiscuity—and it is not always the primary participants who pay the most.[1]

Some of the most horrible tragedies are those forced upon the innocent:

  • infants and children
  • hemophiliacs
  • a faithful spouse
  • teenagers who will die young

McDowell proceeds to point out that it costs federal and state governments an average of $100,000 in medical and welfare costs for every teen who has a child—and each year 12 million teenagers get pregnant. In just the year of 1985, teenage childbearing cost the nation more than $16 billion.[2]

It is estimated that in the next twenty years American taxpayers will pay well in excess of $100 billion for the net results of teenage pregnancies alone.[3] As McDowell points out, that is an exceptionally large sum for the public to have to pay for so-called private acts.

It is anyone’s guess how much AIDS will cost the American public in the next twenty years. The estimated cost of AIDS in New York alone from 1989 to 1994 is 7 or 8 billion.[4] For the rest of the country, estimates vary between $5 and $15 billion per year. The amount spent on other sexually transmitted diseases is equally staggering—in the multiple billion[5]—not to mention all the parallel consequences and ramifications of these diseases.

By the year 2010 the total cost could be $1,000 to $5,000 billion —and probably more—for the consequences of promiscuous sex, including abortion, AIDS and other STDs, welfare, medical costs, psychological counseling, lost productivity, increased health insurance premiums, prison terms, court fees, legal defense, rape and child abuse, and so on. (Some have even spoken in terms of.a quadrillion dollars—a thousand trillion dollars—before this is all over.) A recent study by the Society of Actuaries estimated that AIDS itself would cost national insurance companies more than $100 billion in life, health, and disability claims merely by the year 2000.[6] In light of such figures, let us ask some questions.[7]

If it is none of our business what anyone else does with his or her sex life, why do we have to pay for it? If private acts of sex are no one else’s concern, why do we all pay billions for AIDS research, “family planning,” abortion, pregnancy counseling, and all the rest?

If American citizens will pay billions or trillions of dollars for the “private acts” of consenting adults and teenagers, why don’t the promiscuous even want us to find out whether or not they have the AIDS virus and are freely spreading it to others? How can they logically demand the collective right to continue to practice sexual activity that is destroying millions of lives and then turn around and demand that society care and pay for the victims of their own behavior?

Why are homosexual groups everywhere, Planned Parenthood, and other sexually active pressure groups asking for millions of dollars for public school sex education beginning in the first grade?

Why should the public fund abortions when it is the sexual irresponsibility of the partners that produced the pregnancy? When the money is not available, why should the public care for victims of AIDS and other STDs when they had nothing to do with it?

When a husband commits adultery against his wife, and then gives her AIDS, do her husband’s private acts have no consequences on her personal life? If it is possible for a person to be a carrier of HIV and other STDs for several years without knowing it, and if sex with any given person is now sex with every person that person had sex with—how is this no one else’s business?

Consider how gonorrhea and syphilis typically spread. This happens to be a true story: A girl had sex with sixteen different men. The men then had sex with other women who had sex with other men who had sex with other women, and so on. The number of traced contacts finally added up to 1,660![8] Unfortunately, the same thing is happening worldwide with the AIDS virus—and again, most of those who are being infected don’t even know it.

All this means that sex is no longer a private act when the sexually promiscuous demand that the American public spend billions of dollars to care for and attempt to cure their own willfully chosen diseases.

But pay we will! For some sixty sexually transmitted diseases, single parents’ welfare costs, AIDS, and perhaps millions of babies born with the diseases inherited from the sexual activity of their parents. In 1991 PID alone was costing $4 billion a year to treat.[9]

Unfortunately, the emotional toll is often worse than the physical or financial toll. Consider the more than, 160,000 Americans who have already died of AIDS and the emotional wreckage it has left in the lives of their families and friends.

After one of his speaking engagements, Josh McDowell was approached by a woman who was nearly hysterical. She explained to McDowell that she had been married for four years to a man who had been in excellent health. One day he was informed he had AIDS—twelve days later he was dead. The disease was traced back to an affair he had six years earlier.[10] What’s worse, the physicians told this woman that she had to be tested every three months for the next several years. Place yourself in this woman’s shoes. How would you feel? She can’t sleep nights. She finds it difficult to concentrate at work. All the while, she is tormented with the idea that she will one day test positive and, like her husband, die. Then what will happen? Who will care for her children? Who will care for her aging parents?

This woman has paid a high price for one “private act” of her husband’s. Now multiply this situation by the millions and you may begin to see the social magnitude of the problem.

How do you build trust in a marriage or other relationship when one partner infects another with AIDS, gonorrhea, PID, herpes, Chlamydia, or syphilis? Do we have any idea how many men visit prostitutes every year in this country? It numbers in the millions. Incredibly, many of them are married. “The average prostitute in the United States has had sex with 2,000 men. That man just didn’t have a private act of sex with a prostitute. He had sex with the prostitute, plus her 2,000 partners, plus all of their partners for the past ten years—up to 12,000 people. Then, that man has the audacity to go home and have sex with his wife! His wife didn’t have a private act in bed with her husband. She had sex with her husband, plus the prostitute, plus her 2,000 partners, plus all their partners for the last ten years. That’s a lot to handle as a wife.[11]

But there are also costs for young people to pay for the “private acts” of others. Parents must now explain to their children something that parents of any other generation have never had to do—nor could they have ever imagined such a thing. Parents today must soberly tell their own children that they cannot have peace of mind on their wedding night or at any point afterward unless they know certain information. They must know the detailed sexual history of their mate and all their mate’s partners for the past ten years. They must know this information with absolute accuracy—or risk death.

Even young children pay by becoming infected with HIV and other STDs. There are already millions of such children, and in the future there could be more. Many of these children will suffer with moderate to serious physical diseases from nonfatal STDs and a good percentage of them will pay with their own lives when they contract a fatal STD like AIDS. One hospital reports that the lifetime care cost for children with AIDS averages more than $90,000 per child.[12] Various researchers in Europe and America have revealed that up to 25 to 40 percent of newborns to mothers infected with AIDS are themselves infected with the virus.[13]

Then consider all the children who have one or more parents dying from AIDS. They too pay a terrible price. We earlier cited World Health Organization estimates that by 2002 almost thirty million children will be orphaned by AIDS.

According to several sources, more than thirty thousand single mothers with AIDS in New York, having an average of two children, will die by 1995, leaving the city to attempt to provide for sixty thousand foster children.[14] That’s sixty thousand children whose mothers have died of AIDS, many of whom themselves are at risk. The human cost, physically and emotionally, is unimaginable.

Then, of course, we haven’t even considered the other innocent victims of AIDS, such as hemophiliacs—tens of thousands more who are cruelly given a death sentence because of the “private acts” of others.

Now consider a final illustration of such “private acts”—abortion. Some thirty million unborn children in America alone have already paid the ultimate price for their parents’ sexual irresponsibility—being killed while yet in a mother’s womb. Worldwide, the figure is around one-half billion.

How long God might put up with all this, no one knows, but anyone who claims that the private sexual life of another person is none of your business is either uninformed or lying. Yet the myth of “private consent” persists.

In What’s Wrong with Sex Education? Melvin Anchell warns, “To stop the destruction of our civilization, America must re-establish its social conscience.[15]” To illustrate, on “The Geraldo Show” of October 19, 1991, a panel of women were presented who had been engaging in sexual acts with family members. Even when a sister was having sex with her own brother, several people in the audience began their statement with “I have no right to tell you you are wrong but . . .” When many Americans don’t even have the conviction to say incest is wrong, how will the nation ever say infidelity and the more common forms of sexual promiscuity are wrong?

Think about the following list of sexually related issues—from pornography and child molestation to infertility and prostitution (with its “acceptable” level of crime and drugs)—what do you think is the final physical, emotional, financial and spiritual cost represented in all these activities?

  • Sexual dysfunction and the counseling it requires
  • Teenage pregnancy
  • Incest
  • Sexual child abuse by parents, siblings, neighbors, and strangers
  • Adultery and divorce
  • Surrogate sex therapy (e.g., therapists who have sex with clients, both married and single, to help them perform better or eradicate their sexual problems)
  • Abortion
  • Psychological problems: personal guilt, depression, low self-esteem, evensuicide induced by illicit sexual activity, abortion, divorce, and so on.
  • Sadomasochistic sex
  • Homosexuality and lesbianism
  • Sixty sexually transmitted diseases
  • Prostitution—male, female, child
  • AIDS
  • Single parenthood
  • Rape
  • Pornography
  • Snuff films/bestiality

Consider the following additional data:

  1. Thanks largely to AIDS, cases of tuberculosis are exploding around the country. Newsweek warned, “Without prompt action, TB could decimate some segments of society.[16]
  2. Ten to 30 percent of children born to AIDS-infected parents are infected and will die by age four without treatment, but treatment is so costly society cannot afford it. Hospital costs aside, even AIDS home health care can require up to $25,000 per month.
  3. In the U.S. alone $10 to $12 billion per year will be spent on AIDS from 1993 to 1995. Then costs will escalate. In just the next five years, costs may increase tenfold. This means a community now paying $10 million a year for AIDS treatment will be paying $100 million a year.
  4. Unfortunately, these expenses seem to have occurred at the point where researchers were close to perhaps dramatic breakthroughs in several serious illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. Because of the vast sums of money spent on sexually related illness, these breakthroughs will either be delayed for decades or never realized simply because the money that would have been available was not. Because HIV is the first virus in history having powerful civil protections, the money spent on curing it is disproportional. For example, the Journal of the American Family Association reported that heart disease now claims twenty times more lives than AIDS, yet receives only one-third of its funding. Cancer claims thirteen times more lives and receives only 90 percent of AIDS funding. Diabetes and Alzheimer’s together claim three times the deaths of AIDS yet receive only about 13 percent of its budget. The injustice is not that so much is spent on AIDS, for it is a potentially more serious disease. The problem is that society encouraged the very conditions that gave rise to a disease that otherwise might never have existed—and at the expense of other medical research.[17]
  5. By the turn of the century, we will have spent scores or hundreds of dollars on sexually related diseases, illnesses, and their consequences—money that could have been far more profitably spent elsewhere.

Is an individual’s sexual behavior really nobody else’s business?


  1. Josh McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education (San Bernardino, Calif.: Here’s Life, 1990), 48-49.
  2. Chicago Tribune, 19 February 1986, 3.
  3. Myron harris and J. Norman, The Private Life of the American Teenager (New York: Rawson Wade , 1981), 99.
  4. USA Today, 23 March 1989, 26; cited in McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 49.
  5. Joe S. McIlhaney, Sexuality and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 11 (citing Journal of the American Medical Association, 22/29 October 1982).
  6. Nora Zamichow, Times Herald; cited in McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 50.
  7. Some of these are from ibid., passim.
  8. The Common Appeal, 7 November 1988, Al2.
  9. CNN News, 30 November 1991.
  10. McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 53.
  11. Ibid., 54; cf. Dinah Richard, Has Sex Education Failed Our Teenagers? A Research Report (Pomona, Calif.: Focus on the Family, 1990), 22, 28-29; Pearl Evans, Hidden Danger in the Classroom (Petaluma, Calif.: Small Helm, 1990),4 -8.
  12. McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 55 (citing AIDS Prevention, 1989, newsletter of the National AIDS Prevention Institute, Culpepper, Va.).
  13. McDowell, The Myths of Sex Education, 55.
  14. Dateline NBC,” 14 April 1992, 10:00 P.M., EST; U.S. Newsweek Review, 24 April 1989, 26.
  15. Melvin Anchell, What’s Wrong with Sex Education? (Selma, AL: Hoffman Center for the Family, 1991), 85; cf. 74.
  16. Newsweek, 1 December 1991. See “Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis,” Centers for Disease Control, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for 19 June 1992.
  17. Journal of the American Family Association, November/December 1991.

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