Hit & Run: Roses are red, texts are blue

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The Independent Online

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Not Terribly Surprising Information, 78 per cent of women would love to receive a love letter, but only 50 per cent of men have ever sent one. The survey doesn't record how many men would love to receive a love letter; perhaps the conveners of the survey imagine most men would respond to such a missive with suspicion or puzzlement or hostility.

With weird synchronicity, news arrives that the TV personality Vernon Kay has been caught sending saucy texts and Twitter messages to a glamour model called Rhian, whom he met in a fashionable nightclub in Bolton. It seems only yesterday we read about Tiger Woods sending texts to his lady friends Rachel Uchitel and Jaimee Grubbs. True, they weren't in the Robert Browning class ("I want you to lay beside me, lay on me or wherever you want to lay ... ") but it's the thought that counts. It seems only last weekend that we could sample David Beckham's alleged text correspondence with Rebecca Loos and marvel at its innocent romanticism ("When I see you, I want to hear you groan and moan").

Is this, then, the key to satisfying the vast numbers of women who crave a lettre d'amour? Instead of an old-fashioned outpouring of feelings and a long enumeration of the love object's qualities and physical appeal, could they settle for a tweet or a text? Tweets have an in-built drawback that they must restrict themselves to 140 characters. It's hard to build up that sense of urgency, that head of emotional steam so vital in a love letter when you've no more than a few feet of track to run on: My darling, carissima, never in the history of human attraction has man loved woman as I love thee. From the limpid pools of your eyes to the soles of your charming feet, I adore you, also your vast surging wobbly oh blast I've run out of sp.

Another problem is directness. Love letters tend to hide any mention of rumpy-pumpy behind a fulsome blather of compliments and reassurance. Texts, by contrast, are ideal for extreme frankness: seeing certain words glowing on a screen in her hand can bring a blush of excitement to any maidenly cheek.

Perhaps in future we'll combine the traditional and the textual, to convey complex feelings in saucy telegrammese: Darlng, U R Beatrice 2 my D&te, more beautiful thn K8 Moss or Fern Cot10, I dream of yr hevnly Rs and mmry gl&s, my heart £££s when U R near, I hope we cn 4nic8 like buny rbits asap and sorry I've been a bit s@R9 l8ly ... John Walsh

Virgin territory for sex education

Here's a truly shocking sex revelation: an American study last week revealed that abstinence-only sex education classes can help delay when teenagers start having sex. This came as a huge surprise to those carrying out the survey at the University of Pennsylvania – until now, experts believed the "just-say-no" approach is about as successful at preventing teen pregnancies as a fishnet condom. Yet students who were in abstinence classes, as opposed to safe-sex classes, really were less likely to have sex.

The research looked at 662 black students from Philadelphia, with an average age of 12. Within two years, a third in the abstinence-only group had had sex, compared to almost half of those in groups which didn't promote abstinence. The news has naturally delighted America's abstinence lobby – despite the fact that these classes neither ignored the existence of condoms, nor promoted abstinence as a way of keeping God happy, unlike some more controversial chastity campaigns. Their glee is multiplied given that the Obama administration is cutting funding for abstinence programmes.

Virginity preservation is big business in the US. In 2008, funding for abstinence education programmes reached $204m. The True Love Waits campaign has seen millions of American teens pledge "to a lifetime of purity ... until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship". Silver Ring Thing (SRT), a "youth ministry" seeking to reverse "moral decay", offer a chance to gain your "second virginity".

Abstinence campaigns have a foothold in the UK, too. The non-religious Romance Academy sees young people pledge celibacy for months; Lovewise produce abstinence-promoting educational materials, with titles like "too special to spoil". SRT arrived in 2004 to help young Brits enjoy the "wonders of sex in the context that God intended" (ie, after marriage, not after several fruit vodkas). But there's no real campaign here to get abstinence taught in schools – SRT's website instead advises parents to withdraw their children from sex ed classes where they might hear about condoms or the Pill. While this new study appears to suggest it is a good idea to talk to young teens about why it's wise to wait, in the UK we're a way off from teachers encouraging their pupils to embrace "second virginity". Holly Williams

What would you do with an extra hour?

Gordon Brown is considering a three-year trial to keep us on British Summer Time all year. "Yay," say accident prevention groups and tourist boards, who believe it would save lives and raise cash. "Boo," say Scottish farmers, who don't like milking cows in the dark. The light mornings country folk enjoy this time of year are wasted on those of us with no inclination to catch worms. But if we had brighter afternoons, would we frolic in parks, share picnics and indulge in afternoon jogs? Or would we work later, delaying journeys home in the gloom? And do we really want to sacrifice one of the highlights of the year – the moment, on the last Sunday of November, we remember the clocks are wrong and we have an extra hour in bed? Hit & Run is not convinced. Simon Usborne