honorary Hose Monster:
As promised, the follow up to the filth that Newsweek published this week under the guise of "journalism."
Following up the article I apparently ripped to shreds this week is a report concerning the efficacy of teaching abstinence and the involvement of the federal government in policies related to the issue. First off, I have to say that this article is infinitely better than that piece of shit fluff cover story. It's responsible, tries to consider the truth instead of the happy news, and generally seems somewhat objective. It does contain two major problems: the same assertion that teen chastity is on the rise based on the strength of one perhaps questionable CDC story, and one comment by a teen who is described at the end of the sentence as "sitting in the back row ... in hip-huggers and a pink V neck." Why put this information in the article when it clearly adds nothing? To try and throw in the message that even girls who might look trashy are abstaining from sex. A pathetic implication, an absolutely unnecessary attempt to subtley inject an opinion. Completely reprehensible. But on the whole, the article is either decent and respectable or my expectations were so greatly lowered by the cover story that Cosmopolitan might seem like hard-hitting insightful journalism at that point.
Okay, ready for me to jump up on my soap box? I have two major points here:
- Parents who think they can convince their kids to abstain from sex need to pull their heads out of their asses and think really hard about reality
- The Federal Government has no business funding, let alone increasing their funding with contingencies on it, to abstinence programs
The cover told the story of Chris Nicoletti and his girlfriend Amanda Wing, two teens (who clearly are not from a ultra-conservative family, like most of the teens interviewed for the article) who have chosen to abstain from sex. Observe Karl Nicoletti's excellent treatment of his son's burgeoning maturity and sexuality: "I just said, 'No, you're not going to have sex. Keep your pecker in your pants until you graduate from high school.'" Mr. Nicoletti has also apparently established guidelines for Chris and Amanda: no touching anywhere that a soccer uniform covers. Amanda's parents have also set similarly strict rules for her.
Great parenting guys. Setting rules for teenagers. Telling them what not to do and doing it in a somewhat threatening manner. Pardon me if I fail to nominate you for any parenting awards.
Allow me to also include a brief quotation from "The Battle Over Abstinence" article that illustrates how a number of abstinence programs attempt to convey these messages to teens.
By the time she darkens the room for the slide show ... the kids are captivated. The screen fills with grotesque images -- a uterus swollen by pelvic inflammatory disease, a penis oozing pus from gonorrhea. "Eeeeeew," the students groan. Afterward, many seem persuaded. "That totally changed my view on pretty much everything," says freshman Laura Hurst, 14. "Ohmigod."
I love it when the statement of a 14-year old freshman is supposed to convince me that many teens are convinced by these scare tactics. Not to condescend or seem disbelieving of Ms. Hurst, but in two years, when her body is a little different and so is her social life, she will not remember that slide show. But I'm digressing here.
The major point is that with something as difficult as teen sex, something so pervasive in conversation and entertainment, I think what kids really need is leadership, not rules and regulations. And my comment to Mr. Nicoletti and the abstinence programs would be that when you tried to lead by fear, you fail. Negative reinforcement only works as long as the fear of repercussion remains prescient, and that assumes that the threat has any mustard to it. Meanwhile, people freqquently follow good leaders because they have a good example and a positive aspiration. Leaders become good leaders because they inspire their followers to take positive action rather than try to prevent negative action by fear. A parent setting rules and telling kids what not to do implies negative consequences and treats them as little children. "Or else" rules pertaining to teen sexuality treats teens as ten-year old children. It denies them the respect they should be starting to earn as developing adults. A slide show illustrating the horrors of sexually transmitted disease, aside from the possible sexual dysfunction it can create in kids, does the same thing as a horror movie. It treats the audience as a formula, an entity to manipulate with grotesque pictures and villians jumping out from behind walls.
Teens generally are just starting to discover their individuality and start thinking about wanting some personality. My personal opinion is that when parents and other adults don't understand that, when they cannot think hard enough to remember their own teenage years, they work against the direction a teen is trying to grow. Most parents think their teens are rebelling against them because they are. These kids are trying to grow up and become independent and viable adults, and meanwhile their parents keep trying to see them as children and believe statements like "keep your pecker in your pants" are going to have an effect with their kids. With some kids it does, perhaps because they've had a number of social institutions trying to teach them that their individual thoughts and instincts are dangerous, perhaps because they're too busy to do something else, perhaps because they just think that way. I'm not passing judgment. I am suggesting that most kids want to follow their own thoughts, and parents who try and work against that are setting themselves and their children up for hard lessons.
Let's get into point two. The federal government, and I'd even think strongly about bringing the state governments into this, has absolutely no business preaching abstinence to teens. I think they could play a respectable role in sex education for teens, and frankly, I think government funding for that sort of thing could help out quite a bit. But the problem with government involvement is that wherever the money goes, so too goes a political agenda. No legislature or administration is going to earmark funds without attaching a goal to them. Currently that money is going to urge kids from abstaining from sex until marriage. In my opinion, when a government starts trying to promote messages like abstinence, it prevents those teenagers from developing into valid citizens that can participate in that government.
President Bush wants to increase funds going to abstinence programs in the near future. Big surprise that holier than though Dubya wants to start affecting how the people he governs think and act. But know where he wants funnel most of the dollars? Into the most restrictive type of abstinence programs, Special Projects of Regional and National Significance. Groups wanting to get funds through these programs must follow, according to Newsweek, eight strict critera, including teaching that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects and, this one is one of my favorite things I've read about the preachy nature of our current Administration, that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the contenxt of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity (emphasis mine). Moreover, these program prohibit by law promoting or endorsing condom use. Oh, and surprise, most of these programs are faith-based.
This might just be me, but when you're trying to help kids grow into responsible and redeeming adults, you shouldn't be trying to teach them ideology. You should simply try to help them grow up and give them the tools to make the decisions that are the best for each individual person. You shouldn't be telling them what decision is correct. Politically, no administration can do that. As usual, the current Administration is taking it to a more disturbing level by assuming to know and teach that anyone engaging in sexual behavior outside the realm of a monogamous marriage is not conforming to the acceptable standards of humanity.
Fuck you, George W. Bush. I am not societal aberration.
Again, back to my point. I'm not trying to urge teens to go out and start banging the hell out of each other. At the end of the day, I agree with the underlying opinion of parents and policymakers that abstinence is probably the best route for most teens, until they reach a certain age at least. But where I think these parents who refuse to recognize the reality of their children growing into independent adults and policy makers who want to make everyone think they way they purport to think err is trying to force this idea on teens. Abstinence, or sexual involvement, is a decision each teen needs to make on his or her own.
Parents: give your kids some respect. Treat them as the adults they're growing to be. Give them tools and try to help them make good decisions. If you try to make those decisions for them, you're setting yourself and your children up for failure much of the time. And government: if you could give money to try and help others simply make decisions, I'd be all for you. However, I'm not stupid enough to think that a single dollar leaves Washington without some policy attached to it. That said, if I had things my way, you'd just stay the hell out.
Sigh. I hate having to think these things. On the other hand, I'd probably hate not having a soap box on which to jump.