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.
As a special service to my good friend Dan the Goose, who has been bugging me to turn over my email address to him for a little while, here's the story of why my email address is GooseFood at yahoo dot com.
A little while ago I ran a poll asking why I called myself Hose Monster and promising that the winning answer would get a story here. Apparently the answer to the questions is "Give me a dollar." I'm not sure what to do with that one, but thanks for the votes anyway. And to the one person who voted "Ask the women he's shagged. They'll tell you he's a machine in the sack," thanks.
Dear Central Illinois Networks:
Actually, perhaps I should apologize. When you say that someone will call me back and I will definitely see someone by the end of the day, I always forget that sort of thing means "We'll completely ignore your situation and give your complaint lip service so you will get off the phone and I can go back to eating Fritos and watching old episodes of 90210 on Fx." My mistake.
And actually, maybe I should be thaking you for encouraging me to use my industry to solve the problem myself. Especially since I am oh-so accomplished at some of the technical things relating to the Information Age (note the *beautiful* design of this page as evidence). So yeah, I got my Internet connection working again this morning, with no help from you.
My bill will be in the mail.
Sorry for not posting yesterday. I was just getting ready to fire my second salvo at the whole abstinence thing that came up with my last post (and by the way, thanks for the comments yesterday; I'm glad to know I was not the only person who saw that article as an absolute embarrassment to the supposed intelligence of the educated classes. And just so you know, per my little Ice Cube's suggestion, I did submit a very similar letter to the Newsweek editorial staff yesterday), so I plugged my computer in at home only to discover that my Internet connection had decided to go for a little R&R, where it stayed for the rest of the night. I was not very happy about it. Oh well. I'll just have to pick up the slack today.
Also, really quickly, thanks to everyone who's visiting and reading and linking. I'm starting to see myself linked all over the place, and my hits and comments are steadily increasing with each day. It's nice to know you're all out there.
Dear editorial staff of Newsweek:
I have said in this space repeatedly that, for the most part, I think you and your writers do a respectable job of reporting and writing news stories. On the whole, I find them generally credible and well-researched without containing an easily-perceptible editorial slant. On the other hand, I strongly feel that your non-news/current events features leave a lot to be desired, and more specifically, I would argue that your features and covers relating to social trends and issues are a disgrace to the rest of your magazine if it were not self-evident.
This week's cover story, "Choosing Virginity," is an absolute farce of journalism and is quite possibly the most irresponsible and, to be frank, stupidest piece of writing I have ever encountered in what we should be decreasingly labelling mainstream media.
The contention of the article, that teens are increasingly choosing to abstain from sex falls flat on its face from the very first page of the article, where your designers chose to extract a quote and highlight it next to the title of the article. Just for your information, I'm referring to the quotation where one abstinent girl claims that "If you're abstinent, it's like you're the one set aside from society because you're not doing it." That one teenager feels ostracized because she's choosing to not have sex does not defeat the pedastal on which the article stands, a Centers for Disease Control study claiming that the number of high school students who say they've never had sexual intercourse rose by almost 10 percent between 1991 and 2001. On its face, I could argue the study has some credibility. What I cannot believe is that the Newsweek editorial staff would choose to base an entire cover story and the related article and sidebar on one study that seems to directly contradict the common perception that teens are, if not having sex younger and more frequently than ever before, or at the very least maintaining the sexual exploration that makes our grandparents shake their heads and wonder how things could so greatly change in so very little time. As journalists, I would expect that you and your staff would recognize the pitfall of making surprising assertions on the strength of one study; as someone with common sense, I cannot believe you would put such a clearly contradictory article on your cover and choose to make it the centerpiece of your weekly edition.
The article lede claims that "there's a sexual revolution going on in America" and within the first paragrapgh, the story asserts that a growing number of students have decided to remain chaste until marriage. Following comes a series of short stories of six teens who have chosen to abstain from sex.
Did you, in reviewing the copy from your staff writers, fail to notice that in each of the six stories, the text contains a direct or hinted statement that these abstaining teens constitute a minority, rather than a revolution or a "wave of young adults" choosing not to have sex? From the quotation on the opening photograph, the entire structure and text of the article proceeds to debunk the entire premise of your article, an article I do not think I go far in supposing developed in your staff room. In the first story, your writers claim that "judging by MTV's 'Undressed' and UPN's 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and just about every other TV program targeted at teens, everyone is doing it" (emphasis original). In describing the town where your girl feels weird that she's not doing it, you parenthetically recall an anecdote where one local said "It figures you had to come all the way out here to find a virgin." The first sentence of Latoya Huggin's story begins, "Remaining a virgin until marriage is neither an easy nor a common choice," and in a later story, a young collegiate girls claims she "feels little temptation to do what many of her peers are doing behind closed dormitory doors." The renewed virgin knows "it's not easy to practice such restraint, especially when those around him do not," and perhaps most quizzically, the text makes a point of informing that the El Paso beauty queen has chosen to remain abstinent in an area that has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.
And aside from the fact that in each of the six stories the article details contains a reference that these teens are not like most of their peers, did you forget the logical mistake of making an assertion without at least discussing to some extent the other side? I know it might not have fit in with your article, but I would have been interested to know how many kids you interviewed, or could have interviewed, who have chosen to engage in sex, be it oral, anal or traditional. Might be interesting to see how this fact affects the idea of a revolution. Just a thought.
Moreover, did you stop to think that this phenomenon, this "wave of teens" choosing not to have sex, might be restricted to a relatively small sector of kids who just might share common beliefs? Actually, congratulations, you did. You noted that "the new abstinence movement" has been "largely fostered by cultural conservatives and evangelical Christians." But cultural conservatives and evangelical Christians? I could see how these two groups, who have historically engaged in such promiscuously sexual behavior across all ages, and the sudden change in their sexual behavior they have affected, could form the basis for such strong assertions, especially when every abstinent teen you interviewed falls into one of those two groups, groups who clearly constitute the majority of American teens.
Based on this information, I clearly see how a sexual revolution of abstinence is taking place among our teens. The fact that every story you claim in support of this revolution contains an implicit, and in more than one case, an explicit statement that most teens are not in fact abstaining from sex, and the fact that this revolution is taking place among a group that has historically adhered to standards of abstinence and moreover has openly and self-righteously preached abstinence as though they had the clear right to do so as given to them by God himself, certainly suggests that an abstinence revolution is happening. Especially when this assertion comes on the strength of one study, which you cite as evidence of this wave of change repeatedly as the only actual evidence.
Pardon my sarcasm, but the egregiousness of your irresponsible "journalism" deserves a little facetious ridicule at this point.
The CDC study certainly is interesting, and a story stemming from it is probably warranted, based on the single study. But do it correctly: give it one page, and set it up that one study is suggesting that teens might be choosing to abstain in greater numbers than in previous years. I think you could stand repsectfully on that platform.
But do yourself a favor, Newsweek: don't make yourself to look foolish by trying and atrociously failing to make it a bigger deal than it might possibly be. You're one of the pillars of the supposed mainstream media. Try and act like you understand some of the ethics and responsibilities of journalism appurtenant to that position.
Hose Monster's note: Attached to this "story" is a policy debate on the efficacy and legitimacy of teaching abstinence, including the current Administration's desire to increase federal funding for abstinence education programs. I have some similarly strong opinions on that one, so stay tuned.
Hi. I'm back. Though I feel like I've just been run over by a train. And that's after sleeping for 7 hours.
Monday I drove three hours through snow to get to the airport, then had my flight delayed because our plane crew was stuck out on the tarmac waiting for a gate, then I spent four hours on a plane sitting next to a man who probably has the worst BO in the history of the deodorant age and went 10 hours without eating. Then yesterday I got up at the ass crack of dawn to go out on a boat and scatter my grandmother's ashes at sea, and I cried. Straight to the airport from the harbor, and into the random security screening, where as a consequence, even though I had a first boarding group boarding pass, I scored the last open seat on the plane, a middle seat against the bulkhead, where I tried to do work in about two square feet of space. A connecting flight that made me go back through security and a 2.5-hour drive home finally put me in bed.
I've had a rough last 60 hours. But it's fine.
Then this morning I check out some of my favorite blogs and I learn that my pal over at Ward Entertainment thinks I need a good lay. I could be offended, but I'm not. Everyone needs a good lay, even if they're already getting good lays. And besides, he's talking about me laying Britney Spears (albeit in a gang bang everyone on the train style, which just doesn't really do it for me), and trashy and relatively talentless though she is, she's still extremely hot, and if she wanted to do me, I don't think I'd say no. So Ryan, thanks for looking out for my sexual interests.
Lots to blog about from the last few days. I'll try and tackle it in the next couple.
Regrettably, I'll be abandoning you all for the next two days as I undertake two hellacious days of travel to quickly swing into Los Angeles for my grandmother's memorial service. But all the while I'm going from the cornfield to Chicago to my home town and back again, I'll be thinking of you.
I've invited the Blondemaster to do a little something here for those two days at her discretion, but I have a feeling she's going to be pretty busy, so who knows. Stay tuned...