Ok, the titles a little hokey today, I admit it. But honestly, how often do you write something that so lends itself to a title like that? And besides, it really is the truth. Our puritanical past is haunting our present and threatening our future.
Oh an IMDB forum today, I came across a post that really unnerved me. The OP (Original Poster for those who always wondered) was deeply concerned that a preteen actress had been exposed to suggestive language by playing a sexually precocious movie roll. I've seen the scene. It's hilarious. And having grown up watching movies like Blue Lagoon, insanely tame.
Here is the position of the people still possessed by the ghosts of the puritans who first colonized the US. Children should be hidden from all things sexual, because it will encourage them to having sinful thoughts and do sinful things.
Here is the reality. Sexual development begins at age 2 (What is Normal Childhood Sexual Development?). If you ignore it, or try to hide it from your child, they are less likely to feel they can get real constructive input from you, when they really begin exploring the idea of having sex. They are also less likely to make smart informed choices, and to have the necessary respect for their body to know when they are ready to become sexually active.
These are not theories either. They are statistically traceable facts. It's long understood that the general European consensus on children's exposure to sex is very different from that in the US. France, in particular, has a much more open-minded approach. Now look at some statistics from a 2002 study.
Teenage birth rate per 1,000 births
* Sweden -- 7
* France -- 9
* Canada -- 20
* Great Britain -- 31
* United States -- 49
Percentage of women aged 20-24 who had a child before age 20
* Sweden -- 4%
* France -- 6%
* Canada -- 11%
* Great Britain -- 11%
* United States -- 22%
Percentage of women aged 20-24 who had first intercourse before age 20
* Sweden -- 86%
* France -- 83%
* Canada -- 75%
* Great Britain -- 85%
* United States -- 81%
Percentage of women who began having "sex" before age 15
* Sweden -- 12%
* France -- 7%
* Canada -- 9%
* Great Britain -- 4%
* United States -- 14%
Percentage of sexually active women aged 18-19 who were sexually active in the past year and had 2 or more sexual partners in that time period (*measures not exactly comparable)
* Sweden -- 43%
* France -- 13%
* Canada -- 24%
* Great Britain* -- 30%
* United States -- 49%
(*measures were for 16-19 year olds in Great Britain)
Percentage of adolescent women who did not use any method of birth control at first intercourse*
* Sweden -- 22%
* France -- 11%
* Great Britain -- 21%
* United States -- 25%
(*statistics for Canada not available)
Percentage of adolescent women who did not use any method of birth control at most recent intercourse*
* Sweden -- 7%
* France -- 12%
* Great Britain -- 4%
* United States -- 20%
Here's an excerpt from the column that is particularly applicable.
For example, the authors suggest that one of the reasons for cross-country variations in contraceptive use is the difference in societal attitudes toward adolescent sexual activity. Contraceptive services and supplies are available free or at low cost for all teens in the four developed countries other than the United States, and efforts are made to facilitate their easy access to such services.
And there's the rub. The possessed-by-ancient-spirits people would have everyone believe that even teaching children about contraception and STD prevention (other than the abstinence methodology of course) is a recipe for disaster, causing more children to consider having sex and ruining their lives and their souls.
But these numbers tell the reality. In developed countries where they do not take this viewpoint, women are just as likely to have sex before the age of 20, but not nearly as likely to have sex before the age of 15, as their US counterparts. They are also less likely to use contraception responsibly.
And the teen birth rate numbers are absolutely astounding. Or rather, that we haven't shaken off our forefather's sexual outrage and done something to protect our children by now, that is what is astounding. Also, let's not forget, if these young women aren't using condoms, we also know they aren't being protected from STD's.
This quote is directly from a CDC report.
The data presented in this report indicate that many young persons in the United States engage in sexual risk behavior and experience negative reproductive health outcomes. In 2004, approximately 745,000 pregnancies occurred among U.S. females aged <20 years. In 2006, approximately 22,000 adolescents and young adults aged 10--24 years in 33 states were living with human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), and approximately 1 million adolescents and young adults aged 10--24 years were reported to have chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis. One-quarter of females aged 15--19 years and 45% of those aged 20--24 years had evidence of infection with human papillomavirus during 2003--2004, and approximately 105,000 females aged 10--24 years visited a hospital emergency department (ED) for a nonfatal sexual assault injury during 2004--2006. Although risks tend to increase with age, persons in the youngest age group (youths aged 10--14 years) also are affected. For example, among persons aged 10--14 years, 16,000 females became pregnant in 2004, nearly 18,000 males and females were reported to have sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in 2006, and 27,500 females visited a hospital ED because of a nonfatal sexual assault injury during 2004--2006.
Although the majority of negative outcomes have been declining for the past decade, the most recent data suggest that progress might be slowing, and certain negative sexual health outcomes are increasing. For example, birth rates among adolescents aged 15--19 years decreased annually during 1991--2005 but increased during 2005--2007, from 40.5 live births per 1,000 females in 2005 to 42.5 in 2007 (preliminary data). The annual rate of AIDS diagnoses reported among males aged 15--19 years has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, from 1.3 cases per 100,000 population in 1997 to 2.5 cases in 2006. Similarly, after decreasing for >20 years, gonorrhea infection rates among adolescents and young adults have leveled off or had modest fluctuations (e.g., rates among males aged 15--19 years ranged from 285.7 cases per 100,000 population in 2002 to 250.2 cases per 100,000 population in 2004 and then increased to 275.4 cases per 100,000 population in 2006), and rates for syphilis have been increasing (e.g., rates among females aged 15--19 years increased from 1.5 cases per 100,000 population in 2004 to 2.2 cases per 100,000 population in 2006) after a significant decrease during 1997--2005.
What does all of this tell us people? The ghosts of our pasts are not just affecting our lives right now, they are also going to ruin the lives of our children. It's not shows/movies/music that talk about sex. That's what the puritanical remnants would have you believe, but it's simply not true. They are not the enemy. What we need to fight is how we deal with exposing our children to sex in general, and how open we are with them about their own sexual curiosity and inclinations. We need stop hiding sex from our children, or throwing our arms up in outrage when we find they've had the slightest bit of exposure.
Sexual responsibility has sometimes been equated with gun safety. Those of the 'conservative wisdom' would argue that comprehensive sexual education is like giving children a loaded weapon. But that theory is as bad as all their others. The gun is already loaded, and it's already in the child's possession. You can't take it away, no matter what information you withhold from them. Sexuality is part of our physical make-up, and it's not dictated by anyone's agenda, neither conservative or liberal. Comprehensive sexual education is actually teaching the child how to transform their sexual identity from a dangerous weapon to a tool for their own advancement and evolution. And until we get that through our heads, it is our children who will suffer for our ignorance.
When I grow up, I want to be; whoever Joss Whedon wants to be, when he grows up. I am a writer because it's the first thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning; aside from eating and using the lavatory of course. My work includes screenplays, short stories, film/TV/music reviews and socio-political commentary. The last one is a fancy way of saying I like to shoot my mouth off on many topics. I excel at using $1.50 words. They gone up, thanks to inflation. Isn't our economy awesome?
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candy green gustavson
1.13.10 @ 10:18a
katherine (aka clevertitania)
1.13.10 @ 10:39a
Curious if that link is meant to illustrate my point or refute it, but it certainly performs the former. Colleges should be teaching two main things, in my opinion; information and philosophy. Most all college courses fall into either or both (for instance, sociology teaches information that's been studied an encourages philosophical discussion of that information). But it should be a place where you get all the information you need and learn to form your own opinions. Sure, abstinence before marriage could be called a philosophy, but if you take Psych 101, you're going to hear view points from more than just Freud .
For the record, I would back a pro-abstinence curriculum that taught all about sex (and STD/pregnancy prevention), but just talked more in depth about the pros of abstinence. That would be a class I could support. But sadly, most classes that focus on abstinence don't teach only withhold