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Soul-Deadening Sex Ed

Three decades of prophylactic-centered sex-ed were supposed to have produced a healthier and happier population of young people.  Our new acceptance of the fact that "they're going to do it anyway" we were assured, would facilitate the dawn of a new age that was relatively free of STDs, witnessed reduced rates of teen pregnancies (either through prevention or abortion) and, above all, produced a generation of young people with unprecedented self-awareness especially as it relates to their sexual natures.  Moreover, we were promised a more liberating, more mature, and more open public attitude toward sexual activity.  What has been the result?  Well . . . how's one for four?  And can we give that "one" back, please? 

This article suggests that we'd do better all around if we could give it back.

Written by a concerned pediatrician, Michelle Cretella, in The Providence Journal, it comes in response to the news of a disturbing uptick in teen pregnancy rates, and argues that, besides teen pregnancy, there are additional serious consequences resulting from increased sexual activity among adolescents and young people that are too often ignored.  Some key points from the article: 

1. "Sexually active adolescents and young adults under age 25 account for 50 percent of the 19 million new cases of STIs annually." [Sexually Transmitted Infection]

2.  "
One in five Americans over age 12 is infected with genital herpes, and one in four sexually active girls over age 13 is infected with at least one STI."

"America has failed to achieve levels of condom use among teens high enough to eliminate those STIs for which condoms are most preventive, (chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV), let alone those for which condoms are least preventive (herpes and human papillomavirus, or HPV)."  I'd add that this last type of sexual infection, HPV, is the kind most likely to infect young girls and that its consequences for them are quite serious.  It is the virus that leads to cervical cancer.

4. "
Sexually active girls are three times as likely to report being depressed and three times as likely to have attempted suicide as compared with sexually abstinent girls."

"Sexually active boys are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression and seven times as likely to have attempted suicide as compared with sexually abstinent boys."

What I like best about this article, however, is not that there is anything especially new or surprising in it.  It is, rather, that in addition to actually brokering the question of mental or "soul" health, it also has a common sense physician's approach to the question of abstinence education.  I think this question is too often polarized and, as a result, even the best of the opinions on both sides are caricatured and used as a cudgel in debates between right and left. 

My problem with both sides in the often fiery debate between conventional sex-ed advocates and abstinence-only advocates is that in their extremes they both tend to insult the intelligence and capacities of young people.  One side wants to assume that self-control is an impossible goal completely beyond young people with raging hormones and, sometimes (one suspects), they appear to suggest that self-control is something akin to cheating oneself out of a rockin' good time, (i.e., something only for the brain-washed or "dorky" kids not likely to have the opportunity for sex anyway).   The other side, for all of their lamentations over the sexualization of the culture and the detrimental effects this has had on morality, appear at times to present simple-minded and stubborn solutions.  The whole, "It is wrong; just say no" argument has much to be said for it, but it fails by itself (and on the whole, miserably, I'd suggest) to appeal when put up against the siren song of the opposite view--appealing as that alternative does to very natural--and, yes, legitimate--urges.  Also missed, too often, by abstinence advocates is the extent to which the culture (including many abstinence advocates) has accepted delaying marriage until late in the 20s and even 30s.  Most people are not designed to have the fortitude of a nun or a monk . . . and there are good and natural reasons for this that ought to be addressed before an appeal to "abstinence-only" can be taken with as much seriousness as it deserves.

H/T:  Anchor Rising 

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Discussions - 6 Comments

I have volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center for the past year. The amount of young - 13, 14, and 15 year old pregnant girls that come in to our center is beyond belief. Unfortunately many of these young girls are also carry the burden of STD's as well as looking to go down the abortion path, in which their chances of battling depression in the next seven to ten years is about 80%. Not a pretty picture, but thanks to feminists and liberals these girls are in for a bad ride. But the thing that strikes me most is that these girls get pregnant and have sex with any boy that comes along because they want some one to love them or someone to love. These are young beautiful and smart girls following the nowhere path of the 1960's that most likely was followed by their hippie, 1960's grandparents and parents. Free Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll. Guess what - there is nothing free in life. Nothing.

Reguarding the higher rates of depression and thoughts of suicide in sexually active boys and girls. I would think that troubled teans seeking sex an equally likely cause as sex before mental maturity leading to increased depression.

That is a good piece, Julie. Of course, Ken has a good point, and we can further ask what the destruction of the family over the last couple of generations contributes to all of this.

As an aside, partly directed to cowgirl, one theme common to the writing of the many single mothers I teach at my community college is the redemption they have found in motherhood. They were wasting their lives before, but now a child gives life purpose and meaning. They are in college, trying to make careers for themselves in order to raise the child: "My greatest joy...." I find it beautiful and horrible all at the same time. I also wonder about and pity the fathers, who are on the outside of that. I think their being on the inside of that would make the whole thing beautiful. That is a whole other field for study, I suppose.

The difference between the single mothers you teach at your community college the the teenage girls and sometimes pre-teenage girls that I counsel and work with is Age. The college-age and older women/girls that come into our center are on a completely different level than 13, 14 and 15 year old girls. Of course at our center our goal is to help mother-to-be through crises pregnancies without restorting to termination, but when teenage girls experience a crisis pregnancy, boyfriends, parents, friends, push the abortion solution almost every time. I whole-heartedly agree with you about the father and we try very hard to bring him into the picture during our counseling, but our the liberals in our society have gone along the Socialism theme and replaced him with government.

es, Ken, it could be a chicken and egg problem. A large number of those teens who seek out sexual relationships may be doing this precisely because they are already depressed or disturbed. But, clearly, the evidence suggests that this particular form of self-medication ineffective, given that they are reporting the depression after the fact. There is probably no way of separating out whether the depression is caused by something prior to the sex or by the sex (and likely disintegration of the relationship after the sex) . . . but it is, at any rate, fair enough to say that the sex does them no good. It isn't an answer to any problems and, it stands to reason--even in the absence of hard data--that it probably causes even more problems . . . particularly for girls who really ought to be told more about the release of oxytocin during sex and the "bonding" power it has over their bodies and the confusion this can put into their minds-- to cite only one example of something frequently overlooked by those advocating ever more condom awareness. As one scholar put it, there is no condom for the heart.

This is a troublesome topic to talk about, not only because, like most issues, we have what Aristotle called "passion-bred and passion-breeding opinions," but because we have powerful passions here. Julie's approach reminds us of Lincoln's in his Temperance Address, in which he pointedly remarked that drunken folks are not only no worse than other classes of people but they actually have some qualities, such as generosity, that are admirable. You are right, Julie, in criticizing the tendency on one side to write off our young people (and, I think, not only our young people) as animals in heat who could not be expected to control themselves, even as they are asked to make "smart" choices such as the use of condoms, which presuppose that they are not completely out of control. You are equally right to criticize the other side's tendency to minimize the difficulty, as if the sexual urge is not powerful, when it is not promiscously promulgated in mass media and even in sex education classes. Self control does not come "naturally," so the sensible, virtuous and wise, who have understood the power of sexual desire from their various perspectives, must always take a sympathetic approach that does not indulge or ignore the reality of what has always had almost universal appeal. As George Gilder wrote in Sexual Suicide, the only thing more important to high school students than the opposite sex is whether the school is on fire. (Of course, Gilder advised an end to co-ed schooling.) "Just say no" is a remnant of earlier attitudes that ignored the sexual passion and "just say yes" is a remnant of the destructive generation's reckless attitude. As a piece in the Wall Street Journal observed today, the dating scene is part of the problem, even as courtship is closer to the answer. God gave us sexual desires but He also provided marriage. Thank God.

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