Abstinence, everyone is doing it!

I mean think about it, if you aren’t having sex right this minute, than aren’t you abstaining from it? I know that isn’t what is generally thought of when we talk about abstinence (although one study referred to 3 months without sex as abstinence). In fact, if you read Katherine Kersten’s latest column, you would understand that is the permissive, if not encouraging attitudes of adults are the biggest threat to abstinence in unmarried youth and adults. Of course, as a column it takes a while to get there!

Minnesota’s soaring rate of sexually transmitted disease [STD] is in the news again.

I am with her, let’s combat the STDs.

The solution? Enlightened folks tell us it’s more sex education, counseling and treatment. They call for more tax-funded initiatives such as a $1.3 million bill for screening and public education recently considered by the Minnesota Legislature.

But few are talking about the real reason for the epidemic: too many kids are having sex at too young an age.

Isn’t public health a role of government?? Well not if you are a conservative, spending money on screening and education. Screening, what is the point of screening, oh yeah, to catch people with an STD so that it can be treated and precautions taken to prevent the spread of it. It really is pretty basic concept, that has served societies well, SARS anyone? I don’t even want to know what Kersten hopes the government should do if we flu epidemic.

But is sex among teens the main reason for more teens having STDs? Well, yes, you really need to have some sexual contact, not necessarily intercourse, to transmit the STD to your partner. So abstinence can be a solution.

Sure, a little abstinence education never hurt anyone, the common wisdom goes, but we all know — wink, wink — that kids are going to “do it.”

This idea is one of the biggest cons of our generation. At least one group understands this — the 53 percent of high school students who reported that they had never had sexual intercourse in a 2005 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Empowering? Give me a break.

So Kersten starts by dismissing abstinence plus, which is abstinence plus comprehensive sex-ed.  Then she goes on to say that abstinence is working, after all 53% is enough to win an election (and more than George W Bush or Tim Pawlenty ever received for their current executive office), but that leaves 47% who are doing it!  And if they are doing it, lets educate them.  Besides, much of the abstinence only programs are a little inaccurate on the effectiveness of safe sex methods according to Congress,

The report finds that over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by over two-thirds of SPRANS grantees in 2003, contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.

Now Kersten goes off using one person’s personal experience to carry the story,

But her experience at the U reveals one reason it’s hard to keep such vows. The adults in authority there — far from supporting her — are undercutting her and other young people who have opted for sexual self-discipline and true love.

I don’t know about you, but if a youth has made the choice to abstain till marriage, the open acceptance by the adults in authority, shouldn’t be a problem.  Is giving options, not putting shame to pre-marital sex, the same as encouraging the behavior?  Maybe if you have low level of convictions, but this teen will probably face more pressure from her peers than her accepting administrators.  Doesn’t this seem a bit nanny state-ish, we must protect her because she is unable to be uninfluenced by adults.

And what the fuck is this concept of sexual self-discipline EQUALS true love.  There are lot of marriages that never meet the “true love” standard, maybe in Kersten’s worldview they all do (what does she think of the Clintons?), but there are.  And lets face it, the legal commitment, let alone the possible religious commitment, that is marriage is not a pre-requisite for true love.

Ross cites a skit she saw at the U of M orientation in June. It portrayed a guy and a girl who get involved in sex shortly after their relationship begins. “The focus was supposed to be ‘safe sex,'” Ross says. “But the underlying message to students was that sex is inevitable, no big deal — everyone is doing it.”

Maybe the message is that if you have sex, be safe about it.  Especially in light of the fact that people my have had multiple partners in their past.  Oh, and if we are against screening for STDs, then your potential sex partner may not even know they got an STD.

Ross may be projecting her own insecurity about her choice to be abstinent in a hyper sexualized culture to see this skit as challenging her choice.

Ross says: “They see the harm that sex can do, and quite a few regret the choices they’ve made.”

Research confirms that premarital sex puts young women at significant risk, not only for pregnancy and STDs, but also for related problems like infertility. They also risk psychological harm such as depression, suicidal thoughts and what Ross calls “the feeling of worthlessness that comes after being around the block a few times.”

A question I have for Ross, do these people regret having sex at all, or do they have regrets about some of their partners and how it changed the relationship.  I remember seeing a woman at our campus Pub who would take advantage of a very drunk man, that man may have regretted choosing sexual partners while the beer goggles are on.

Now on the issue of regretting, and the psychological damage from premarital sex, well I think that is really part of our society’s bi-polar approach to sex.  Sex sells, so we live in a hyper sexualized society, yet we still have high numbers of church goers many who have more conservative views on sex.  These two issues can pull at young people and can be magnified if they are with partners that treat them poorly.  Don’t worry, those problems can come in marriage too.

Now for a science check!  How exactly does premarital sex cause infertility as opposed to waiting for marriage?  The only thing that makes sense is an STD causing infertility, but just leave it at STD, and work on preventing them!

I think there are some kernels of truth the closing, but it still too far right for me,

Not surprisingly, young women often believe that they need to be “sexually active” if they want to be normal, to fit in. “Many women long for real intimacy, and they want to nab a guy,” Ross says. “If you feel some deep connection through sex, you think the guy would feel that, too.”

But sex without commitment is not erotic. In fact, it can be numbing, and it’s caustic to human dignity. That’s why, in surveys, it’s monogamous married women — not swingers — who report the highest sexual satisfaction.

I worry that many women will be sexually active, or promiscuous, to help with self-esteem issues.  If a person has low self-esteem, especially tied to body image, they may seek validation by nabbing a partner, and to either validate (or act out) that intimacy or to keep that partner, they may sexualize the relationship.

But to extend that to commitment of marriage is the only way to sexual happiness is not a leap of faith I would ever take.

And what about all our good friends that are not allowed to marry, you know my gay and lesbian friends, are they never to know the special intimacy that is part of love because society discriminates against them.

-Josh

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Kersten on spanking

This is my first post in response to one of Katherine Kersten’s columns. Katherine Kersten is a former fellow of the Center for the American Experiment, a Minnesota right wing think tank.

In my views she is noted for crying political correctness when segments of society she does not identify with are upset about something that she sees as being oversensitive. She is also noted for claiming victimhood for segments of society that she identifies with, notably Christians. That is my take on what makes her tick.

So today’s column is entitled, Spank kids and lose them to overzealous government. Sounds like a pretty scary title, lets take a look at it.

Give your son a paddling, and you might end up in the nanny state’s woodshed.

So paddling might have you end up in the woodshed. The use of the woodshed is probably an attempt to bring us back to a more rustic and rural society, better times, back to when paddling was an acceptable form of discipline. Nanny state, is typical right wing smear against left wing social welfare supports.

At their wits’ end, they considered tougher love. They had previously consulted a Hennepin County social worker about corporal punishment, and she had informed them that it was OK so long as it left no marks or bruises.

I find this to be hard to swallow. First of all, which department do you call to find out what sort of physical contact will get in your trouble with Child Protection Services (CPS) and which won’t? Second of all, while spanking is pretty controversial, would a parent want to clarify what is acceptable knowing that they may be flagged by the government. Third of all, if I was willing to call a social worker and get an answer that spanking is okay, wouldn’t I have the worker’s name, and after CPS got involved, drag that worker into all of this. I never saw any mention of this “worker” later in the column.

After warning Gerard repeatedly and posting Bible verses to remind him of the consequences, Fraser smacked the back of his son’s upper thighs 12 times with a small wooden paddle after he disobeyed and lied. He repeated the process twice over an hour and 15-minute period when the boy remained defiant. The paddling left no marks.

Okay, I am not a Christian, haven’t read the bible, but I am not sure what bible verses the father was posting to warn of the consequences. I believe the ten commandments have something about honor thy father and mother, but does it spell out spanking as the punishment. The location of the spanking seems a little strange to me too, I thought it was the rear end, not upper thighs. Maybe it is more painful, maybe that location bruises less.

The column goes onto to talk about the removal of the children from the home, another son from Bible camp, to help point out that they are good Christians. They fought the system, got the children back, and Hennepin County is fighting it.

Gerard, now 15, returned recently from a Christian boarding school in Utah where his father and mother — a materials handler and hotel kitchen worker, respectively — sent him after raising the $50,000 tuition by refinancing their home.

Now hopefully, this family researched and found a good program that help Gerard, but many programs use the tough love method, tough love to the extreme, and some have resulted in deaths. As the USA Today reported on a GAO study this past October:

The GAO on Wednesday presented the committee with the results of their investigation into the industry. The congressional investigative agency selected 10 deaths to examine in depth and found reckless practices, inadequate training and misleading marketing. It also found what Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., called “horrific” examples of abuse.

Note, they selected 10 deaths to investigate, you can only select 10 when you have more than those 10 deaths to investigate.

The county’s continued intervention is absurd, Gerard says. “I understand now that my dad paddled me because he loves me, and he wants me to have success in my life. He disciplined me, he didn’t abuse me. They’re very different things.”

Does Gerard consider the original intervention acceptable, but not the continued. What enlightened him to the fact that his dad loves him, was it the expense they paid for the wilderness camp, was the wilderness camp even tougher than the tough love at home and he came to appreciate the gentler tough love dished out at home?

“Excessive force by a parent is obviously inappropriate,” said Jill Waite, Shawn Fraser’s attorney. “But this is political correctness run amok. The county’s standard of harm is extremely broad, vague and subjective. Because these government workers are of the opinion that spanking is bad, they want to impose their belief on all parents.”Where is it written that people with a social work degree know what’s better for kids than their parents?” Waite said.

Waite’s arguments seem kind of strange considering that the father contacted one of those people with a social work degree to find out what is acceptable. So clearly at some point he either was concerned that he would run afoul of the laws, or he was seeking validation for his choice of discipline. Of course the attorney throws out political correctness which is a standard tool of conservatives to dismiss something as liberal elitism, and is further push the perception with the impose their belief on all parents.

Kersten further goes on to say that most believe that spanking is okay.

Most Americans agree. According to research cited by Waite, commissioned by the Family Research Council, 76 percent of those surveyed said that spanking was an effective form of discipline in their home when they were children.

Where to start with this? Family Research Council (FRC) is very Christian “family values” organization. Does the invalidate their research, not necessarily. So I went to their web site and searched for spanking. There are 6 entries all from this year, they are dated, January 29, April 3, 3 on November 28 (last Wednesday) and November 30 (last Friday). So 4 of 6 records were dated in the past 5 days. Now in fairness, all 3 of the records for November 28th are tied to proposed legislation in Massachusetts, one link to the CBS report and two pieces in response by FRC. The November 30th piece is a debunking of spanking.

One of the pieces had this to say:

In truth, the research shows that spanking (a few swats on the behind with an open hand) does not make children more aggressive, is not demeaning to the child, does not lead to adult dysfunction, and is usually not applied impulsively or in anger.

So FRC which defends spanking as a discipline tool outlines what research shows as effective. I doesn’t look like the father consulted the research approved method. Few swats vs 12 times twice in 1 hour 15 minutes, behind with an open hand vs small wooden paddle on upper thighs. Where the father was consistent with FRC is that this clearly wasn’t impulsive, as he had previously consulted that mysterious Hennepin County social worker.

Back to Waite’s statement, I did not see this commissioned study in my search of the web site. So that raises some questions. I was searching to question who they asked, was the survey skewed by population selection. But apparently it is not posted on the web site so I can’t tell you.

The column ends with this:

“We need a way for children and families to be protected from the government,” said Jill Clark, Natalie Fraser’s attorney.

In the end, the Fraser case is about parents’ fundamental right to raise their kids. Government, said Clark, “has become the third parent leaning over everyone’s shoulder.”

Sounds like Jill Clark might have been paraphrasing Ronald Reagan’s line:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

Of course the government leaning over your shoulder, when parenting, not when conducting warrantless wiretapping, is part of the “nanny state” that so concerns the right wingers.

-Josh