Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Birds Do It, Bees Do It, and So Do Teens

I've been reading other blogs and news stories centering on the revelation that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. As I previously stated, I have nothing but sympathy for Palin's daughter who certainly didn't ask to be shoved into this spotlight.
However, I confess that I don't have much sympathy for Gov. Palin. I find her to be hypocritical, and contradictory in her beliefs. She has chosen to become a public figure; her daughter is off limits, but Palin  is fair game. She chose to be in the spotlight.
Gov. Palin touts herself as pro-life, as if the other position is pro-death. I've never heard anyone speak in support of abortion, but I have heard and I have made the argument that it is a personal decision to choose what to do with one's own body. I don't see this as a simple decision and I worry about the consequences of the choices that women make, but I cannot accept that the larger society has the right to force a woman to take a pregnancy to term. I don't expect that everyone will agree and I respect your right to hold a different point of view. That's your choice, but you don't get to make the choice for others. That's the big difference between the pro-life position and the pro-choice position. The pro-life view makes the decision for everyone; the pro-choice decision says it is a private matter and an individual decision. Advocates for pro-choice have never told anyone that she must have an abortion; but advocates for pro-life want to have the right to tell every woman what she must do with her body, should she become pregnant.
My digression into a discussion about choice, doesn't mean that I would advocate that Palin's daughter have an abortion. I don't believe in abortion; I believe in choice. She gets to choose whether or not to carry the pregnancy to term. (At least, I'd like to believe that she gets to make her own choice.)
However, my rant today isn't really about Palin's hypocrisy. I am more interested in the larger issue of a society that as a whole chooses to behave like the ostrich when it comes to dealing with adolescents and sex.Sticking your head in the sand only results in getting sand up your nose.
From what I've gathered from the available information on Palin, she supports the teaching of abstinence only in the schools. I'm all for discouraging adolescents from engaging in sexual activity, but I don't think that simply telling them "don't do it" is an effective or responsible approach. 
In my home state, for several years schools were only allowed to teach abstinence only in public school sex education classes. After concerns about the increased teenage pregnancy rate and the rise in sexually transmitted diseases, the law was modified to allow school systems to present the question to the parents--to teach a full sex ed course, including birth control and how to prevent STDs, or to continue to teach abstinence only. Regrettably, most parents gave a clear message to their school systems that they wanted to continue with teaching abstinence only. I say regrettably, because the result is that a great many adolescents are sexually active and sexually ignorant. Teaching abstinence doesn't guarantee that they won't engage in sexual activity, but it does guarantee that should they engage in sexual activity, they won't have a clue as to how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and STDs.
Think back to your own teenage years, did you choose to engage in or not engage in sexual activity based on whether or not you were exposed to a comprehensive sex ed curriculum?  There is no statistical support to show that that teaching abstinence only causes teenagers to choose not to have sex, nor any evidence that teaching a fully realized sex ed curriculum causes teens to run out and become sexually active. However, not teaching teens about the consequences of unprotected sex does correlate with high rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
I have intentionally used the term sexual activity, because many adolescents consider that anything short of vaginal intercourse is not really sex. Not really surprising as we have some well-known adults who have expressed similar beliefs.
When I taught high school, after a year with a record number of teen pregnancies, one of my colleagues and I had an informal rap session with some of the teen mothers. I still recall with dismay the misinformation that I heard from those young girls. Beliefs such as standing up after sex could prevent pregnancy, and douching with coca-cola was an effective method of contraception. There was also one young lady who shared that she was on the pill but got pregnant nonetheless. Upon further questionning, she explained that she took her birth control pill every time she had sex. She missed the directions about taking it daily.
However, I was totally unprepared for the widely shared belief that oral sex wasn't really sex, and was regarded as safe, because it couldn't result in pregnancy. A report on teenage sexual activity released a couple of years ago reported that anal sex had risen in popularity with teens because it also didn't result in pregnancy. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) didn't appear to factor into the equation for the teens. Engaging in sexual activity isn't rocket science and adolescents are definitely not scientists.
There is substantive research to support that effective parenting is the factor that has the most relevance in influencing the age at which an adolescent engages in his or her first sexual experience (once the barn door is opened, it is rarely closed tight again). That's where family values play a role. Not the kind of family values that conservative websites spout on about, but family values centered in honest dialogue among parents and children about distinguishing love from sex, about dealing with those desires and feelings that are a natural part of growing up, and about making choices that are in your best interest.
The video is from the 1968 movie of Romeo and Juliet, teenagers who risked all for the passion of young love. The song is What Is a Youth?, similar in melody to the theme song of the film, A Time for Us.
What Is A Youth?
What is a youth? Impetuous fire.
What is a maid? Ice and desire.
The world wags on.

A rose will bloom
It then will fade
So does a youth.
So do-o-o-oes the fairest maid.

Comes a time when one sweet smile
Has its season for a while...Then love's in love with me.
Some they think only to marry, Others will tease and tarry,
Mine is the very best parry. Cupid he rules us all.
Caper the cape, but sing me the song,
Death will come soon to hush us along.
Sweeter than honey and bitter as gall.
Love is a task and it never will pall.
Sweeter than honey...and bitter as gall
Cupid he rules us all


luvrte66 said...

"Abstinence only."

Give me a break.

I'd like to tell some of these "abstinence only" folks--or better yet, their teenage children--about some of the STD's that I've seen, and some of the consequences. Going on rounds with our Infectious Disease doctors in Indianapolis 15 years ago and seeing AIDS patients who were being eaten alive by fungi, or suffering from various parasitic and bacterial infections. Dementia caused by the Herpes virus, and skin cancers and lymphomas caused by their weakened immune systems.

I've seen 12 and 13 year olds come through the lab, young girls who were pregnant, and had both Chlamydia and gonorrhea.

"Abstinence only." When are they going to get that it just doesn't work?

Argh, it makes me want to just scream.


buckoclown said...

Amen to both you and Beth.  I am Toweler and I endorse this message :o)

mleighin21st said...

The subject of sexuality was dealt with honestly and openly in my home for my son.  If not a little bit embarrassingly.(sp) ;)   But not in the school district.  The percentage of girls in his class that got pregnant before graduation was 39%.  The rationale was that it was a small town and there wasn't anything else for these kids to do.  *Insert astonished profanity here*  
Was I abstinate?  Nope.  Was I careful, used condoms and birth control pills?  Yep.  Except for that one crazy night in '84 when my son was concieved!  ;)  He attended our wedding at the age of 9 months.  But I was 29 by that time.  
                                                                                       :)  Leigh

mleighin21st said...

And now I have to go rent that movie-   ::sigh::

makemarc said...

The irrationality of these tightly held beliefs on the right send me over the brink.  Kids that know they can talk to their parents about sex have the very conversations they need to have not to make that choice prematurely; girls who feel like "my Dad would kill me" are the very ones who get misinformation from their friends and get pregnant.  This is the same bizarre value system that elevates agression in the form of guns and football but condemns natural urges toward intimacy and reproduction.  What do you want when you live by the code of a judgey and fearsome God?
Girls who aren't trained to talk about sex, who don't really understand what intimacy is, are completely unequipped to deal with boys who are at the mercy of urges that are so preoccupying it can only be compared to the power of the maternal instinct in a woman. At 17, boys have easily 10 erections a day,  it's a miracle we get anything done at all.  That's the way evolution intended it.  Why are we shaming instead of educating? It's CRAZY.
Right on, sister girl.

yeolecontractor said...

Far too often we struggle with problems where I don't even see a problem. Abstinance is a perfect way to prevent pregnancy but we do not live in a perfect world. Many adults seem to grasp that until it relates to some family history or traditional religious mores. Then absolute stupidity sets in and their brains cease to  function. Normally intelligent people fall prey to ignorance when speaking of family planning including abortion. They don't want government in their lives, not to much taxation, and a host of other such ideals. But they readily wish t o have government in your life where abortioni is concerned and pervention of STDs and pregnancy. Littlle of it makes sense at all and the thinking does nothing but befuddle me.

Good article as usual.


gazker said...

Sadly, I think the parents who believe in abstinence also want creationism taught in schools too......... There is no hope.

ber144 said...

It's all Bill Clinton's fault!  Teens didn't have sex before he came along, remember?

Abstinence programs are a joke, and I tend to believe that most of the politicians that tout them do so in order to create "moral boundaries".  They couldn't care less if they work or not, they just want the buffer created so they can shake their heads, wag their fingers and judge.

By the time things wind down in St. Paul this week I am going to be in a coma.


sybilsybil45 said...

Super article as always...What a world we live in..Love  Sybil xx


dsonney01 said...

Once again you have expressed a topic dear to me in very understandable and concise language. I am definitely Pro-Choice although I personally prefer not to see abortion as a remedy. I remember tha Dark Ages when my Mom would rush to pick up a friend or tentant who had gone to an abortion mill where they used things like coat-hangers (and they were wire ones) for instruments and have to rush them to ER because they were bleeding or later on infections set in. She didn't believe in abortion but like me, thought if it happened it should be legal and done properly. Sexual activity is a natural, normal function. Abstinence is fine if it works for you but how often is that true today, or yesterday for that matter. Education and prevention are tools. We have to use them if they are to work. Haven't women had enough stigmas without returning to a era of back alleys and disgrace for exploring their sexuality? Dannelle

cmarlow480 said...

WOW... I think for once I am going to disagree with you

the whole " CARRYING BABY TO FULL TERM .. and then aborting it?"

I mean I am sorry I just I dont iknow that really bothers me. Carrying it to full term THEN HAVING AN ABORTION I dont think I could agree with that. If I was female id give it up for adoption before id kill it... I guess you can say I am prolive. I dont belive in killing innocent babies once they leave the sperm stage and began to turn into babies :(

PS... Douching with Coke... thats new to me what do they think that it does lol? the bubbles clean them out or something lol ?

and by the way I didnt know you were a teacher.... what grade and what did you teach?

~ Christopher ~


aimer said...

I generally avoid commenting on my own post, but Christopher, what on earth are talking about? Honey, I never said a word about carrying a baby to full term and then aborting it. What were you smoking when you read my post?

cmarlow480 said...

oh sorry I misread what you said.. I read it backwards my apologies...

which that does happen to people alot..... reading all that olive on black text I must of skipped over a line or something

~ Christopher ~


pharmolo said...

Sheria, my opinion exactly.

gehi6 said...

I felt that my dad who was paying for my college education would be so angry if I got pregnant I would not have sex, nor did we indulge in anything that would brng us to a climax thinking this would spoil the actual sexual experience.  Most girls remained virgins until marriage.  I did and I was furious at Dean's older buddy who insisted on taking him to a whore house for his first experience. Once after I was gone awhile, he got crabs and gave them to me and my son.  He denied having sex while I was gone but I did not believe him.  Gerry  

blossomcat said...

I think people engage in unprotected sex because if they used precautions some how it would be "planned" and therefore without protection "it just happened" and some how it would not be as "bad."
Personally I feel any activity you engage in with out you pants on is considered sex....   There are a lot of diseases that are out there associated with oral sex; Herpes, HPV, gonnorrhea, etc.   People are so  surprised when it happens, they were truly blissfully unaware.    

This needs to be taught by their parents and in school.  Or maybe their parents are also blissfully unaware.  



ceilisundancer said...

It is appalling to learn that some areas of this country are like this, i.e., head in the sand wanting their children to not be taught comprehension sexual / health education.  

I'm so thankful that I grew up in, and currently live in (where my daughter is being raised), in a county that taught me and is teaching my daughter actual information (well, along with all I tell her and talk with her about).  They play a game in middle school that helps them learn how readily STD's can be transmitted (the "used gum" one is out, thankfully, but another one was used in my DD's school).  They are taught that abstinence is best, and thee only foolproof method (other than sterilization type stuff), but I was taught tools, and they are being taught tools now, so that they are not ignorant.

I can only think that more knowledge is going to help youth make more informed and accurate decisions.  My viewpoints are known by my daughter; she claims she's waiting until she's done with college.  Ha, I don't believe she'll do that by any stretch, even if I think that'd be awesome:) so I HAVE to protect her with knowledge and information.  That's the responsble thing to do as a parent, and as a society.  IMHO.