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Monday, January 31, 2005

Comments

Ol Cranky

Annie:

I'm so sorry to hear there's a problem with the baby. My prayers are with you and your family right now.

-Pamela

Anne Basso

That's a good idea 'Ol Cranky. Unfortunately we learned yesterday that the baby we were expecting in June has a malformed brain, and I will be scheculing an induction probably next week to deliver her. It seems the safest thing for both of us. So, for a little while I think I'll be grieving. But I'll hold onto that thought for something to put some energy behind in a little while.

Ol Cranky

"Can't we teach kids about how thier bodies work and what sex is and ALSO tell them that even though their bodies are capable of doing this, and even though it feels good, it's really not the best thing for their bodies at this time? Can't we teach them about the dangers of pregnancy on young bodies, STD's, and emotional impact (that's one that's often left out). That's what an abstinence program should do! Teach them the basics, while also teaching them the multitude of honest, legitimate reasons for waiting. Again, not the "sex is bad" but "sex is safest and best LATER"."


Comprehensive sex ed programs DO teach this and they ALSO tell them that it's not for their psyche at this time as well (they don't qute have the tools they really need to handle the intimacy, let alone the emotional repercussion of the physical consequences). The difference is, the comprehensive programs also discussion contraception (including the potential side effects), prophylaxis and treatment for STDs. In doing this, they are *not* encouraging them to have sex or giving a mixed message. It's discussed as an if/when not only the student decides to engage in sex but also if one of their friends does and comes to them for advice (as kids often do) this is the accurate information - it's also useful information for when they are adults (education can and should go beyond the here an now).

"Besides, if they're really learning about how their bodies work, why aren't girls taught about NFP (natural family planning), which teaches women about the ebb and flow of their fertile cycle and how to know when they're fertile and when they're not? Again, it should be about physical and emotional health!"

We were taught about that as part of contraception but also as part of family planning for when you are and adult intentionally trying to get pregnant (it works significantly better for the latter) and it's still discussed as part of comprehensive sex ed.

"They must know the adverse consequences to sex, the REASONS for abstinence. And I think they need to be stressed MORE in sex-ed, specifically because the kids AREN'T hearing them in the media, or at home from those "ostrich" parents. "

I couldn't agree more (and this is a part of a comprehensive sex ed program). Ya know, you *are* a nurse and you know your own concerns - maybe you could work with someone to draft a truly comprehensive sex ed program that would resonate with the kids and make the parents (and both sides of the political spectrum) comfortable with sex ed.

Anne Basso

I agree that kids need to know how their bodies work. I have no trouble teaching my son (he's the only one of teachable age so far) about his lungs, his heart, or his digestive tract. I will never understand why people have so much trouble teaching kids about how sexual reproduction works. But that isn't the point. Schools aren't just teaching "the facts". They are also teaching an outlook on sex. It's what outlook that's in question here.

When we learn about digestion, we also learn about nutrition: how to eat healthy, what kind of foods are healthy, etc. Why is it that we teach sex and sexuality in a way that doesn't encourage the same health?

Can't we teach kids about how thier bodies work and what sex is and ALSO tell them that even though their bodies are capable of doing this, and even though it feels good, it's really not the best thing for their bodies at this time? Can't we teach them about the dangers of pregnancy on young bodies, STD's, and emotional impact (that's one that's often left out). That's what an abstinence program should do! Teach them the basics, while also teaching them the multitude of honest, legitimate reasons for waiting. Again, not the "sex is bad" but "sex is safest and best LATER".

I agree that many parents aren't stepping up and doing their job with sex-ed. And I'm well aware that the media is a number of voices, but we keep supporting them (they don't show it if we don't watch it)! But I still don't see how telling them how thier bodies work and handing them contraception is really arming them properly for what sex is and how to be healthy and happy. Besides, if they're really learning about how their bodies work, why aren't girls taught about NFP (natural family planning), which teaches women about the ebb and flow of their fertile cycle and how to know when they're fertile and when they're not? Again, it should be about physical and emotional health!

They must know the adverse consequences to sex, the REASONS for abstinence. And I think they need to be stressed MORE in sex-ed, specifically because the kids AREN'T hearing them in the media, or at home from those "ostrich" parents.

Ol Cranky

My freshman year of college, a bunch of the girls on my hall (and some of their bfs) went ballistic at the fact I was an 18 year old virgin who knew I wasn't quite ready for a sexual relationship and that I was waiting to reach that level of maturity and to be involved with someone with whom I could be that intimate both emotionally and physically. I don't know why it bugged them so much or why I was on the receiving end of an interrogation questioning whether I thought you had to wait for marriage and a very ironic debate between my room-mate who said she thought pre-marital sex was wrong and me who does not think sex between consenting adults who are not married wrong (unless they're involved with someone else) - I was a virgin and my room-mate was having sex with her bf.

I know that some people can have sex outside of a relationship and enjoy it. I always just assumed that there was something better about sex within a loving, respectful relationship. I learned how right I was the hard way. I don't know if the reason is because I *knew* it wasn't right for me and that's why there was such a big difference (when you do something you feel/know isn't right, it's not surprisingly going to be right) and that what's right for someone else just doesn't work for me, or if most others *do* see/feel the difference. I wonder if not being completely honest with kids about this and making them *really* think about it (especially in light of the potential consequences) does them a disservice and that's why they frequently hear without listening.

One of my closest friends came from a large, religious Southern Baptist family. Discussion of sex was absolutely off the table (it was: "sex outside marriage is immoral, it must only be done within the confines of a marriage"); her parents also did not give permission for the kids to take sex ed in school. She was so very uneducated that moments after losing her virginity, she told her bf that was "as far as they could go." She had no idea she had "gone all the way" (I swear this is a true story, nobody would even think to make up something so bizarre). To this day we ask her what else she thought there was. On the bright side, she wasn't so stressed expecting a painful first time that she actually enjoyed it.

What's being shown on MTV, etc. is probably the biggest reason adults need to discuss sex openly and honestly with kids. Unfortunately, a lot of parents just play ostrich and the kids & society pays for that. If the schools offer comprehensive health education that includes that open and honest discussion about sex that I keep advocating, it won't be inconsistent with the values religious kids hear from the church/parents just because the teacher doesn't say you *must wait* until marriage (hopefully, it would reinforce the message - especially to those kids who don't listen to this message from their parents as much as the parents would like to think they do).

delagar

Again, Anna, I agree with you. The perfect situation is the one in which the parents are involved with the child, teach the child about sex, teach the child not to engage in destructive relationships, and provide the child with enough love and commitment that the child doesn't feel the need to engage in destructive relationships.

(I also, BTW, agree with Old Cranky: that sort of parenting and that sort of life can exist outside of the religious life as well as within it. Further, living within a religion is no guarantee that a child will have those things, or we would not have the rates of teen pregnancy that we in fact do have among "religious" teens in this country.)

My original point still stands: many parents are not able or willing to educate their children about sex. That's why we need sex ed in schools. And, once again, I am in favor of giving a child all the information we can about sex and about contraception.

You argue, Anna, that giving a child information about sex and about contraception is somehow the equivalent of telling the child to "do whatever, just use protection," because our "media" is pushing sex. Well, our "media" (which, by the way, is not one giant monster, you might notice, but a many-voiced being, saying many different things) will say whatever it is going to say regardless of what we teach our kids in the schools. How, in that case, will keeping our children ignorant of how their bodies work and how they can protect those bodies be better than educating them about these things?

Anne Basso

I can't disagree with you, Ol Cranky. I suppose the confusion lies with the difference between being taught religious things, and having a religion yourself. The people I knew who abstained were themselves believers in something, or themselves, or were rational enough to realize that they were not yet ready for such activity.

In response to the other commenter, I was taught about sex, how it worked, what happened. It was all very clinical. What I believe they left out was what a big deal emotionally it is. They talked about "waiting until you're ready" but didn't talk about what makes you ready. Nor did they talk about the after effects. And the point that I was trying to make was that even if they did, could it compete with what we were hearing everywhere else? When the media makes sex so attractive, and everyone is having it without consequences, what are the kids really going to remember? You have to look no farther than the Real World on MTV to find out what our kids are really learning.

It used to be that girls were emberassed if they had sexual experience, now they are emberassed if they don't. Our whole outlook on sex has changed. But I still believe (as my faith teaches me) that sex and sexuality is beautiful, sacred, and private. I want my girls to dress modestly, to have respect for their bodies and themselves. I want others to have respect for them as well. And when they marry, I want them to have full and complete sex lives, equiped with knowledge.

If they're going to teach abstinence, it can't be "sex is bad". It has to be about safety, and making good choices. The truth is that there are many dangers to sex outside of marriage, phisical and emotional. And no matter what birth control or contraceptive you use, there are no guarantees. Perhaps some sex-ed courses are better than mine. And perhaps some abstinence courses are better than the ones mentioned here. But in the end I don't know that either program will be effective. Without parental involvement, managing dress, controling media exposure, communicating, etc., that our kids will ever have what they truly need to make the best choices for themselves.

Ol Cranky

"At my public high school in California in the mid 90s, we had a rep from Planned Parenthood come in and talk to us about the services available to us, show us condoms and how to use them, and pass around birth control pills. We were told to wait until it "feels right" and not to be pressured. How does a 15 year old have the proper information or life experience to make that choice? Abstinence was NEVER mentioned in my sex-ed courses. And I've asked around to find out if it was just the way I remembered things. It wasn't. The information that we were given encouraged the idea that parents wouldn't understand. One more wedge between a child and the people that love them the most. Great curriculum. I th>nk we've got this idea that kids have a complete inability to make reasonable choices, like they're animals. They're not. Some will make bad choices, but I don't think we do them any favors by taking away the consequences."

Interesting, I went to public school and when I was in seventh grade we had this "Large Group Instruction" (a couple of classes together getting a lecture/doing a program). One of the LGIs that I remember (and could verify from one of the five diary entries I wrote that year that didn't say "my life is boring") we had 2 guest lecturers - a Cathoic Lay teacher and a Nun. They spoke to us about how immoral it was to have sex outside of marriage - the take against sex/contraception/abortion, and a very judgemental one at that. Until that point, I was pretty oblivious to abortion but they engaged in some very strong language, inconsistent comments regarding how abortions make you sterile and then how all those loose women were have 10 abortions; it was pretty over the top and completely inappropriate for the audience (public school 12 year olds). The actual sex education modules we had in health were done the previous year and then, again,in 8th grade. Most of what I remember was the antics of my class as we pushed the envelope with questions but I do recall we were discouraged from engaging in sexual activity and told the consequences of irresponsibility, as well as ways to prevent them. There are ways to include comprehensive sex education that are very unlike what you describe and would at least give kids who choose to disregard the advice not to engage in sex the information they need so they don't compound the mistake of engaging sexual activity at too young an age.

"I will also say, however, that I am unsure of how any secular abstinence program can work. The kids that I knew who abstained had something/someone to abstain for. God, or their future spouse, their parents, or self respect."
About half the girls I know who got pregnant in HS went to Catholic school where they were taught to abstain from sex until marriage. The girl down the street from me, showed up on the school bus out of nowhere one day. . .a month later I realized why. I asked her why she didn't have an abortion, she said "It's against my religion." I asked why she didn't use contraception, she said "It's against my religion." I asked her why she had sex without benefit of marriage, she didn't answer. Why does G-d have to be central in abstinence? I didn't believe in G-d in junior high and HS and I didn't have sex. I wasn't saving myself b/c G-d said so, I wasn't saving myself for marriage (I had no intention of getting married let alone having children), I didn't abstain for my parents and I didn't much self esteem. I abstained b/c I had the sense to know that sex was an exceptionally intimate experience that I was not yet emotionally ready for, one I could only engage in with someone I trusted and loved (not necessarily be "in love" as I didn't think I was capable of allowing myself that depth of emotion) and there was no way I was going to risk getting pregnant before I graduated from HS. Religion/belief in G-d is not necessary for morality; religious affiliation/belief in G-d and morality are neither mutually inclusive nor mutually exclusive

delagar

Dunno what kind of school that was you went to, Anna, but that was not a sex education class. Sounds like an afternoon with a Planned Parenthood rep, which is something else entirely. Sort of like leaving the teaching of Home Ec and nutrition up to an afternoon with the Kraft Foods rep -- it's not really what he's qualified to do. Not really his job. Did your school not actually have a sex education class?

In any case, I agree with you that in a perfect word, parents should be the ones providing sex ed to their kids. I'm certainly providing it to mine. I also agree with you that in a perfect world, people would not abuse sex. I point out to you, as a fact, that this is not that perfect world.

Would it be better for the average 12 to 14 year old girl to know about sex and her body and about contraceptive methods that work and those that don't or for her to be ignorant about these matters?

Because those are, in fact, our options.

Anne Basso

I am allready providing my children with health and sex ed. as appropriate to age. I'm pregnant now and have had a number of questions from my seven year old about how I got this way. We've talked about my uterus, seeds from mommy and daddy, etc. After we talk I ask if he has questions to make sure that he is getting the correct information, and the information he wants and is ready for. Human sexuality is a beautiful and natural thing. But in our faith it is only permissible to express it within the context of marriage. Of course I'm going to teach my children that too. I want them to love their bodies, love what their bodies can do, and know the wonderful way in which they were formed. I want fertility cycles to be a gift (not a curse) and will teach my daughters about Natural Family Planning, and how to know what their bodies are doing when, and why. Why would I teach my children to engage in behaviour that is potentially harmful physically and emotionally, which sex before marriage can be? I want the best for them!

The only reason schools have to teach such things is because parents aren't doing their jobs. I refuse to be one of those parents.

At my public high school in California in the mid 90s, we had a rep from Planned Parenthood come in and talk to us about the services available to us, show us condoms and how to use them, and pass around birth control pills. We were told to wait until it "feels right" and not to be pressured. How does a 15 year old have the proper information or life experience to make that choice? Abstinence was NEVER mentioned in my sex-ed courses. And I've asked around to find out if it was just the way I remembered things. It wasn't. The information that we were given encouraged the idea that parents wouldn't understand. One more wedge between a child and the people that love them the most. Great curriculum. I think we've got this idea that kids have a complete inability to make reasonable choices, like they're animals. They're not. Some will make bad choices, but I don't think we do them any favors by taking away the consequences.

I will also say, however, that I am unsure of how any secular abstinence program can work. The kids that I knew who abstained had something/someone to abstain for. God, or their future spouse, their parents, or self respect. And I don't think we can blame an abstinence program for the failure in our society. How can these programs compete with a media that sells sex without consequences? I just don't think throwing up our hands and giving our children over to damaging behaviour is the answer either.

Ol Cranky

Annie:

As a nurse, you must know as well as I do that the American public is woefully ignorant of how their bodies work. I had one patient bring his girlfriend with him when he came for a visit because they thought she was pregnant and wanted to talk to someone they could trust. These kids had just graduated from a Catholic high school which had an abstinence only program. I was shocked to learn that they knew that you could get pregnant from sex but had no idea there was any relationship to a woman's menstrual cycle.

It's amazing how little we know and are willing to teach our children about how their bodies work and how to best take care of them. What we really need is comprehensive health education as part of the life-science curriculum that includes sex education. You do children and society a disservice by specifically ignoring everything but abstinence and I wouldn't be surprised if abstinence-only education doesn't undermine any trust the kids have because they know you're specifically targeting them with only the information of which you approve. You can easily incorporate a non-judgmental way to discourage them from engaging in sexual activity until they have more life experience to make a well thought out decision and are adults who are capable of understanding the possible long-term ramifications (emotional and physical) of their actions while telling them that if/when they do engage in sexual activity they need to take precaution against communicable diseases and unintended pregnancy. They also need very honest discussion about the consequences (emotional and physical) of engaging in sexually intimate relationships when they're not ready for them, communicable diseases and unintended pregnancy.

Looka

"do whatever, just use protection'? Where do they teach that? Sounds like an exaggeration or dramatization to instill fear in the "abstinence" base.

Schools should be teaching sex ed... Since this appears to be the best way to prevent disease and pregnancy, it is a health issue and should be taught. If you don't want to partake in the school programs, then don't... But don't deny it to others.

delagar

Anne: What school exactly do you know that teaches students to "do whatever, just use protection"?

The options are between abstinence-only, which refuses to teach students anything about contraception or protection, or abstinence-based, which stresses that monogamy and marriage is the best choice, but gives students information on contraception and protection if they decide to engage in sexual activity.

One results in fewer students engaging in sex and fewer students getting pregnant. Guess which one it is?

Anne Basso

I think sex education should be the job of the parents. I don't particularly want anyone else teaching my children about sex. Because of our beliefs we are going to approach sex from a different persepective. We believe it is beautiful and wonderful in it's proper place, and no school can teach it that way. I don't know if it's that the parents aren't doing their job so the schools feel they have to, or if the schools have taken on so much of actual child rearing that parents just aren't doing it anymore, but it's not right. You can teach about sex and the body and how it all works and still teach abstinence. There have been a number of positive abstinence studies as well. I suppose I'd have to know more about the program studied, and why it wasn't working before I could condemn abstinence programs entirely. I think it's obvious that teaching "do whatever, just use protection" isn't working.

Farah

I teach US religious history and have shown my students some of the abstinence programme videos. All my students agree that the obssession with sex of the abstinence programmes is unhealthy. My Muslim students reckon that the more talk about sex--even not having it--the more inclined they are to flirt with the possibility. On the whole they find straightforward information, combined with lots of other things to do, much healthier.

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