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Abstinence (Sexual), Sex, Sex Education October 12, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Sexuality.
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Roger’s note: You are lucky if you are old enough to have watched Dick Cavett.  He was by far the greatest late night television host of all time.  Next to Cavett Johnny Carson was Howdy Doody.  Cavett was urbane, intellectual, but never condescending.  He interviewed some of the most important and interesting people of our time in a variety of fields, from entertainment to politics.  It is good to know that he is still alive and kicking.  To read the original article to which this posting refers, just click on “last column” in the second paragraph.

 

 

Dick Cavett

Dick Cavett on his career in show business, and more.

My last column inspired a remarkable number of thoughtful replies. I wish I had space and time to deal with all of them.

The college I wrote about that posted information and advice on sex at school is, I learn, hardly unique. And many readers wonder what took so long. If only we had had that as a theme.

Only a handful could be considered shocked or disapproving of the practice. Many worried about the possibly lost distinction between sex and true affection.

I am always shocked that there are still a handful of defenders of the dubious practice of abstinence, surely the worst idea since chocolate-covered ants.

Undoubtedly this practice urged on the young combined with forbidding them contraception has accounted for a hefty portion of the income of the baby-shower industry.

Abstinence. What sex-drive-free human specimens dreamed this one up? Were, or are, they utter strangers to the turmoil of the storming erotic drives of the young? And, as several fortunate readers attest, some lucky members of the old?

If there is an Abstinence League, my image of its leader comes from William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell”: “Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.”

Remember when the “one true church” was heavily promoting the “rhythm method” of pseudo-contraception? Of course the jokes came thick and fast about inability to keep a beat, etc. I wonder what wit first labeled the fiasco “Vatican roulette.” A daredevil version, it proved to be, of roulette with about four chambers loaded.

I liked the reader who admitted quite frankly that, yes, she did think additional sex experience would have been a good thing in her case, probably producing a more successful marriage.

Several people referred, or at least alluded, to the danger of a wrecked school life and education from an unwanted pregnancy.

No small concern. More so in my day, when detailed knowledge of the traps and pitfalls of the loins was often sparse.

I received zero sex knowledge at home. Had my mother lived, I might well have, but my dad merely worried that I was going to impregnate someone in high school. But no advice.

Considering the thinness of my sexual activity at the time, the odds against the calamity that haunted A. B. Cavett were somewhere below zero. I wouldn’t be surprised, such was the extent of my dad’s concern, to learn that he might have had some such related experience himself.

In college, where the odds favoring inadvertent calamity at least climbed to just above the freezing point, I can still recall a stabbing and chilling moment of angst, fear and trembling.

The previous night had included a rare episode of pneumatic bliss, properly conducted, safety-factor-wise.

The next day, as chance would have it, Fate, or one of my roommates, placed in my hands one of those pamphlets for boys. It at least felt as if my hair stood up at reading the icy words: “Be careful not to touch the end of your penis to the wrong side of the condom, then turn it over and…”

It went on to make it clear that the not inconsiderable frequency of this inadvertent “transfer” mishap could account, accidentally, for an addition to the population.

At that, the black and white tile floor of the dorm bathroom where I was standing seemed to zoom up at me as in an early film-noir special effect.

Had I done that? Had I wrecked my life? Cold sweat.

Was there a preacher in my immediate future? Would I be on a train back to Nebraska? Would I be home, saying, “Hi, folks. Meet Janie”?

For a good time thereafter, sleep was fitful and sometimes impossible without a mild sleeping potion and a page-or-two dose of Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene.”

Why tell this? As an argument for sex education? Surely no one with a measurable I.Q. is still against that, although, in fact, you can still hear folks with but 10 watts upstairs say, “Why put ideas in kids’ heads?”

My wondering about whether more sex in school, in my part of The Old Days, would have made me a better person seemed to divide the audience.

I was assured it would have and that it emphatically would not. I suppose all we can say here is, how will we ever know?

Some readers made the distinction of how different things always are for boys and girls. A female reader, disputing assumptions about the time, wrote of the incredible pressure “in the 60s even” for girls to “keep your knickers on” or be looked down on by female classmates. But that now, she says, the pressure is to “lighten up, get with it.” To shuck ’em down.

She feels the school’s enlightened document I quoted is spot on.

Some urged that doleful term “waiting,” maintaining that “character” is built by biting the bullet and waiting.

Poppycock.

The great Marlene Dietrich told me that in her German childhood upbringing, she was commanded to go without a drink of water when thirsty “to build character.” Did it? I asked. “Not one brick’s worth of character was built. It probably injured my kidneys.”

One reader, Joe of Brooklyn, touchingly wonders if, as a schoolkid, that certain gorgeous dream of a teacher ever fancied him, envying those 15-year-old students these days taken “twixt the sheets by a comely and passionate high school teacher.” (Who subsequently does time.)

Poor Joe has never gotten over it. He thinks in today’s atmosphere, the “it” he longed for just might have happened. She was 33 then — she would be 92 now — and “she is still more enticing than any woman I have ever encountered.”

Joe says every man he tells this to has a similar school days story and longing. I know I do. Would we have been better off? Anyway, Joe, you have at least a sitcom episode here, if not the core of a feature.

Glad that so many writers liked the column and applauded the school’s efforts, warnings and advice about that old devil, sex. Many wish they’d had it. Such a document I mean, of course.

(A few practical souls pointed out that it is also greatly in the school’s legal interests to able to say to thundering parents, “We told them.”)

Predictably, I guess, I was taken to task (what in hell does that really mean?) by some readers for committing humor within such a topic. This always puzzles. The old, “There is no place for humor here.”

You have it almost right. There is no place for no humor. At what boundary must humor halt? I commend you to my friend, Mark Twain on the power of humor: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

As further assertion of the place of humor being everywhere, let us close with the wise, wise advice about life given by the great George S. Kaufman to his young daughter Ann.

“Sample everything in life. Except incest and folk-dancing.”

 

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Texas: The state of sex (mis)education February 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Education.
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I wish this were a bad joke — the unfair caricature of Texas that you might see on a Prius’ bumper sticker — but it isn’t: a whopping 94 percent of school districts in the lone star state teach only abstinence, according to a new report. Worse yet, the review by two professors at Texas State University found that “sexuality education materials” used in the state “regularly contain factual errors and perpetuate lies and distortions about condoms and STDs.” They also found that classes promoted gender stereotypes, sexual orientation biases, shame and fear. Oh, what fun!

Disturbing as they may be, those top-line summaries of the findings are nothing compared to excerpts included in the report (PDF) from actual teaching materials. Suicide is a favorite scare-tactic: One program predicts non-virginal students’ miserable future, “You know people talk about you behind your back because you’ve had sex with so many people … Finally you get sick of it all and attempt suicide.” There are fun skits about suicide, too. In one, titled “Jumping Off the Bridge,” the moral of the story is put like so: “Giving a condom to a teen is just like saying, ‘Well if you insist on killing yourself by jumping off the bridge, at least wear these elbow pads — they may protect you some?'” (Got it: Handing out condoms = assisted suicide.)

Pre-marital sex presents a triple-threat, though: If you don’t kill yourself, you’ll probably die anyway — and if you don’t die, you’ll probably kill your sex partner. In response to a question about having pre-marital sex, an abstinence-only education video warns: “Well, I guess you’ll have to be prepared to die. And you’ll probably take with you your spouse and one or more of your children.” (Noted: Pre-marital sex = murder-suicide.) Boys are warned that they might kill their girlfriend by having sex: If you give her HPV, she’ll “probably end up with a radical hysterectomy, cervical cancer, and possibly death.” (So, you know, sure, go ahead and have sex, you murderer.) A curriculum for wee little sixth-graders exclaims: “WARNING! Going on this ride could change your life forever, result in poverty, heartache, disease, and even DEATH.” Another cautions in all-caps: “FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE TO ENGAGE IN SEX NOW IS LIKE PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH ALL BUT ONE CHAMBER FULL!”

Suicide, death, murder? These programs gotta be pretty good at scaring teens out of having sex, right? Mmm, not exactly. Texan teens “rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors,” according to the report, and the state has the third-highest teen birthrate in the country.

Virginity pledges don’t mean much, study says December 31, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Women.
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(Roger’s note: I am reminded of the quote of former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders which goes something like this: “the most unreliable condom is stronger than the vow of abstinence.”  Those moralistic religious idiots who advocate the criminalization of abortion and these ridiculous “virginity pledges” are, in effect, criminally responsible for the damage that is created by such lunacy.  Prior to Roe v. Wade millons of young women suffered and died from infections resulting from back street abortions.  According to the study cited below, young men and women who take the virginity pledge are less likely to protect themselves when they are having sex because they have been prejudiced against the effectiveness of condoms, and therefore suffer from higher rates of STDs and unwanted pregnancies.  Add these numbers to the millions of casualties that have resulted from the coming to power in the US of the un-Christian Christian evangelical right.)

Theresa Tamkins, www.cnnhealth.com, December 30, 2008  

As many as one in eight teens in the United States may take a virginity pledge at some point, vowing to wait until they’re married before having sex. But do such pledges work? Are pledge takers more likely than other teens to delay sexual activity?

A new study looked at the sexual behavior of hundreds of young people, some of whom took virginity pledges.

A new study looked at the sexual behavior of hundreds of young people, some of whom took virginity pledges.

A new study suggests that the answer is no. While teens who take virginity pledges do delay sexual activity until an average age of 21 (compared to about age 17 for the average American teen), the reason for the delay is more likely due to pledge takers’ religious background and conservative views — not the pledge itself.

According to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, pledge takers are as likely to have sex before marriage as other teens who are also religious, but don’t take the pledge. However, pledge takers are less likely than other religious or conservative teens to use condoms or birth control when they do start having sex.

In the new study, Janet Rosenbaum, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, analyzed the large chunk of data used in all the studies that have looked at virginity pledges: the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. In this survey, middle and high school students were asked about their sexual behaviors and opinions starting in 1995-96.

In the analysis, Rosenbaum compared 289 young adults who took virginity pledges in their teens with 645 young people who did not take such a pledge. The researcher was careful to only compare teens who had similar views on religion, birth control and sex in general, regardless of whether or not they took a pledge. Health.com: What should I do if the condom breaks?

Five years after the initial survey the study subjects were aged 20 to 23. Eighty-two percent of pledge takers denied (or forgot) they had ever taken such a vow. Overall pledge takers were no different from non-pledge takers in terms of their premarital sex, anal and oral sexual practices, and their probability of having a sexually transmitted disease.

Both groups lost their virginity at an average age of 21, had about three lifetime partners, and had similar rates of STDs. “And the majority were having premarital sex, over 50 percent,” says Rosenbaum. Overall, roughly 75 percent of pledgers and non-pledgers were sexually active, and about one in five was married. Health.com: Who’s most at risk for STDs?

Unmarried pledgers, however, were less likely than non-pledgers to use birth control (64 percent of pledge takers and 70 percent of non-pledge takers said they used it most of the time) or condoms (42 percent of pledge takers and 54 percent of non-pledge takers said they used them most of the time).

“There’s been some speculation about whether teenagers were substituting oral or anal sex for vaginal sex and I found that wasn’t so,” says Rosenbaum. “But I did uphold a previous finding that they are less likely to use birth control and drastically less likely in fact to use condoms — it’s a ten percentage point difference.”

Rosenbaum is concerned that abstinence-only sex education programs that promote virginity pledges may also promote a negative view of condoms and birth control. The result may be teens and young adults who are less likely than their peers to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Health.com: Sex and teens: Test your knowledge

Federal funds for abstinence only education programs have increased from $73 million in 2001 to $204 million in 2008. About 25 states apply for such funds each year to educate teens, says Rosenbaum. Sometimes programs are measured by how many teens take virginity pledges, not whether the teens stick to them, avoid sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancies, says Rosenbaum.

“Studies find that kids in abstinence-only programs have negative, biased views about whether condoms work,” she says. Since such programs promote abstinence only they tend to give only the disadvantages of birth control, she says. Teens learn condoms don’t protect you completely from human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes, which is true, but they may not realize that they protect against all the “fluid-based STDs,” she says. “People end up thinking you may as well not bother using birth control or condoms.”

Virginity pledges, along with a six-hour curriculum, were first introduced in 1993 by an evangelical Christian group, and a 1995 survey suggested that 13 percent of teens had taken such a pledge (current survey data are lacking, says Rosenbaum.)

“Virginity pledgers are very different than most U.S. teens — they are obviously more conservative, they have more negative views about sexuality and birth control and so, even if they didn’t take a pledge, these would be teenagers who would be very likely to abstain anyhow,” says Rosenbaum. About 40 percent of the study subjects were born-again Christians, she notes.

The new study does not suggest that virginity pledges are harmful, says Andrew Goldstein, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, because they were not associated with an increase in STDs or unplanned pregnancies. However, they do seem to be “useless,” says Goldstein, who was not involved in the study.

Promoting the pledges gives a “false sense of security and energy could be better spent in education,” he says. “It is time to stop spending money on these useless programs and funnel it into safer-sex counseling.” Health.com: Six things your teen needs to know about sex

When it comes to advice for the parents of teens, Rosenbaum notes that just about every organization, from Focus on the Family to Planned Parenthood, offers a similar message.

“Parents should talk to their kids about their sex. It should not be single conversation, it should be a continued conversation at the moments that are teachable moments,” she says. “Parents tend to hope that schools will take care of it — they can’t, obviously.”