Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Just saying "no thanks"


"Just Say No" was a laughable approach to the nation's drug problems during the Reagan era, and evidence is mounting (no pun intended) that abstinence-only education, in which kids are told to "just say no" to sex, isn't having the desired results. The Bush administration touts its federal abstinence-education grant program for slowing sexual activity by teenagers, but an Associated Press story that appeared on the front page of today's O-R notes that states are increasingly bailing out on the program, with many believing it does little, if any, good. Nearly half the states are now turning down the federal money, which requires matching funds. A study by Yale and Columbia universities a few years ago found that teens who make abstinence pledges have sex at a later age, have fewer sex partners and get married earlier. But the same study found that teens who make such a pledge and those who don't have virtually the same rates of sexually transmitted diseases. The study blamed that on the fact that when "pledgers" fell off the no-sex bandwagon, they were less likely to use condoms. The same study, according to a 2004 AP report, found that in communities in which at least 20 percent of teens made pledges, the STD rate for all youths was 8.9 percent. In places where less than 7 percent pledged, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases was 5.5 percent. "It is the combination of hidden sex and unsafe sex that creates a world where people underestimate the risk of STDs," study co-author Peter Bearman, chairman of Columbia's Department of Sociology, said at the time. Ah, yes, those "unsafe" practices. A related study released by the universities showed that pledgers were more likely to have had oral and anal sex than other teens who had not engaged in intercourse. That's a little more serious than substituting onion rings for fries at Red Robin. Of course, I've heard it said that when God closes one door, He opens another one. The bottom line is, just saying "don't do it" is a stupid approach to helping teens cope with sexuality. Is it best that teens wait until adulthood to have sex? Absolutely. But to assume that we can stop kids from having sex is to ignore reality, and we do our kids a disservice - indeed, we may condemn some of them to death - if we fail to give them all the information they might need about sex.

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20 Comments:

Blogger Ellipses said...

I can't believe you would put that disgusting picture up there for all to see... don't you know where those things GO?

-ellipses 8===D

June 25, 2008 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger grog said...

For an Atheist, you sure talk about God a lot...:)

Maybe it would be good to shock the teenagers with pictures of STD's and movies of ruined lives because of stupid sexual choices?

As a teen, you couldn't stop me from having all the fun I could. I was lucky to not get caught until I was much older. I ended up having to get married and 6 years later divorced, paying child support for 16 years and never seeing my kids. What a terrible waste.

Being sexual active is fun, but the consequences are devastating. Maybe they should make a movie of my life and the misery I had to endure having intercourse with the wrong person?? That would scare some teens and maybe some adults from ruining their lives.

God tells us to wait until marriage to enjoy the gift and fruit He provides. Oh, but wait there is no God...sorry.

The answer lies in educating the parents so that they can teach their kids. Parents need to be more active in the children’s lives. But who cares...right?

Keep up the good work Brant, I enjoy your views on the news.

Great pics!! They never had colored condoms when we were teens.

June 25, 2008 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Scott Beveridge said...

Using federal funds to urge kids to take such pledges seems insane when we have an American infrastructure in collapse.

June 25, 2008 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Scott, I agree with you there. Imagine how far those billions spent on the Iraq war would have gone toward rebuilding roads and bridges, and creating jobs. And, Grog, you must have been shopping in the wrong stores, I mean men's rooms. I remember seeing machines with colored condoms way back in the '70s. There were a lot of fun "novelty items" to be had back in those days. Remember when we found the vibrator that the previous owners had left behind at J-Bo's house? Of course, the ads for those vibrators always showed a woman holding it up against her cheek. I'm sure that was the only use for it. And you're right that the real education about sex needs to take place in the home, but with so many parents abdicating their responsibilities, allowing their teenage daughters to dress like apprentice prostitutes, etc., the schools almost have to take a bigger role. I just think they should provide the kids with all the information they can, while stressing that abstinence is the best and safest way to go until they reach adulthood. Good to hear from you.

June 25, 2008 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Hooray...for once I agree with Scott!

Federal funding to teach kids not to have sex is as ludicrous and useless as spending a billion dollars a year telling people in Africa that if they don't use protection, they'll get AIDS. I don't see how it costs that much to tell them to, ahem, put a helmet on the soldier. But that's another rant.

The parents, as always, should be responsible for teaching their kids about abstinence, safe sex, teen pregnancy, and so on. But don't forget that our parents tried to do the same thing with us (although the only safe sex then was of the, um, "alone" variety). Did we listen? No. Would Nixon telling me to keep it in my pants make me listen? No.

But now it's different. Teens now are physically developing much earlier than before; thus you have a 13-year-old in a 20-year-old's body. A bad combination...sexual maturity, raging hormones, and the reasoning capacity of a child. And we all agree that sex is everywhere we look these days.

I supervised a group of young folk when I was a restaurant manager. They ranged in age from 16 to 21 or so. If you overheard the conversations they have, you'd REALLY realize how off-base this funding is, as are our well-intended efforts to teach our kids right from wrong.

Most of the young teen girls have had a same-sex experience before they get out of high school. It's a rite of passage almost as important as their first period. Many of them consider oral sex safer because "they're in control" of the situation. Or they prefer anal sex because that way they can remain virgins. They have parties and play sex games the likes of which would stun you but as Niedermeyer said in "Animal House," decorum prohibits listing them here.

My son became sexually active at 15. When he finally told me, I wasn't really surprised. I told him that I don't approve of it, but I also knew that that wasn't about to stop him. I told him to use protection, and if he wanted, I'd buy the condoms for him. And then I gave him what I thought was the sternest warning of all: "Take it from me...child support comes every f**king week for 18 LONG years." He didn't listen to a word I said.

June 25, 2008 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Oh...Hi Grog!

June 25, 2008 at 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that pushing abstinence as the lone form of birth control is not only useless but stupid. Those who advocate it have an idealized view of the world -- "If only there were no bad drivers ... " But there are so we need to buy insurance and wear seat belts. "If only I hadn't voted for Bush." I digress.

Not all of us are parents. But the vast majority of us had parents or some authority figure who, hopefully, tried to put a damper on some of our more stupid ideas. Did we listen? Probably not. I know my kid didn't, at least on some things. Luckily, he has not impregnated anyone that I'm aware of.

By all means, teach abstinence if that's what you believe in. If you want to do so for religious reasons, fine, but there are other, valid reasons to teach it, as some posters have already pointed out: STDs, pregnancy, adding to teen angst. But, please, recognize reality and at least tell these kids that if you must, do it wisely. Making it hard to buy liquor and cigarettes doesn't seem to have thwarted those who really want to get drunk or smoke. Making birth control info hard to get doesn't make sense, either.

I kinda agree with Grog -- make movies that show how badly the life of an unwed teenage mother can be. Show how bad it can be even if she gets married and has to struggle because she's not well educated and can't get a decent job, nor can her husband. Ah ... but we like success stories, right? You won't get much of an audience for "life destroys young couple" plots.

Come to think of it, I went to driver's school after accumulating too many points, and we were forced to watch "Faces of Death," with vivid color shots of dead drivers with pipes through their skulls, torn off arms and headless torsos. Sometimes, all three. It didn't make me drive any more safely.

June 25, 2008 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

We all have made some stupid choices while being well aware of the facts. Drinking, smoking, driving carelessly ...we know better but did them anyway. The thing is that none of these is the uncontrollable force designed to perpetuate the species. That's a tough thing to bring under control, particularly in the world we now live in. Very few things, particularly government-funded abstinence programs, can overcome that.

June 25, 2008 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Scott Beveridge said...

Reality check. Someone actually agrees with me?
Encouraging youngsters to take these pledges is akin to encouraging them to lie, really.

June 25, 2008 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

At what age do they take the pledge? They might not be lying... I am sure you can get a lot of 13 year olds to denounce sex... Sure, they are horny little bastards at that age... but I don't remember it ruling my life until at least a couple years later. Hell, I said I'd never smoke when I was 13...

Maybe they should see how many 17 year olds they can get to swear off sex... sure, they aren't virgins anymore, but see what the participation rate is once they have tasted the forbidden fruit.

-ellipses

June 25, 2008 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

A friend of mine once said that it's like a dog killing sheep. Once they get that taste of blood in their mouths, there's no turning back.

June 25, 2008 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

BTW, Ellipses, drop me an e-mail sometime at Bewman99@yahoo.com. Thanks.

June 25, 2008 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

After reading this item, plus the one about the teen pregnancy pact in Gloucester, MA, I believe they are related. I posted a response in the previous thread, but also said there was more. I didn't have the time to develop it any further, and it is unlikely anybody would have read it if it was longer anyway. Further, some of us work for a living, and can't sit on these boards all day.

In the other response, somebody added one of my unwritten points to the discussion, namely the parents. I will leave that alone, as it was discussed there, and has been already discussed here.

My other point is sure to get me flamed out, but as I see life "behind the thick post," there is a little discussed part, namely a spiritual side. During the last few decades, this part of life has slowly been minimized in importance. History will show us that man has a spiritual component to life. Others are better versed in many parts of history than I. But having studied architectural history for a couple of years, man was always dealt with a spiritual side of his life through buildings. To be sure, it has manifested itself other ways as well, such as traditions, ritual, etc.

Perhaps I digress here, but my point in laying this foundation is that mankind has always had a spiritual side that had impact upon their lives. One can argue good or bad, that is not the issue. But, in recent times, the spiritual side of life has been pushed out. Belief systems have degenerated to nothingness. Few folks any longer can identify their belief system, and the foundation for that belief system.

We have become obsessed with other things believed to be more important. Sports is a huge opiate in today's culture. We are more concerned about our kids learning to put the ball through the hoop, hit a ball farther than others, put a bigger hit on an opponent than others, etc. Also, we have great concern for the education and eventual career for our children. Education is constantly on the forefront of discussion (or lack thereof), college choices, career paths, and so forth. Also, we have become a society enthralled with material things. "He who has the most toys wins," has become a mantra that is preached constantly to our younger generations.

Meanwhile, the development of the spiritual side of life goes wanting. Many feel it more important to have their child at the ice rink, at the soccer field, or at the basketball arena on Sunday morning, than having their children exposed to, and learning something about their spiritual lives. We have reached a point where we, collectively as a society, think we can live without any mention, or attention of our spiritual lives. We seem to be willing to live without any anchor of belief system. We are willing to let our emotions rule our decisions, apart from a principled and disciplined belief system. And, yes, I believe a belief system and the spiritual side of one's life are closely related.

This, of course, leads me to explain why young folks have such attitudes about free sex. Suggesting "it will happen," "everybody does it," or "there is nothing we can do," is a defeatist approach. It follows the thinking, "if it feels good, do it." Many, including some here on this Board, will say, it is just realistic. What happened to governing one's life by principle? What happened to having a belief system that one can employ to make decisions, decisions that are rational, based upon something one holds as a set of convictions?

Some may define my thinking as "old fashioned," "not with the times," or "behind." Mankind has not changed in thousands of years. Study the prophets of the Old Testament in the Bible closely. The topics they discuss sound like the evening news commentary of 2008. The same issues of pride, lust, oppression, anger, bad leadership, jealousy, revenge, dysfunctional relationships, ... (the list goes on) of 2,700 years ago are at work the same way in 2008. Mankind has not changed. Some people lusted after others. Homosexual relationships were happening in the same way as today. When I've brought this up in other discussions, and asked how mankind is so enlightened in 2008, over against his position over 2,000 years ago, nobody can explain. To be sure, the outworking is different. But, the basic driving forces remain the same.

The degeneration of societies happened before, they rebuilt, and degenerated again. The rebuilding came as a result of addressing the spiritual side of life, learning what is right and what is wrong. We now have a society calling good evil. We have a society that shows no shame for bad behavior. Rather than shame, bad behavior is exploited and brought forth as a badge of honor.

My entire point is that if we spent as much time with our children and young folks with their spiritual side of life, as we do with sports, education, etc, the emerging character will produce favorable results. We wouldn't be having discussions about the need of condoms in schools, teen pregnancy pacts, and the like. "Just say no" will not work, if based upon human will. A life built upon principles, convictions, and discipline will have an easy time to address the question of whether or not to say "no." The answer will be obvious.

By now, everybody is asleep and will not have reached the bottom of my post anyway. For those who stuck to the end, thanks for listening.

June 25, 2008 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Roger...

That was really good, thank you. It seems that it would be an effective approach for something like 80% of the world's population (those who identify themselves as believing in God).

I am an atheist and of the view that it IS natural and inevitable that teens and young adults will express their sexuality through sex. I also believe that repression of that expression on the grounds of spiritual opposition can be unhealthy. Yes, we have been dealing with the issue for 2700 years, but we have also had more or less the same "authority" in that time. I don't think that teen sex is inherently "bad." BUT... being a "slut" (male or female) IS "bad" regardless of your age. Be monogamous, be careful, and do it for the "right" reasons... I wanted to avoid using the phrase "scratch the itch" but an analogy popped into my head... Let's say you have a rash... you can itch it with restraint and have a feeling of satisfaction. You can also gouge at it with a rusty nail and end up in a whole mess of pathological trouble.

-ellipses

June 25, 2008 at 10:18 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Roger,
I'm not a religious person, or especially spiritual, but I tried to instill in my children a lot of the values that are featured in the major religious texts. I taught them to have good manners, to respect their elders, to reach out and comfort those less fortunate, etc. And I do see a certain emptiness in many kids' lives today. They have all the toys, all the social and sports activities, but where is the time for family? At the risk of being labeled as some sort of Luddite, but I think life was better when I was a youngster. The pace was slower. Kids had time for unstructured play, time to spend with their siblings, parents and extended family members. I essentially grew up in Mayberry, and it was a great place to be a kid. And the values were certainly different from what we see today.

June 26, 2008 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I also tried to instill a good sense of right and wrong in my children. I took them to church every week, made sure they participated in children's activities at the church, and listened to the sermons. At the time I was going to a Catholic church, but I would have taken them anywhere they wanted to go if they were interested. I just wanted them to have a sense of faith. People may pray to Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Samantha Stevens (Wiccans! hahaha) or a tree for that matter. All of them represent one Supreme Being. Now that they're adults, I realize that none of it "took."

I read Roger's dissertation, and I agree with most of it. But as I noted above, try as I might, it just didn't register with them.

We as a society definitely place too much value and importance on our own pleasures. Why does a college basketball or football coach earn millions of dollars per year, but a professor is lucky to make six figures?

While I didn't spend my formative years in Mayberry as Brant did, I did spend the first ten years of my life in blissful 60s suburbia. And it was simpler. Or at least we didn't know about all the bad stuff, nor do I think we needed to know. Kids don't "play" anymore. It's all about video games and organized activities. Kids are overwhelmed with soccer or other sports and activites, and their parents want them to excel because, well, they're their kids and they have to be perfect like all their other possessions.

I hate to sound like a doomsayer, but I think it's going to get worse before it gets better, just like Roger noted. Total debauchery didn't work for the ancient Romans. It'll bring us to our knees soon enough. Ooops. Was that a bad choice of words?

June 26, 2008 at 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to go too far into a religious argument, but maybe the point of it is to be brought to our knees, at least if you believe what some branches of the Christian churches are saying. I've heard more than one sermon and more than one "testimony" during which the speaker praised God for, basically, making his life hell. A direct quote from one of the testifiers: "He (God) took my job, he took my money, he took my car ... (sobbing) ... and finally he took my family."

It seems to me that this speaker, who had gambling problems, lost all this stuff on his own but that a Christian counselor had convinced him that God caused all this to happen "for his own good" and that the "victim" was powerless to stop it.

I don't subscribe to that point of view.

William Sloane Coffin, a "radical" Catholic priest who died a few years ago, said in an interview that too many Christians deflect responsibility for their actions or rationalize bad events by saying that bad things -- such as car crashes that kill loved ones -- happen because God willed it. "People seem to thing that God goes around with his hand on steering wheels," Coffin said. "That's not the way it is."

What I'm driving at is that people will do what they want to do, sometimes in spite of how they were raised. Like Brant, I grew up in small town in the late '50s and early '60s, when "the family" ruled and there was little to fear except being incinerated by a Commie missile. My parents were active in church. We had family gatherings, at least until my mid-teens,when "things" started to happen.

Today, I and my two brothers are divorced and my sister never married. The three "men children" either don't or seldom attend church. My sister, raised Protestant, is now Catholic. My parents are dead, and the remaining family members seldom get together. In fact, we never call each other and communicate mostly by e-mail.

As for me, I am your typical child if the '60s. I grew my hair, experimented with drugs and pretty much did what I wanted with my life for 35 years. I got married and divorced and raised a son who, upon turning 18, stopped going to church and dropped out of college. Growing up, he had strong family examples of going to school and to church and for having regular family gatherings. But he's a loner-- few friends -- and he likes it that way. At 19, he has great moral values hat I expect will last him all his life.

So, you can spend vast amounts of time with your kids and they will still choose their own paths. That's way it should be.

Certainly, we have misplaced values. A psychologist would have a field day trying to explain all this. But ours is not the first generation to see the pace of life quicken, or to see "family values" erode. Part of life -- and maybe the whole point of life - is to figure out how to deal with the changes. we can bemoan the way things are or we can take action against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them. (I just made that up.)

June 28, 2008 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I'd have a response to that, but I'm too busy dodging the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Kidding. You're right in that no matter what we present to our children, be it religion or just moral guidance, they will chart their own courses. I, too, am amused by the people who suggest that every calamity is somehow the "will" of God. Even scarier are the goofballs like Pat Robertson who suggest that natural disasters such as Katrina are the result of our spiritual failings, such as not hating gay people.

June 28, 2008 at 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant, your opinions are nothing to shake a spear at.

June 28, 2008 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

That's a good one.

June 29, 2008 at 10:09 AM  

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