Uncivil Unions: March 2008: Archives

March 12, 2008

The Sex As Sin Scam: One In Four...And Then Some More? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Uncivil Unions

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They say life imitates art...and if that is true, then the words spoken by Jack Nicholson in the film A Few Good Men may explain why the Bush administration and so many of its followers continue to insist on promoting abstinence as the preferred approach to sex education. Those who "can't handle the truth" and insist on wearing blinders might want to read the latest study on the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases in teenage girls.

If the information is accurate, 25 percent of girls aged 14 to 19 have a sexually transmitted disease. I'm no statistician, but if one in four of the girls in this age range has an STD, how many of of those who make up the other 75 percent must be engaging in sexual relations? Let's be honest, the STD infection rate isn't 100%...which means that many of the other girls have to be sexually active as well.

The first national study of four common sexually transmitted diseases among girls and young women has found that one in four are infected with at least one of the diseases, federal health officials reported Tuesday.

Nearly half the African-Americans in the study of teenagers ages 14 to 19 were infected with at least one of the diseases monitored in the study -- human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, genital herpes and trichomoniasis, a common parasite.

The 50 percent figure compared with 20 percent of white teenagers, health officials and researchers said at a news conference at a scientific meeting in Chicago.

The two most common sexually transmitted diseases, or S.T.D.'s, among all the participants tested were HPV, at 18 percent, and chlamydia, at 4 percent, according to the analysis, part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Among the infected women, 15 percent had more than one of the diseases.

The president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, said the new findings "emphasize the need for real comprehensive sex education."

"The national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure," Ms. Richards said, "and teenage girls are paying the real price."

Look, I understand that parents don't want to believe their children are sexually active nor do they want schools to encourage sex. However, admitting the difference between wishful thinking and cold hard facts may be the best way parents can protect their children...especially their daughters...from potentially fatal diseases. Reality remains reality...even in the presence of self-deception.

The death of a daughter from cervical cancer seems an exorbitant price to pay for burying one's head in the sand. Nonetheless, millions of parents continue to be willing to put their children in the position to play a deadly game of Russian roulette when it comes to sex.

Let's assume that fifty percent of girls in this age bracket have engaged in sexual activity. That suggests that parents who continue to embrace the effectiveness of abstinence only programs have a fifty percent chance of being wrong. Put in terms of risk management, at least half of the daughters of those parents who are in denial are at risk to contract an STD.

Even worse, this preoccupation with abstinence sets in motion a default mindset that accepts the habit of participating in unsafe sexual activity. Here's the equation. Once a teenager has been bombarded with admonitions to abstain...often premised on the construct of morality versus immorality (behavior is reduced to a good v. bad concept)...the decision to engage in sex is viewed as wrong.

Rarely do people about to engage in an activity they view as wrong take the time to employ prudent practices and thoughtful judgment. It's the principle of premeditation versus happenstance. I suspect many of these teenagers want the deniability that comes with an unintended act...an accident if you will. Being able to tell mom and dad that they didn't intend to break their pledge to abstain is much easier than admitting a deliberate act of defiance.

Recent reports that girls are engaging in more oral sex as a means to maintain their virginity is a clear example of the unintended consequences that come with unrealistic expectations. The emotional burdens we're heaping upon these young people is a recipe for failure and it often plants the seeds of future dishonest dalliances. If one's initial view of sex is that it must be committed as an act of deception or secrecy, one is apt to repeat that behavior.

In the end, asking children to suppress their sexual desires as a function of morality begins the process of disconnecting sex from love...its intended partner. Once sex is viewed as sin, it becomes increasingly difficult to embrace it as an act of the heart. As this sex as sin notion takes hold, I'm inclined to believe that many of these teenagers, who subsequently contract an STD, begin to internalize the diagnosis as the inevitable consequence of being "immoral" (God's punishment). Once the identity is viewed as damaged (or demonic in the extreme), the likelihood for more damage is enhanced in what I would characterize as a predictable spiral of self-loathing.

We would be far better served to instruct children on the merits of sex as an adjunct to love...giving them the tools they need to maintain both their physical and mental health. Sex is an inevitable human activity. STD's and a sinking self-esteem need not be its destructive companions.

Tagged as: Abstinence, Cervical Cancer, Condoms, Evangelical, HPV, Morality, Religion, Sex, Sex Education, Sin, STD's, Teenagers, Virginity

Daniel DiRito | March 12, 2008 | 11:06 AM | link | Comments (5)
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