Saturday, December 3, 2011

Teaching sexual stupidity (Part II)

So in a rich, private Quaker school in Philadelphia, an English teacher named Al Vernacchio is also instructing a course in “Sexuality and Society”. While there’s no “show and tell”, and the course material doesn’t go so far as to demonstrate positions from the Kama Sutra, the discussion is frank and often graphic.

Furthermore, Vernacchio abandons abstinence education in favor of promoting “safe sex” in an “LGBT-friendly” manner. And author Laurie Abraham is so taken with his approach that she has written an eight-page encomium in the New York Times Magazine.

In Part I, I conceded that kids do need authoritative education in sex and sexuality. However, using “they’re gonna do it anyway” as a justification for abandoning abstinence-centered sex education is poor pedagogy and dumb policy. The saturation of our media with messages encouraging poor sexual judgment is simply further reason why we need abstinence education, and can provide a myriad of examples of how the media sells an unrealistic expectation of sex without consequences.

Nevertheless, this is the strategy many educators want to pursue: to teach kids to rely on prophylactics and chemicals to minimize the risks of pre- and non-marital sex. In fact, Abraham titled her piece “Teaching Good Sex”, as if copulation within the bonds of a monogamous, permanent marriage open to procreation is by definition unsatisfying or substandard. (I’ve seen this dirty-only-if-it’s-done-right implication before, in a Young Catholics For Choice advertisement, and I remember that our culture’s sexual values are still largely informed by the mindless psychobabble, quasi-scientific research and half-digested Marxism of the 1960s.)


As you can tell from the links, there are many aspects to the problem with teaching sex-ed from a “safe sex” approach that I’ve written about before in other contexts. However, this topic gives us a good place to pull all the threads together:

  • Of parachutes and prophylactics: The main argument here is that having sex in a context where pregnancy and child-rearing are undesirable is poor judgment. Sex is not always healthy; abstention is not by definition unhealthy. The discipline necessary to take full advantage of pills and condoms can be better exercised by abstaining from sex when conception is not a preferred option.
  • Contraceptives are for suckers: While contraceptives and condoms reduce the risks of pregnancy and STDs, they don’t eliminate the risks. As a result, risk compensation behavior has overcome the prophylaxis of rubber and chemicals; the occurrences of teen pregnancy and single motherhood are far higher than they were a mere fifty years ago, despite near-universal access and incessant promotion.
  • Making the world safe for stupidity: Regardless of prophylaxis, certain sexual decisions are poor exercises of judgment beyond the risks of pregnancy or STDs. “If you’re gonna do it anyway” is an enabling statement; to teach to “they’re gonna do it anyway” is to enable and even give tacit approval of poor judgment.
  • The logical end of defensive warfare: Premarital sex and single parenthood put women on a path that often ends up in a downward economic slide from which they and their children have little hope of returning, despite the successes of the drive for equality. Overall, the “sexual revolution” has meant the devolution and destruction of institutions and customs that were women’s best protection.
  • Erica Jong’s poisoned sugar: Besides showing that current sexual behavior puts women at economic risk, the mounting evidence indicates that women also suffer more physically and psychologically than men from the current atmosphere of “serial monogamy”. Put another way, the so-called “sexual revolution” harmed women more than it helped.
  • Protecting the myth of childhood: As I said in Part I, the strong selling point of sex education is that, if kids don’t learn from a real Authority, they learn from some other pseudo-authoritative source. However, to teach to the principle of “they’re gonna do it anyway” is to continue the bad pedagogical method of lowering standards and dumbing down curriculum. Since sex is an adult behavior, the only way we get responsible adults who exercise good judgment and good behavior is to start teaching and demanding that good judgment and behavior early.

In summary, teaching “safe sex” only reinforces the multiple failures and misdirections of the “Sexual Revolution”. It doesn’t teach good sexual judgment; rather, it concretizes decades of poor theories either based on science fifty years out of date or with absolutely no grounding in experiential reality, while enabling poor sexual judgment based on the false promises of contraceptive technology. By pretending that things can never get better than they are now, such a strategy practically allows them to get worse, condemning young adults to uncorrected patterns of behavior that are already creating a virtual caste system and undoing the economic advances of women and minorities.

And all this in the name of being “progressive”.

I’m not a genius. Yet at ten years old I was able to connect the dots between sex and reproduction. Until our educators make the same connection, they shouldn’t be trusted with teaching our kids about sex.