Crossposted at One Utah
So, in a move that surprised me, Gov. Herbert vetoed the legislature's regressive, ignorant, fear based sex education bill.
The issue of sex education - especially abstinence only - is going to come back. The pig-ignorant fool who sponsored the original bill had this to say:
Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, who sponsored HB363, said the issue is not about starting a conversation, but about stopping a movement. He said he is concerned that proponents of teaching contraception in schools are part of a national movement to include standardized sex education as part of the core curriculum.
"National groups are pushing a national core on sex education," Wright said. "This is not a Utah topic. This is far beyond Utah." [snip]
Wright said it is "intellectually dishonest" to teach teenagers about contraception at all, because abstinence, not contraception, is the only sure way to prevent STDs or pregnancy before marriage, he said.
"When they are ready to get married, they can be taught how to use contraceptives," Wright said.
I'm sure he means well, but Bill Wright clearly knows nothing about sexuality or contemporary sexual behaviors. I grew up in a small town in Utah where the teenagers were forever knotting and gendering like toads in a cistern. The high school graduation nearly had to provide daycare so students could take their walk. It hasn't changed; if anything, the behaviors have become more widespread. Teens have sex. Utah's teens are also experiencing high rates of STDs.
Arguments for abstinence only, for not discussing contraception, are based on the false assumption that access to and knowledge about contraception gives teens permission to have sex, and that without such access and knowledge, teens will foreswear sexual activity. In essence, in this way of thinking, a condom is a permission slip for sex rather than a necessary piece of personal protection.
I prefer starting from the perspective of reality. Humans are sexual beings. We are interested in sex, we enjoy sex, and we have sex. Abstinence only education fails to meet the needs of too many teenagers. Even teens are capable of engaging in fulfilling and emotionally satisfying sexual behaviors (behaviors which may or may not include intercourse). I know such ideas feel radical and even unnerving to a great many traditionalists and social conservatives but I believe they make sense. Teens who are taught that they shouldn't engage in sexual behaviors until they are read to engage in them responsibly, to manage the risks and consequences both emotional and physical, who are given the full range of information, including accurate information about how to use contraception, are more likely to delay sexual intercourse than teens who are not given comparable information.
The liberal approach to sexuality has its flaws. Most liberals want to engage in a "just the facts" discussion which can make sexuality seem like a technical problem to be solved. When we talk about the emotional side, we tend toward a sunny optimism that can gloss over the surprising cruelties people can inflict on another in romantic situations - we hope no one will use someone else or mistreat them so we can fail to discuss those things. We have our blind spots.
I'll take the liberal approach for all its flaws to the conservative approach:
"I'm not saying that you never look at it again," Wahlstrom said. "I think the majority of the parents like the way it is now in most districts." Still, there are ways to improve sex education in Utah, such as teaching about the emotional costs — even suicide — that can result from teenage sexual activity, she said.Awfulizing sexuality, making it into an uncontrollable monster that will destroy you. It's about scaring kids chaste.
"My goal is to create education that is articulated from a scientific perspective and from a health education perspective," Osmond said. The facts of contraception and sexually transmitted diseases speak for themselves, and will teach that sexual abstinence before marriage is indeed the best choice, he said.By all means, the conversation should be at home - but it should also be in schools and workplaces and in public. Because sexuality isn't just a private thing we do behind closed doors, it has public health impacts which as a community we can address maturely and completely without needing to terrorize people into keeping their knees together and praying.
"Let the moral conversation be at home with the parents."