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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.

"Let the moral conversation be at home with the parents."

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.
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Comment Preferences

  •  T&R..good news but u might want to add state (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billmosby, SallyCat

    I had to google

    Gov. Herbert to see it is Utah

  •  Third paragraph after squigley- typo 2nd sentence (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billmosby, Cassandra Waites, Wee Mama

    probably should read "...are sexual beings..."

    "'s difficult to imagine what else Republicans can do to drive women away in 2012, unless they decide to bring back witch-hanging. And I wouldn't put it past them." James Wolcott

    by Mayfly on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:50:54 AM PDT

  •  I collect hilarious "spell-o" examples, so (5+ / 0-)

    thanks for this chuckle, which is an obvious case of autocompletion or spell checker error:

    "Humans are sexual behinds." I know you meant "beings", of course. I have seen monkeys who might be described as having sexual behinds, but we're often a more frontal type of being. lol.

    Ok, now that we have had our little laugh, I do have a bit of experience in rural Mormon areas, and I can only corroborate what you have to say about teen sexual behavior in such communities. I had 4 Mormon stepdaughters at one point, and the oldest 3 had produced 6 grandchildren before I departed.  Only about half of them had been born in wedlock. After I left, the youngest stepdaughter went down the same path.

    In many cases in that neighborhood, girls were fully aware of what they were doing, and what they were doing was finding a way to get out of their mothers' houses and out of caring for their mothers' later children.

    That was near Rigby, Idaho. The high school in Rigby was said to have school colors of "pink and blue". Its mascot, the Trojans, was also said to have  never been seen in the area. I guess you could say that if the kids knew of that brand of condom, trying to prevent educating them about contraceptives was a bit late.

    I kind of knew where the youngest stepdaughter was headed. She was outwardly the quiet, intelligent, yet obedient type. I had to deliver a note to her at school one day, and found that instead of books, her apparently weighty backpack contained a change of clothes and a lot of makeup. Her mom never checked it, I suppose. Anyway, she was all "tarted up" to such a degree that I didn't recognize her at first. She was about 13 at the time. Turns out she had learned a lot from her sisters, and followed their path as she grew up.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 07:54:32 AM PDT

    •  Sigh. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billmosby, trumpeter

      Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

      by Wee Mama on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 08:19:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Young people are trapped in many rural areas (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billmosby, trumpeter, luckylizard

      And I'm not just referring to economics and careers.  

      I think about the girls in the small town I'm from and I see them trapped in a host of ideas about family and women and love.  Many of them were taught their highest value was being a mother.   Their parents had been high school sweethearts who got knocked up and married and never divorced.  They were taught that education was unimportant.  They were taught that they should fall in love and get married and most importantly that a career means drudgery.  Worse, they're taught that they have no viable socially acceptable options besides marriage.  You either get married and are a wife and mom or you are a slut.  So they're trapped in a web of expectations from which they can't find an escape.

      Part of the dynamic is adults pretending teens are only going to be sexual if someone tells them about it or they get married.  They dismiss teen pregnancy as the exception even though it's absurdly common.  And they assume if a girl isn't pregnant, she's not having sex.

      A quick story:  My niece grew up in the same town.  One day, she, age 18 at the time, went to the pharmacy to buy condoms.  The local pharmacist refused because my niece was unmarried.  He then called my sibling to tell on my niece.  My sibling was outraged and said, "Why the hell didn't you sell her the condoms?  I don't have time to buy them for her and I sure as hell don't want her having sex without them."  To this day, that pharmacist won't look my sibling or my niece in the eye.

      •  That's a better explanation than mine, thanks. (0+ / 0-)

        Also, I wonder if the pharmacist would be in trouble if he did that now, in the age of HIPAA. I know of a case at the U of U hospital in which someone lost a job and was prosecuted over a HIPAA violation involving celebrity medical information.

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:13:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          trumpeter, billmosby

          The incident with the pharmacist was less than five years ago and since condoms are over the counter I'm not sure they're covered by HIPAA.

          FWIW, the boys were trapped by the same web of expectations but it plays out differently for the genders.  

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