So, as previously posted, Dr Miriam Grossman visited our shores, at the invitation of Family Fist. If you missed her on Close Up, the video is now up on their site, and it’s totally worth it just for Mark Sainsbury’s rather matter-of-fact “but don’t adults have oral sex too?” line of follow-up questions. 5 points to House Glorious Moustache.
Anyway, here’s my thoughts on the matter, based on my notes from the original screening because I don’t want to end up yelling at my monitor. Again.
Dr Grossman’s basic claimed thesis is that sex education isn’t actually giving kids full, in her words life-saving information (bingo!) about the medical dangers of dirty, dirty sex. This is, on the surface, an objectively bad thing, since proponents of sex ed also talk about being concerned that kids need to be informed.
The fact that her only example of this is that none of our Family Planning / sex ed websites mention that oral sex causes throat cancer leads one neatly into her very thinly-veiled actual thesis:
Sex ed isn’t oriented toward scaring kids away from having sex.
For all the talk of sex being “a medical issue” and that we should “tell the truth” about sex, what it boils down to – and the related reading in my previous post contains more examples of this – is that “full information” means lying to kids by saying things like (direct quote from Close Up):
To be sexually active during the teen years, with multiple partners, is high risk – you’re going to get an infection.
My Twitter and Facebook feeds were hilariously flooded that night with people declaring they were obviously freaks of nature, given how they’d been sexually active teens with multiple partners and managed not to get any infections. Clearly, our sexuality education is a miserable failure, what with it enabling their safe sexual activity instead of scaring them into abstinence as God intended.
(Meanwhile, Dr Katie Fitzpatrick talked about teaching young people to have critical thinking skills, looking at a range of information … the sex-encouraging teen-pimping Satanist.)
Grossman also criticised Family Planning pamphlets telling young people that sex was their choice, apparently assuming that the only sex-related pressure teens come under is from *adopt martyred pose* People Who Just Want Them To Wait For Their Own Good. In Grossman’s world, of course, there’s no pressure on teens to have sex before they’re ready, which maybe we might want to mitigate by telling them they have a right to autonomy and to say no and that their consent is an important thing which should be recognised. Nah, they just need to be protected by the evil forces of sex-encouragement.
The logical conclusion to this, of course, is that “full information” from Grossman’s perspective is information which causes teens to not have sex. Which seems … I don’t know, a little presumptive? What if teens read about the scary throat-cancer dangers of oral sex* and still decide “actually, I’m ready to have sex”?
I’d guess we’d be in for some weasel-word-filled equivalent of “if they still want to have sex it’s because they’re stupid/not really informed/sinful and thus deserve to get STIs due to not being taught about condoms.”
Here’s the thing. When you don’t tell kids about sex and contraception, you put them at risk. When you make sex a no-no topic, you protect sexual predators. When you try to make sex a big scary monster in a world where sex is constantly portrayed as fun, loving, exciting, the ultimate display of their commitment, they’re going to do what teens have done since the dawn of adolescence: write you off as another stupid adult who’s just telling them what to do because you get off on your bullshit adult authori-taaaaa.
And then when their boyfriend pressures them into something they’re not comfortable with (probably after reading Cosmo) and their girlfriend gets pregnant and kicked out of home and their partner cheats on them and gives them that infection which Dr Grossman is so concerned about … it’s going to be a fuckload harder on them having no adult they can trust to help them.
But hey, it’s not about the kids, is it? It’s about Moral Authorities getting to wag their fingers and impose their prescribed way of life through fear, manipulation, lies, and treating those who don’t measure up like shit to bring the others into line.
I defer the last word to Jackie Edmond of Family Planning, quoted in the Herald:
“We don’t aspire to talking about the ideal of one sexual relationship. We are pragmatic – and we are dealing with young people.”
*A risk which just coincidentally disproportionately affects hetero girls and gay boys but allows jocks to get head to their heart’s content, and is actually linked to HPV, which (a) WE HAVE A VACCINE FOR NOW and (b) LESS PREVALENT WHEN PEOPLE HAVE SAFE SEX