Well, another lethal blow to my ego: no one in the mainstream media reads my blog.
That’s the only reason I can think for them breathlessly covering a “report” from Family First – who, let’s all remember, were de-registered as a charity, in part because all their “research” is baseless propaganda – which dishonestly covers much the same ground I did nearly a year ago.
That is, the dark, seedy underbelly of New Zealand’s sex ed websites.
If only I’d published my post as a “critical review” under the banner of some vocal, extremist Christians, then the mainstream media might have
taken me seriously published my opinions as though they were fact.
Anyway, you should totally go check out my original post, if only because there are balloon animals fucking each other in it.
Our problem in New Zealand is not that the resources produced by great organisations like Family Planning and Rainbow Youth are wrong. It is that we know what works but have failed to ensure that every school uses a sexuality education approach consistent with these criteria.
And one of the obstacles in our way is extreme conservatives trying to force a ludicrous Mad-Men-if-you’ve-never-actually-watched-Mad-Men style of morality on us.
Dr Miriam Grossman, who thinks all comprehensive sex ed should strongly emphasise that performing fellatio even once gives you a 120% chance of dying of throat cancer, has made a shocking discovery which will rock the foundations of the evil, slutty pro-sex-ed movement to the core.
their sexual history.
Holy fucking shit.
Well, this sure screws us, doesn’t it? All the time we pro-sex-ed people have put into our solitary key message – “just ask people about their sexual past and believe everything they say” – well, that was a waste. Because people lie.
Oh my god.
If only we’d thought to make multiple points, like:
- it’s a great idea to discuss your partner’s sexual history and ask if they’ve had a recent STI check
- even if they say they’re STI-free, using barrier methods like condoms can greatly reduce your chances of contracting an STI
And if only we’d thought to make comprehensive information about STIs available on some kind of common knowledge-sharing platform, like a website!
We are undone. Cancel the sexual health talks, burn the informative posters, sell the domain names. If we can’t even figure out that people lie and that we need to advice people on how they can keep themselves safe in a world where people lie … well, what good are we?
Leading today’s “most full-of-shit” headlines:
but I’m sure I can’t blame Voxy for that. The opening:
Family First NZ has sent a DVD presentation entitled “You’re Teaching My Child What? Sex Education: A Psychiatrist Calls Foul” to every school principal and every Board of Trustees in New Zealand, highlighting the dangers of Family Planning and Rainbow Youth’s sex education programmes, resources and websites which fail to tell the full facts and which compromise the concerns and wishes of parents, and the safety of young people.
After that it’s basically a copy-paste of their arguments from the last round of this particular lie-cycle, which may leave you wondering exactly what the “agenda” of these malicious “sex ed groups” is. The closest thing you can find in the actual text is:
The current approach … says the moral absolute is – use condoms.
Which is obviously a terrible, terrible message (actually true, insofar as it ignores non-condom-relevant sexy fun times.)
But it’s not much of an agenda.
Here’s my theory: the usual catch-cry in United States antichoice propaganda is “Planned Parenthood profits off killing babies”. But in NZ we have that most terrible of things, free healthcare. Which means on the few occasions Family First etc, whose rhetoric and arguments are basically copy-pasted from US antichoice orgs, have tried to play the “evil doctors want to make your daughters pregnant so they can make money” card, it’s entirely failed to create any real drama.
But fundies aren’t particularly creative, so they’ve stuck with the SCARY HIDDEN AGENDA tagline and then failed to realise they don’t mention what said scary hidden agenda is.
Of course, there’s plenty of implication left: the word “agenda” when connected with groups like Rainbow Youth (who do a fucking good job combating the kind of hate-speech which Family First et al propagate under the guise of “values” … and then act all shocked when we have rampant STIs and youth suicide) obviously connotes the Gay Agenda, by which evil homosexuals try to Turn Our Kids Gay with subversive messages about “listening to your feelings” and “not hating yourself”.
Judging by the current approach’s results – which is a good place to start – sex education has been an utter failure.
You’ve got to love how a one-man band like Family First, which is apparently dedicated to not letting your kids know about penises and vaginas and clitorises, claims that our current rates of STIs and teen pregnancy is entirely the fault of the system they continually undermine. A system which isn’t a mandatory part of our school curriculums, and which is implemented on a school-by-school basis.
If Family First had a smidgen of intellectual honesty (ha) they’d compare the rates of STIs and pregnancies in schools which allow and promote Family Planning and Rainbow Youth and furthermore place importance on teaching kids about sex and feelings and consent, with those schools where kids’ exposure to naughty naughty sex is limited to a lecture about how AIDS will kill you and a screening of The Silent Scream.
I’m pretty sure it would be illuminating. Which is why they don’t do it.
In my last post I talked about Dr Miriam Grossman and how her objections to sexuality education were passed off as being about “full information” (clearly the fundy meme for 2012). The other thing that struck me was her insistence on making the conversation not about morals or ethics or even in any way religious. From an article in the Herald:
I’m not talking about morality, I’m a physician
Yes. And you’re also of orthodox Jewish faith, and you’ve also been brought here to speak by Family First, who talk about morality a lot.
And … hang on … the FAQ on Family Fist’s website is “Adapted from “The Natural Family – A Manifesto” – World Congress of Families”. And the World Congress of Families is a “project” of The Howard Centre for Family, Religion and Society, and their site is just chocka with religious writings – writings which are, interestingly, somewhat open to non-Judeo-Christian religious teachings, but only if they’re sufficiently patriarchal and anti-sex, of course. (Please note in the linked article that it’s assumed the divorce rate in highly religious couples is lower than average. Yes, when you’re convinced your choice is between an eternity in Hell or 20 more years with this bastard, I can’t think how that could happen.)
Point is, your fundamentalist faith of choice is there, and it’s the basis of Grossman’s/Family First’s/etc teachings (or, alternatively, their Unbiased Medical Research just happens to correlate with 3,000-year-old dogma) but gosh are they cagey about waving the God flag when they’re telling us what to do.
Let’s face it, the early 21st century is actually a bit of a shit time for fundy conservatives. When the Pope gets out in his Popemobile and says “homosexuality is bad, mmkay” a large chunk of the Western world goes “lol, shut up, you don’t really have a clue, do you?”. Yes, there are also significant areas where religious moral rectitude holds sway – and endangers people’s lives – but there’s not the society-wide “hush, Man of God is talking” reaction that maybe the various churches or Maxim Insitute-esque lecturers on morality used to get in the Dark Ages, or the 50s.
So coming out and saying what they really think – “Our particular deity says any sex outside the hetero married cock-vag style is a no-no” doesn’t get a lot of traction outside their own, already-converted audience.
Hence, the medical information thing. Doesn’t it sound lovely and neutral? “Hey now, we just want accurate, unbiased medical information to be taught to our kids.” It’s so safe! And unpreachy! Maybe they just have everyone’s best interests at heart!
And then we remember that the kind of people who say this are coming from a point of view which says that even acknowledging that sometimes Boys Like Other Boys and Girls Like Other Girls is “teaching morality”. They think that saying “sometimes [basically, all the time] some people have sex before they tie the knot in a god-approved ceremony” is ideological. Not, you know, basic social fact.
On the other hand, skewing the information given to teens so that it’s all about “you only want to shag because of your hormones and they make you dumb” and “who cares if the nerve endings like a tickle, God WAIT NO WE MEANT SCIENCE designed your ass for only one purpose” is just giving them “full information” (TM).
The forces of evil, aka “the moral majority” are very good at a couple of things: incrementalism (oh, we just want parental notification laws, and we only want to make sure you’re sure about having sex, and we’re merely protecting sex workers by forcing them off the streets) and subverting progressive language (full information! Medical issue! I just don’t want my kids preached to!).
They are liars. They don’t care if your kid gets HPV and dies of cervical cancer, or gets another kid pregnant and has to drop out of varsity to support their new “family”. Every time their actions cause you harm they sincerely see that as proving that they were right all along. It’s fucking sociopathic. Don’t buy it.
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
Dr Miriam Grossman was on our televisions tonight. She’s been brought to New Zealand by Family Fist, who just love her anti-sexuality-education ways.
This is a topic I feel particularly strongly about, so I’m going to go away and work on a bigger, more in-depth post, but I’m going to let you cogitate on her final words on tonight’s Close Up:
“The sexual urge is healthy and wonderful. It’s when teens act on that urge that it’s not healthy.”
Unpacking that convoluted bit of sex-shaming should keep you busy, but if you want some more background on Dr Grossman:
From Bruce Llama: Grossman and sex
Feministing: Miriam Grossman is teaching my child what? and discovers a fucking hilarious “sex ed” website based largely on her work (new favourite phrase: YOUR FERTILITY IS A WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY THAT WILL CLOSE)
GayNZ: Who is Miriam Grossman?