I’m not a fan (to say the least) of the abstinence-only programs because, as Bristol Palin once said, they aren’t realistic. Having said that, I do think these programs have a point. It’s just that I think their methods suck. First of all, they don’t do an adequate job of teaching sex education and birth control methods because they’re afraid that doing so encourages young people to have sex. As if young people aren’t capable of coming up with the idea all on their own. Secondly, with all the purity balls and promise rings, they’re targeting the wrong sex. It’s not the girls who need to be told to be abstinent. They’re not usually the ones pushing for sexual experimentation. At the risk of sounding like a mother/an old fuddy duddy, we need to concentrate on the boys.
Instead of putting the onus on the girls to stave off the boys, we need to be teaching our boys that they have no right to pressure girls into having sex. We need to teach them about sexual harassment and date rape. And more than anything, we need to teach them respect. They can’t just “use” girls to satisfy their sexual longings. Sure, they’re curious and anxious to prove their masculinity. But there are better ways to do that than by spreading around venereal diseases and fathering babies. In fact, the best way to prove that you’re a man is to take responsibility for your actions. And to not force or coerce another human being to do things that are against her self-interests.There is no excuse for letting “boys be boys.” If they think that they’re grown up enough to have sex, then let them act like it.
I’m sure there are girls who seek out sexual experiences. But they tend to do so more out of a desire to be popular with the boys than because their hormones are raging out of control. The feminist movement has to carry some blame for the fact that girls are becoming more sexually active and at earlier ages. We’ve been telling women for sixty years or more that they have a right to enjoy themselves sexually, just as much of a right as men have. Of course, that was in the days before AIDS. Casual sex wasn’t seen as something that could kill you.
We need to take a good hard look at ourselves and the messages that we’re sending to young men and women. Are we promoting casual, irresponsible sex in our own lives? Or are we modeling mutual respect and responsibility? We also need to know what our young people are watching on TV and in the movies and listen to the lyrics in their music. And then we need to talk with them about the what’s wrong with some of the messages they’ve been receiving.
We also need to realize that there is a radical difference between a seventeen or eighteen-year-old and an eleven or twelve-year-old. Abstinence isn’t just a slogan for our young teens and pre-teens; it should be a given. There’s no way that our children (because that’s what they are) should be experimenting with sex when they’re not mature enough to handle it. We’re the parents and guardians. We have the right to limit unsupervised contact with the opposite sex. I know that teens can always find opportunities for sexual behavior, but we shouldn’t make it easy for them. And we should always make it clear where we stand. Do you have the guts to stand up to your kids and tell them not just that they should say no, but that you’re saying no?
I don’t mean to sound like an expert, because I’m not. All I am is someone with some experience in these matters, both as a woman and as a mother of four daughters. It’s easy to look backwards and figure out how I could have handled things differently.
My oldest daughter now has a son who’s on the brink of puberty (he just asked her what puberty meant the other day–that’s a bad sign). She hammers the theme of respect into him every chance she gets. It will be interesting to see how he treats girls when he starts dating. I have a feeling that he won’t be one of the boys who tells a girl “If you love me, you’ll do it with me.”
Feminism’s answer to the problem of inappropriate sex among minors is not only to raise the consciousness of girls–because for one thing, most girls already get it. It’s also to raise the consciousness of boys, to let them know whom they’re hurting when they push their sexual agendas.
And by the way, has anyone heard the term “delayed gratification?”