Thursday, April 16, 2009

I would jump of the bridge if it was on fire (and everyone was doing it)

Via Feminist Law Professors I came across this article by Ian Ayers of Freaknomics fame.

In the article Ayers argues that perhaps we should educate teenagers that about 50% of them graduate virgins to combat the misguided notion (held by teenagers) that all of them are doing it.

The presumption behind this article is that remaining a virgin until post-high school graduation has some inherent value and that knowing this stat would decrease the number of teenagers who have sex pre-graduation. However, if Ayers is worried that teenagers are rushing to have (unsafe?) sex to join their peers, his own article refutes that concern (he states that the rate of teens who are actually having sex before graduating has remained the same for the past five years. As depictions of teen sex become more prevalent in our society, the number of teenagers having sex before graduation has remained the same).

Now onto the value of virginity. Perhaps the value in virginity consist in the fact that delaying sex until college means delaying exposure to the risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. However, a campaign that emphasizes "more of your peers are virgins than you think" sounds suspiciously like a spin off of "virginity is cool so sign this purity pledge" thing.

I think "virginity is a valid choice" has a place at the table in sex education, but in recent years marketing "virginity" to teenagers has proved to be ineffectual (and in cases where it has eclipsed comprehensive sex education, damaging), in part, I think, because it's built on the false premise that Ayers seems to buy into a bit. Ayers' reading of teenage sexuality assumes that the pressure to have sex comes from the outside, from believing that "everyone is doing it" and from seeing this reflected in pop culture. In reality, I think when thinking about sex education for teenagers we should begin from a place that acknowledges that some teenagers [1] want to have sex for the same reasons some adults do, as an expression of a biological drive, a desire for physical pleasure, and/or a need to express deep emotions towards someone. Telling these teenagers "you know, not everyone is doing this" isn't helpful. In fact, it's kind of condescending.

When you consider that teenage sexuality is often driven by the same impulses as adult sexuality (but perhaps hindered by teenager's less developed grasp of the consequences of and risks associated with their actions) it's easy to see why sex education messages that rely on conveying the "coolness" or even "normative-ness" of virginity fail. It doesn't matter if not as many people as you formerly thought were doing it are actually doing it, if your body, mind and heart are telling you that you do want to do it.

Our focus should be on providing comprehensive sex education and safe-sex, actively seeking consent, high-self esteem behavior models to teenagers (and the high-self esteem, seeing other people as human beings with agency behavior models should start well before teenage-hood).

[1] I say "some teenagers" and "some adults" here to acknowledge that not everyone identifies as having sexual drives.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Everyday is a things I like day

"It is because these characters depend to such a high degree on their own sense of integrity that for them, victory has nothing to do with happiness. It has more to do with a settling within oneself, a movement inward that makes them whole. Their reward is not happiness...What James's characters gain is self-respect."
- Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi

Painting is by Carole Marine and she has more for sale (follow the link).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Georgia O'Keefe Summer Days 1936

Found this image in this blog.

Monday, April 6, 2009

This tornado loves you

Things I learned about myself this weekend: I can run ten miles in 90 minutes. I still love dogs, but prefer not to be licked. I kill plants. Dishwashers are amazing. I need very little (and a lot at the same time) to be happy.