Tuesday, February 01, 2005

If that doesn't work, then I'll just lock him in his room

Just recently Kiesha and I were speaking about what we would want Ruben to learn about sex in school, when we will have "the talk" with him, and what we want him to know about sex, love, STDs, the whole enchilada. Nothing really that I've thought about in great detail or have been planning since his birth since I don't expect my lil guy to be sexually active for quite a while (we can hope for maybe at least 20 years from now). Hahahaha.

I recognize that teen abstinence programs, virginity pledges, sex education in public schools, and contraception at schools are politicized issues and often times partisan. They really shouldn't but this is the society we live in. Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that teens having sex and teens having children are things we all would like to see significantly reduced. The statistics are scary. For instance, approximately a quarter of ninth grade girls and tenth grade boys reported having sex! This particular article on the failure of a teen abstinence program in Texas raises many questions for me.

The study findings state that more teenage boys and girls "reported" having sex after the abstinence only education. Now I may not be a sophisticated researcher but my hunch is that if some adult wanting to research sex abstinence programs comes around asking a teenager if they have had sex, the first knee jerk response from the teenager is likely to be "No". My guess is that marked increase may be an increase in honest "reporting", meaning that the actual number of teenagers in the study group who had already had sex was higher than what was originally reported. That is even scarier.

But assuming the reporting was honest, it is still difficult to say if abstinence programs work or not. It would be absurd to think that the goal of abstinence programs is to reduce teen sex to zero. I think that is what proponents would like to see but that is unrealistic. I think the goal should be to delay sex as much as possible. Statistics show that the rate of first having sex increases with age, so that by the time a boy reaches the age of 19, close to 9 in 10 boys would have already had sex and 8 in 10 girls.

Abstinence programs should do cohort studies where the study focuses on teenagers who have not had sex at age 15, provide abstinence programs at that point, track the teenagers until age 19 and see if the abstinance program delayed sex. If not, then we can toss out abstinence programs out the window. "Just say NO" didn't work for drugs, so why would we think it works for sex. Same thing for making contraception available at schools or teaching teenagers about contraception. I haven't come across a study that says this encourages teenagers to have sex or delays intercourse, I think it doesn't increase the rate of intercourse among teenagers, just the rate of protected intercourse.

All this makes me think about my sex education. My parents were by no means good teachers, they avoided having the talk with me entirely. Other than sage tidbits like, don't get involved with married women and don't get a girl pregnant if you aren't ready to take care of a family, they were silent on sex education. The sex education I did get in middle school was less about sex and more about human reproduction (i.e. having babies). That can scare anyone into not having sex. I took a human sexuality class in college. Needless to say I didn't have sex until college. I doubt it was Professor Bolton's human sex class that clinched the deal. I would say for me it was more a matter of being properly educated and informed about every aspect of sexual intercourse, feeling emotionally prepared to have it, and having an opportunity to have sex. This isn't to say that I wasn't a raging sexual hormone on feet up until that point because I was and I think that if we are all honest with ourselves we all are that way. Thus you can see that our young teenagers are having sex potentially because of opportunity while not being properly educated and prepared to deal with the potential aftermath. Thus I am a strong proponent of sex education and contraception in schools, but a bigger proponent of sex education for parents so that they can sit down with their kids and talk about sex in a mature manner. I think if all parents were well informed, raised their kids right, had the "sex talk" with their kids, that having contraception available at schools would in no way make their kids have sex. I think "contraception in schools" is an easy scapegoat for a parent who didn't do their parenting job right.

Thus as Ruben grows I think my job is going to be to properly educate Ruben on sex and love, teach him he shouldn't have sex because of peer pressure, teach him to respect women and other good moral values, teach him that he shouldn't have sex until he is in love and is mature enough to handle the consequences, and monitor who he sees and where he goes, and cross my fingers that he'll wait until he's in his twenties. If that doesn't work, then I'll just lock him in his room.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if you remember when mom and dad gave me the talk, but I think it was when I first got my period. I think it was more the whole belief that I might get pregnant. If only they knew that they wouldn't have a problem in that arena. I think both of you will know when the time is right. Mom decided to tell me about "being a woman" herself. A 10-year-old girl is not prepare to have her mother explain it to her. Ohhhh, if only you knew. But I know this for sure I was grateful. Sole