Birds Do It, Bees Do It, and So Do Teens

I’ve been reading other blogs and news stories centering on the revelation that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. As I previously stated, I have nothing but sympathy for Palin’s daughter who certainly didn’t ask to be shoved into this spotlight.

However, I confess that I don’t have much sympathy for Gov. Palin. I find her to be hypocritical, and contradictory in her beliefs. She has chosen to become a public figure; her daughter is off limits, but Palin is fair game. She chose to be in the spotlight.

Gov. Palin touts herself as pro-life, as if the other position is pro-death. I’ve never heard anyone speak in support of abortion, but I have heard and I have made the argument that it is a personal decision to choose what to do with one’s own body. I don’t see this as a simple decision and I worry about the consequences of the choices that women make, but I cannot accept that the larger society has the right to force a woman to take a pregnancy to term. I don’t expect that everyone will agree and I respect your right to hold a different point of view. That’s your choice, but you don’t get to make the choice for others. That’s the big difference between the pro-life position and the pro-choice position. The pro-life view makes the decision for everyone; the pro-choice decision says it is a private matter and an individual decision. Advocates for pro-choice have never told anyone that she must have an abortion; but advocates for pro-life want to have the right to tell every woman what she must do with her body, should she become pregnant.

My digression into a discussion about choice, doesn’t mean that I would advocate that Palin’s daughter have an abortion. I don’t believe in abortion; I believe in choice. She gets to choose whether or not to carry the pregnancy to term. (At least, I’d like to believe that she gets to make her own choice.)

However, my rant today isn’t really about Palin’s hypocrisy. I am more interested in the larger issue of a society that as a whole chooses to behave like the ostrich when it comes to deal with adolescents and sex.Sticking your head in the sand only results in getting sand up your nose.

From what I’ve gathered from the available information on Palin, she supports the teaching of abstinence only in the schools. I’m all for discouraging adolescents from engaging in sexual activity, but I don’t think that simply telling them “don’t do it” is an effective or responsible approach.

In my home state, for several years schools were only allowed to teach abstinence only in public school sex education classes. After concerns about the increased teenage pregnancy rate and the rise in sexually transmitted diseases, the law was modified to allow school systems to present the question to the parents–to teach a full sex ed course, including birth control and how to prevent STDs, or to continue to teach abstinence only. Regrettably, most parents gave a clear message to their school systems that they wanted to continue with teaching abstinence only. I say regrettably, because the result is that a great many adolescents are sexually active and sexually ignorant. Teaching abstinence doesn’t guarantee that they won’t engage in sexual activity, but it does guarantee that should they engage in sexual activity, they won’t have a clue as to how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

Think back to your own teenage years, did you choose to engage in or not engage in sexual activity based on whether or not you were exposed to a comprehensive sex ed curriculum? There is no statistical support to show that that teaching abstinence only causes teenagers to choose not to have sex, nor any evidence that teaching a fully realized sex ed curriculum causes teens to run out and become sexually active. However, not teaching teens about the consequences of unprotected sex does correlate with high rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

I have intentionally used the term sexual activity, because many adolescents consider that anything short of vaginal intercourse is not really sex. Not really surprising as we have some well-known adults who have expressed similar beliefs.

When I taught high school, after a year with a record number of teen pregnancies, one of my colleagues and I had an informal rap session with some of the teen mothers. I still recall with dismay the misinformation that I heard from those young girls. Beliefs such as standing up after sex could prevent pregnancy, and douching with coca-cola was an effective method of contraception. There was also one young lady who shared that she was on the pill but got pregnant nonetheless. Upon further questionning, she explained that she took her birth control pill every time she had sex. She missed the directions about taking it daily.

However, I was totally unprepared for the widely shared belief that oral sex wasn’t really sex, and was regarded as safe, because it couldn’t result in pregnancy. A report on teenage sexual activity released a couple of years ago reported that anal sex had risen in popularity with teens because it also didn’t result in pregnancy. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) didn’t appear to factor into the equation for the teens. Engaging in sexual activity isn’t rocket science and adolescents are definitely not scientists.

There is substantive research to support that effective parenting is the factor that has the most relevance in influencing the age at which an adolescent engages in his or her first sexual experience (once the barn door is opened, it is rarely closed tight again). That’s where family values play a role. Not the kind of family values that conservative websites spout on about, but family values centered in honest dialogue among parents and children about distinguishing love from sex, about dealing with those desires and feelings that are a natural part of growing up, and about making choices that are in your best interest.

The video is from the 1968 movie of Romeo and Juliet, teenagers who risked all for the passion of young love. The song is What Is a Youth?, similar in melody to the theme song of the film, A Time for Us.

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10 responses to “Birds Do It, Bees Do It, and So Do Teens

  1. “…it is a personal decision to choose what to do with one’s own body.”
    The only way anyone can live with themselves after having committed such a horrific act as killing their unborn child is to call it something else not so awful. Hitler called the systematic killing of 6 million Jews “The Final Solution”. so it wouldn’t sound quite as bad as genocide or mass murder. Modern society has called the systematic killing of 2 million unborn babies per year “a choice”. The main difference is that the Nazi’s stopped at 6 million.

    One very effective way to keep from becoming pregnant is to avoid exposure. We call that abstinence. As far as I know there has only been one case where abstinence was practiced and the woman became pregnant.

  2. To those who claim abstinence just doesn’t work, I say it is the practice of not observing abstinence that doesn’t work. Abstinence does work. Now if you want to discuss engaging in sexual behaviors without birth control that is a different story.

  3. As a former high school teacher, I suggest that JLF (and I’ll be shocked if it is not Mr. Fuller) is simply and tragically out of touch.

    As a middle-aged biologist, I also suggest that his defining abortion as a “horrific act” is hardly a starting point for rational discussion. Most abortions, whether induced or natural, involve small clusters of cells that have slightly more chance of becoming an individual than the unfertilized egg that all fertile women naturally dispose of at the end of each menstrual cycle.

    I am SO much more concerned with the life of the mother-to-be.

  4. As retired parole officer who0 dealt with the real problems created by inappropriate teaching and thinking processes, I suggest biology teachers are part of the problem.

  5. By that I mean you only teach the science of what is happening and not the responsiblity for the behavior.

  6. By reducing the process to its scientific story and denying the child the sociology and psychological effects that result from an abortion, you have essentially denied the baby its humanity. You (broadly speaking now) have done exactly what the slave owners did. You deny one part of our society their rightful place by saying they are not human and have no value. It is an horrific act. And when the young woman finally understands what she has done she is scarred for life. The only way you can get away with what you do is to de-humanize the fetus and claim an abortion is not really killing an unborn child but just making the girls life easier. Of course bringing an unwanted child into the world is a huge burden. But killing it moves the whole sordid affair from tragic to monstrous. I haven’t touched on the aspects of any discussion because of the limitations of space and time. Readers also know there is another side to the issue beyond abortion on demand for any reason and that is the abstinence and prevention debate.

  7. I should have re-read and edited that piece a bit better. Sorry.

  8. I’m sorry, but where in my previous post did I indicate that I “deny the sociology and psychological effects” of any aspect of teenage sexuality? Or that I “only taught the science of what is happening and not the behavior”? That is absurd.

    I always taught that abstinence was the best policy since it was the only foolproof method of birth control and STD prevention. But I was wise enough to realize that stopping there was foolish. I distinctly remember a day in the midst of a series of classes I had been teaching about sex and reproduction, when I instructed students to clear their desks except for a blank sheet of paper. Then I instructed them to close their eyes for at least five minutes and think about the letter they would write on that piece of paper after learning that they, or their boy/girlfriend, brother, mother, etc. had AIDS.

    I watched a roomful of faces with eyes closed, some quietly crying as they wrestled with the fallout from being sexually active. I have not forgotten it.

    And as for saying that my choosing to allow that fourteen year-old to continue her life without the burden of motherhood makes me equivalent to a slave owner…. I hope that comment would have part of what you wish you had edited out.

  9. Teachers who have been unwilling to teach morality in school are just as much a part of the problem as parents who refuse to do the same.
    There are real consequenses to people’s lives for being politically correct. I saw them every day for 25 years. Young people who were not taught right from wrong are not adequately prepared to face the real world decision making environment.

    People commit crimes for two reasons. 1. A sense of entitlement and 2. A belief they can get away with it. Inappropriate personal sexual behavior is looked upon in the same manner. Failure to teach children about personal responsibility can be laid at the foot of every teacher whether he or she is a parent or professional teacher.

    One last thing. Making policy to fit the infrequent occurance results in political correctness.

  10. “And as for saying that my choosing to allow that fourteen year-old to continue her life without the burden of motherhood makes me equivalent to a slave owner…. I hope that comment would have part of what you wish you had edited out.

    No. Participating in an abortion makes you a killer.

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