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the girl with violets in her lap [userpic]

January 24th, 2008 (12:30 am)
thoughtful

current mood: thoughtful

"In a perfect world, no teenager would be having sex. We all know there isn't a 15-year-old alive who is ready emotionally, physically, spiritually, or financially to live with the consequences." -Nancy Keenan, NARAL president*

I find it very hard to decide whether I agree with that or not. I mean, okay, so I know that the statement as it reads is dumb - the statement that there "isn't a 15-year-old alive" who's ready for sex is ridiculous - but I'm thinking of it less on a literal level, and wondering more about generalities. Is it true that there is only a statistically negligible percentage of fifteen-year-olds who are ready for sex at fifteen? Can we make the blanket statement that teenagers should not have sex? Even if I concede the issue on ideological grounds, I'm not sure it has any contact with a reality in which teenagers' sex drives start to run amok when they hit fourteen or fifteen. But my question goes beyond that; I'm honestly not sure that I agree that teenagers are almost inevitably too immature for sex. I should figure out whether I do agree. It would be helpful knowledge in writing the Beth book.

Anyway, I posted it because if y'all want to discuss, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Comment away.

*Quote is a passing remark in this link, leading to a Slate article that I find interesting, thought-provoking, and somewhat shallow and poorly considered in its own approach to the subject. I feel that way about a whole lot of Slate articles.

Comments

Posted by: Spencer Irving (archaica)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 01:55 pm (UTC)

What "consequences?" The consequences of having an orgasm?

Oh, wait, that's right. She means the consequences set up by society - like, having a baby, because society won't give teenagers access to contraception or birth control or sex ed information, because that would make them more likely to have sex (News to society - information doesn't make it more likely for kids to have sex, it makes them more likely to have happy, good, safe sex). She means the consequences of a society which is simultaneously obsessed with sex and puritanical about it, driving any consideration or discussion of sexual desire on the part of teenagers into the realm of perversion and pedophilia. She means the consequences of an establishment so eager to kowtow to the right wing that instead of discussing the inherent foolishness of abstinence-only education, and the benefit to society of raising informed, non-sex-negative adults (I don't demand that everyone be a "let's get laid!" sex-positive activist, just someone who doesn't hate their genitals), we admit that blinkered ignorance is a legitimate point of view, and therefore act in opposition to that, treating sex like a hazard of car wreck to be mitigated, rather than something which, with caution, can be enjoyed.

Teenagers are not inevitably too immature - anecdotally I can prove it, as I've had friends who had great sex in their teenage years (I've also had friends who had awful sex in their teenage years, but if we allowed negatives to disallow things for anyone, we'd all be dry because of drunken Uncle Frank). But more to the point, teenagers should be experimenting with sex during their teenage years. If not then, when? When they're away from home and their support systems, in college, where Mommy and Daddy can feel good because little Janie is getting double-teamed in her dorm room instead of in her bedroom with the My Little Pony posters? After they've graduated, when their lack of sex in high school and college makes them feel like there's something wrong with them and suddenly they can't orgasm with a man? Putting off sexual development in the interests of some modern over-protective notion of "girlhood" or "childhood" (because let's face it, when people talk about 15-year-olds having sex, they're talking about girls - young male sexuality might as well be explored for all it's worth!) is just asinine nonsense. Maybe if little Janie *had* more information, she'd be better off, rather than putting off her sexual development until she's "out of sight, out of mind".

And, my third and final point: There's a lot of adults who are too immature for sex. Yes, sex is an emotional and potentially shattering experience. If you have great sex with someone, and then you're treated cruelly, or you find the sex disappointing and don't bother to keep that off your face, it can be crushing for the partner. But, again, find me an adult who fucks up a sexual relationship, and I'll find you a teenager who handles a sexual relationship just as well as we would hope all adults would. Are teenagers, as a whole, a class of assholes and emotionally stunted morons? Pretty much. But saying that "no teenager should be having sex" just betrays a very, very narrow view of what sex means, to my mind.

Posted by: Ponykins (rolypolypony)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC)

*applauds*

WELL SAID!

Posted by: Spencer Irving (archaica)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)

Thanks!

Posted by: Spencer Irving (archaica)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)

Oh, and having read the Saletan article (isn't this the guy who was going on about how blacks may just be intellectually inferior to whites, maybe, possibly?), I think his latching onto this comment you cite as an example of courageous truth-telling which should be adopted by those in the pro-choice movement in order to mollify their adversaries and the American public is concern-trollishness of the highest order, and *definitely* indicative of shallow and poorly-considered thinking.

Posted by: Underwear Ninja (chavvah)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)

having read the Saletan article (isn't this the guy who was going on about how blacks may just be intellectually inferior to whites, maybe, possibly?)

I seem to recall that he was the one telling people to dump their fat friends because fat friends make you fat. BECAUSE FAT IS CONTAGIOUS.

Clearly one of the world's great masters of logical reasoning.

Posted by: Spencer Irving (archaica)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 04:39 pm (UTC)

Well, because The Fat is like The Gay. If we tolerate it, we allow it to flourish!

Come to think of it, that's kinda like the attitude on display about teen sex, too.

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Spencer Irving (archaica)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)

Well, as far as I know, girls don't reach full maturity until around 18, so that's the optimal time to start having babies, but you're quite right that for thousands of years people *did* have babies at that age (I don't know anything about how separable infant - or, for that matter, maternal - mortality rates at different ages are from differences in medical technology over time, so I'm not able to say that a lot of those girls *died* while having babies, even though that's my thought). The concept of emotional readiness is entirely a product of the culture, and that's really the issue at hand.

Posted by: electric misfit love machine (eyelid)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Spencer Irving (archaica)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)

Posted by: electric misfit love machine (eyelid)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Spencer Irving (archaica)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)

Posted by: epilimnion (epilimnion)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)

Well said. And it brings up a facet of sex education and rhetoric that I have always found frustrating. Our culture only wants to address sex in the teenage years when it comes to sex education. Debates rage as to whether providing BC info to teens will encourage them to have sex right then, while completely ignoring the fact that whether they have sex at 16 or wait until they are 26, BC information will be crucial. And guess what, safe sex info isn't beamed into your mind when you reach whatever age your culture deems appropriate.

I've found that the questions you have to answer for yourself before going ahead with a sexual relationship don't really change with age, it's only the answers that (are likely to) change. How will I prevent pregnancy and disease? What will I do about accidental pregnancy? Will sex have a negative effect on this relationship? Will it have a negative effect on my feelings about myself? All those issues are just as relevant at 15 as they are at 35.

I wish we were sex-positive enough to educate teens about sex in such a way that they can make healthy choices throughout their lives, not just just so we can discourage them from having disasterous sex in their teens. Like Archaica and others said, adults can and do make bad sex decisions too, especially if they are uneducated about it. We teach kids lots of things not (only) so they can do well during their childhood, but so that they will do well as adults.

Posted by: Spencer Irving (archaica)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)

Our culture only wants to address sex in the teenage years when it comes to sex education.

Or, worse yet, not educating them, and leaving them entirely unprepared for what their bodies are doing to them, and addressing their sexuality only in the breach (Hi, Grandma!)

Also, "safe sex info isn't beamed into your mind when you reach whatever age your culture deems appropriate" made me laugh. And it's true.

Edited at 2008-01-24 04:06 pm (UTC)

Posted by: the girl with violets in her lap (slammerkinbabe)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)

Debates rage as to whether providing BC info to teens will encourage them to have sex right then, while completely ignoring the fact that whether they have sex at 16 or wait until they are 26, BC information will be crucial.

That is a really, really good call. I'm going to start asking people who say they don't support birth control classes for teenagers whether they support them for adults, then.

Posted by: Blue (hobbitblue)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)

Now why couldn't *I* have put it like that? Very good points all.

Posted by: Kare Bear (luvs_chicago)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 09:09 pm (UTC)
Wedding color

After they've graduated, when their lack of sex in high school and college makes them feel like there's something wrong with them and suddenly they can't orgasm with a man?

I didn't have sex in high school or college...or until my wedding night. I don't and didn't feel like there was anything wrong with me for abstaining and haven't had any problems with orgasms. Frankly, I'm VERY glad that I chose to abstain. It saved me a lot of heartache because I never slept with the wrong man.

Posted by: Tasha Rebekah Martin (lietya)
Posted at: January 24th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)
Wedding

I don't think there's anything wrong with that, either. I strongly believe everyone should make the choice they think is best for *them* when it comes to sex. Congratulations to you for sticking to your guns, and I wish more people had that kind of fortitude (whatever they choose).

I had sex in college, it was four years before my wedding night, and I didn't sleep with the wrong man or even with someone who's not my husband. ;) Part of what frustrates me about these discussions, and I am NOT saying you're doing it, is the endless binary; it's either recklessly sleeping around or staying a virgin until you're 42, it's either having sex at 15 or never, for that matter it's either using birth control before marriage or not at all (I get tired of the assumption that as a married couple we should want children and therefore never need birth control again, too).

Posted by: Spencer Irving (archaica)
Posted at: January 25th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)

I didn't mean to imply that you're "broken" somehow, I was engaging in some hyperbole for the sake of (relative) brevity. I'm glad it worked out for you; I guess what I was trying to say is that for a lot of people, it doesn't.

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