Monday, September 01, 2008

Sex and the Vice Presidency

It was only three-and-some days ago that John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, but it FEELS like a long time, based on how much coverage there's been. The McCain campaign was clearly in need of something to get people talking. Some conservative commentators (like Bill Krystal) now acknowledge they secretly though McCain would definitely lose, but now Everything Is Different. You might remember this phrase from the aftermath of September 11th, when it was used to describe the new world we woke up in, and also to justify the curtailing of some of our civil liberties.

One of the intangibles Palin injected into the race was sex. Remember sex, America? Sure you do. We Americans have a long and hard difficult history with the myriad applications of sex. Remember, this is a nation where we have naked celebrities on billboards for animal rights and lesbians having sex on the air (thanks, Howard Stern!) but still had punishments for what you do in your own bedroom at night IN THE 21ST CENTURY (until 2003, consensual anal sex in Idaho was punishable by up to life in prison).

As a nation, we have sex on the brain, but we also mix our sex with morality. Among evangelical teenagers, 80% say sex before marriage is wrong, but as high as 66% engage anyway. They even start earlier than non-evangelical teens. SOURCE And the biggest intersection with sex and morals on the political stage currently is the GOP VP pick.

The McCain vetting committee had to know what it was getting into when it picked a former beauty queen. A quick Google search for "VPilf Palin" (where "VPilf" means "Vice President I'd Like to ... ahem... "frisk") yields 18,700 hits. She certainly brings more sexual appeal to the Republican ticket than Cindy McCain, whom I can't see without thinking of a quote from "Frasier" about Frosty the Snow Wife. Not to worry, though. She's a moral conservative, which means she likes guns, thinks global warming is a hoax, and believes in abstinence-only sex education.

That last bit is the part I'd like to focus on. Palin's position on sex education in schools is that it should be restricted to so-called "abstinence only" content (SOURCE), a standard which is currently supported by the Federal government to the tune of a billion dollars over the last decade (for "Title V" programs). It comprises what you'd expect: abstinence is the only certain way to avoid pregnancy and STDs. Such courses are prohibited from mentioning any forms of contraception, except when they emphasize failure rates. The Title V programs also emphasize that sex outside of marriage can is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects, and also that "bearing children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society". So keep the pickle in the pants, soldier!

I don't know if the high school where Palin's children attended taught contraception or abstinence sex ed, but I know that neither one discouraged Palin's eldest daughter. In a move to head off "despicable rumors from liberal blogs", Palin announced that her 17-year old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant. Part of Gov. Palin's statement says: "Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family." [Emphasis added]

I can't help thinking that no matter what the situation was like yesterday, today those two kids WILL BE MARRIED. Also amusing is the leading sub-headline in the linked story above: "McCain Knew". It made me laugh to say it like a film noir thriller: "McCain knew..." The article goes on to state that the McCain campaign was briefed on the pregnancy, but that it "did not disqualify" Palin. Generous! Shades of it being OK for Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney to have lesbian family.

I oppose "abstinence only" sexual education. In my view, it produces kids who don't know anything about sex other than how bad, awful and icky a person they are for wanting to have it.


Not all, maybe not even most. But it will eternally be a problem, and telling them how they shouldn't do it works REALLY well with teenagers. If we don't explain what sex is and how it works, we get confused kids without all the facts. Kids told to refrain from vaginal intercourse often perceive tacit approval for oral intercourse, which is perceived to be without risk (because of the inflated importance of pregnancy as the only consequence of sex). There's bound to be a reason why oral herpes is the most common form of the STD nowadays.

I don't oppose abstinence education. It IS the best way to avoid pregnancy and STDs. That can't be stated enough. But if sex is in the cards, not having protection won't lessen the shame. There's still the stigma that having a condom means you're planning to have sex. Various groups have tried to change that by wide-scale free distribution, but the stigma remains. Overall, America has done a good job convincing people that wanting sex before marriage is awful and means you're a bad person

One of my good friends is the product of an abstinence only sex ed class. Luckily, he's filled in the missing information over time, but the shame still burns. He's a fan of sex, but has a serious mental breakdown every time he tries to go buy protection. I ended up purchasing condoms for him in the past, because he's mortified at the thought of buying them and of his mother EVER finding a receipt. Other friends have criticized me for enabling him or preventing him from learning a lesson. I say, if the male population of Missouri and Kansas wanted to use me as a personal condom valet to prevent their mothers from finding out, I'd do it in a second. If I was the only thing standing between using or NOT using condoms, I'd form a delivery company that specialized in subtle deliveries of small unmarked boxes.

I'm Doctor Andy: Condom Proxy!

As an aside, Condom Proxy sounds like a great name for a small-label alternative band.

1 comment:

  1. Kristin S. composer/bassist2:52 PM, September 03, 2008

    "Overall, America has done a good job convincing people that wanting sex before marriage is awful and means you're a bad person"

    ...and wanting sex for the pure pleasure of it, not for the purpose of procreation, probably even if you are married, means you're a bad person. Thanks America. Good job.