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Red Sex Blue Sex
October 31, 2008 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Evangelicals are very good at articulating their sexual ideals, but they have little practical advice for their young followers. Social liberals, meanwhile, are not very good at articulating values on marriage and teen sexuality—indeed, they may feel that it’s unseemly or judgmental to do so. But in fact the new middle-class morality is squarely pro-family.

The New Yorker discusses the red-state/blue-state divide in attitudes about premarital sex, sex education, and teen pregnancy: Red Sex, Blue Sex.
posted by Who_Am_I (153 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
One Sex, Two Sex.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:08 AM on October 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


"Good at articulating ideals" is code for "simplistic and rarely adhered to".
posted by DU at 8:10 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Social liberals, meanwhile, are not very good at articulating values on marriage and teen sexuality

Look, it's called Sex Education in schools and teaching the importance of taking responsibility for the consequences of having sex. It also includes making condoms freely available and The Pill covered by insurance companies. Of course you might not know this if you're brought up in an Evangelical community, but that's really not the Social Liberals fault it it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:20 AM on October 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


I think that's a typo and they actually meant "idears", DU.
posted by rokusan at 8:21 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, red state/blue state? Really? Is the New Yorker stuck in 2003, or did this article just fall out of the forgot-to-run-it-before pile of filler?
posted by rokusan at 8:22 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


In summary: Sexual liberation leads to women that say no. Sexual repression leads to women that make poor sexual choices or who are not empowered to make their own sexual choices in the first place.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:26 AM on October 31, 2008 [15 favorites]


Social liberals, meanwhile, are not very good at articulating values on marriage and teen sexuality—indeed, they may feel that it’s unseemly or judgmental to do so.

....Because -- speaking AS a social liberal -- we believe that when it comes to morality, parents should be allowed to decide how to communicate that to their kids themselves.

I don't have kids yet, but if I ever do, I'm still going to support the idea of schools being hands-off when it comes to morality itself. But that's precisely because I want to handle the moral talk PERSONALLY, and I think every other parent should be doing that the same way -- because my morals are not going to match yours are not going to match the Jones' are not going to match the Lorinski's are not going to match the Sapersteins' are not going to match the Wongs's are not going to match the...

Facts are one thing. Morals are another. Parents should be doing the morals part. (Ideally they should also be doing the facts part, but the practical consequences of a parent not doing the facts lecture are greater.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:27 AM on October 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


purity balls ... girls in frothy dresses
posted by uncleozzy at 8:28 AM on October 31, 2008


the irony of course is that having kids in a fatherless home means one income and increased poverty. But then there is always the taxpayers in the liberal households who will cough up the welfare money for true believers' children so that they can continue to denounce the socialism of the lefties.
posted by Postroad at 8:29 AM on October 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


having kids in a fatherless home means one income and increased poverty

Whereas homes where the wife is barefoot, pregnant and kitchen-bound have five incomes?
posted by DU at 8:33 AM on October 31, 2008


Jezebel's take.
posted by Brittanie at 8:37 AM on October 31, 2008


I was particularly creeped out by:
Nationwide, according to a 2001 estimate, some two and a half million people have taken a pledge to remain celibate until marriage. Usually, they do so under the auspices of movements such as True Love Waits or the Silver Ring Thing. Sometimes, they make their vows at big rallies featuring Christian pop stars and laser light shows, or at purity balls, where girls in frothy dresses exchange rings with their fathers, who vow to help them remain virgins until the day they marry.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:37 AM on October 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


Driver's Ed will from now on be pedestrian only. The only sure way to not be in an automobile accident is to never be in an automobile.
posted by I Foody at 8:40 AM on October 31, 2008 [14 favorites]


I was coming here to post what Leftcoastbob did. Cree-eee-eee-eepy.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:41 AM on October 31, 2008


Whereas homes where the wife is barefoot, pregnant and kitchen-bound have five incomes?

The cost of the things the "barefoot, pregnant and kitchen-bound" take care of can eat up someone's whole income, if you don't have free support to watch the kids. If you have multiple children, having someone stay at home without a job can save more money in daycare than they might bring in if working.
posted by cimbrog at 8:42 AM on October 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


But in fact the new middle-class morality is squarely pro-family.

What does this even mean?

For too long, the conventional wisdom has been that social conservatives are the upholders of family values, whereas liberals are the proponents of a polymorphous selfishness. This isn’t true, and, every once in a while, liberals might point that out.

But, dear New Yorker writer, you've just spent your entire article looking for reasons to say that "liberals" are incapable of pointing it out.
posted by blucevalo at 8:43 AM on October 31, 2008


...exchange rings with their fathers, who vow to help them remain virgins until the day they marry.

I attended a wedding at the other end of this process. This was over 10 years ago, so it's fuzzy, but the basic procedure was that the minister asked the father, in front of the entire congregation, "Is she a virgin?" and he attested that she was. Then the marriage proceeded. It was icky as hell.
posted by DU at 8:43 AM on October 31, 2008 [7 favorites]


It's even creepier in pictures.
posted by rokusan at 8:46 AM on October 31, 2008 [13 favorites]


Look, it's called Sex Education in schools and teaching the importance of taking responsibility for the consequences of having sex. It also includes making condoms freely available and The Pill covered by insurance companies.

The problem is, only one of those (the importance of taking responsibility) is a value. The others are actions. That's all this article is saying -- Evangelicals are good at stating their values but poor at taking practical action, and social liberals are good at practical action but poor at stating values (even though their unstated values seem, in this case, to lead to a superior outcome).

....Because -- speaking AS a social liberal -- we believe that when it comes to morality, parents should be allowed to decide how to communicate that to their kids themselves.

Only that's not how it works, not for nearly any other important moral issue. The public schools have plenty to say about racism, sexism, drug use, drunk driving, violence, stealing, cheating, and on and on and on. Speaking as a social liberal (and one who does not agree with much of the morality that currently gets taught in schools, even), I don't get why we can speak in a general moral way on all of these issues, but not on the issue of sexuality. We don't need to be indoctrinating kids with specific doctrine in order to communicate morality -- general statements like "you are in charge of your own body, so you should be sure you are responsible when having sex" and "no means no" are enough, and allow parents to fill in the blanks.

Parents are allowed to communicate their own morals, but our culture also has shared morals as well, and public schools are a primary method of their transmission. Social liberals sell their beliefs short when they allow Evangelicals to set the tone for moral education in the schools.
posted by vorfeed at 8:52 AM on October 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


But many Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals, and who hold socially conservative beliefs, aren’t deeply observant.

So ... those who make the biggest show of being pious typically don't also walk the walk? Color me shocked.
posted by Amanojaku at 8:53 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's even creepier in pictures.

Well, I've got my Halloween costume picked out: Purity Dad. Ick.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:54 AM on October 31, 2008


I almost posted this article too! It's saying some very important and very true things. (By the way, rokusan, it mentions at the beginning that by "red state/blue state" they mean the breakdown of so-called "values voters" used in the 2004 election analysis, which the study authors used to structure their data. I don't think they're stuck, it's just that when the research was done it was the most useful shorthand for "evangelical, socially conservative, and white."

Though I have a lot of family in the South and have spent a lot of time there, my folks raised us in a Northeastern suburban/urban environment with liberal values. I have some cousins near my age who grew up amid the religious rhetoric of the socially conservative South. I remember chuckling, puzzled, with my mom when my cousin received an annulment...for her third marriage...so she could marry her fourth husband - and at the same time was condemning people in my world for 'cohabiting.' It struck me at the time that it was odd that she placed such a low value on marriage that she'd engage in it serially, and even misrepresent herself to her newly adopted Catholic Church, so that she could 'cohabit' with some semblance of honor. It seemed odd to me that the destruction and complication of serial marriages, and the damage to her kids and the family, was so much worse than cohabitation and family planning.

This article is a good through-the-looking-glass moment. It helped me realize that despite decades of being told that my views were anti-family, lax, loose, sexually amoral, sinful, and damaging, that I actually come from a values base which is far more respectful of marriage, more serious about it, more thoughtful about the decision to have children, and more serious about the comittment that child-rearing represents.

People active in world women's issues often say that the single most effective way to reduce the birth rate in developing countries is to invest in women's education. It's not so much sex-ed classes and free condoms that protect young girls - it's the idea that they have something to contribute to the world, a self with talents and goals to fulfill, and the opportunity to create a stable life in which to either build a family or contribute to the broader community. The same strikes me as true for the world of the 'red state' - educational opportunities are few, foreign, and undervalued; girls are rarely exposed to women leading lives of leadership and self-fulfillment; strong messages that girls should stay close to home and show responsibility first to the family are given from all sides; economic prospects seem fairly flat. The greatest meaning you can make of your life may be to embrace the idea of yourself as a parent and head of household.

Educating girls and women - and not just about sex or no sex - is, I'd guess, the way out of this hypocritical 'values' swamp.
posted by Miko at 8:55 AM on October 31, 2008 [31 favorites]


Sex is wrong. Xians have known this for a long time (the body is a tomb, the body is a tomb). Where have you guys been?
posted by ewkpates at 8:56 AM on October 31, 2008


Also in this week's TLS: Thomas Laqueur on Soulgasms of the Christian Right.
posted by verstegan at 8:57 AM on October 31, 2008


Same world, different planets.

I bet I could get some really good action at one of them purity balls, you know, if I didn't already have a girlfriend.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:59 AM on October 31, 2008


We don't need to be indoctrinating kids with specific doctrine in order to communicate morality -- general statements like "you are in charge of your own body, so you should be sure you are responsible when having sex" and "no means no" are enough, and allow parents to fill in the blanks.

And I agree with that, and all the sex-ed classes I've heard about do include that.

Maybe there's a difference of opinion on what is meant by "morals". Which is, actually, precisely my point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on October 31, 2008


From rokusan's link:

"But studies have also shown that most teenagers who take abstinence pledges, like those at the ball, end up having sex before marriage, and they are far less likely to use condoms than their peers."

Who woulda thunk it?
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:00 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Driver's Ed will from now on be pedestrian only. The only sure way to not be in an automobile accident is to never be in an automobile.

I think we should not only cancel Driver's Ed altogether, but also remove seatbelts from cars, because they send the message that driving is ok.
posted by Who_Am_I at 9:04 AM on October 31, 2008 [23 favorites]


Condoms can't protect you from Jesus Christ's perfect plan for your womb.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:08 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't get why we can speak in a general moral way on all of these issues,

Me either. The article makes a good point - that liberals SUCK at talking about values. It's quite true - MOST social liberals I know avoid talking about values, it seems uncomfortable, icky somehow. And yet, what was the Civil Rights movement about? Values. The women's rights movement? The counterculture? The women's rights movement? These were all values-driven. Why are liberals interested in a social safety net, in collective responsibility and the public good? Values.

The liberal tradition of respecting individual rights to believe differently, respecting freedom of thought and speech, has meant that most liberals deemphasize values and morals and, instead, emphasize rights. Most of the liberal struggles of the last century (largely successful ones, I might add) were framed in the language of 'rights,' because liberals believe that when everyone has equal rights and equal opportunity in a free market, a morally ordered world will follow. We have emphasized the rights over the values. But what that has done, especially in the post-Atwater decades, is lead others to accuse liberals of being completely amoral - that in the advocation of rights and refusal to engage in a conversation based within a single religious philosophy, liberals reject morals outright and believe in an 'anything goes' approach to social governance.

It's the location of moral good in social utility rather than theology that makes it look as though liberals are 'less moral,' when in fact, there's an incredibly strong argument that they're a lot more moral - even when measured by the Judeo-Christian standard.
posted by Miko at 9:11 AM on October 31, 2008 [22 favorites]


The women's rights movement? The counterculture? The women's rights movement?

make one of those "women's" "gay."

Which is what the liberals are trying to do to your girls!
posted by Miko at 9:17 AM on October 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


the minister asked the father, in front of the entire congregation, "Is she a virgin?" and he attested that she was.

Oh, yuck. Gross gross gross. Now I've got the heebie-jeebies, which I guess is appropriate on Halloween.
posted by rtha at 9:19 AM on October 31, 2008


Previous MeFi FPP -- The Father Daughter Purity Ball...
posted by ericb at 9:32 AM on October 31, 2008


The thing that bothers me most about purity balls (and traditional weddings too), is that whole "passed from one man to the next" thing.

Feminism is all about choice, and women can totally choose to involve their fathers in their quest to remain celibate, but I'm going to choose to be totally pissed off about the message it sends.
posted by giraffe at 9:36 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


To all those going "eww" and "yuck", what is so gross about Purity Balls?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:42 AM on October 31, 2008


"Is she a virgin?" and he attested that she was. Then the marriage proceeded. It was icky as hell.

I actually respect people who make the chastity-before-marriage choice, but holy hell, public inquisition at the ceremony? And to top it off, asking the father rather than bride?

Please tell me they at least asked the groom's parents the same question.
posted by namespan at 9:42 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I particularly like this picture of an abstinence ceremony, where the father and daughter pass under the men saluting with giant swords. Sometimes I think conservatives are so socially repressed, their secret desires are just sprouting out of their Freudian ears. Maybe it's healthier to be open about sexuality once in a while.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:51 AM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


One thing I'd like to point out is that almost everyone is a social liberal, its just that a big percentage lie about it.

95% of the US population will have sex before marriage.
98% will use contraception.
Between 33%-50% of women will have an abortion before they're 45.

There may be such a thing as a real social conservative, but the vast majority of the so-called "social conservatives" do exactly the same thing the social liberals do, they just lie about it.

If we're going to have a real discussion on the topic of social morality (and hey, it sounds like a good thing to discuss) we'll have to start honestly. And the statistics show us that only between 2% and 5% of the population is genuinely socially conservative, the rest just pretend they are.
posted by sotonohito at 9:55 AM on October 31, 2008 [14 favorites]


To all those going "eww" and "yuck", what is so gross about Purity Balls?

Read the comment directly above yours.

Also because the very concept of "purity" is silly. Sex isn't naughty. It's awesome. Like skydiving. You wouldn't have a skydiving-purity ball, would you? You'd be all, hey, probably don't skydive, but if you do, wear a parachute.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:56 AM on October 31, 2008 [7 favorites]


Chastity before marriage is a bad, bad, baaaaaaaaaaaaad idea. How do you know if you're sexually compatible? Your hugs are "so awesome"?

On a related tip, if my son came to me and told me he was in love with someone and wanted to marry them, I'd *insist* they live together for a year prior. That way they get to know one another in a day-to-day situation... rather than get married, full of ideas of the "perfection" of each other, and end up divorced when they discover each others' humanity and how little they can stand it.

The leading cause of divorce is unrealistic expectations.
posted by grubi at 9:57 AM on October 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


The kids of evangelicals are not lacking in sex education. They have the Internet, too. And growing up, it was always the straight churchy boys who, it turns out, were playing around with each other, while I, the who had a crush on John Ritter (and who just knew his character on Three's Company would come out one day), remained celibate.

The problem here is that this gives kids early adult-level practice and acceptance of disconnecting words from actions and from reality. This helps insulate them from realizing, as they become adults, that their beliefs are make-beliefs. Unfortunately, it also prepackages them for neoconservatism.
posted by troybob at 10:00 AM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


And I agree with that, and all the sex-ed classes I've heard about do include that.

I agree. However, if these kinds of decisions are presented in a practical, "action-and-reaction" sort of way rather than a "X is the proper social behavior, and Y is improper and wrong" sort of way, then they're not really teaching morals. Nobody tells kids they should not cheat primarily because they might get caught, and nobody tells kids that they should not be racist just because they might get in trouble for it. We tell kids clearly and repeatedly that these things are wrong... but then we tell them that they should use condoms primarily because they might get pregnant or catch a disease. That's all well and good, but it is not morality, and that's precisely the point of the article.

Like Miko said, social liberals do have a set of moral values, and even though I don't agree with all of them, I think it's high time they started waving that flag again. The excitement around Obama, who isn't afraid to talk about values as well as rights, is a big sign that this approach can and does work!
posted by vorfeed at 10:08 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


...evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews.

"C'mon, sweetie, it's o.k. Jesus will forgive us in the morning."
posted by Robert Angelo at 10:09 AM on October 31, 2008


The problem is that the word "values" is absolute bullshit.

Liberals know that what Conservatives call "values" are really just arbitrary restrictions having nothing to do with morality and everything to do with blind (but selective) religiosity.

As for the articulation of the Liberal equivalent, I think a little monologue from the Embarrassing Terrible Lame Schlock Musical Hair neatly sums it up:

Kids, be free, be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do, just as long as you don't hurt anybody.


A bit of an oversimplification, to be sure, but it'll do.

Brandon Blatcher: what is so gross about Purity Balls?

In some cultures, they actually examine the bride's hymen. Slippery slope.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:10 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


To: Margaret Talbot c/o The New Yorker
re: celibate

Everyone is celibate before marriage. I believe the word you're looking for is chaste.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:11 AM on October 31, 2008


To all those going "eww" and "yuck", what is so gross about Purity Balls?

To me, the implication that the father owns his daughter's sexuality until he finds a suitable man to hand it over to.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:12 AM on October 31, 2008 [15 favorites]


It's even creepier in pictures.

OMGWTF
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:13 AM on October 31, 2008


SARAH PALIN IS THE WHORE OF BABYLON!

Ahem, excuse me. I don't know what prompted that but I feel kind of better now.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:14 AM on October 31, 2008


The problem is that the word "values" is absolute bullshit.

No, that's the problem, right there. Things like "kids, be free, be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do, just as long as you don't hurt anybody" are moral values, and what's more, they stand in stark opposition to the "blind (but selective) religiosity" you claim to dislike. By pretending that these are anything other than moral values, you are conceding the entire moral battleground to your enemies, and as the last thirty years have shown, from there it is quite easy to fire heavy artillery on the boring-legal-arguments-based battleground you traded it for.

The idea that "the word 'values' is bullshit" or "there are no such thing as values" is nonsense -- there may be no absolute values, sure, but that leaves us free to choose our own. When one side of the issue refuses to do so, is it any wonder that the other side gets to set the tone of the argument? The very idea that "values" are a conservative thing is the problem, not the solution!
posted by vorfeed at 10:30 AM on October 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


One thing I'd like to point out is that almost everyone is a social liberal, its just that a big percentage lie about it.

95% of the US population will have sex before marriage.
98% will use contraception.
Between 33%-50% of women will have an abortion before they're 45.


Wha? I've never heard numbers anywhere close to that--do you have a cite for that, sotonohito? I'm completely with you on your general point, but that number seems outrageously high for a procedure that's so medically serious.

To me, the implication that the father owns his daughter's sexuality until he finds a suitable man to hand it over to.

This is somewhat of a recurring theme in marriage ceremonies--I've always been slightly squicked out by the concept of the father of the bride 'giving away' his daughter, as there's an uncomfortable degree of ownership implied. I read into it as an unspoken claim of 'Yup, I've kept a close eye on her lo these 20 years, and I'm pretty sure she's still, y'know, unspoiled property,' vouched for in front of her new owner and everyone he knows. Gross and misogynistic.
posted by Mayor West at 10:31 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


What would be cool now is if we could get a front-page Advocate story celebrating the virginity pledge as a force in creating more gay and lesbian youth, via repression of 'natural' sexual urges and same-sexual practices that don't violate technical virginity.
posted by troybob at 10:31 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


One thing that would make me feel a lot better about this would be if there was some coverage of masturbation, and WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT, in teen culture, especially for girls. There are certainly NO cultural representations of young female masturbation, and it wasn't something girls traded tips on, or passed materials around for, at least when I was a teenager. The boys, oh of course the boys need and of course the boys obtain that kind of release, but the girls are encouraged to develop a sexual identity only through partnering. Obviously that is flawed, foolhardy and unfair.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:33 AM on October 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


A Mississippi delegate claimed that "even though young children are making that decision to become pregnant, they've also decided to take responsibility for their actions and decided to follow up with that and get married and raise this child." [emphasis added]
Hmm...this delegate sounds like they're in favor of people being able to make a decision about the course of their pregnancy. You might say they're pro-decision, even. And saying they're making a decision means they could also decide to do something else, doesn't it?

I used the word "decide" a lot just now. Maybe there's another word that means the same thing I could use to mix it up a bit.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:34 AM on October 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


The kids of evangelicals are not lacking in sex education. They have the Internet, too.

....that doesn't mean that a) they use it to that purpose, b) they are getting accurate information, or c) they're using it period.

For a while I hung out on the Yahoo! Answers community, which is a community where all can ask questions and all can answer. You know the flash video "How Is Babby Formed"? That was taken verbatim from a Yahoo!Answers question and answer. That's the kind of "education" some get on the Internet. Sure, some kids are bright enough to look up the AMA guide to reproduction online, but others are looking things up and finding sites which claim half of gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for AIDS; pregnancy can result from touching another person’s genitals; and that douching yourself with coke after sex works as a spermicide.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:36 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I attended a wedding at the other end of this process. This was over 10 years ago, so it's fuzzy, but the basic procedure was that the minister asked the father, in front of the entire congregation, "Is she a virgin?" and he attested that she was. Then the marriage proceeded. It was icky as hell.

I've seen (arguably) worse - a disquisition on how the bride & groom had never gone any further than holding hands, and we were about to witness their Very First Kiss.

They were pretty much making out at their table by the end of the reception, and looked to be enjoying themselves; there's something to be said for sexual tension, I guess.

And, you know, they might just have been fibbing a little bit. But still.
posted by brennen at 10:38 AM on October 31, 2008


LIBRULS ATE MY PURITY BALLS!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:38 AM on October 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


To all those going "eww" and "yuck", what is so gross about Purity Balls?

The idea that my dad would be that...interested in my sex life just squicks me out. This goes for either parent, but my dad? The guy who couldn't even say the word tampon? No.

I understand parents being protective of their kids, and wanting them to not make (gigantic) mistakes ever, or at least not until they're adults, but that it should be normal for fathers to maintain this level of awareness of their daughter's sexuality - and that it should be normal for them to announce her virginity! at! her! wedding! - is just bizarre. And all that stuff at purity balls with the incest-y pledging of devotion and whatnot? Yeah. No.
posted by rtha at 10:39 AM on October 31, 2008


To all those going "eww" and "yuck", what is so gross about Purity Balls?

I'm gonna go with: the sexualization of the father-daughter relationship. They exchange vows and rings FFS.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:41 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


They exchange vows and rings FFS.
Literally FFS.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:41 AM on October 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


The kids of evangelicals are not lacking in sex education. They have the Internet, too.

Sex information does not equal sex education. Sex education has context and objectives, and emphasizes physical and mental health, facts and statistics, preventive behavior, risks and boundary-setting.

The internet offers plenty in the way of sex information for those who want to know what sex looks like or how to do it better (and plenty of it is really lousy and misguided) but the last thing in the world I'd ever do is assume that if my teenage daughter had the internet, she'd had 'sex education.' God help her if I did.
posted by Miko at 10:42 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


In some cultures, they actually examine the bride's hymen. Slippery slope.

Flagged for Ew.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:43 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


What I think the abstinence-only crowd is missing is a discussion of sexual ethics. They've got morals aplenty, but the mere existence of purity balls shows that there is no real sense of who is truly in charge of an individual's sexual life. When a man believes that his daughter's hymen is his to guard, and when his daughter comes to believe that too, and that she will marry a man who will then take over responsibility for her gonads--that's the very definition of being sexually unethical, in my opinion.
posted by padraigin at 10:45 AM on October 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


re Internet education: Yeah, there's misinformation on the Internet, but the correct information exists in parallel and is freely obtainable. For all the time they spend playing online, kids are getting decent practical experience in how to locate information and how to assess its reliability. (Actually, I think lower-level inconveniences like spam and spyware help immunize in this regard.) In any case, this is much different than in a school or parent situation, in which the information is edited and restricted before it is presented; in those cases the kid is not given an alternative to the misinformation.
posted by troybob at 10:46 AM on October 31, 2008


They've got morals aplenty, but the mere existence of purity balls shows that there is no real sense of who is truly in charge of an individual's sexual life.

Seems to me like they're just cherry picking their morals.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:48 AM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Things like "kids, be free, be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do, just as long as you don't hurt anybody" are moral values, and what's more, they stand in stark opposition to the "blind (but selective) religiosity" you claim to dislike. By pretending that these are anything other than moral values

Yes, of course they stand in opposition to the religiosity I oppose. I agree with the sentiment, so what the hell kind of sense would it make if they didn't? And yes, they are moral values. Or, put more succinctly, they are moral values. Ethical, even. Rational. Reasoned.

The very idea that "values" are a conservative thing is the problem, not the solution!

Solution to what? Some crazy Conservative idea that Liberals lack "values," whatever that means?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:52 AM on October 31, 2008


My point being this: Conservatives like to refer to their moral beliefs as "values" because it implies that any opposing viewpoint must necessarily be valueless.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:58 AM on October 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


The internet does, one should acknowledge, do a better job of covering the mechanics of, e.g., human-dolphin interaction, a topic most high school courses give only sporadic coverage at best (presumably due to time constraints).
posted by Wolfdog at 11:02 AM on October 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


Tuna-friendly Blowhole Maintenance 101 was always hard to get into in my school...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:07 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm gonna go with: the sexualization of the father-daughter relationship.

I'm willing to bet that they don't see it like that and would be appalled by the suggestion of such, so how do you see this as sexualization of the father-daughter relationship? If anything, it seems like the traditional Father as protector role.

Not saying it isn't weird to me, but perhaps the Ew and Yuck factor is overstating things.

The idea that my dad would be that...interested in my sex life just squicks me out. This goes for either parent, but my dad? The guy who couldn't even say the word tampon? No.

Not interested per se, but aware. And not to get all personal, but the ceremony seems like something you and your dad wouldn't do, which is fine, of course, but it seems to mean something to others and I'm just wondering out loud whether that is so bad.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on October 31, 2008


Everyone is celibate before marriage. I believe the word you're looking for is chaste.CheeseDigestsAll

Um, no:

Historically, celibate means only “unmarried”; its use to mean “abstaining from sexual intercourse” is a 20th-century development. But the new sense of the word seems to have displaced the old, and the use of celibate to mean “unmarried” is now almost sure to invite misinterpretation in other than narrowly ecclesiastical contexts. Sixty-eight percent of the Usage Panel rejected the older use in the sentence He remained celibate [unmarried], although he engaged in sexual intercourse. — The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

posted by nicwolff at 11:09 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


And not to get all personal, but the ceremony seems like something you and your dad wouldn't do, which is fine, of course, but it seems to mean something to others and I'm just wondering out loud whether that is so bad.

I am a firm believer that your dad shouldn't be all up in your vaginal dealings, whether or not you think it's a great idea.

"And as he escorted me to the dance floor I felt empowered by his promise to spend the rest of his life warring for my heart through his life of purity. And I knew my life would never be the same."

Yeah, that's some kind of romantic comedy bullshit lingo there, innit?
posted by sondrialiac at 11:14 AM on October 31, 2008


People still do that 'father giving away the bride' thing, but it doesn't mean the same thing it used to. These days it's more to give the father of the bride something to do on the wedding day after he (traditionally) has paid for everything and the mother of the bride has bitten off all her own fingernails.

There's kind of the emotional element of the 'special father-daughter' relationship, but that seems more an aesthetic symmetry thing (like that 'special' mother-son bond that crops up when it is time for somebody to go to war). I think the specialness of the father-daughter bond lies in the years of each pretending the other is built like a Ken/Barbie doll down there just to keep their own day-to-day ick factors low.
posted by troybob at 11:18 AM on October 31, 2008


the emotional element of the 'special father-daughter' relationship

Yeah, as someone who has no first-hand experience of this kind of dynamic, and who didn't grow up in an all-American family, I'm wondering if anyone can help unpack this. It kind of mystifies me. Why the emphasis on father-daughter purity balls? Why can't it be mother-daughter? I don't think I get it at all.
posted by naju at 11:24 AM on October 31, 2008


Somebody above wrote about handing over possession of the woman from the father to the husband, and I think that's a good framework for viewing it. I don't usually throw around words like patriarchal and heteronormative, but, yeah, I guess I'm throwing them around now.
posted by box at 11:32 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why the emphasis on father-daughter purity balls?

At least in the United States, Christians want to return us to a patriarchal autocracy, where the males own females as chattel. The rituals and "spirituality" (as such) are about coercing compliance from the females — stay virtuous until I transfer my ownership of you to another male, or you'll be damaged goods and you'll go to Hell!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:32 AM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Or, put more succinctly, they are moral values. Ethical, even. Rational. Reasoned. [...] Solution to what? Some crazy Conservative idea that Liberals lack "values," whatever that means?

No, to the problem of liberals who put strike tags through the word "values" and write things like "values, whatever that means", as if the meaning has not been made perfectly clear by the entire history of Western philosophy. I hate to break it to you, but doing so does suggest to many people that you lack values, seeing as how you react negatively to the very concept. If you really dislike the "crazy Conservative idea that Liberals lack values", you may want to note that "whatever whatever who cares about values what does that even mean?!" is not helping your cause.

My point being this: Conservatives like to refer to their moral beliefs as "values" because it implies that any opposing viewpoint must necessarily be valueless.

Um, no, they like to refer to their moral beliefs as "values" because that is standard English, and "moral values" is a standard English set phrase, whereas "moral beliefs" is not. The idea that this is some sort of new movement to redefine the word is more than a little ridiculous -- to embrace the word as their own, sure, but if you don't like that, I don't get why you're so eager to help them by rejecting the word yourself.

And again, this isn't even about the word "values" at all. If "moral beliefs" makes you feel better, then so be it: this is about the liberal tendency to speak in terms of rights and legality rather than moral beliefs, even though the liberal position on rights and legalities is borne of moral beliefs.
posted by vorfeed at 11:39 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'd say the part that really squicks me about purity balls is that a) it seriously enforces the woman as property bullshit that some conservatives like to push, and b) it pushes the nonsense idea that sex is somehow impure.

There's also the fact that (see point a) above) its sexist to an outrageous degree. Belatedly a few groups have tried having "integrity" balls for boys, but they are nowhere near as common as purity balls. Why? Because, as always, there's the double standard. Men with lots of sexual partners are studs, women with lots of sexual partners are sluts. Whoopee.

Mayor West The fact that abortion is often viewed as a shameful thing can lead to startlement that way. I think it'd be a good thing if more people knew the figures on abortion.

See: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/uslifetimeab.html
and: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html

Both are layman level summaries of peer reviewed medicine and studies into the issue.

Look at any three women, odds are that by the time they're 45 at least one of them will have had an abortion, and depending on the study it could be as high as 50%.

Interestingly, and incidentally something that supports my "we're all social liberals, some of us just lie about it" thesis, women who protest outside abortion clinics are statistically just as likely to get an abortion as women who are pro-choice. What does that tell us boys and girls? That we're all pro-choice, but some of us lie about it.
posted by sotonohito at 11:40 AM on October 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


Why the emphasis on father-daughter purity balls? Why can't it be mother-daughter?

It's more about the daughter maintaining the illusion of purity for the sake of the father. The mother doesn't get involved in this, because she knows better. It's women taking advantage of the mystery (i.e. men's cluelessness) of female sexuality by pretending it can be codified in the language of male ritual. What mothers know, and what daughters soon learn, is that the less men know about how women really feel about sex, the more power women have over men. I applaud this, of course.

But also, the first rule of evangelicals is that all these silly rules are really set up for all those other trashy people out there, not for yourself or your own family, who don't need them.
posted by troybob at 11:45 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


This phenomenon certainly isn't a new thing. If birth records and marriage records are to be believed, most of the people living in Puritan New England either had absurdly short pregnancies or were obviously knocked up on their wedding day. My feeling is that these people know that teens will have consensual sex leading to pregnancy. But as long as the fallback position is early marriage and an extended family, they don't care.

I've always hated the Red State/Blue State framing. It's not as if there is a lack of leftist hippies in Indiana or ultra-conservative congregations in New York. It's a framing that plays well into the Republican myth that they represent a consensus across large geographic areas. I think it's a political frame that was put to the test in 2006, and this year when Indiana, Georgia, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and Nevada are in play due to Obama & Dean's aggressive organizing and fundraising may put dampers on the idea that geography is political destiny.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:47 AM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


what daughters soon learn, is that the less men know about how women really feel about sex, the more power women have over men. I applaud this, of course.

You're being facetious, I hope.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:50 AM on October 31, 2008


To all those going "eww" and "yuck", what is so gross about Purity Balls?

The idea that a father would take his seven year old daughter, who has, at most, a vague understanding of what sex actually is, to an event focused on her (future) sex life and sexuality.

It's creepy and inappropriate.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:51 AM on October 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


There's your tip off right there: boys don't have these because boys have no value as virgins.

Liberals tend to think that people should only judge each other's behavior by laws that allow society to exist peacefully... they have private morality, but its private. These laws are developed by *thinking* about how to get along.

Religious conservatives want people to do what Jesus told tells them we should, rather than simply what keeps us from choking the crap out of each other.

The History of Values in Western Civilization tends to support this: Laws to protect property and reduce violence. "Morality Law" has usually been some church or other's strategy to make some money off indulgences.
posted by ewkpates at 11:51 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


ewkpates: There's your tip off right there: boys don't have these because boys have no value as virgins.

Unless they are gay or bisexual, then you see lots of paranoia and wailing about protecting the purity and innocence of adolescent boyhood.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:54 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Red Sex, Blue Sex.

I'm really disappointed that no body paint was involved here.
posted by Pronoiac at 11:55 AM on October 31, 2008


As is often the case, the discussion here is as good as the article.

I blame Martin Luther and the Puritans. It seems to me that it would have been
easier to decouple betrothal from cohabitation than it is to separate sex from marriage.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:56 AM on October 31, 2008


Look at any three women, odds are that by the time they're 45 at least one of them will have had an abortion, and depending on the study it could be as high as 50%.

Wow... I would have guessed the numbers were something like 25% of that. You're right, though, my reasoning was completely back-of-the-envelope and based on some faulty assumptions. Thanks, sotonohito!
posted by Mayor West at 11:57 AM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


What mothers know, and what daughters soon learn, is that the less men know about how women really feel about sex, the more power women have over men. I applaud this, of course.

You applaud marginalized people adopting manipulation and deceit in order to get their way.

Maybe it would be healthier to applaud marginalized people taking charge of their lives and ditching archaic ideas about gender, sexuality and relationships.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:00 PM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


So is there cutting in at Purity Balls? "Excuse me, mind if I have this dance?" "You know, your dad really isn't so hot, how'd you like to be my 'daughter'?"

Joking aside, the whole concept it just gross.
posted by maxwelton at 12:03 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


To all those going "eww" and "yuck", what is so gross about Purity Balls?

I'm just going to quote from one of my all-time favorite comments from the previous FPP:
Ooh, we cherish our daughters as regal princesses, you betcha. We also masturbate bitterly and furiously while thinking about their tender, lithe bodies; so very unlike the slack, wrinkle-titted husks our wives have become. Those wives who once we adored and who, by dint of sheer exposure and familiarity saw through our carefully constructed deceptions and phoney macho fol-de-rol and came swiftly and inevitably to despise us, utterly. Oh daughter. Oh sweet, virginal, pristine daughter mine. How I worship you. How I worship the fantasy of you, and the fantasy of me, and the fantasy of how things might be so very, very different to harsh reality.
- Decani
posted by odinsdream at 12:08 PM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Bristol Palin: Purity Ballin' is the appropriate sequel to Nailin' Palin.
posted by fleetmouse at 12:09 PM on October 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


I hate to break it to you, but doing so does suggest to many people that you lack values, seeing as how you react negatively to the very concept...this is about the liberal tendency to speak in terms of rights and legality rather than moral beliefs, even though the liberal position on rights and legalities is borne of moral beliefs.

Forgive my negativity, but that's frustration for you. 'Cause, see, you're still not getting it.

Yes, I, a Liberal, lack a certain set of "values" AND SO FUCKING WHAT?

The implication is not merely that people who deviate from a particular moral doctrine believe differently, but that such people lack value as human beings, and are therefore not worthy of certain legal rights, if you'll forgive the Liberalism.

The whole point of Liberalism is that people's personal moral values, if that's what you want to call them, are a deeply personal matter. This is antithetical to the Evangelical Conservative viewpoint that there is a single code that everyone must adhere to. Therefore, this whole notion of comparing Liberal and Conservative values is ridiculous, because they--ahem--value their values differently.

Here's the Liberal POV: If a teenage girl wants to swear an oath of chastity, more power to her. However, if she's forced to do so, ick. She can even go ahead and surrender herself fully to a patriarchal system, provided she is the one who is making the informed decision to do so, without any outside influence forcing her hand.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:13 PM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can't help but think that Purity Balls are the product of the same Wedding Industrial Complex that keeps trying to create new rites of passage demanding useless junk designed to be used only once.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:13 PM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


useless junk designed to be used only once

Hymens?
posted by uncleozzy at 12:23 PM on October 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Are you implying, KirkJobSluder, that my Goy Mitzvah was a phoney-baloney Party Planner cash-in?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:24 PM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


But Sys Rq: where does the imperative for legal rights come from? Who cares who gets legal rights if there is no moral reason to think people deserve legal rights?

this whole notion of comparing Liberal and Conservative values is ridiculous, because they--ahem--value their values differently.


I disagree with this. I think Liberals value equivalent human worth just as deeply as religious conservatives value an unvarying, monolithic religious code. They are both values; they are different values, but not differently valued.

Without moral reasoning, insistence on legal rights and freedom for personal belief is totally arbitrary and indefensible.
posted by Miko at 12:31 PM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I know there's been a whole nother thread about it, but I love Purity Balling.

I don't have kids yet, but if I ever do, I'm still going to support the idea of schools being hands-off when it comes to morality itself.

Good luck with that, or what happens when a bully steals your kid's cell phone? "Ooh, we're sorry. We can't do anything about it. Johny's from an anarcho-communist family. They don't believe in private property."

As for the FPP, good article. I enjoyed it. Regardless of the "real problem of teen pregancy" there was a lot of data showing that much of America's sex culture *is* getting better (crawling out of the Republican dark ages, I suppose). It made me happy.

I also like Hair. The musical, not the excrement.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:35 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Without moral reasoning, insistence on legal rights and freedom for personal belief is totally arbitrary and indefensible.

I agree 100%. Again, though, the key word in that sentence is reasoning.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:37 PM on October 31, 2008


useless junk designed to be used only once

Hymens?

I suppose those things are designed symbolize hymens. Especially in weddings where the bride is symbolically deflowered in multiple ways, each demanding some customized little something that you are supposed to keep in storage and show off to your grandchildren, because heaven forbid you use the silver cake knife to cut a birthday cake the following month.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:41 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


You applaud marginalized people adopting manipulation and deceit in order to get their way.

I applaud marginalized people who don't have some idealized notion that they can change, overnight, centuries-old habits of oppression taking full advantage of the stupidity of their oppressors to gain some ground. Often you have little choice but to work within the context you are given.
posted by troybob at 12:43 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The whole point of Liberalism is that people's personal moral values, if that's what you want to call them, are a deeply personal matter.

Well, yes, but that doesn't mean there are no liberal social values. Here's why: the statement "people's personal moral values, if that's what you want to call them, are a deeply personal matter" is a moral value, in and of itself. And, in fact, it is indeed a single code that everyone must adhere to -- you yourself claim that being "forced to do" things is not OK, which means that people who do not obey your "values are a personal matter" code are unacceptable. Conservative fathers whose girls have premarital sex think they're "icky", and you in turn think those fathers are "icky", a decision which in both cases is based upon your respective moral values.

Again, denying that the core concepts of liberalism are moral values is part of the problem: you are simultaneously abandoning the powerful language of morals on the one hand, and reducing an innately moral claim to a pile of circular, meaningless legalese on the other. When you get to the question of why people's personal moral values should be a personal matter, and why rights must apply to all, then you approach the moral core of liberalism. That's the part that really speaks to people.

I agree 100%. Again, though, the key word in that sentence is reasoning.

OK, then: prove that liberalism is correct. You may not make any assumptions.

Sorry, but the idea that liberalism is any more "reasoned" than conservatism is bunk. Conservatives can give just as "reasoned" arguments as you can, they simply start from different assumptions about the nature of humanity and the world. And neither side has any more empirical evidence for their assumptions than the other does, either.

Hell, your very insistence on "reason" is itself a moral value -- there are any number of alternate moral systems which do not claim reason as a basis.
posted by vorfeed at 12:47 PM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there's misinformation on the Internet, but the correct information exists in parallel and is freely obtainable. For all the time they spend playing online, kids are getting decent practical experience in how to locate information and how to assess its reliability.

Some are. Others, not so much.

But don't take my word for it -- take a stroll through the Yahoo "Answers" community and see what people are asking and answering in there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:49 PM on October 31, 2008


Gotta love the hyphenation in this article: "teen-ager." I wonder what funky style guide they're geting that from.
posted by Paragon at 12:50 PM on October 31, 2008


Good luck with that, or what happens when a bully steals your kid's cell phone? "Ooh, we're sorry. We can't do anything about it. Johny's from an anarcho-communist family. They don't believe in private property."

The difference there is: there already IS a law making theft illegal. No such law exists when it comes to "what to tell your kids about whether sex outside of wedlock is okay".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:55 PM on October 31, 2008


I agree 100%. Again, though, the key word in that sentence is reasoning.

Without morals, though, it's just reasoning. Reason can take you anywhere you like; eugenics, for instance, was a reasoned philosophy of government built on the moral assumption that only perfect humans should reproduce. At the root of reasoning about government lies a moral assumption about other people and whether or not they deserve rights, such as the right to exist, the right to vote, the right to own property, etc. The statement that 'all people deserve equal rights' is a moral statement. What you do with that statement when building a government is a process involving moral reasoning - for instance, "starting with the moral proposition that all people deserve equal rights, what are we to do about the institution of marriage, which today extends to some people but not others?"
posted by Miko at 1:01 PM on October 31, 2008


vorfeed, for fuck's sake. I never said Liberalism wasn't based on morals, only that they are based on rational thought rather than scripture. I have only been objecting to the word (not the concept) "values," as it is consistently used by the Religious Right.

Most importantly, I never said that Liberalism and Conservativism were mutually exclusive.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:04 PM on October 31, 2008


Without morals, though, it's just reasoning.

And without reasoning, it's arbitrary.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:07 PM on October 31, 2008


I'll leave the question of teen pregnancy to others.

However, it is very interesting to me that once a woman has been pregnant, she is an ideal candidate for the IUD. It is 99.5% effective, has no (or little) hormonal side-effects and fertility can be restored in a day, if desired. The copper-T (no hormones) lasts 10 years, making it the lowest cost reversible form of birth control.

The only reason I can think of that the IUD isn't used more in this country, aside from the bad press left over from the Dalcon Shield in the 70's, is that the pro-life movement propagates the misinformation that the IUD keeps fertilized embryos from implanting. It seems part of their larger strategy to cast aspersions on all forms of birth control and planned parenthood.
posted by Araucaria at 1:14 PM on October 31, 2008


Araucaria, here's a huge con of IUDs: it goes behind the cervix. Let me repeat that for emphasis: behind the fucking cervix.

No effing way.
posted by internet!Hannah at 1:22 PM on October 31, 2008


Sys Rq -- Morals are not instilled a priori, nor can they be induced by scientific exploration. Like any system, they must take certain first principles as given. It is no more necessary by logic that all men are created equal than it is that every line has only one parallel. Christians (liberal and conservative) take scripture to be first principles. Atheists take various other things. But nobody sat down and reasoned out the single rational system of morality. At least, not this century, yet.

I agree vehemently that liberals need to start casting themselves as the party of real moral values, especially Christian liberals. But I guess first they have to start admitting they have any?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:39 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


What does that tell us boys and girls? That we're all pro-choice, but some of us lie about it.
posted by sotonohito at 1:40 PM on October 31


There's a lot in here I may comment on when I get home, but I just wanted to see if anyone else has ever noticed how among women, opposition to abortion seems to skyrocket after menopause. Basically, let's keep it legal until I can't have an unwanted pregnancy, then let's outlaw it!

Look at any three women, odds are that by the time they're 45 at least one of them will have had an abortion, and depending on the study it could be as high as 50%.

One of my political science professors, a female, trotted a similar line out in class at the beginning of the semester when everyone still thought polysci was some kind of debate class. There were several people shouting that abortion was murder.

She asked how many women in the class opposed abortion, and most hands went up, about 20. She then said that, statistically speaking, about 6 of the girls holding their hands up had already had an abortion, or would during their college career. She then asked them to look around at one another and try to figure out who the murderers were. One girl shouted out "It's not me! I've not had an abortion!" in almost a panic, and there was a long silence. She made them keep their hands raised. A couple of girls started tearing up. Most of the others looked as if they had seen Ceasar's ghost.

The professor said that none of the girls in the room looked like murderers to her, and that if they had gone through the difficult choice to have an abortion, that they probably had good reasons.

During college I comforted about 10-12 girls who felt they had no other choice than to have an abortion. In the years since, I've probably talked to 50. Hearing a 50 year old woman talk about the abortion she had in 1974 as if it was a week ago isn't easy.

I've yet to meet anyone who was happy, proud, or excited to have had one. Even the most liberal bent seemed to still harbor shame and melancholy over it.

I've walked a few girls into the clinic, shielding them with a jacket from the mongrels on the street screaming "MURDERER!" at them, with grisly posters and plastic fetuses dangling from strings. I've had an "Operation Rescue" megaphone 3 inches from my ear.

It's hard to believe in 2008 we're still here. We're no closer, and in a lot of ways we've lost a tremendous amount of ground.

Even though it is said by some as a joke, I fervently believe that if men had the children, that abortion would not only be legal, but also free.

And Brandon and anyone else confused about the purity ritual, just go sit through one. Just one. Once you see some fat 45 year old guy holding a 13 year old's hand while she stares up at him doe-eyed and pledges her chastity to him (and Jesus), you won't dismiss it as easily.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:39 PM on October 31, 2008 [17 favorites]


Keeping feelings and needs secret from the opposite sex is not a good strategy for attaining equal rights, or healthy hetero relationships, troybob.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:45 PM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Araucaria, here's a huge con of IUDs: it goes behind the cervix. Let me repeat that for emphasis: behind the fucking cervix.

No effing way.


And that is one of the reasons they don't recommend them for women who have not given birth. An IUD insertion is a spa day compared to having a baby.
posted by padraigin at 1:51 PM on October 31, 2008


What I meant to say was, if you've had a baby with which to compare it to.

Also, IUDs carry a higher risk of complication if you are not in a fully monogamous relationship, so it's best if they are contraindicated for all the dirty whores out there. That's why I had to wait so long for mine, of course.
posted by padraigin at 1:55 PM on October 31, 2008


And neither side has any more empirical evidence for their assumptions than the other does, either.

Now that's just not true.

The conservative assumption used to be the sun revolved around the earth. The conservative christian assumption is that god created th world in six days. The conservative assumption now is that sexual education will lead to more teen pregnancy - which absolutely not true.

There are all sorts of 'conservative assumptions' that empirical evidence proves are BUNK beyond a shadow of a doubt.
posted by tkchrist at 2:07 PM on October 31, 2008


Keeping feelings and needs secret from the opposite sex is not a good strategy for attaining equal rights, or healthy hetero relationships, troybob.

I don't think it's necessarily a conscious thing; I think has evolved out of necessity. If making men think they have some degree of control over women keeps men from actually having control over women, that's great. I don't think it's the ideal situation, but until reality comes closer to meeting the the ideal, it helps. A woman has a right to use every tool in her arsenal; history tells us that men don't hesitate to use theirs.
posted by troybob at 2:28 PM on October 31, 2008


Ynoxas Have you read "The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion"?

Its pretty depressing, actually, the degree of internalized misogyny that is involved in that sort of mental process. "Other women are too dumb/whatever to make good decisions about abortion, they're just sluts. I, on the other hand, am special, a uniquely capable and non-slutty woman who just happens to need an abortion."

I do think that if more people were aware of how common the procedure is it'd be beneficial. Other than male circumcision I can't think of any medical procedure that 33% of either sex are likely to have undergone by age 45.
posted by sotonohito at 2:36 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


She asked how many women in the class opposed abortion, and most hands went up, about 20. She then said that, statistically speaking, about 6 of the girls holding their hands up had already had an abortion, or would during their college career. She then asked them to look around at one another and try to figure out who the murderers were. One girl shouted out "It's not me! I've not had an abortion!" in almost a panic, and there was a long silence. She made them keep their hands raised. A couple of girls started tearing up. Most of the others looked as if they had seen Ceasar's ghost.

This is awesome, because it is a way to force people to admit that they are human, and that it's okay.

I've yet to meet anyone who was happy, proud, or excited to have had one. Even the most liberal bent seemed to still harbor shame and melancholy over it.
...
Even though it is said by some as a joke, I fervently believe that if men had the children, that abortion would not only be legal, but also free.


Samantha Bee on The Daily Show just recently had a wonderful piece about exactly this. It was a response to McCain's sleazy scare-quotes around "health of the mother" in the last debate. You can tell she's absolutely irate and it comes through clearly in the audience's nervous laughter.
posted by odinsdream at 2:40 PM on October 31, 2008


Close-knit families make a difference. Teen-agers who live with both biological parents are more likely to be virgins than those who do not. And adolescents who say that their families understand them, pay attention to their concerns, and have fun with them are more likely to delay intercourse, regardless of religiosity.

I really like this part of the article. What also creeps me out about the purity ball thing (wow, I had never even heard of those) and the chastity vows is that it says to the young person "I don't trust you to make this decision quietly on your own, so you (or we) are going to make the decision publicly."

I was raised by religiously conservative but extremely open-minded and trusting parents who almost never dictated the rules to me. I made choices almost exactly along the lines of the article's description of the liberal "pro-family" profile, and have been really happy with my decisions. The environment of trust around me made such a huge difference there.
posted by wundermint at 2:45 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Araucaria, here's a huge con of IUDs: it goes behind the cervix. Let me repeat that for emphasis: behind the fucking cervix.

No it doesn't. An IUD goes inside the uterus, placed there by a trained health care provider. There's an eensy string that hangs out of the uterus that naturally wraps itself around the cervix, though. You can barely feel the string with your fingers when you insert them into the vagina to check that it's in place.

I don't think there is a *behind* to the cervix, exactly, anyway.

About sex ed: That's what I do for a living. I run pregnancy prevention programs for teenagers. All responsible comprehensive sex ed programs for adolescents encourage abstinence until the young person is truly ready. They give not just information about contraceptives and STD prevention, but also address gaining skills to help make sure that they can be healthy with their decisions. So that can be, for example, learning an actual decision-making model and practicing weighing the pros and cons of a tough decision in a role play. Most good sex ed curricula I know of not only show how to put condoms on (using a plastic penis or dildo), but also having each participant practice it, too. We train the youth in assertive communication, have them examine their values (so that they know what they're OK with doing), and about 9,000 other things that are valuable for things other than sex. Life skills, if you will.

OK, I actually get a little bored talking about this stuff. I just wanted to address the weird IUD comment.

Oh crap. On preview here's another IUD comment:
And that is one of the reasons they don't recommend them for women who have not given birth. An IUD insertion is a spa day compared to having a baby.
First, No. IUDs are appropriate for nulliparous women, and failure and expulsion rates are actually lower than for parous women. Here's a good slide that explains some IUD myths.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:48 PM on October 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


troybob: And what do these metaphorically-armed women win?

In the U.S., most of us are free to communicate directly. That some of us still get all fifties-housewifey rather than speaking the hell up does not speak well of us.

There are women all over the world who are not that lucky, and they may never be. Any woman who is free to speak her mind and chooses instead to be a manipulative game-player basking in her own mysterious "power" is being profoundly disrespectful to the millions of women who may live and die without knowing that kind of freedom.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 3:01 PM on October 31, 2008


I have only been objecting to the word (not the concept) "values," as it is consistently used by the Religious Right.

Again: this is a perfectly decent word, which means in English precisely what the Religious Right is using it to mean: "a set of moral beliefs which guide behavior". If you do not like the implication their mere association with the word lends it, acting as though the word itself is unpleasant is certainly not going to help your cause. In fact, you are playing right into their hands by doing so. The list of politically useful rebuttals to "liberals just don't have values" does not include "nuh uh, I'm liberal and I hate the word values". A much better response is "you are wrong, liberals do have values, such as equality and social service. Here's how these values inform our politics".

Besides, it does not really matter whether you are objecting to the word or the concept; the damage you do to your position is exactly the same. Everything I've said here and here applies whether it's the concept or just the word you refuse to accept. Either way, you are allowing the Evangelicals to set the tone of the argument.

The conservative assumption used to be the sun revolved around the earth. The conservative christian assumption is that god created th world in six days. The conservative assumption now is that sexual education will lead to more teen pregnancy - which absolutely not true.There are all sorts of 'conservative assumptions' that empirical evidence proves are BUNK beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I was talking about morals, and those are not moral assumptions. They are factual assumptions. Facts can be proved right or wrong, but morals (such as "we should do X, Y, and Z because God wants us to" and "we should do X, Y, and Z because all human beings have equal rights") cannot. You can provide empirical evidence to back them up, but you cannot prove them empirically, because the underlying assumptions they're based on ("God wants us to" and "all human beings have equal rights") are human social constructions, not empirical facts.

Also: liberals have had their facts wrong, too, often in equally ridiculous ways... in fact, many of the ideas you claim are "conservative assumptions" were also "liberal assumptions", once upon a time.
posted by vorfeed at 3:05 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


A woman who is free to speak her mind is not always a woman who feels free to speak her mind. And again, I don't characterize it as necessarily conscious manipulation. It's just an evolution of what works. If the alternative to doing a 'chastity pledge' is to live with a father or other assorted men acting more overtly as if they have the right to control your body, I don't begrudge anyone who takes the road of less hassle. We're talking about people born into families that take some of this scary crap seriously; personal enlightenment and idealism can only take you to a certain point in that situation.

I grew up in the Old South around Old Ideas, and I got plenty beaten about by the bible belt. My idealistic side chides me for not announcing and embracing my sexuality as a teenager and just standing my ground. My realistic side says that such embrace, even within the confines of my own home, would have literally killed me.
posted by troybob at 3:19 PM on October 31, 2008


To all those going "eww" and "yuck"...


Context, from my daughter:

"Tell him that maybe we should make the boys pledge their cock to their mother."
posted by Space Kitty at 4:08 PM on October 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


Look at any three women, odds are that by the time they're 45 at least one of them will have had an abortion, and depending on the study it could be as high as 50%.



Do you have links to any studies showing the 50% rate? Because the two links you provided both say about 30%:

It is estimated here that, as of 2008, about 28% of U.S. women ages 15-64 have had abortions.

At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45[4], and, at current rates, about one-third will have had an abortion.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:11 PM on October 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


troybob: Thanks for elaborating. You're obviously coming at this form a very ifferent place than I am. I do respect the need for and value of coping strategies and things that make a difficult, confining situation easier to bear. I didn't get where you were coming from. You make a really good point about the importance of feeling free, as well as being free.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 4:17 PM on October 31, 2008


just go sit through one. Just one. Once you see some fat 45 year old guy holding a 13 year old's hand while she stares up at him doe-eyed and pledges her chastity to him (and Jesus), you won't dismiss it as easily.

Fair enough and good point. That certainly does sound gross.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:34 PM on October 31, 2008


I had an Copper 7 IUD inserted at 19, and it was hands down the most painful experience of my life, easily trumping labour, those weird stomach pains that landed me in emergency, a broken leg, a syringe probing my strep-throat swollen tonsils for abscesses, or any injury I've had. I was literally green when I was able to get up off the table-- I always thought that was a myth, that people could turn that colour-- and the nurse asked me in a matter of fact way if I was going to faint. "People often do," she said. I had the damn thing out a few days later after constant cramping. Not to say that this is anything close to other women's experiences, but I was left with a sense that such brutalization (which is pretty much what the whole thing felt like—I couldn’t even contemplate having sex in the interim) wouldn't be expected of men, in whatever correlative sense.
posted by jokeefe at 5:17 PM on October 31, 2008


ewkpates: Religious conservatives want people to do what Jesus told tells them we should, rather than simply what keeps us from choking the crap out of each other.

Speaking as a liberal Christian, I'd like to remind my secular mefite brethren and sistren that 21st century American evangelical dogma is a far cry from anything that Jesus ever told anyone to do. His most direct intervention in the sexual norms of first-century Judea? "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Put another way, Jesus was, mutatis mutandis, the professor in ynoxas' (excellent) anecdote.
posted by sy at 5:34 PM on October 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Stewriffic Thank you for those wonderful words. I had never run into parous and nulliparous before.

oneirodynia I kept typing 50% when I meant 40%. Look at the first link, and you'll see the quote on that one "In 2008, of women ages 40-55, about 40% have had abortions in their lifetimes." As for why I kept typing 50% I can only blame stupidity on my part.
posted by sotonohito at 5:42 PM on October 31, 2008


"In 2008, of women ages 40-55, about 40% have had abortions in their lifetimes."

Right, but you can't use that statistic to talk about women in general- only women ages 40-55.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:50 PM on October 31, 2008


sotonohito, might want to look into nullip and nulligravida as well. woot nulligravidas!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:52 PM on October 31, 2008


The fact that abortion is often viewed as a shameful thing can lead to startlement that way. I think it'd be a good thing if more people knew the figures on abortion.

See: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/uslifetimeab.html
and: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html


Wow, count me as one of the startled. I had no idea.

She then said that, statistically speaking, about 6 of the girls holding their hands up had already had an abortion, or would during their college career. She then asked them to look around at one another and try to figure out who the murderers were. One girl shouted out "It's not me! I've not had an abortion!" in almost a panic, and there was a long silence. She made them keep their hands raised. A couple of girls started tearing up. Most of the others looked as if they had seen Ceasar's ghost.

This has been one of the most enlightening MeFi posts I've seen in a long time.

Thanks to sotonohito, Ynoxas, Mayor West and many others.

I do think that if more people were aware of how common the procedure is it'd be beneficial.
QFT.
posted by marsha56 at 6:21 PM on October 31, 2008


Just watching an old ep of A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Never seen a better sketch about abstinence ed than this.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:50 PM on October 31, 2008


I wonder what funky style guide they're geting that from.

You apparently aren't aware of the bizarre style guides used by both the Nëw Yorkër and the N.Y.T.
posted by oaf at 8:00 PM on October 31, 2008


I had an Copper 7 IUD inserted at 19, and it was hands down the most painful experience of my life

I got my Mirena in almost 4 years ago, and it was also extremely painful. Funny story actually--I worked at the clinic where I got it inserted, so I knew both the provider and the assistants. The assistants actually quarreled about who got to hold my hand. There ended up being three of them. During the procedure I began to get extremely hot--not quite vasovagal, but close. (Perhaps because I've not had kids yet and it HURT like a mofo.) Well, during my extreme heat I decided I HAD to take my top off and all three were fanning me. I have to say that despite the pain, it was by far the most loving medical procedure I've had done. And also? I love my IUD. I have no periods anymore. YAY!

Will someone remind me to get it replaced come January 2010? Thanks.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:08 PM on October 31, 2008


I would like to risk the suggestion that what many in this thread refer to as "liberal values" and an emphasis on rights over values is very likely something unique to the United States and thankfully something that isn't linked inexorably to modern life in the West.

Miko: The liberal tradition of respecting individual rights to believe differently, respecting freedom of thought and speech, has meant that most liberals deemphasize values and morals and, instead, emphasize rights. Most of the liberal struggles of the last century (largely successful ones, I might add) were framed in the language of 'rights,' because liberals believe that when everyone has equal rights and equal opportunity in a free market, a morally ordered world will follow. We have emphasized the rights over the values. But what that has done, especially in the post-Atwater decades, is lead others to accuse liberals of being completely amoral - that in the advocation of rights and refusal to engage in a conversation based within a single religious philosophy, liberals reject morals outright and believe in an 'anything goes' approach to social governance.

I think this is spot-on in relation to the U.S. but the whole larger argument really has no resonance for me as a Canadian. I ask myself why that is and I think it is because of a genuine cultural difference. Trudeau famously remarked that, "the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation", and I would suggest this is the POV of most Canadians regardless of who they choose to vote for in a given election. Simply put, it's nobody's business and therefore it shouldn't be discussed in those circles; what do politicians know about sexual morality, why even look in that direction for input?

It seems to me there's a real problem just defining things in those terms (culture "war"), you set yourself up for conflict and you set yourself up to lose.

Also I would like to make a joke here about having the Wong Morals.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:07 PM on October 31, 2008


Stewriffic, when I said behind the cervix, I meant that it goes in your uterus through the cervix (thus the crazy pain I was saying no effing way to). "Behind the cervix" is the language for such procedures from my animal insemination class, so forgive me if that does not translate into human medicine. And I'm still never going to get a IUD, especially not when I can just slap a patch on every week. No periods here, either.
posted by internet!Hannah at 7:48 AM on November 1, 2008


Brandon Blatcher; I just kind of find the standard of "purity" to be an absurdly repressive and stultifying burden to lay on an adolescent. Apparently the most important message these fathers have for their girls is to absolutely not explore something you'll want to do in a few years; because you'll be letting down dad and Jesus. Not "making smart decisions", not "waiting till your ready" not even "trying to follow god's plan" but purity. Perfect chastity.

Conservatives talk a lot about the sexualization of culture; but just because their message is "sex is bad" it doesn't mean they aren't sexualizing their 13 year old girls. Your value is your virginity; daddy got all dressed up and took your out for this; an event to make sure you keep your legs closed.

I'm a godless hedonist, so I'll always snicker at this stuff, but it wouldn't be so bad if I thought the "Get Good Grades" Ball, or "Help Others" Ball, or "Women Can Achieve" Ball drew the same crowds. It's a ridiculous case of having messed up priorities.
posted by spaltavian at 8:24 AM on November 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The 45-55 statistic is appropriate because it reflects what will have happened to an average woman by the time she reaches menopause. The 2?-40 stat is necessarily a lower estimate since those women have had fewer chances to have a pregnancy. In other words, take that cohort and age them 20 years, and they should be similar to the 45-55 group.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:05 AM on November 1, 2008


ARMOOM: 1). you can't necessarily assume that is how the future will shape up, as changing cultural attitudes, ethnic populations, access to good sex ed, and use and methods of birth control, &c. can change drastically over two decades. One thing that could drastically change this number over 20 years would be widespread acceptance and use of ECPs. However, we have no way of knowing right now if and how that might affect the future.
2). You can't use statistics to say what will have happened; you can only say that: using the data we have now, the probability of A {a woman having had an abortion}, given that B {she is 40-55 year of age} is X {40%}. It's most definitely not appropriate or correct to then say: therefore the probability of A {a woman having had an abortion} is X {40%}, particularly when the very same study shows us that the actual statistic of P(A) from the same study is 28%.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:49 AM on November 1, 2008


Good sex info on the internet targeted at teens:

http://midwestteensexshow.com/
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 11:36 AM on November 1, 2008


I haven't ever been pregnant, and I found getting an IUD a bit more painful than getting a needle, but less painful than a bad headache. I had mild cramping for the first week, but nothing as bad as the pre-IUD cramping I had at times, and it's eliminated all cramping since. Now, I did get mine in the UK, where they are more commonly used and widely recommended for women with or without children in monogamous relationships. Perhaps there are differences in design, or in insertion. Certainly, no one at the clinic expected it to be very painful, and it wasn't.

---------------

As for the purity ball thing - yes, I think I will regard it as inherently sexist (as well as slightly creepy) until there are purity balls in which boys vow their virginities to their mothers.
posted by jb at 11:52 AM on November 1, 2008


(patches are fine birth control, but IUDs are an excellent choice for those who react badly to hormonal birth control.)
posted by jb at 11:54 AM on November 1, 2008


I remain thoroughly confused about IUDs.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:20 PM on November 1, 2008


Stewriffic, when I said behind the cervix, I meant that it goes in your uterus through the cervix

Yeah, I figured that might be what you meant a few hours after I'd posted; sorry if I sounded ornery!

As to which form of contraception to use, everyone needs to pick the one that works best for them--something you know you can use consistently and correctly.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:28 PM on November 1, 2008


I remain thoroughly confused about IUDs.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:20 PM on November 1 [+] [!]


What are you confused about? If you want to know more about them, you can memail me. I'm so happy with mine that I'm basically a self-appointed IUD evangelist. (Also because I wish I had been recommended one years ago, but they just aren't the "in" thing at gyny clinics in Canada - and I went through some really sucky times with hormonal birth control because that was my main choice.)
posted by jb at 8:32 PM on November 1, 2008


I red this article this afternoon. I spent a long long time looking at this picture and the caption. It's interesting how the nameless girl is turned into a, hm, nameless girl by the writer. And the caption "The 'sexual début' of an evangelical girl typically occurs just after she turns sixteen" leads you to assume this girl specifically had her sexual debut around that time. There's that sense of superiority of a arm's-length view of Jesusland in that picture and caption that shows the tone of the article. Were that girl member of some minority, she would have her name, her age and quote on that caption. Since she's just a curious specimen, a native of jesusland, she's just not granted the right.

The article is meh. A bunch of conjectures, not really backed by data.
posted by falameufilho at 12:13 AM on November 2, 2008


Ynoxas Have you read "The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion"?

I have now. Thank you sotonohito. I've not personally run into a situation that extreme, but there are girls I know who basically the day they had it performed tried to wipe it from their memory and for ever after would insist they never had one.

I know one woman very well who had an abortion in the 70's, and later "found religion" and became a fervent anti-abortion activist. She founded a non-profit and has worked for over 20 years now trying to convince other girls not to have abortions, basically to try every other option first. She does this as a loving, caring gesture, so I cannot fault her for it.

She often tells the story of her own abortion, becoming pregnant at the hands of an abusive partner. After finding the strength to leave, she finds out she's pregnant, and cannot bear to have this man in her life forever.

She still regrets her abortion to this day. She still cries when recounting it. I am so profoundly sad for this woman because she is a good, decent woman, who has dedicated her adult life to a higher calling, but she still cannot relieve herself of her own burden.

I once asked her if she felt Jesus had forgiven her, and she said "Of course". So I asked why she hadn't forgiven herself, and she just boiled tears and said she just couldn't, not ever.


As for the purity ball thing - yes, I think I will regard it as inherently sexist (as well as slightly creepy) until there are purity balls in which boys vow their virginities to their mothers.
posted by jb at 1:52 PM on November 1


In fairness, I have seen some of the "purity rituals" that were co-ed, where both boys and girls got up in front of the group (i.e. congregation) and pledged chastity, but only with females have I seen the thing with the faux "wedding ceremony" and faux wedding ring. Mileage may vary outside the Bible Belt.

Even back when I was a Believer this stuff creeped me out.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:41 AM on November 2, 2008


the caption "The 'sexual début' of an evangelical girl typically occurs just after she turns sixteen" leads you to assume this girl specifically had her sexual debut around that time. There's that sense of superiority of a arm's-length view of Jesusland in that picture and caption that shows the tone of the article. Were that girl member of some minority, she would have her name, her age and quote on that caption. Since she's just a curious specimen, a native of jesusland, she's just not granted the right.


My, that's a lot of assumptions that the magazine really isn't responsible for. I read the New Yorker all the time and I completely disagree that there would have been a caption if the girl were a "member of some minority." If the story included the specific girl and the details of her life, it probably would have, but it is a story about general demographic trends, not specific people. It is not uncommon, in any magazine, to use a model or a stock photograph or a piece from a thematically related project to illustrate a story. I'm not under the impression that the woman pictured next to the article in "Health" on heart disease in your 30s really has heart disease or is really in her 30s. In this case, the photographer, Mary Ellen Mark, has apparently done a lot of work photographing a wide variety of people in a wide variety of communities. This picture, which most people will readily interpret as that of a very young mother, is an appropriate accompaniment to the article. I'm sure if you wrote the editor you could get a subject ID to clarify whether any assumptions you made were off base.

The article is meh. A bunch of conjectures, not really backed by data.

The article is built on data from at least three synthetic studies of demographics and social science on teenage sexual behavior. It cites the work of Peter Bearman, the founding director of Columbia University's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, and Hannah Brückner, a Yale sociologist. Their paper After the Promise: The STD Consequence of Adolescent Virginity Pledges [PDF]. They relied greatly on data from the National Institute of Health's National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, "the largest, most comprehensive study of adolescents ever taken," involving 90,000 student surveys that follow students from age 13 to, currently, age 32 and complementary one-on-one interviews.

The article also references a forthcoming book by June Carbone, family law professor at the University of Missouri, and Naomi Cahn, family law professor at George Washington University. Their work on "Red Families vs. Blue Families" interprets and builds on data gathered from public law and court records in the state courts.

Finally, the paper spends the most time discussing the work of Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas, whose book Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers.” His work is built on surveys and interviews with more than 3600 adolescents and on the Add Health study as well.

A quick scan of the article yielded the following list of quantifiable assertions based on the huge body of data the authors were working with:

  • The vast majority of white evangelical adolescents—seventy-four per cent—say that they believe in abstaining from sex before marriage. (Only half of mainline Protestants, and a quarter of Jews, say that they believe in abstinence.)

  • Among the major religious groups, evangelical virgins are the least likely to anticipate that sex will be pleasurable, and the most likely to believe that having sex will cause their partners to lose respect for them.

  • Jews most often cite pleasure as a reason to have sex, and say that an unplanned pregnancy would be an embarrassment.

  • Evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. On average, white evangelical Protestants make their “sexual début”—to use the festive term of social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.

  • Evangelical Protestant teen-agers are significantly less likely than other groups to use contraception.

  • Evangelicals are also among the most likely to believe that using contraception will send the message that they are looking for sex

  • More than half of those who take [abstinence] pledges...end up having sex before marriage, and not usually with their future spouse

  • Pledgers delay sex eighteen months longer than non-pledgers, and have fewer partners.

  • Communities with high rates of pledging also have high rates of S.T.D.s

  • If too many teens pledge, the effort basically collapses....once their numbers exceed thirty per cent

  • Teen-agers who live with both biological parents are more likely to be virgins than those who do not.

  • Adolescents who say that their families understand them, pay attention to their concerns, and have fun with them are more likely to delay intercourse, regardless of religiosity.

  • In 2004, the states with the highest divorce rates were Nevada, Arkansas, Wyoming, Idaho, and West Virginia (all red states in the 2004 election); those with the lowest were Illinois, Massachusetts, Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

  • The highest teen-pregnancy rates were in Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas (all red); the lowest were in North Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Maine (blue except for North Dakota).

  • The ‘blue states’ of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have lower teen birthrates, higher use of abortion, and lower percentages of teen births within marriage

  • People start families earlier in red states

  • Women who marry before their mid-twenties are significantly more likely to divorce than those who marry later

    ...So I have to call bullshit on the idea that somehow there is not enough data in the article; there is certainly enough to lend support to the interpretations of the data put forth by the scholars mentioned in the article. You are certainly free to look at these data and offer an alternative interpretation to explain why teenagers from white evangelical Protestant backgrounds are more likely to take sexual risks and to become single mothers and teen parents, but there is no honest way to assert that the statements in the article are "not really backed by data." If you can read MetaFilter, your reading comprehension is good enough to see that that is patently untrue.

  • posted by Miko at 6:45 AM on November 2, 2008 [6 favorites]



    ARMOOM: 1). you can't necessarily assume that is how the future will shape up, as changing cultural attitudes, ethnic populations, access to good sex ed, and use and methods of birth control, &c. can change drastically over two decades. One thing that could drastically change this number over 20 years would be widespread acceptance and use of ECPs. However, we have no way of knowing right now if and how that might affect the future.
    2). You can't use statistics to say what will have happened; you can only say that: using the data we have now, the probability of A {a woman having had an abortion}, given that B {she is 40-55 year of age} is X {40%}. It's most definitely not appropriate or correct to then say: therefore the probability of A {a woman having had an abortion} is X {40%}, particularly when the very same study shows us that the actual statistic of P(A) from the same study is 28%.


    The assertion wasn't "how likely is someone to have had an abortion" it was "by the time they're 45 ...".

    To say anything about what young people are likely to experience in their lifetime, you obviously have to add the caveat about secular trends. I can look at last year's mortality data for 72 year olds and say what I think will happen to this year's 72 year olds in the absence of a secular trend. If I want to ask "how likely is it that a girl born today will have an abortion in her lifetime" you have to look at what you have for older people, not the abortion rate among neonates. The best way to do that would be to build a hazard model for what's happened in the last 12 months on women of many ages; it seems that's what the source of the 35% number is. An ok way would be to take the raw number from a 45yo group; that's the source of 40%. A worse way would be to take the raw number of a sample uncorrected for age.

    The secular trend assumption probably is wrong; there's a visible cohort effect in the johnston link. Demographers have probably got more clever methods to try to cope with the cohort
    posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:02 PM on November 2, 2008


    My points of confusion and hesitancy wrt getting an IUD are:

    - Will it give me too much pain to live with? How can I figure that out? Rejection statistics for Mirena vs. Paraguard? My doctor had a grim outlook on IUDs when I asked for one, talked me out of it on the basis of seeing too many rejections.

    - Does localized application of hormones have any less impact on sex drive, weight gain, PMS, other various hormonal processes, than systemic applications?

    Yeah, I am a pretty careful consumer.
    posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:15 PM on November 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


    Teen-agers who live with both biological parents are more likely to be virgins than those who do not.

    This seems logical given there is twice the chance of, "Oh my god, Suzie, what the heel are you and Johnny doing in there!"
    posted by Pollomacho at 7:20 AM on November 3, 2008


    what the heel

    Apparently mom has a cartoonish Hungarian accent.
    posted by Pollomacho at 7:24 AM on November 3, 2008


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