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Water between the sheets
October 11, 2010 12:37 AM   Subscribe

Sociologist Amy Schalet has done wonderful research comparing American and Dutch approaches to teen sexuality. (Blog commentary here)
Among other fascinating findings, she has shown that, American parents approach their children’s sexual initiation with fear and loathing; while Dutch parents treat sexuality like any other realm of life that a child must learn to manage. Accordingly, most American teenagers hide their virginity loss from their parents, furtively popping the cherry in risky situations, often without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In contrast, most Dutch teenagers lose their virginity in their own bedrooms with their parents approval… and condoms.


This different approach to teen sexuality helps explain the dramatic differences between the U.S. and the Netherlands in rates of contraceptive use, teen pregnancy, abortion, and STI transmission.
Also: Extra data from Advocates of Youth.
posted by knz (68 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
"... American adolescent sexuality has been dramatized rather than normalized."

Well put.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:56 AM on October 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


For years, schools funded under the federal "abstinence-only" policy were prohibited from educating teens about condoms and contraception and required to teach that sex outside of heterosexual marriage was damaging. A 2004 survey by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University found that most parents actually thought that contraception and condom education should be included, but two thirds still agreed sex education should teach that abstinence outside of marriage is “the accepted standard for schoolaged children.” And for most parents, abstinence means no oral sex or intimate touching.
Thank you, conservatives, for pitting your higher morality against our children's baser instincts in what can only be thought of as some sort of evil, fucked up sociological experiment designed to shame people into your specific breed of conformity. You've done us well.

Fucks.
posted by disillusioned at 1:01 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was ready to dismiss this as a case of yet another academic with a Europe fixation, but then I looked at the charts. That is unbelievable, and I'm astonished they aren't more widely publicized.
posted by nasreddin at 1:03 AM on October 11, 2010


Very insightful. The American parenting model of "no sex until after you've grown up and moved out" fails fundamentally because many teens are having sex anyways. It is always smart to be open minded and deal with things as they really are.

One issue I have with the data though. I would be wary prescribing oral contraceptive usage for adolescents. They are largely hormonal chemicals with known side effects, and adolescents are, by definition, still growing.
posted by polymodus at 1:23 AM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey pro-lifers, how do you like them apples?
posted by atrazine at 1:34 AM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


So the Dutch don't treat their young adults like infants, and that seems to work?
posted by maxwelton at 1:59 AM on October 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


I notice they left the UK out of the charts because it is almost as bad as the US.
Wikipedia has stats from more countries on teen pregnancy rates, including both births and abortions...
posted by nielm at 2:42 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey pro-lifers, how do you like them apples?

A pro-lifer would like it very much. Assuming the data are compatible (the years are the same, so I'd bet they are), nearly three quarters of reported teen pregnancies in the US do not involve a reported abortion. Less than half have an abortion in Germany and more than half do in France and the Netherlands. So we're winning that war.
posted by clorox at 2:52 AM on October 11, 2010


Huh, I call bullshit. Schalet? Obviously a Dutch name.
Don't be fooled sheeple. It's all part of an elaborate propaganda ploy to undermine the core values of the real america.

So what's next? Universal health care? Legalised pot?
Taking good care of your dykes?
Riding bikes?
posted by joost de vries at 2:59 AM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pro-lifers are interested in ratios these days?
posted by ninebelow at 2:59 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Except that the total number of abortions in proportion to population still exceeds that in the European countries, because so many US teens are getting pregnant.

Surely a rational pro-lifer should prefer the EU model?
posted by pharm at 3:01 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to the wikipedia stats I listed above, 35% of teen pregnancies are aborted in the US, 33.6% in the Netherlands, and 28.9% in Germany (France, yeah, 58.4%)
posted by nielm at 3:03 AM on October 11, 2010


... rational pro-lifer...

I do not understand this term.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:09 AM on October 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


If you think abortion is murder, your only concern should be to reduce the number of abortions -- not to reduce the percentage of teen pregnancies that are aborted while the absolute number skyrockets. To compare: a state where 20 assaults occur annually, half of which end in murder, is preferable to a state where 1000 assaults occur annually, only 400 of which end in murder. What people want is less murders.
posted by creasy boy at 3:09 AM on October 11, 2010


because so many US teens are getting pregnant

More manpower to pump the bellows on the blast furnace of the American Dream!
I decided not to include a hamburger tag in my last post; I should have.
posted by clorox at 3:18 AM on October 11, 2010


For me it hovered on the hamburger meter for a few minutes before settling on the "probably serious" side.
posted by creasy boy at 3:25 AM on October 11, 2010


This is another one of those moments where I'm about to post "yeah? Doesn't everyone already know this?" and then it turns out that people don't and I feel like a dick. And then there's a bit of "oh but this doesn't work in France" an now I don't know why to believe. What I will say is that my mother told my brothers and I all about sex at a young age and basically said "Here's the information, here are my thoughta about that information, here's what other people think about that information, here's the law - I'll worry about you and love you whatever happens because I'm your mother, and you can always talk to me, and there's a box of condoms in the cupboard if you ever need and you make your own decisions and live with them" (same thing with drugs and alcohol which made rebelling less fun). It's a good strategy. Same principles apply in business and etc.

/ohlookatmyliberalupbringingfilter
posted by doublehappy at 3:30 AM on October 11, 2010 [13 favorites]


Let's pretend I corrected those phone typos.

1 abortion is too many for pro-lifers, right?
posted by doublehappy at 3:32 AM on October 11, 2010


Very insightful. The American parenting model of "no sex until after you've grown up and moved out" fails fundamentally because many teens are having sex anyways.

Surely this fundamentally fails because we never move out?
posted by honest knave at 3:32 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


For years, schools funded under the federal "abstinence-only" policy were prohibited from educating teens about condoms and contraception...

There was an entry on the Not Always Right website featuring a teenage girl who asked a drug store employee, "do you have that contraception called 'Abstinence'? They say it's the only 100% effective one."

And she wasn't kidding, apparently -- when he told her what "abstinence" meant ("it means 'to abstain from,' like 'not having sex'") she frowned and said, "well, THAT sucks."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 AM on October 11, 2010 [15 favorites]


Surely a rational pro-lifer should prefer the EU model?

That depends if you're a pro-lifer who thinks, rationally, that contraception is preferable to abortion, or if you're a pro-lifer who thinks that sex before marriage is evil and contraception is heresy.

One lesson here is that when you treat young adults like adults and educate them properly they are less likely to end up pregnant or with pregnant partners. But if your primary objective is to scare your child into thinking they will catch syphilis and go to hell from sharing a hot tub, I guess condoms and a welcome mat are a bridge too far.
posted by londonmark at 4:28 AM on October 11, 2010


Hey pro-lifers, how do you like them apples?

Given that the "pro-life" position is not so much about preserving life, but about keeping sex dangerous and ensuring that traditional boundaries are strictly enforced, anything that ensures that transgressions are met with severe consequences would be a good thing from a pro-lifer point of view. It's the "Thank God for AIDS" mindset.
posted by acb at 4:34 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


doublehappy: "there's a box of condoms in the cupboard if you ever need and you make your own decisions and live with them" (same thing with drugs and alcohol which made rebelling less fun)."

O.o

What drugs did your mother keep in the cupboard? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by brokkr at 4:48 AM on October 11, 2010


Hey pro-lifers, how do you like them apples?

We've had debates here on MeFi with anti-contraception pro-lifers. They would say (paraphrasing here) that contraception is a grave sin unto itself and that encouraging someone to commit a grave sin to prevent another grave sin is pointless. You get a similar response when you ask them if they would support increased government benefits for single moms and babies (since that would presumably reduce the number of women willing to abort for financial reasons).

They would be against more benefits for moms and babies because the evil of socialism is at least comparable with the evil of abortion, and using one to discourage the other would result in no net gain for God's account book or whatever.

Here in the real world, people understand that some situations have no easy answers. Sometimes we have to make compromises with smaller evils to ward off evils that we've decided are bigger and scarier. People who can't understand that usually end up as pro-lifers or just extremists in whatever field they feel strongly about.

Those people are insufferably stupid, but they do exist and all the data in the world isn't going to change their minds.
posted by Avenger at 5:18 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The good thing is that those people eventually get to go to Heaven where (as I understand it) there are no shades of gray.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:24 AM on October 11, 2010


Taking good care of your dykes?

Oooh, yes please!
posted by rtha at 5:46 AM on October 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


because uptight people tend to focus so much on sex, they lose sight of the fact that bringing your kids up like this has so many other positive implications.

I came from an Irish Catholic background where condoms were not legally availible to unmarrieds until the relatively recent past. In the 70's parts of the women's movement in Ireland used to go across the border to Belfast and buy condoms for free distribution back in Dublin. Oh, the scandal!

We brought our kids up as you see described. My daughter, (now 20 and not yet sexually active by choice) would come home and tell us pretty hair-raising things about the kinds of peer pressure young girls experience here in the UK.

We weathered the 14 year old phase of all girls practically competeing to give the best blow-jobs, reading articles, comparing tecnhiques because the boys liked it, you couldn't get pregnant (cos the boys didn't like using condoms). As we'd sit around the kitchen table discussing this, we'd simply ask, we'll what's in it for the girl? What does the guy do for her? How does she get off? These discussions often branched out into equality, fairness, respect oh, a thousand and one different directions. We'd crack jokes, laugh, squirm with embarrassment and disgust, together.

at 16 the pressure was about losing her virginity, her peer group felt she was "old enough" and in our chats it became clear they thought by not engageing she was somehow looking down on them, superior, snobby. So we'd discuss insecurity, the quality of friendship, what friendship really means, why opinions hurt. She was left with a smaller group of friends.

We still have the odd discussion as she wonders whether this boyfriend is the one, and sometime the 13 year old boy drifts in or out. It's clear from the family dynamic that he can join in if he wants and he'll often ask for clarification of something but right now he's more PS3 than girl crazy.

But the positive benefits to the rest of our experience as a family are vast. As parents we have a much greater insight into her pressure points, her coping strategies, etc., she's more likely to let us know about something before it becomes a problem. We have huge respect for how she's handled this aspect of her life while still worried that by leaving it later it'll assume too much importance, but all that comes out of those chats.

I saw too many girls take the abortion bus to England growing up, or worse returning from an unexplained 7 month absence from school with a new "nephew" and stretch marks.
posted by Wilder at 6:05 AM on October 11, 2010 [16 favorites]


It's a good strategy. Same principles apply in business and etc.

Yes. My mother, before I went to my first real party, told me this:

"Now, son, they'll probably have drugs as well as alcohol there. If you drink too much, you're going to throwup and feel like shit in the morning. If they have pot you should probably try it, but all it did for me was make me itchy and irritable. I'd stay away from anything else until you see if you like being drunk or high, except for heroin or coke or crack, because you can't get them without rat poison and all kinds of chemicals mixed in that will make you stupid and literally kill your brain."

I didn't try pot until I was 21. We had a similar conversation about sex. I listened to Beatles records and pined over girls until I lost my virginity at 19.

My southern conservative friends? All kinds of fucked up, abortions, STDs, rehab. They all went crazy trying to pretend they weren't human.
posted by notion at 6:17 AM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Personally, I'd rather see a pregnancy under any circumstances be prevented than end in abortion. I've got mixed feelings about contraception, but I'll buy the "lesser of two evils" argument in this case.

But from reading this thread, I'm given to understand that as a pro-lifer I'm insufferably stupid and irrational, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
posted by Shohn at 6:26 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


But from reading this thread, I'm given to understand that as a pro-lifer I'm insufferably stupid and irrational

I don't think you're stupid and irrational, that would be considered poor practice in modern anthropology.
posted by atrazine at 6:35 AM on October 11, 2010


I've got mixed feelings about contraception, but I'll buy the "lesser of two evils" argument in this case.

A lot of us don't understand the mindset that says abortion is bad BUT teaching kids about contraception will make them have sex.

After decades (in the U.S.) of abstinence-only education in many school systems, the evidence is clear: it doesn't work. Kids still have sex, only they have it without protection, and the result is pregnancy and appalling rates of sexually transmitted disease.
posted by rtha at 6:36 AM on October 11, 2010


I noticed in 2008 when my fellow liberals were trying to play "gotcha" on Bristol Palin and generally failing. My working theory is that teen pregnancy isn't a big deal for conservatives with privelege as long as there's an extended family and/or shotgun marriage in the works. It's teen pregnancy of low-SES people who receive government benefits that bothers them.

So I suspect there's an element of, "it won't happen to my kids, and if it does, I want grandchildren anyway so what?"

Meanwhile, the latest Kinsey study finds that American kids are both less sexually active and less promiscuous than assumed.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:44 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a father I can say with 100% conviction that I'd rather my daughter be introduced to sex in a sane manner, and feel free to have sex for the first time in her own bedroom.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:47 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


In contrast, most Dutch teenagers lose their virginity in their own bedrooms with their parents approval… and condoms.

i am decades away from my teenage years, and i feel pretty confident that my mother just rolled over in her grave knowing i even read that, let alone approve of it.
posted by msconduct at 6:52 AM on October 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


But from reading this thread, I'm given to understand that as a pro-lifer I'm insufferably stupid and irrational.

Not really. If you think that reducing the number of pregnancies by using contraception is a valid means of reducing abortion numbers then good on you.
posted by gaspode at 6:56 AM on October 11, 2010


I've got mixed feelings about contraception, but I'll buy the "lesser of two evils" argument in this case.

So, babies born to not-anywhere-near-ready-for-parenthood teenagers would be the optimum situation, then? Oh no, no, of course not. "Pro-lifers" wouldn't suggest that. Teens just shouldn't have sex, at all. Yeah, that's the 'no-evil' scenario, of course. And that's been working like a charm!

As a father I can say with 100% conviction that I'd rather my daughter be introduced to sex in a sane manner, and feel free to have sex for the first time in her own bedroom.

Agreed.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:00 AM on October 11, 2010


A lot of us don't understand the mindset that says abortion is bad BUT teaching kids about contraception will make them have sex

All things being equal, I think it is better that kids learn about contraception. My mixed feelings about contraception are my personal ones as a Catholic. I do think contraceptives work, and as I said I'd prefer a prevented pregnancy to a terminated one.

So, babies born to not-anywhere-near-ready-for-parenthood teenagers would be the optimum situation, then?

I didn't say that. To be honest, I think you're really stretching to get that interpretation out of my comment. Just to be clear, I would prefer a pregnancy be prevented that a child be born to a not-ready for parenthood teenager.
posted by Shohn at 7:16 AM on October 11, 2010


Just to be clear, I would prefer a pregnancy be prevented that a child be born to a not-ready for parenthood teenager.

I see. But I was responding to your calling contraception an "evil". As in "lesser of two". The rest of my comment was meant to illustrate that the perceived ideal (among "pro-lifers") of total chastity among teenagers is unrealistic, in the extreme. Yet people are clinging to this ideal, in the face of reality, which is, of course, very different.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:23 AM on October 11, 2010


I do think contraceptives work, and as I said I'd prefer a prevented pregnancy to a terminated one.

That's not a particularly pro-life position, though. Most pro-life people equate contraception with abortion, particularly non-barrier contraception. What you describe is actually the pro-choice position. Part of choice is the choice to use contraception.
posted by jedicus at 7:27 AM on October 11, 2010


And not only is it obscene to suggest that teens use condoms, but suggesting that they explore low-risk forms of sexuality is also unthinkable.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:36 AM on October 11, 2010


The whole abortion thing aside, the one thing that was impressed upon me was that the Dutch teenagers were more likely to be in stable, monogamous relationships than American teenagers. Yay for the focus on teens' emotional wellbeing and not just worrying about their bodies.
posted by gaspode at 7:44 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, I see your point about the terminology I used, flapjax. I was continuing the theme Avenger started upthread about greater and lesser evils. I don't think contraception is particularly evil, FWIW.

jedicus, my hope is to be pragmatic in a world which largely does not share my moral and religious convictions. I think the Catholic church, though, is the only major religion which explicitly equates contraception with abortion. As a Catholic myself, I understand the position, but it's one of those things I haven't really sussed out for myself yet. To the best of my knowledge, most of the predominant Protestant faiths are okay with contraception.

I understand that teenagers and other people are going to have sex outside of marriage. I did it myself, though I now wish I hadn't. That being the case, I think it's better that contraceptives are available so that the spread of STDs is slowed, and unwanted pregnancies are avoided. I would prefer, in my heart of hearts, that teenagers didn't have sex. But I know that they will regardless of what I ,or anyone else may or may not want. Given that, it's better that they be protected.
posted by Shohn at 7:45 AM on October 11, 2010


But from reading this thread, I'm given to understand that as a pro-lifer I'm insufferably stupid and irrational, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

I think you're seeing anger and condescension directed not at a pro-life position in the abstract, by itself, but at the pro-life movement and the typical constellation of "family values" conservatism which opposes abortion and education about contraception at the same time. The pro-life movement should be enthusiastically educating kids about contraception, and they're definitely not.
posted by creasy boy at 7:51 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'd rather see a pregnancy under any circumstances be prevented than end in abortion. I've got mixed feelings about contraception, but I'll buy the "lesser of two evils" argument in this case.

But from reading this thread, I'm given to understand that as a pro-lifer I'm insufferably stupid and irrational, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.


From my pespective, it depends. If you believe that killing humans is wrong and that abortion is killing humans then you have a decent rational basis. It's not something everyone agrees with (for me the part that matters about humans is the brain, not a random bundle of cells) but it's an honest opinion with a clear basis and clear consequences.

If you then decry abortion as a great moral evil and at the same time oppose the best methods of preventin abortions available (i.e. contraception and a sensible approach to sex-ex) then I can conclude that for all you oppose abortion, the use of little pieces of rubber is more important to you than human lives. At which point your moral calculus is so screwed that I can only treat you as stupid, irrational, or evil on this matter. And as someone whose moral reasoning is suspect on every other matter in existance. I'd rather treat such people as stupid or irrational because I don't like treating whole swathes of people as evil.

I'm in the "Bill Clinton" camp - I want abortion to be safe, legal, and, most importantly, rare. (If you want to make all abortions illegal, read up on ectopic pregnancies and get back to me - in some cases the only existing alternative to abortion is death of both mother and baby.) I don't like abortions either and wish they never happened. But I don't like limb amputations or heart transplants and wish they never happened either.

Regrettably the major spokespeople for the pro-life movement (most of whom are either linked to the Roman Catholic Church or Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians) seem to (a ) want to ban abortion entirely and (b ) ban contraception.. And both of those put them on a side I can't see is good or even coherent, and one that shows an utterly callous disregard for human lives (far more so than the extreme pro-abortion camp). If you are pro-life but disagree with the strong pro-life voices, I have no problem with you :)
posted by Francis at 8:09 AM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


They all went crazy trying to pretend they weren't human.

This pretty much sums up the religious in general to me. I guess they would say they are trying to separate the human from animal. Being sort of liberal-y, I would scoff at that. Subsuming our instincts will only lead to trouble.

Conversely, when I consider the tribalistic echoes in society: sports, war, ostracizing the 'other', a general inability to keep from hating anyone who isn't us, my liberal-y instincts cause me to feel quite the opposite. Should we not struggle against our baser instincts? Ah well.........war, sex, war, sex....I pick sex! Does that mean I also pick war? Hmmm.......consistency is always difficult.
posted by umberto at 8:11 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


And a big problem with these discussions is that very few people actually like abortion. It's expensive, the pro-life movement has made it very hard to get, and just about everyone would like a stronger focus on prevention. Most people consider it a treatment of last resort.

The central claim of the pro-choice movement is that the complex moral, ethical, and risk calculus regarding pregnancy is something that should be decided by women in consultation with their health care providers, rather than dictated by state legislatures.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:11 AM on October 11, 2010


I wish I had been raised in the Netherlands. That is all.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:14 AM on October 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Me too.
posted by joost de vries at 8:32 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've read a few studies that reported that comprehensive sex education that includes abstinence as part of the discussion on contraception actually leads to greater percentages of teens actually practicing abstinence, so even if the goal is abstinence the evidence-based position is comprehensive and complete sex education.
posted by fuq at 8:37 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was fascinating research I read in college (a decade ago) about the rise of Christianity in America partially being driven by the home country religious beliefs of immigrants but also their fundamental disconnection from family and friends in the New World.

Fast forward a few hundred years and we see a perfectly functional coping mechanism for immigrants in New America having run amok, costing lives, futures and a heck of a lot of cash.

Living in the Godless part of of Europe, I find the rationality and circumspection of my current society to be fantastic. In fact, if I bring up concepts of religion or other such personal beliefs, my argument instantly ceases to be relevant.

There's still the problems of teen pregnancy and whatnot but at least their dealt with and discussed in an adult manner.
posted by nickrussell at 8:45 AM on October 11, 2010


I think the Catholic church, though, is the only major religion which explicitly equates contraception with abortion.

The Orthodox Church takes a pretty similar view, as do about 10% of evangelical protestant churches. Many Orthodox Jews also take a dim view of most uses of contraception, though not because it's equated with abortion.
posted by jedicus at 9:13 AM on October 11, 2010


I hope to raise my son to understand these things:

1. In any relationship, consent and respect must be present on both sides

2. At a certain age (teenager) he will be having to make his own decisions re sex, drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, because his father and I will not be able to look over his shoulder 24/7;

3. All the ways in which not being careful about sex, drugs, tobacco, and alcohol can cause him massive amounts of trouble and health problems (and death of course) with lots of examples from our own highly dysfunctional family and friends. The fun of paying child support at 18, being labeled a sex offender if he has underage sex, car accidents while drunk/high, and going through rehab will be discussed. Also his parents' burning desire not to become grandparents while he's in high school.

4. Access to a: condoms and b: no-questions-asked rescues by car if he finds himself somewhere where bad stuff is happening that he doesn't want to be a part of.

I had not actually thought of making it ok to have sex in our house; to be honest, it squicks me a bit. I'd rather he waited till college/moving out if only so I don't have to worry about seeing what I don't want to see. Maybe I'll just buy him a van :(
posted by emjaybee at 9:38 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


There was an entry on the Not Always Right website featuring a teenage girl who asked a drug store employee, "do you have that contraception called 'Abstinence'? They say it's the only 100% effective one."

A friend of mine used to work as an advocate for kids who had been involved in the juvenile justice system. One of the girls, when asked about what she was doing to prevent pregnancy, said that she was eating KY jelly on her toast and making her boyfriend drink Mountain Dew to lower his sperm count.
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:40 AM on October 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wish I had been raised in the Netherlands. That is all.

I have. We are not perfect, and there's plenty of things where we could learn from other countries.

But I agree that this is not one of those things.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:41 AM on October 11, 2010


We weathered the 14 year old phase of all girls practically competeing to give the best blow-jobs, reading articles, comparing tecnhiques because the boys liked it, you couldn't get pregnant (cos the boys didn't like using condoms).

Man, did I grow up in the wrong era...

Jokes aside, I've never understood the either/or nature of this discussion.
Surely there is a middle ground where we discourage our children from hopping from bed to bed while providing them with the tools to do so safely if their hormones get the better of them?
posted by madajb at 10:23 AM on October 11, 2010


Surely there is a middle ground where we discourage our children from hopping from bed to bed while providing them with the tools to do so safely if their hormones get the better of them?

Most of the liberal people I know don't play a zero sum game. The orthodox position of attaching guilt to the lusting of the heart, or even to putting your eternal life at stake, seems to be overly black and white. A young teenager is going to be flooded with those emotions, and all you're doing is damning them to years of inner turmoil and probably some sort of escape mechanism like alcohol or drugs to excuse their desire for the natural behavior of sex.

When my sisters got old enough, I told them pretty bluntly: don't do something you might regret. Use protection, every time, and if the guy doesn't want to use it, dump his ass because he's probably a piece of shit. If you discover that sexual relationships hold a lot of emotional meaning for you, don't dilute that feeling by sleeping around. Not only will it lose meaning, but accidents do happen, and you will have enough going on without having to deal with a child, or the choice of an abortion, or an STD that will be with you until you die.

I think most teenagers, when given the power of making the choice for themselves, tend to make good decisions about what is meaningful to them. What they need to hear is rationality to base their own values on, which will be far more effective than telling them that God will hate them if they fail his ridiculous purity tests.
posted by notion at 10:59 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the research is pretty clear that adolescents who get comprehensive sexuality education that includes discussions of the medical risks of sexuality, the role of sex in human relationships, and safer sex techniques are generally less likely to have sex and become sexually active at an older age than adolescents who get an abstinence-only education.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:09 AM on October 11, 2010


Some things to keep in mind:

1. The statistics presented are incidence rates (i.e., number of cases over time) or prevalences (number of cases in a specific population at a given point in time.) From my quick skim of the links, little detail is on the sampling used to come up with this data. Some references are personal communications with an expert in a specific country. Robust and valid estimates of incidence or prevalence from samples must have indications of the uncertainty around the estimate, i.e., 95% confidence intervals.

2. Ecological fallacy: "an error in the interpretation of statistical data in an ecological study, whereby inferences about the nature of specific individuals are based solely upon aggregate statistics collected for the group to which those individuals belong. This fallacy assumes that individual members of a group have the average characteristics of the group at large."

3. These statistics may describe true differences between these populations; or, these differences may be the result of confounding. I would be more interested in estimates or statistical models adjusted for these possible confounders.
posted by docgonzo at 12:00 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is interesting, but it seems to be incredibly vague. Maybe it's just me, but I see a whole lot missing from these studies. Despite my own tendency to agree with the conclusion, I don't see much original research, and there are a whole host of problems; for one thing, the United States and the Netherlands are nations of vastly different sizes, with vastly different demographics and populations. What's more, this article speaks in generalities on a lot of things (viz. "In responding to adolescent sexuality, American parents emphasize its dangerous and conflicted elements..." and "One key message is that sex is a symbol and a threat—in the event of pregnancy—to their adult autonomy...") and I don't see the backing for those generalities. Even if there is backing for them, I wonder if that backing only exists in particular communities; that is, I wonder how much data collected in specific parts of the US can be generalized.

I don't know. I'm just skeptical about this. It's very, very hard to generalize about things like sociological perception of adolescent sexuality. Maybe there's something I'm missing, though.
posted by koeselitz at 12:04 PM on October 11, 2010


...and don't get me wrong, people make mistakes anyway, and they get into situations that affect their future, but they're doing it from a fully informed perspective. They're owning their own problem. They're not spending the rest of their life resenting and blaming their parents, etc. Instead, they get straight into making it work. Abortions aside, that's the difference between a bad 17 year old mother/father and a good one.
posted by doublehappy at 12:07 PM on October 11, 2010


That's not a particularly pro-life position, though. Most pro-life people equate contraception with abortion

Can you cite? This doesn't match my experience. Some of this might be colored by my own views (I think contraception is great, but I find abortion as a method of contraception problematic, particularly after the first trimester), but a good chunk of my social circle is conservative religious, and while I'm acquainted with people who believe contraception is wrong, they are the in the decided minority, and I'm not familiar with a single one of them who equate contraception with abortion (abortion would be considered a much weightier evil).
posted by weston at 12:31 PM on October 11, 2010


jedicus: “That's not a particularly pro-life position, though. Most pro-life people equate contraception with abortion, particularly non-barrier contraception. What you describe is actually the pro-choice position. Part of choice is the choice to use contraception.”

This is a good example of where this really isn't an either-or situation. Yes, it's part of a pro-choice lifestyle to use contraception. But the vast majority of US pro-lifers support contraception use (so long as you're not, y'know, givin' em to the kiddies). I know that might seem contradictory, and heck, maybe it is; but the fact is that the very, very few pro-lifers who equate contraception with abortion are orthodox Catholics; and frankly those make up a very, very small part of anti-abortion people in the US. I know a lot of self-described 'pro-life' evangelicals – I was raised by them, and most of my friends from high school are still in that crowd, and I interact with them regularly on Facebook – and I have never met a single evangelical who was against contraception like the pill or condoms. Most of them use those things themselves (again, as long as they're married, natch).
posted by koeselitz at 2:17 PM on October 11, 2010


(And I'll point out that it's my experience that even most Catholics support contraceptives, regardless of their opinion on abortion. This is actually in contradiction of the teaching of the Catholic Church, which is the only large church I know of that flatly opposes contraception of any kind. I'd like to see data on this, because I'd be willing to bet that a majority of US Catholics support contraceptive use.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:19 PM on October 11, 2010


I've said it before and I'll say it again: Damn the Dutch and their out-of-control reasonableness.
posted by chairface at 4:14 PM on October 11, 2010


Can you cite? This doesn't match my experience. Some of this might be colored by my own views (I think contraception is great, but I find abortion as a method of contraception problematic, particularly after the first trimester), but a good chunk of my social circle is conservative religious, and while I'm acquainted with people who believe contraception is wrong, they are the in the decided minority, and I'm not familiar with a single one of them who equate contraception with abortion (abortion would be considered a much weightier evil).

It's not looked upon that way at all. In fact, in Casti Connubii, Pius XI said the following:

"any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin."

The sin, of course, being lust.

JP2 elaborated on it further in Familiaris Consortio:

"When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as "arbiters" of the divine plan and they "manipulate" and degrade human sexuality-and with it themselves and their married partner-by altering its value of "total" self-giving. Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality."

It comes down to the fact that:

1) God has a divine plan and you're mucking with it. Don't do that.
2) If you screw, even within wedlock, with the idea of stopping any sort of baby it's lust and you're committing a sin. Don't do that.

Neither of which directly into a sentiment of "contraception is abortion" unless you consider the definition of abortion to be "directly messing with God's plan" instead of "the termination of a human foetus".
posted by Talez at 5:55 PM on October 11, 2010


People, I think what Shohn was trying to say with the "but I'm a pro-lifer, so that means I'm an idiot" comment is: "Y'all, this is a highly nuanced issue and there are a lot of different opinions about each of the different aspects, so making a generalized statement like that isn't helping things, savvy?"

And the reason why it's such a hot-button issue (she said, steering her comment back on topic) is because sexuality itself is such a hot-button issue. And it's such a hot-button issue because it is such a personal thing -- and an INDIVIDUAL one -- for all of us. It's just occured to me to wonder -- how many of the parents in this country who are giving the sex talk with their kids short shrift because they're still sorting out their own relationships with their own sexuality?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 PM on October 11, 2010


Pius XI said the following:

"any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin."


Yes, this is the argument that the minority I'm acquainted with who are opposed to birth control subscribe to. I don't take any issue with the idea that it's been taught and possibly, at some points in the history of contraception, even broadly subscribed to. However:

1) Again, I find the number of people who actually subscribe to it is a small and shrinking minority, at least in my circle of acquaintances, while the number of people opposed to abortion seems to remain constant.

2) While the argument may overlap onto abortion since it can be used as post hoc contraception, without any exception I can think of, it's an afterthought as a motivation behind opposition to abortion when compared to the basic concerns about the life of the incipient child.

I'm willing to consider that I'm wrong about this, that my experience is skewed by some of any number of factors... that my own views may influence what people are willing to say to me, or how interpret what people do say, or that my circle might be more progressive in some way (most are fairly mainstream college educated even if broadly conservative and religious), or that it's more WASP-y and Mormon than Catholic or Evangelical or what have you, and maybe something else I haven't thought of yet.

But the fact that religious leaders have given a specific argument against contraception doesn't imply that it's the sum of anyone's objections to abortion, nor does it really give you a lot of information about what segment of the population subscribes to their teaching. I see my question and any likely real answer to it as a matter of present statistics rather than of past or even recent statements from religious figures.
posted by weston at 9:47 PM on October 11, 2010


What I was told as a young Catholic was that the pill prevents a fertilised egg from implanting, and therefore is equivalent in effect to an abortion. I wasn't told anything about condoms or other methods of contraception (other than "don't"). I have no idea how this lines up with official Papal decrees and theology, but it's a common opinion among Catholics.
posted by harriet vane at 5:59 AM on October 12, 2010


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