sex ed

Fact: Pregnant teens didn’t exist before the 1990s.

Posted in New Zealand, sex, sex ed on September 20th, 2011 by steph – 6 Comments

Naturally, with such a salacious topic as sex education being the scandal du jour, everyone has a very important and very, very correct opinion on the issue. It is about sex, after all. And to all those people who have taken this oppourtunity to shout about how modern sex ed is causing more teen pregnancies than it prevents, and how back in the day teens weren’t just getting knocked up willy-nilly,  so obviously modern sex ed is responsible for teen pregnancy, I’ve got two words for you: Magdalene Laundries. Or how about Bethany Homes, for that NZ flavour? Yeah, that’s right, we did actually have “fallen women” and “unwed mothers”; but maybe the reason you don’t think we did (aside from the fact you were probably not alive then…) is that we packed the dirty hussies off so respectable people didn’t have to see them or know about them.

So continue on with this revisionist history bullshit (BTW, did you know that we’ve always treated indigenous people in this coutntry really super well, for reals?), and go back to your sad little fantasies of the good old days with black and white TV and pies cooling on windowsills, back before the country was awash with young sluts. Really, please tell me more about how things were in a time back before you were born and where the reality of the situation was hidden from many people. I’m sure you are 100% correct and know all the facts about how things were back then.


The idea that comprehensive sex education is responsible for a rise in teen pregnancies is laughable, and the claim that ‘back in the day’ young girls didn’t get knocked up and now they’re doing it like it’s going out of fashion is just ignorant: statistics show that back in the day, teen girls did get knocked up at a pretty decent rate , and that now the rate of teen pregnancies is much lower than it was back in those glory days when teenage girls apparently didn’t get pregnant .

In the early 1970s, 70 out of every 1,000 teenagers had a child in any year. By the mid-1980s the figure had fallen to 30 per 1,000. Subsequently, it varied between 30 and 35 per 1,000 until 1997. There has been a general downward trend in the last five years, and in 2002 the fertility rate for teenagers was at a historical low of 25.6 per 1,000.

So that’s two strikes against the theory that the way people did it back then meant fewer pregnancies than the way we do things now (comprehensive sex ed). The fact that our teenage pregnancy rate is high when compared to other OECD countries isn’t the point: we aren’t making cross-country comparisons, but comparisons across time. And a comparison across time leaves the ways of the glory days of yore not really looking so shiny and fabulous. People trying to claim that we should revert back to how things were back then (don’t talk about it, and if you do get up the duff we might pack you off to “stay with an aunt” for a few months) because that was much more effective than the way we do things now are dreaming. Well, I guess part of the appeal is the shaming of young women for being sexually active, and in that case the good old days a probably a great model for that kind of attitude, and in that case maybe we should mimic how things used to be. Going back to the old ways isn’t going to make anything better because the new ways aren’t a problem. People may argue that having parent units in schools and not ostracising young mums is just promoting and encouraging girls to get pregnant at young age, but look at how things used to be compared to now: back then we hid and shamed, and the rate of teen pregnancy was higher than now when we are generally more open, and at least grudgingly accept things. That seems like basically the exact opposite to what is being claimed, really. I think the word ‘encouraging’ means that you’re getting people to do it more, and the idea that these days we promote teen pregnancy isn’t borne out in statistics showing a falling rate. But anywho, logic and statistics are for heathens anyway, so whatever.


Oh, and if you want a nice picture of how young girls in New Zealand never ever used to get pregnant back in the days before modern sex ed, maybe check out Piece of My Heart. Nope, no pregnant teenage girls being hidden away and used as slave labour before their babies were snatched away from them or anything like that. Ah, the good old days.

If comprehensive Sex Ed in schools is wrong, I don’t want to be right

Posted in New Zealand, sex ed on September 19th, 2011 by steph – 1 Comment

To the father who thinks teaching his son about the clitoris is “grubby”: I hope you’re planning to give him comprehensive sex education yourself, at home, lest he just learn this shit from the internet himself at some stage. Seriously, teaching children about basic anatomy is not grubby. Apparently it’s ok to teach them how “babies are made”, which I assume requires details about anatomy (fallopian tubes! uterus! penis!), but not about the clitoris(also an anatomical structure)- I can only assume because you would then have to talk about sexual pleasure, because that’s pretty much what the clitoris is all about. Heaven forbid children learn that sex (and sexual acts) can be pleasurable! And not just for men! What’s this,

Children as young as 12 are being taught about oral sex and told it’s acceptable to play with a girl’s private parts as long as “she’s okay with it”.

It included a question-and-answer session that focused on, “I have learned that my girlfriend has a thing called a clitoris. I really want to play with it. Is that okay?” The answer was: “Yes, if you ask her and she’s okay with it.”


Consenting to sexual activities, gasp! I mean, “she’s okay with it” isn’t a full-strength example of enthusiastic consent (I would prefer “she’s pretty damn excited about it!”), but it emphasizes the basic concepts of asking explicitly about a sexual act and obtaining active  consent.

I assume this is the point where the horrified parents would chime in and say “but my 12/14-year old is too young for this kind of graphic information”. Well, honestly, whether someone is old enough (legally, emotionally, psychologically, whatever) really isn’t an argument that will sway my opinion in this debate. You think your twelve year old is too young to know about oral sex? Chances are that if they’re curious, they would find out somehow anyway, and if they aren’t curious they wont go out and start road-testing the option just because they know it exists.  Even when I knew my friends were actually doing that kind of stuff (at ages 13/14/15), and had heard all about it from them, it didn’t make me run off to rip the pants of the nearest guy. You think your 14 year old is too young to learn how to put a condom on a penis? I learnt how to do that in sex ed when I was 14 or 15 (though it was a majestic wooden phallus, not a black plastic one. Snicker.) and it was many a year after that before I ever put that knowledge into practice (though not for lack of interest…). Knowing how to do it didn’t mean I felt like I had to go right out and start condom-ing every dick in town, it just meant that when the time came I had the knowledge. And you know what, people who think 14 is too young to learn how to put a condom on? There were 2 or 3 girls who left my class in 5th form because they were pregnant- they would have been having sex at 14 or 15 for this to happen. You can’t deny that people that young are having sex, and that if they’re going to have sex they should at least have as much knowledge as possible. As much as you may hate the idea of your 14 year old being sexually active, it may happen, and certainly does happen: Family Planning reps are on record on this issue saying New Zealanders as young as 12 are sexually active. Just because your idea of a good age for your child to have sex is 16 or 18 or “when they’re married”, doesn’t mean that this is a realistic or sensible attitude.

And as for the idea that schools might be going into too much depth with sex-ed classes, and encroaching on what should be the parents’ job; well, I hope the parents who feel this way are planning some extremely detailed birds and the bees talks that cover everything a child could want to know and don’t misinform them about anything (“condoms fail 50% of the time!” “abortions give you breast cancer!”). Personally, I know one guy who’s parents did not give permission for him to attend sex ed in schools, and clearly failed to take up their ‘parental role’ when it came to educating him themselves: he only learned at the age of 18 or 19 that women don’t urinate and have their period “through the same hole”; i.e. that the vagina is not what a women urinates out of, and there’s actually more than one hole down there. Oops.


I Went to a Seminar, and it was Great

Posted in sex, sex ed on by steph – Comments Off on I Went to a Seminar, and it was Great

A friend of mine who is doing postgrad work in Bioethics invited me to a seminar on Monday: “Children’s Rights, Well-Being, and Sexual Health”, presented by Samantha Brennan.  And it was great! As someone who is interested in this kind of topic on a casual, reading-for-my-own-interest way and not someone who is involved in the philosophy/ethics/bioethics field, it was very thought-provoking. There is audio of the seminar here (near the bottom of the page). The direction of the seminar was based around earlier work on the goods of childhood and reframing childhood not as a time where you are working on the potential that children may have in adulthood but childhood as a valuable time in it’s own right. The seminar outlined two different discourses of childhood sexuality: the ‘sexless and romantic’ vs ‘knowing’ dichotomy, and the ‘out-of-control’ vs ‘developing’ dichotomy. It was very interesting, and I recommed listening to the audio if possible (it goes for about 45 minutes) – there were lots of interesting little ideas, like the idea that we consider teenage romantic relationship breakups to be less serious and legitimate, and the discrepancies between various laws about sexual behaviour and sexual services (one example given by Samantha, from back in Canada where she is based, is that the age of consent is 16 but the age at which you can go into a sex shop and buy a sex toy is 18 – someone could be legally able to consent to certain sexual activities, but unable to go to a skills/teaching workshop at a sex shop which discusses those certain sexual activities). More of Samantha Brennan’s work can be found through the links on her tumblr –  here, and at Good Reads, PhilPapers, etc.