No Condoms

Feb 4, 2009, 5:39 pm by Paul Stiverson

Preface: this post was inspired by a pro-life facebook note that evolved into a discussion about contraceptive education in schools. This post can be considered an expansion on a previous post.

Anytime I find myself in a civil dialog concerning abortion and unplanned pregnancy I always bring up the inadequacy of sexual education in schools, and it is always a touchy subject. I believe that when it comes to education that you must never seek to hide or alter the truth from the student, to do so keeps the student ignorant, and ultimately destroys the students’ ability to form coherent and informed opinions. Needless to say I think that sex-ed—if it is to be taught in public schools—should include common contraceptives as well as the merits of abstinence.

I’m sure the careful reader is aware that the Holy Roman Catholic Church has—historically—taken a strong stance on the use of contraceptives: latex+penis=hell (although they are starting to come around). I can appreciate their views on the subject, they believe that when blocking the chance of conception the “marriage act” (Catholic for sex) is incomplete and amoral.1 This view doesn’t stop them from trying to prevent conception thought, oh no, they came up with a strategy for doing the marriage act without having kids and without bringing down the fire and brimstone. In order to not conceive you should practice natural family planning, to do it properly you should probably invest in a pocket calendar (for the record I have no problem with that being taught in schools, as long as condoms can get equal time).

Now, in the recent past there has been quite a hubub regarding teaching kids about condom use—preferring to rely on shame and fear to keep kids safe—because of this (religious) belief. It seems to me that writing a curriculum based on some religious docorine is a pretty clear violation of the separation of church and state. In order to get around that violation they changed their tune: contraceptive talk shouldn’t be allowed because their effectiveness is sub-optimal. Well sure, the effectiveness is debatable (99.98%2 isn't quite perfect), but even the worst condom is more effective than none at all, and couple it with an oral contraceptive and the effectiveness jumps significantly. Who’s keeping track. If we want to restrict sex-ed talks to methods that are 100% effective then why don’t we teach our kids about anal sex? Probably because the church thinks it is icky.3

The time to start giving teens accurate, reliable, and unbiased information about their sexual health is now. To be completely honest though, I don’t think it should be the schools’ job, it is time for parents to step up to the plate and teach their children well.4 If it is to be taught in (public) schools then there should be no pretense regarding the morality of sex, keep it simple and give them the facts. Leave the sermons to the priests.

Notes:

  1. I’m deriving this from the document Morals and Marriage, Part IV Morality of Intercourse, from a section titled “Purity implies sex”. Not a bad read, check it out if you’ve got some time to kill.
  2. Hatcher RA et al. Contraceptive Technology, 18th rev. ed. New York: Ardent Media, 2004.
  3. For the record, it is icky. That whole section on anal sex is a joke (a reference to a great site technicalvirgin.com, which has sadly been removed), lighten up zealots.
  4. [Crosby, Stills, and Nash joke here]

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15 Comments

faith Says:

Feb 4, 2009

If it is to be taught in (public) schools then there should be no pretense regarding the morality of sex, keep it simple and give them the facts. Leave the sermons to the priests.

I think you said it all right there. Whether the preachers condone it or not, the fact is that lots of middle & high school-age kids are having sex, and it's completely appropriate to mention safe practices in health classes.

John Says:

Feb 4, 2009

I know this group jumps on sarcasm, as I found out a few posts ago, so please step off your high horse real quick, put on a smile and let me put this simply: Sex can lead to kids. If you don't want kids, don't have sex. Why does everyone have to have sex all the time anyway?

zach Says:

Feb 9, 2009

itp it is obvious paul has never banged the browneye

Emily B. Says:

Feb 10, 2009

Paul, Though I rarely agree with you whole heartedly on things, I must say, as a teacher and as Catholic, I loved every word of this post.

momo Says:

Feb 22, 2009

Funny. I was just having this conversation with my dad (via email) and he said much the same thing. I completely agree - teach sex education in schools. BUT...I also think this problem goes deeper than that. I would argue that we need to teach some kind of morality (though I think it should be separate from the church) because let's face it - sex is everywhere these days. I'm actually relieved my daughter is a tomboy who wants to save the animals and is perfectly content wearing her jeans and t-shirts and who hates dolls. Ever seen the Bratz dolls? Dressed like little prostitutes, IMO. And some of the clothes for the tween set is unbelievable. Why, why, WHY are our kids being subjected to such sexualization? Sex is no longer something to be celebrated between two people who are committed to each other and love each other very much - it's now something fun to do on the weekends. And that is where the whole problem of using abortion as birth control comes up. A random encounter with someone who gets you pregnant is shrugged off because "you can just get rid of it." Our morality has fundamentally broken down in society.

Paul Stiverson Says:

Feb 23, 2009

Sex is everywhere these days? Last time I checked every person ever was a direct product of sex, I would say sex has been around (and pretty prominently in the limelight) for quite some time.

The sexualization of our culture is unfortunate, but the best way to stop it (or at least expose it for what it is) is for parents (the ultimate decider of who gets Bratz® dolls) to take some responsibility for their children’s activities. It is up to the parents to teach morality, it is up to the teachers to teach biology.

I can appreciate how difficult it would be for a teacher to tackle issues of morality in a classroom because the teacher doesn’t necessarily have the same belief set as the students’ parents. However, by teaching (only) the facts about sex you can—hopefully—force the parents to take up the morality of sex at home. Joey Catholic can learn about condoms and evolution at school, and Mommy Catholic can set him straight with Deuteronomy and Genesis at home. Win-Win.

momo Says:

Feb 23, 2009

I agree that parents are the ultimate techer for their children - that is how it should be. But I also believe that you are creating a rather strange situation for the child via your last sentence: so the kid learns one thing at school, and learns that it's wrong at home. ??? Talk about confusing for the kid, who is ultimately the one who is at issue here. My daughter won't have Bratz dolls, that's for sure. And until parents stop buying this crap for their daughters to wear and play with, they'll still be around. But honestly, sex is everywhere - in the movies, on music videos, on the radio, on the 'Net. You can't escape it. It's more pervasive in our culture today than it's ever been. Do I think we need to return to the Victorian morality of "sex takes place behind closed doors"? No. But I do think we need to put a different spin on sex - that it is NOT "something fun to do on the weekends." I know I'm repeating myself on that one, but I'm sick and tired of this cavalier attitude toward sex.

Paul Stiverson Says:

Feb 23, 2009

You are missing the key distinction between truth that can be observed (scientific certainty) and truth based on faith (moral certainty). Once you blur that line then both truths are tainted forever.

I don’t see a real problem with a “Something fun to do on the weekends” definition of sex… it is something fun, and it is something that can be done on the weekends. Further, it is absolutely not the case that two people need to be in love to have sex. Does it make the act more meaningful? Sure, but is it a requirement? No.

I don’t think that children should be taught a bias either way. Teach them the science (stimulation, lubrication, erection, increased sensitivity, orgasm, and nervous release), the incontrovertible facts (including statistics about prominent birth control methods), which will be supplemented by morality talk at home (using condoms is a sin, et cetera).

As soon as you start mandating some (read: any) brand of morality then the big argument begins about what should be taught. Morality is extremely subjective, but everybody (pretty much) agrees on what a penis is.

Faith Says:

Feb 23, 2009

actually, bratz dolls won't be around indefinitely. the guy behind them came up with the idea when he was working for mattel (barbie), so it was never his product to sell. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1269648/bratz_dolls_banned_from_being_sold.html

momo Says:

Feb 23, 2009

Sex is fun, sure. But speaking from past experience, emtpy sexual relationships void of anything other than the pure physical act tend to eat away at your soul over time. I don't think sex was meant to be purely physical. I guess that definition works for some, but not for others. I would also argue that morality does not have to be based on faith. Atheists certainly have morals, but I am pretty sure they do not stem from their religion or any sort of faith. When you know something is wrong, you KNOW it's wrong. Does faith or a belief in a higher power dictate that to you? In the case of atheists, I would say no.

momo Says:

Feb 23, 2009

Further, I would also argue that you need to teach children that sex is a very emotional act, not just physical. You are cheating them of the truth if you only teach the biological aspects of it. Our emotions are uniquely tied to the sexual act and they need to be aware of that.

Paul Stiverson Says:

Feb 23, 2009

I don’t think we are going to reach an agreement here so I’m going to put in my last hurrah.

I know that everybody has morals, even atheists, I’ve posted about that before, but even people within the same religion disagree about what is morally right.

i don't think sex was meant to be purely physical.

You think sex wasn’t intended to be purely physical, but that is not a verifiable scientific fact, and I—for one—disagree with you. Also, I think it would be ridiculous to teach children such a thing (in schools) because it is not scientifically verifiable, further I don’t foresee it stopping kids from having meaningless sex.

It is fine and good to believe as you do, but sweeping, unverifiable statements are exactly the things that taint children’s minds from being able to think critically and discern the appropriate course of action in whatever situations that crop up.

I’m going to suggest that all the readers here pick up a book called Bonk by Mary Roach, it is a study of scientific sexual studies. It is a fast read, and very enjoyable; Mrs. Roach is quite a funny lady.

momo Says:

Feb 24, 2009

Fair enough. But I would remind YOU that basing all your views on scientific fact isn't exactly the best form, either, because after all, science is a study that is constantly changing. Are some facts completely verifiable? Sure. 2+2 will always be 4. But ten years ago, scientists told us eggs were bad for us. Now they're not. Or are they bad again? And if we all just boiled everything down to its basest biological form, good grief - I pity what the world would be like.

zach Says:

Feb 24, 2009

Whether or not eggs contain good or bad cholesterol is not analogous to whether or not sex should be more than just a physical act. You don't seem to understand the distinction between something that is verifiable and empirical and something that is a matter of opinion or faith.

momo Says:

Feb 25, 2009

"Seem" is the operative word and actually, I DO understand the difference. I am not a scientist. I will ALWAYS see the world differently than scientists do. I will always question science. I will never blindly follow it. Just as I don't blindly follow anything.

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