Tag Archives: students

Proposed Sexting Laws Solve Nothing

"So that's how Sally's breasts landed Quinn in jail..."

New technology brings new moral panics. Zippers on pants in the early 20th century scandalized older generations. (Easy genital access!) Cars created a moral panic among mid-20th century parents. (Our kids can have sex in those things and we can’t stop them!)

Cell phones and computers draw the same type of ire. The youth will use it for sexy stuff! They will be defiled! Panic!

So if new technology brings moral panics, what do moral panics bring? Stupid, stupid laws and court cases. First, prosecutors charged teens with child pornography for taking and sending naked photos of…themselves. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over too well.

Knowing that we can’t charge a “child” (is 16 really a child?) with pornographing themselves, several state legislatures created teen-targeted sexting bills. So, instead of a felony charge for the cock-pic, you may only get a misdemeanor in Ohio or Arizona if the sexting bills pass. A New york lawyer is seeking federal legislation on teen sexting. Vermont is the only state considering decriminalizing consensual sexting between teens ages 13-18.

Conservative Christian groups like the United Methodist Church are not happy about Vermont Senate Bill 125. Pat Trueman, legal counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, says “It’s the only state in the union ever to consider legalizing the production of child pornography.”

[Point of order: a teenager is not a child. We make a distinction between children, adolescents and adults in our culture. Don't conflate the terms for your own political gain. That's just tacky. Not to mention dishonest and misleading.]

Everyone needs to take a collective deep breath and think about the right approach to a serious issue. We want to protect teens from making life-destroying decisions. High school is a tumultuous time and the mortification of nude pics passed around the school is very real and damaging. Recent sexting legislation debates in Ohio came about after 18 year-old Jesse Logan committed suicide after the colliding stress of a friend’s suicide and nude photos of herself circulating among other students at her high school.

But simply downgrading charges from felony to misdemeanor is not the answer. We are still telling teens that their sexuality is dangerous. This message we instill does not magically disappear when a teen steps into legal adulthood at 18. If we all agree that adults are allowed to sext each other even though it’s usually a stupid idea, legislative action against teens is the wrong move, especially considering how few teens do it in the first place. Teenagers are not the drunk, sexting, hormone-saturated maniacs the media portrays.

How about, you know, talking to teens? If you have not seen the LG teen texting safety campaign with James Lipton, go check out their “Give It A Ponder” website. (Or check out their collection of videos here.) This is a perfect example of non-punitive measures to deal with one aspect of this issue.

Beyond these PSAs, a good start would be open discussions with teenagers about sexuality, something that is confusing territory enough for adults. I spoke with a couple of high school students today about the sexting laws and one girl brought up an excellent point: “Say, like, a girl does it because she doesn’t want to have sex but she doesn’t want to be a prude. That’s not really fair that she’ll still get punished.”

That statement sums up the tightrope walk experienced by many teens. Do it, don’t do it, try to find an alternative that allows some degree of social acceptance, get in trouble all the same.

Thanks to @josephpred for alerting me to AZ Senate Bill 1266.

Research: Abstinence One of Several Effective Messages for Teens

The net is aflutter today with claims that abstinence-only sex education delays sexual debut among teens. Conservative publications say “We told you so!” and more liberal publications say, “Not so fast!.” What do the headlines about Jemmott et al’s Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence Only Intervention over 24 Months even mean?

Let’s break it down.

Teens: African American 6th and 7th graders, 11-15 years at the start of the 2 year study (Mean age=12)

Delay Sex: No penis in the vagina within the 2 year follow-up period.

Abstinence Only: Abstain from sex (oral, vaginal, anal) until YOU feel ready. Understand links between sex and HIV, STIs and pregnancy. Give accurate info on condom efficacy.

Anything seem odd about that last one? Maybe because abstinence is not the only thing mentioned. So, abstinence-ONLY is a slight overstatement. (Dr. Charlie Glickman of Good Vibrations gives a succinct breakdown of why abstinence-only is a misnomer in this study.)

I teach my high school students that there are only two ways to absolutely prevent pregnancy and STIs. Abstinence and Masturbation. I tell them repeatedly not to have sex unless they want to take that step. We talk about the emotional complications and physical dangers of sex. We also talk about the immense potential physical pleasure and connection.

The media doesn’t care about the complicated conversations going on inside of classrooms. They want to prop the combative debates with their headlines even if they misrepresent the data. Dr. Petra breaks down the evidence behind the media circus. Joerg Dreweke at The Guttmacher Institute also reviewed the research.

What is the data, then? Continue reading

Teens Delay Sex. So What?

Grab Ass: The Newest Alarming Teen Sex Trend.

A recent study found that abstinence programs may delay the onset of sexual intercourse. I imagine we’ll see a big hoopla and debate surrounding these results because they contradict other assessments of sex education programs.

Abstinence supporters will see this as proof that AOUM (abstinence-only until marriage) programs work, opponents will point to other studies to prove AOUM programs don’t work. Who is right? It all depends on the definition of “work.”

Continue reading

Sex Ed Ignorance

Yesterday, one of my high school students asked me a curious question about unprotected anal sex.

“Can having unprotected anal sex, like, make HIV?”

“What? I don’t understand your question.”

“Like, if two people that don’t have HIV have unprotected anal sex… my health ed teacher at my other school told me you can make HIV by having unprotected anal sex.”

My eyebrows climbed up my face for safety and my eyes went wide.

“No. Absolutely not. If the virus is not present in either person it will not just appear. One person must be a host and to pass it to the other person. It’s like saying you’ll create a sweater if you have two knitting needles but no yarn.”

My friends were horrified when I told them about this conversation. One big humanity failure, they said. Weep for all of us, they proclaimed. What a bunch of ignorant people, they mumbled.

Yes and no. I have frequent facepalm moments in sex ed but every uttered myth is a moment for education. Honestly, I like it when students or clients ask me questions that many would consider dumb or ignorant. This is why I strive to remain calm in the face of others’ panic. If a person has misinformation it is not their fault.

So much of our media spreads false studies and rumors-as-fact. Pseudo-experts go on Dr. Phil and Maury to scare parents about sexual trends that are verified urban myths. Of course the general public is miseducated.

What sucks is that schools leave teachers without resources and don’t encourage any fact-checking practices. This is when misinformation spreads like a SoCal fire.

I am happy when I hear questions that might make others weep. Our conversation blossomed into information about sexual viruses in general, stigmas and what we really need to be concerned about. Next week I’m going to teach them about media literacy and how to spot bullshit media reports on flawed research.

Adrenaline and Sex

During an open discussion lunch today at a high school I gave the kids a choice between “Arousal” and “Relationship Conflict”. All the students chose arousal except for one guy that complained about his “asshole” girlfriend. I started off by explaining undifferentiated genitalia and which parts of the male and female genitals came from the same tissues (glans clitoris=glans penis, labia majora = scrotum, etc.). Here are some crude but effective charts for easier reference.

Continue reading

Abstract Sex

I am in the process of grading essays about sexuality and they range from the absurd to the sublime. Sexual organization varies from culture to culture and is so deeply embedded that few people really stop and question why we think about sex the way that we do. So, when you ask someone to give a social analysis or interpretation of a sexual behavior (oral sex) or identity (heterosexual) most people fall short.

Somtimes, the claims are simply weird:

Homosexuality is not practiced as widely as it was in the ancient days due to the evolution of the human brain…

This is a thesis statement in an essay. My polite response?

Be prepared to back this up with evidence.

Perhaps people are conflating opinion and evidence. Considering that a certain network television show likes to call hidden camera shenanigans “experiments” I can understand how this confusion could arise.