Friday, 6 July 2012

Family First's new gateway drug

Last September there was a rash of "sex education in schools is bad" journalism over at the Herald.  At the time, I couldn't get too exercised about trying to paint teenagers learning about their bodies, pleasure and consent as morally wrong, it seemed like a sideshow.

But just last week, Family First paid for a Dr Miriam Grossman to rock up - complete with an all new flag for Aotearoa - to give us her views on sex education.

On Close Up, after explaining that oral sex causes throat cancer (I'd like to see how that "study" was carried out), she came up with the immortal line 
"The sexual urge is healthy and wonderful.  It’s when teens act on that urge that it’s not healthy.”
Family First immediately called for funding cuts to Rainbow Youth and Family Planning because of their work in sexual and reproductive health education.  In the same press release, Family First reminds us, in detail, of their earlier press releases covered in the Herald articles last year.

So Dr Miriam Grossman, the woman who sparked this all off?  She says in the good old days:
We understood that men and women are profoundly different, and weren't afraid to say so. It was clear that liaisons outside a committed relationship could be hazardous. A sexually transmitted infection was a serious matter. Traditional marriage and parenthood were valued milestones. Self-restraint built character, and character was something to strive for.
She's produced literature championed at the Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute site Sense and Sexuality.  There we learn that a hook-up usually leads to regret, that mutual masturbation may cause HIV, and that the rectum is an exit, not an entrance.

I'm finding Grossman sex very confusing.  Aren't mouths "entrances"?  And vaginas "exits," at least some of the time?  Guess not.  It seems anything other than intercourse in a heterosexual marriage might lead to sexually transmitted infections.  All you sexually urgent teenagers, just wait for your heterosexual marriage, please, the intercourse will be worth it.

This isn't the first time Dr Grossman has been part of a campaign to seeking funding cuts for sexual and reproductive health care providers.  In the US, the "dangers" of sexuality education in getting us all sexed up were successfully mobilised to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.  One of their strategies was to focus attention on Planned Parenthood's website and publications out of context to suggest they create sex addicts:

This would all be funny - oh hell, masturbation as a gateway drug?  It is funny - but it would be even funnier if we didn't know that abstinence based education doesn't work - and actually, talking about sex openly with young people, teaching about pleasure and risk and consent, does work to both reduce stis and unwanted pregnancies.  There's some indications that a strengths based approach might reduce sexual violence too.

It would be funny if it wasn't so hate-inducing - of our beautiful bodies, however we like our exits and entrances; of sex, which is about as much fun as you can have with someone else for many of us; of exploring pleasure and fun consensually with someone else in a myriad ways; of women being active in our desires; and of anyone exploring desire in any way that isn't strictly heterosexual.

So next time I hear these rumblings from Family First or anyone else, I won't be treating them as a sideshow.  Family Planning and Rainbow Youth are clearly in the sights of sexual and moral conservatives in Aotearoa, aided and abetted by sexual and moral conservatives in the US.  I'll be defending my rights to my gateway drug and all the other ways I want to consensually express myself sexually, and I want all young people to have those very same rights - how about you?

UPDATE:  With thanks to Captiver in comments...and lo and behold, just days after Family First calls for Rainbow Youth's funding to be cut, Stuff run this article about a man worried about the sessions Rainbow Youth are giving in schools.  Let's be quite clear - queer youth are more likely self-harm, attempt and commit suicide, experience bullying and depression, and run away from home.  It's not an exaggeration to say Rainbow Youth education about sexuality and gender identity will be saving lives, as well as growing the capacity for non-queer identified kids to have compassion and kindness.  Come on media, wake up and ask some questions about where these stories are coming from - "have you had any relationship with Family First?" for a start....


ZenTiger said...

consent isn't everything

Psycho Milt said...

She says "gateway drug" like it's a bad thing.

AnneE said...

What an extraordinary myth about what "used to be"! The only study I found that compared the sexual behaviour of married and unmarried first-time mothers discovered that there wasn't much difference. If they were unlucky and sex led to pregnancy, this often triggered late teen or early twenties marriage. But if not (e.g. the man was already married or much older or too young or a relative), the woman usually hid away and had her baby adopted. The good old days, eh?

Hannah said...

I watched the Close Up clip and the scoop article about defunding Rainbow Youth and Family Planning. Their argument is warped

LudditeJourno said...

ZenTiger - indeed not - consent in circumstances where one person is using power to manipulate, coerce, threaten or force another person to do anything sexual is sexual violence. Any kind of power. Now can that derail please be finished with - that's not what this post is about.

Captiver said...

...Gee, and now we have reports by Fairfax of an anonymous father upset about his son going to a Rainbow Youth event.
Family First plays the media like it's a fiddle. It's so similar to the Anonymous Mother Upset at Anonymous Daughter Getting Abortion Without Her Knowledge stories last year...

Anonymous said...

As a parent and someone who did wait until I was a little older before dabbing my toe in the pool of promiscuity, I absolutely find value in teaching our kids concepts such as abstinence and saying NO.

But to not have any sex education in schools? Good GOD. I want the absolute opposite. I want sex education between parents and their children to start when their kids are little. I want children to have a healthy understanding of their bodies so that when they grow up and continue that conversation with their parents they have a healthy understanding of sex - what it is, what it feels like and what they want it to mean to them.

And I think the best way this can happen is if the schools and parents work together - parents give the emotional understanding of sex & the schools emphasis the biology. There should be workshops with kids, teachers & parents as part of an ongoing conversation over many opposed to the 2 classes we had in Biology in 4th form!

As a mother and as a taxpayer who despises the way some people view welfare, I dont want any child to have an STD or get pregnant. It is a drain on our society in terms of resources and in terms of how these things cripple a young person's emotional growth.

I find it disturbing that Family First thinks the answer to what is apparently 1 in 4 girls having an STD by the time they turn 12 (I read that in well-known Christian writers Ian & Mary Grant's magazine who believe sex IS something we should discuss with our youth) is silence. Honestly those people live in fairyland