Saturday, January 01, 2005

“Go ahead. Find someone who doesn’t respect you or themself.”

Douglas Adams was right (but then, Douglas Adams was always right): London Times headline: “Family Saved by Their Towels” (tied themselves to a palm tree in Thailand).

Observer piece on Burma, whose military junta is refusing to admit that more than a handful of Burmese died in the Tsunami Tsuris, and more generally on why forms of government matter following disasters.

Safire’s language column points out that the Bushies are careful to refer to the key element of their Social Security privatization plan as “personal” accounts, never private accounts.

Speaking of personal, an Observer article on American abstinence-only sex ed. programs mentions a program widely used in Texas called “Worth the Wait.” But that phrase is in no way applicable to an abstinence program: the only reason you’d care if something was worth the wait was if you actually had to wait for it. If something is worth the wait but you can have it now, why wouldn’t you? Anyway, they have a website, which is very orange. Right at the top of each page are fun facts, some of them even true, although there’s also this: “FACT: It is illegal to have sex under a certain age, 17 in most states.” The most entertaining pages, if mocking abstinence websites is your idea of entertainment, are:
  • 101 Fun Things To Do (Besides Having Sex)”: Have a picnic; have an 80’s movie marathon (looking at ‘80s fashions will put you off sex); play capture the flag (guess that’s not a metaphor); groom your pet then take it to the park to it show off; learn how to play a musical instrument (guess that’s not a metaphor); visit a nursing home (looking at old people will put you off sex).
  • Advice scenarios: “I have been having oral sex with my boyfriend of a year. He’s been pressuring me to go all the way, but I don’t really want to. He says that since we’ve gone this far, I might as well do it. Am I not a virgin any more?”
  • Refusal skills: Actually a list of responses to requests for sex, many of them rather contemptuous in tone (“The Come-on: If you won’t have sex with me, I’ll just find someone who will. The Come-back: Go ahead. Find someone who doesn’t respect you or themself.”).
Revealed in that bit is a belief that sex actually isn’t worth the wait, that it’s something only people with low self-esteem do. Indeed, most of the site, and presumably the program, presumes that sexual desire is something that other people have. All it offers to teenagers coping with their own sexual impulses, as opposed to those of their partners, is picnics and fear of STDs. And of course all it offers homosexuals is a lifetime of solitary, um, contemplation. Now, any program trying to tell teenagers that sex is just degrading and tawdry (degrading and tawdry in a bad way, I mean, not the good kind of degrading and tawdry) or, more positively, that tries to teach them to operate rationally as well as groinally, runs the danger of presenting relationships and sex in a dreary, emotionally impoverished manner. “Love is your choice,” the site says, “You have the right to choose whom you love”. Is love that’s a matter of choice worth having?

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