01 November 2010

A question

What family values?

Since we're apparently the "family" country. I'd have to wonder, if we're not comfortable with the idea of our teens having sex (and drinking for that matter), even under what might be supervised conditions, if we're probably not also talking to these teens, even about our supposedly optimal abstaining options. To my mind, we're actually the uber-individualist country where we let our teens do as they wish and pretend that they're well-behaved instead. Until there are obvious areas of concern like teen pregnancy, STDs, and serious drunk driving incidents. It would be best if we did not pretend that we had a great deal of interest in family values since we clearly don't value the lives of our children if we're so busy making them too afraid to talk to trusted adults (within their families) about often critical decisions in their lives. To the point that they are making them without appropriately evaluating negative consequences and costs of those decisions.

The birth control disparity has other cultural effects (religiosity rates are very different), but these others should not. It appears we're basically going to end up with a population that has sex mostly by 17 anyway without seriously invasive and pointless laws, so we may as well talk to the kids about the options before they go about their business. Raising kids within a moderation environment and letting them make choices seems far more reasonable, largely in terms of producing good outcomes (ie, fewer teen pregnancies and fewer STD infections), both here in our attitudes toward their sexual relationships and in the question of alcohol use. (this also throws cold water on the notion that encouraging condom use is somehow about encouraging promiscuous sexual teens. This seems far more like a cultural fear we have rather than an empirical result, and has more in common with parts of East Africa than the developed world. Where condom use is similarly discouraged as a shaming or through creating a perception that the users are unclean, as opposed to condom use being considered a sensible responsible precaution.)

One of the most interesting conclusions of that comparison is that both sexes of American teens wish they had waited longer (while very few Dutch teens did). I'm pretty sure given that much of our comedy relating to virginal experiences is on how bad it is/was, this should tell us something about the choices we're making leading up to that. Ie, the who, the what, etc, isn't actually well conceived of, not discussed, and ends up being a pretty poor experience for both young women and young men. This is not, to me, an indictment of sex itself. It's an indictment of having sex with the wrong people. The reason this is obvious is that most European teens are going through the careful process of thinking about the consequences of those actions and getting condoms or prescribed birth control pills/shots, etc, which would be things I'd think that people interested in committed sexual relationships as adults would seek out. They're not just going at it like wild animals as is our conception of teenage hormones. And they seem pretty happy with the results. Meanwhile, here, both sexes don't seem too happy with the results of those encounters. Which strikes me as flying in the face of our "theories" about teenage male sexuality.

And we're also dealing with the consequences by having to pay for all these teenagers with pregnancies, abortions, or various sexual infections. It's the very essence of a corner solution utterly failing to produce even its desired outcomes and it carries with it these persistent notions into adulthood that sex is somehow unclean and has no recreational aspects to it within relationships, even when we sanctify it with the rituals of marriages. I'd suspect we'd probably have healthier relationships (and lower divorce rates) if more people saw their sex lives as simply another aspect of expression within their relationships. As something to have some fun with rather than something of a unfortunate duty to each other. If Dutch teens can figure this out, then why can't American adults?
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