The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

When a story is just a Moral Panic

Hey ‘Student journalist Verity Ailsa’, wanna come and write for The Lady Garden? Because you just summed sex-positivity up in a nutshell:

If you don’t see the problem with having sex, and you are fully aware of the facts of the matter, why shouldn’t you? Why should you be forced to have an opinion you don’t believe in? If, on the other hand, you do want to wait until you find someone special, you do that. Not because it’s the “thing to do” but because you believe in it.

“If you don’t see the problem with having sex, and you are fully aware of the facts of the matter, why shouldn’t you? Why should you be forced to have an opinion you don’t believe in” indeed. Sadly, Verity, we’re often expected to hold opinions we don’t believe, especially as women. We’re expected to believe sex is bad, that it’s all men want us for (well, and the cleaning, obviously). We’re expected to meet standards of beauty and dress and cleanliness and flirting and ‘reasonable behaviour’.

And now, we’re expected to believe the quite ridiculous fallacy that comprehensive sex-education could possibly make teenagers have more frequent and more dangerous sex.

I would complain that the Herald is still running with this story. If they hadn’t unleashed Bob McKroskie, Garth George, and the almost literate Diane Taylor* on the subject, that is. Not to mention, contradicted the idea all by themselves. But you see, they KNOW this isn’t a story. If they thought it was, if it were anything other than trying to stir up a little moral panic and increase some page views, they would have named the school the 12 year old who ‘started it all’ goes to. There would have been complaints about the teacher who talked about “flicking her clit”. They would have brought in the Teachers Council and the Minister of Education.

This week, as the debate about what is appropriate in sex education classes raged, many parents have attributed our high teenage pregnancy rate to the explicit nature of some sex education programmes, saying it’s putting ideas into children’s heads that they are not ready for.

Dear Elizabeth, the debate isn’t raging. Except for in the pages of Your Views, and on the internet – you’re being ignored. As far as I can tell, no other media has picked it up. Because they know it’s not a story. And so do you, or you’d have better quotes than Dr Albert fucking Mackary. Family Planning’s Jackie Edmond would have had more to say, and the Principals’ Federation wouldn’t have fobbed you off with a patsy answer.

You know what? It WOULD be nice if we could rely on parents to give practical and knowledgeable sex advice. But that’s never going to happen. Because just as teachers’ “philosophy of life” may not correspond to that of parents” (thanks Dianne Taylor), nor may teenagers’. The father who doesn’t understand why his son needs to be taught about anal sex? Might want to think about the fact his son might not be straight. So might “Auckland Girls’ Grammar student Priyanka Kumar”, who I suspect might have a hard day at school on Monday. Because asking kids to lie on the ground and imagine, for a second that the world isn’t horribly heteronormative actually is what should be taught at every age.

Teachers should educate the students about the risks of drink driving, smoking from an early age, how to deal with peer pressure and maintain personal hygiene. This will have a better impact on the children’s minds then them having to learn about oral and anal sex, having a orgasm or even how to put a condom on a plastic penis.

It’s the plastic penises that get me. I presume teachers aren’t bringing their own used dildos to class to do it. So now I really want to know what these “plastic penises” are. Are they Ministry-issue? Does the PTA fund them? I know DVice reads here**, maybe there’s a sponsorship deal in it for them? But really. Can we agree that knowing how to put a condom on is a pretty fucking basic aspect of sex education? And that putting them on bananas or cucumbers is inherently ridiculous? And so, yes, possibly a black plastic penis IS not a bad idea.

Here endeth the rant. I’m out, New Zealand Herald, you win. Keep fighting the good fight, but I’m going to ignore you.

* This would be the Diane Taylor, a ‘social worker’ who has studied the subject at university. Hey, I had some pretty good sex education at university too, come to think about it. Though we may be discussing very different things. But, you know what might be worth mentioning? The fact that she’s the Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Society of New Zealand Council. Not that catholics aren’t very nice people, but not, historically, the most sex-positive.

** Because they Tweeted me. And Oh how I squeed.

3 responses to “When a story is just a Moral Panic

  1. Deborah September 24, 2011 at 10:14 am

    the almost literate Diane Taylor* on the subject
    I *think* that the Herald might have been engaging in a bit of parody when it published her column, especially because she argued for full disclosure, and then didn’t bother to disclose her own affiliations to deeply conservative Christian groups. Too ironic.

    As for the teenage girl who became pregnant after “some older male thought it would be fabulous to take advantage of me” – why the hell aren’t all those moral panickers worrying about a culture in which girls are pressured into sex? Oh, that’s right. It’s probably her fault.

  2. MJ September 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I was having a great conversation with my mum, as well as the flatties, about this last night. We were having a great discussion about how far the parent’s responsibility goes, and where the school should take over (if at all). This included the fact that one flatmate’s mother didn’t know anything about sex – including the fact that it was how babies were made – until she was TWENTY-FIVE (this was in the late sixties). By contrast, my mum sat me down and told me about sex when I asked; I was seven, and it was when the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal was all over the television. She didn’t tell me anything I didn’t want or need to know, but she’s always been open and honest with me and my younger siblings as we’ve asked questions, or we’ve needed to know things. And I am eternally grateful for that open relationship, but at the end of the day, how many parents are doing that with their children? If we left sex ed up to the parents and the parents alone, how many wouldn’t tell their kids anything for fear of “putting ideas in their head”? How many would feed down misinformation, either because they don’t want their kids to know the answers to the questions they’re asking or because it is misinformation they themselves were taught?

    I also want to just point out for a second that I do not like the note at the bottom of one of those articles that quality comprehensive sex education “reduces the number of sexual partners”? That should not be the goal here. Surely if we are learning about contraception, we are learning about consent, and all those other good nice things, it shouldn’t matter how many sexual partners we have.

    Also, Albert Mackary can just go fuck himself. I know I’ve talked about my experiences with him as my ob/gyn before (I can’t remember if it was on this blog or not) but every time I see his name I want to punch something.

    • Emma September 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm

      That should not be the goal here.

      Wordy McWord. I can’t believe how often “it makes kids have less sex” comes up as a defence of sex education, from quite liberal people, as if that’s a good thing in and of itself. I bitched about this in my column over at the other place, because it drives me mad. Sex is awesome. I have teenage kids. I want them to have lots of really enjoyable sex.

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