One of the more contentious aspects of modern public education is the question of whether or not we should teach public schoolchildren “sex education,” which is a euphemism for teaching kids how to have sex with condoms and other contraceptives. Some people want sex ed taught to young American men and women, while others want an “abstinence-only” approach. (It never seems to occur to either group to just leave the teaching to the parents, where it properly belongs.)
Many people insist that American youngsters are “going to have sex anyway,” so we might as well show them how to do it “safely.” There is a curiously defeatist strain shot throughout much of American childrearing: we seem to believe that our children and young adults are simply going to barrel into sex, head-on and unstoppable, like Norse berserkers running screaming and naked into battle, and that adults are utterly powerless to influence this behavior in any way, capable only of throwing some IUDs and Durex into the mix and crossing our fingers.
Anyway, a pornography site recently decided to do something about the scourge of “abstinence-only” education in the great state of Utah:
After Utah lawmakers rejected a bill that would have provided an alternative to its abstinence-based approach to sexual education in schools on Monday, a surprising organization stepped in to fill the educational gap: a porn site.
On Wednesday, the porn site xHamster altered its website so that when users with Utah-based IP addresses log on, they are asked if they’d like to be redirected to xHamster’s series of nonpornographic sex-ed videos. In a (NSFW) blog post, xHamster says it decided to proactively offer Utahns the educational videos both because of the legislature’s recent rejection of the comprehensive sex-ed bill and because “over the past few years, politicians in the state have … waged war on porn.” Indeed, last year the state legislature unanimously passed a resolution declaring porn a “public health crisis,” even though there’s no solid evidence that porn is harmful.
“Utahns consume the most porn per capita of any state, but have some of the lowest levels of sexual education,” xHamster states in its blog post. “We’re here to change that.” The notion that Utah has the highest per-capita porn consumption in the nation comes from a 2009 analysis of credit cards used to pay for online porn, which means it doesn’t necessarily reflect the habits of people who watch porn for free. Still, if Utah lawmakers really think porn is a public health crisis, you’d think they’d want to provide an alternative for teens looking for information about sex.
This is an interesting stunt, chiefly because it seems so incredibly pointless: does anyone really believe that a consumer of xHamster’s expansive multimedia library is really going to be interested in a “series of nonpornographic sex-ed videos?” Perhaps the implication is that the beneficiaries of these videos will mostly be the Utah schoolchildren who were denied “sexual education” within Utah’s public schools. But if that’s the case, isn’t xHamster implicitly endorsing the consumption of pornography by minors? And isn’t that a little perverted?
In any case, two things immediately spring to mind here. The first is this: if Utahns do indeed “have some of the lowest levels of sexual education” within the United States, what is the practical result? Is the state a festering wasteland of single motherhood and sexually transmitted diseases?
Well: Utah appears to have the lowest unwed birth rate in the country, as well as the fourth-lowest rate of STD transmission. If a lack of “sexual education” is supposed to aggravate these phenomena, how does one explain these numbers? Shouldn’t Utah be awash in illegitimate births and gonorrhea? (On the flip side, Washington, D.C.—which mandates comprehensive sex ed in its public schools—consistently ranks among the highest districts in the country for both STDs and out-of-wedlock births. What gives?)
Secondly, and more broadly, it is always worth questioning long-held and popularly-accepted maxims. In this case the maxim is: “Abstinence-only education does not work,” namely because “kids are just going to have sex anyway.” Is this true?
There is actually compelling evidence to suggest that it is not true—that youth and young adults are not mystically fated to just bang each other non compos mentis. Consider the data compiled by Alfred Kinsey, Julia Ericksen and others: they point to the conclusion that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, nearly 95% of unmarried 19-year-old white women were virgins. In the early 1900s, in other words, many, many more women were waiting quite a bit longer to have sex, and the sex they did have was taking place within marriage. It is safe to say that close to 100% of these women received absolutely nothing in the way of “comprehensive sex education.” So why weren’t they screwing their brains out back then? After all, “abstinence doesn’t work!”
Perhaps the proper response is this: we should not be prepared to accept uncritically the shibboleths of the sexual revolution, chief among them its assumptions regarding the inevitably of human sexual behavior. Human beings are perfectly capable of exercising sexual forbearance; we’re not braindead automatons mindlessly humping anything with a pulse. The founders of and heirs to the sexual revolution, of course, are monomaniacal fanatics about sex—they are as militantly committed to the proposition of freewheeling sexual licentiousness as is any religious zealot to his dogma—and they are instinctively hostile towards the idea that people are able to practice any kind of reasonable chastity or self-restraint, much less that they should. It is not an easy task to convince a militant to give up his militancy to any degree.
Just the same, there is a case to be made for dialing back the destructive excesses of the sexual revolution—and that case is quite wonderfully illustrated by the unsettling irony of a nasty pornographic smut site’s attempting to lecture people about safe sex. If it’s come to this absurdity, then surely we have done something terribly wrong.