Exposing People to the Idea of Sex Causes Them to Have Sex (*facepalm*)

There is a common idea that people have sex because they are exposed to the idea of sex, and the way to stop people from having sex is to reduce their exposure to the idea. There are various manifestations of this concept, including:

1) Abstinence-based education – if you only talk about the sex itself minimally, and just say it’s bad, then teenagers won’t have sex (I have talked to people who got this kind of education in school)
2) People (especially children) should not be exposed to sex-scenes in entertainment and fiction, because they will then imitate what they see (and sex, of course, is BAD BAD BAD).

Now, first of all I hate the idea of manipulating people by withholding information. Okay, I do it sometimes too for Machiavellian purposes, but when I do so I never pretend that it for the other party’s good. Thus I do not support ‘shielding’ children or anybody else from information or ideas (with the possible exception of particularly disturbing/scary ideas which might give people nightmares – but I do not think sex counts).

Second of all – experience disproves this idea. When I talked to people who were given an abstinence-based education, they said it did not stop their peers from having sex, in fact, it was common for their high-school classmates to get pregnant. Likewise, statistics show that places with abstinence-based education have higher levels of teen pregnancies.

The flip-side is, well, me.

I have a mother who is a lot more open to discussing sexual matters than most people in the United States, and my parents (particularly my mother) didn’t try to filter out sexual content in the media I was exposed to. In my entertainment, even before I reached puberty, I had encountered quite a bit of sexual content (which when I was very young I didn’t understand … but it was there). By the logic that exposing people to lots of sexual content will make them have more sex, I ought to be extremely horny and promiscuous. Yet I have been celibate my whole life. Ha.

I’m not saying that media depictions of sexual content are completely harmless – I think the media does promote many harmful ideas about sex (rape culture is Exhibit A). But the way to fight the harmful ideas is not to censor or filter them out (except when it’s necessary to protect victims’ well-being, such as trying to avoid triggering PTSD). The way is to shred these harmful ideas with clear reasoning and put out better ideas to replace them.

I remember a line in Far Away From Anywhere Else. Unfortunately I can’t get an exact quote, but the gist is that the evangelical Christian father who is very concerned about his teenage daughter’s (non-sexual) friendship with a teenage boy is just as obsessed with sex as anyone else. Deliberately censoring sex actually emphasizes it. The true way not to put emphasis on sex is to be indifferent to its absence and its presence.

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