Teens are not having more sex, nor are they having it earlier
The moral panic around teens and sex is uncalled for according to a story in today's New York Times. It is almost as newsworthy that the story, titled "The Myth Of Rampant Teen Promiscuity," by Tara Parker-Pope made it to the Times. Of course it wasn't front page news, but still. Here's what the article has to say:
"Today, fewer than half of all high school students have had sex: 47.8 percent as of 2007, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, down from 54.1 percent in 1991.
A less recent report suggests that teenagers are also waiting longer to have sex than they did in the past. A 2002 report from the Department of Health and Human Services found that 30 percent of 15- to 17-year-old girls had experienced sex, down from 38 percent in 1995. During the same period, the percentage of sexually experienced boys in that age group dropped to 31 percent from 43 percent.
The rates also went down among younger teenagers. In 1995, about 20 percent said they had had sex before age 15, but by 2002 those numbers had dropped to 13 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys."
(This doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about. There was an increase in teen pregnancy for the first time in more than a decade, which may mean that while teens are having less sex overall, some teens are having more and are not using contraception as often. ) Click here to read more
We won't find out by trying to separate biology from culture.
The cover asks "What is Female Desire?" and the story title, "What do Women Want?" seems to promise that scientists are getting closer to figuring out one of life's great mysteries. Daniel Bergner, in fact, does not attempt to answer those two questions (and the small subtitles make it clear that he isn't going to try) but rather he profiles the work of several scientists who are researching women's sexual response, their subjective sense of arousal, and the ways those do or don't line up.
It is a well-written article and a very interesting read. It takes on complex questions and, within its scope, attempts to address them without oversimplifying or sensationalizing (except for the first sentence of the article, in extra large and colorful print that reads "Meredith Chivers is a creator of bonobo pornography."). I would encourage anybody to take a look. But prepare to be frustrated as well as intrigued. Some readers will be frustrated, as was Meredith Chivers (a psychology professor at Queens University, and one of the scientists whose work is the focus of the article) because the answers are not clear and meticulous research takes so long and is so difficult to do, and because, as she is quoted as saying early in the piece, "The horrible reality of psychological research is that you can't pull apart the cultural from the biological."
Click here for my frustration.
... for now. While I'm thrilled and celebrating I recognize that this is like a ping-pong match we play with women's lives every presidential election cycle. The rule was first initiated under Reagan in the mid 1980s, maintained by the first Bush, then reversed by Clinton then reinstated by the second Bush, and now reversed again. What will happen at the next changing of the guard?
Meanwhile, back on a celebratory note, it was very exciting for me to see how the twitterverse went wild when the revoking of the gag rule was announced. Check this out:Twitter search for Obama global gag rule
The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) took the decision to declassify the behaviours as illnesses in order to avoid strengthening prejudices about them, said agency head Lars-Erik Holm.
Today is January 22, the 36th anniversary of Roe v Wade which made abortion bans unconstitutional, and which has been marked for the last three years by "Blog for Choice" day. The Blog for Choice folks prompted bloggers to write about their top pro-choice hope for the Obama administration. (Can I tell you how much I love typing those words: "Obama administration," "President Obama" ... gives me chills!)
My immediate hopes are of course for a rescinding of the Mexico City policy (aka the global gag rule) that prohibits any clinic anywhere in the world that receives US federal aid money from counseling women about abortion or providing abortion services. I am also hoping that the news of Obama's freezing the "conscience exemption" enacted by Bush in a "midnight regulation" is true. RH Reality Check reported yesterday, based on articles in the LA Times and the Press Democrat that both were likely to happen.
But what is my long term wish? (Click here to read more)
Poe's Law says simply "Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing." Although it's one of those things that was made up as a humorous point, the reality of it is as solid as the Laws of Thermodynamics. For example, take Colin Gunn's documentary on the horrors of feminism, The Monstrous Regiment of Women. When you can start out a film trailer with pontifications by Phyllis Schlafly, and have things only proceed downward into further lunacy from there, you know that you've truly dived head first into the rabbit hole. I can't quite decide which is the most disturbing quote, but the assertion by the woman who claims to have worked for a family planning organization is really up there: "I knew that if I could go into a school, the pregnancy rate would increase by fifty percent. I knew that if I could get a girl sexually active, that she would have three to five abortions between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. And that was actually our goal." Watch the trailer below, and remember that we ignore these people at our peril. (h/t to P.Z. Meyers at Pharyngula.) (ETA: Embedding doesn't seem to work. If you're feeling brave, watch the video at P.Z. Meyers' site, or directly from GodTube here.)
SCOT-PEP, or the Scottish Prostitutes Education Project, describes itself as "promoting health and dignity in prostitution". Want their creds? Sure you do -
Between 1 April 2006 and 31 March 2007 SCOT-PEP worked with 557 individuals - recording 3,977 contacts. Services and support were provided to an average of 122 sex workers each month. 367 of our service users were indoor-based sex workers and 89 were street-based sex workers. During the year contact was maintained with sex workers in 37 establishments.
The average number of individuals accessing sessions were:
* daytime service - 10.43 (189 sessions)
* establishment outreach - 6.41 (86 sessions)
* night-time services - 10.94 (97 sessions)
info and advice to 404 individuals on 2,627 occasions;
a listening ear to 318 individuals on 1,669 occasions;
referrals for 192 individuals on 1,152 occasions;
high level support to 8 individuals on 12 occasions;
and our website received 5,729 hits.
Safe Sex Supplies - SCOT-PEP distributed 91,063 condoms.
This may at first seem like a rather odd reaction for an atheist to take, but I am personally livid about the snubbing of Bishop Gene Robinson by HBO during Sunday's inaugural pre-game warm-up. I was already offended by the decision to have Rick Warren brought to the inaugural dinner table, but now I am flat out incensed.
Now, a secular country should not have a state-sponsored prayer to begin with. The First Amendment is pretty clear on the point that the government has no business promoting religion, and most definitely has no business promoting one religion over another. But there is a new administration coming in, an administration that has trumpeted its message of inclusiveness. The new President has bent over backwards to tap the shoulders of people across a wide spectrum of political philosophies, bent over to the point that he has left many of us scratching our heads.
But if the new administration is going to claim it is inclusive, claim to be a government of all people, then why is Rick Warren invited? Warren is inherently antithetical to the notion of inclusion.
Warren is a divisive, mean-spirited fomenter of hate and intolerance. The fact that he wears a nice suit and is very popular does not in any way alter the fact that his message is intrinsically the same message promoted by the likes of Fred Phelps. Warren has no business on the inaugural platform of a President who takes on the mantle of inclusion.
(continue reading below the fold)
More like Fair-and-Balanced when it comes to reporting on "Natalie Dylan" and her virginity auction.
I was sent a link to a CNN story yesterday afternoon. It is the latest update in a story that's become quite the media frenzy: "Natalie Dylan" (not her real name) and her creative alternative to student loans. This 22 year old woman is auctioning off her virginity in hopes of raising enough money to finance her Masters degree. This is remarkable, due not only to the high sum her "cherry" seems to be going for these days (between 3.7 and 3.8 million dollars, when last checked), but because of the shock and awe that has followed in its wake. A perfect example of this is the commentary provided by CNN's Prime News host Mike Galanos and correspondent Richelle Carey . Billed as "hard news with a human side," Prime News "challenges news makers and experts to help viewers gain a clearer understanding of the 'right vs. wrong' conflict playing out across the country every day." (If you ask me, this sounds more suitable for Fox News than CNN, but I digress...) Click here to read more.