I am a mother of a 2-year-old, and what really got me thinking about the abstinence-only speaker at George Washington and Riverside high schools were all the comments on Facebook saying things like "If they were upset they are probably feeling guilty," and "... these kids are just wanting attention."
While I fully support teaching abstinence, I also can't see any way that a child in our culture could abide by that rule with the modicum of guidance they are getting from parents. And then when it is too late we should throw it in their faces that they made bad choices and should be horribly ashamed of themselves because they are horrible people?
It is good to teach that abstinence is the best way to prevent the consequences that come with premarital sex. However, sex is a natural urge. Especially in this culture, when sex is everywhere, can we rationally expect kids to just obey "Just don't have sex ever"? These kids, who are taught to strongly rely on their peers for approval?
If you don't teach your kids from the start that sex has many consequences and that they need to be very careful and think for themselves then there is no way you can expect them to be abstinent. Abstinence just seems like a hypocritical religious blabbering to a child of 14 who has seen his or her whole life their parents or role models do the exact opposite. When people's self-worth relies on other people's opinions, you are going to have an entire community just following everyone else into a circle of self-deprecation.
This is how it is now. Sex is pushed in kids' faces in hip-hop music, television shows, advertisements and movies. You cannot reasonably expect a child to make a decision that contradicts what they have been taught by the world is normal and cool. How are we to shame a child for something that no one taught them was wrong?
Just saying that premarital sex is against your religion and telling them it's bad, then watching some HBO series or going to buy them the hottest trend in push up bras doesn't exactly fix the issue. Talk to your kids. Explain to them that sex is an important life decision and not a status symbol. Tell them everything in detail, and if your child comes to you with a sexual problem, be it pressuring or pregnancy or an STD, consider that maybe they got mixed signals about right and wrong. Try to help them, not shame them into hating themselves. If we let our kids listen to horrible music, see the sexualized ads, and teach them that all that matters is that you have the name brands, the newest gadget and the approval of everyone else, we cannot expect them to have those morals.
It is natural for a person to want to have sex and in a society that overeats, overindulges, and is over saturated with subliminal (or obvious) promotion of these behaviors, self-control is implausible and an unreasonable expectation.
It is not fair to promote sex and other bad behavior in your daily life with what you watch and what you wear and listen to but then treat kids horribly for getting pregnant. It starts at home. If parents don't want their children to make bad decisions, then they should teach them and SHOW them what a good decision looks like. That it is normal to want to have sex. Teach them that abstinence is the only 100 percent prevention and that there are consequences to sexual activity. Explain to them what the choice to have sex means, that they are accepting the consequences and are ready to take them on. But teach your children to be careful and be protected. Above all ingrain in them the ability to think for themselves.
In a culture so inundated with sexual propaganda the only way to raise a child who can and will adhere to abstinence is not fear mongering or shaming. It is to make sure that they can make choices for themselves.
If your child's self-esteem is linked to anyone else's opinion other than his or her own, they will make decisions based on what others think of them. A boy is called homosexual as an insult if he hasn't "tapped that." Then sexual pressuring from the boy to his girlfriend ends in a "Sixteen and Pregnant" episode.
I completely understand how having someone come into your school and yell that you are horrible for your bad choices and will die from birth control could make a young woman upset. Making a child feel bad about herself for doing something we essentially led them to believe is OK by allowing our capitalist society to influence them is not acceptable. Making someone feel bad is not the answer, ever. If we teach our children that they can be themselves, make their own choices, and not worry about what others think, as well as the difference between right and wrong, we can nurture a generation into productive members of society and hopefully could influence a resolution to the issues of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Haught, mother of a 2-year-old child and the granddaughter of Gazette Editor James A. Haught, is a graduate of Ravenswood High School.