Saturday, July 02, 2005

doing it while you're young

Like penicillin and the telegraph, abortion rights are something my generation has seldom needed but always taken for granted.

But now that Justice O'Connor is packing her bags for Leisure World, the youngest generations may finally learn what it means to fight for a freedom more critical than Napster.

I think I've done a pretty good job educating my baby sister, at an age-appropriate level, about the ins and outs (pardon the expression) of playing with boys. But still I worry about her. She's not a fast girl -- which is good in the sense that she's a few years away from the condom-on-a-cucumber lesson, but bad because she's a bit naive. Not naive, really, just no more mature than a 14-year-old should be, which makes her less mature than most. Oh, and she's hot. Tall, willowy, beautiful, and totally unaware of the men who watch her walk by.

I worry about my sister and I fear for her generation. After a long fight between conservative and liberal parents' groups, our local school board recently folded on the issue of controversial (but essential) condom demonstrations and open discussion of homosexuality in its sex ed curriculum. Okay, maybe "folded" isn't fair; They decided to write a new curriculum designed to make everyone happy, and what that means specifically is yet to be seen. But whatever they pull together, most liberals agree it's a coup for the conservative right.

The school board is playing a dangerous right-wing game here. It's common knowledge that condoms are the only effective way to keep both your sperm and your STDs to yourself. And they're only effective if you know how to use them. I'm not saying every horny teenager who misses the rubber demo is going to run out and make a baby. But pregnancies happen, and diseases are spread -- even in affluent, educated communities like ours -- and ignorance is almost always to blame.

Of course, it could be worse: There are schools in America that embrace only abstinence, and avoid all discussion of gays and sex except in the context of eternal damnation. But I don't worry too much about them; They don't believe in abortion anyway.

So now reproductive rights (among other liberties) are on the chopping block, while parents and school boards see to it many of our nation's children never learn how to have sex -- and we know they're going to have sex -- without conceiving a child and/or making each other sick. Is it just me, or are we sliding backward? Is the Playtex disposable chastity belt not far behind?

Friends, I implore you, talk to the young people in your family. Teach them everything you know about sexual health, even if they act like they don't need to hear it. Too many parents don't talk about sex because they assume their kids are getting the facts elsewhere. And too many kids choose to ignore the information that's available because they think that either they already know it all, or that it'll always be there to learn. We have to consider the possibility, no matter how remote, that maybe it won't.

In the meantime, girls, hold on to your ovaries.

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