Monday, February 14, 2011

My correspondence with a sex educator, Part III

Read Parts I and II, here and here.


A few days later, we responded to the sex educator:


November 20, 1995


Dear Mrs. [Name],


Thank you for your letter. It is clear that you and your husband truly do care about the children you are trying to educate, and we respect that.


However, you misunderstand much of what our article was about. You claim that we don't want information about sex to be taught at school. Clearly, that's not what our piece said. We simply want the truth to be told to young people, and that truth should be told in the context of the very highest societal standards.


Some of your implications about us and our beliefs are a bit far-fetched. For example, we know that many children do not come from homes that follow "traditional fundamentalist Christian beliefs." Neither of us is a fundamentalist, and in fact, both our husbands are quite secular (one of them is Jewish).* Nevertheless, they and we believe that the highest standard for sex is within marriage. Surely you must realize that teen abstinence is not simply an arbitrary issue of morality as you imply, but a standard of civilization. You want to teach kids about "responsible" sex, but there is no such thing as "responsible" unmarried teen sex! It is by definition irresponsible, and for an adult in a position of power to remain non-judgmental about that fact is hard for us to swallow.


Forget religious morality -- isn't abstinence the best thing for teens' emotional and physical health, as well as for the stability of society? You already know the answer, yet you won't hold up abstinence as the expected standard for teens. And you say the word "marriage" is "judgmental," which left us completely stunned. Who in the world and among all the world's cultures, ethnicities and religions -- except for the tiniest minority of fringe groups -- is offended by the standard of marriage? The day marriage starts to become a negotiable, even undesirable institution, is the day that a society starts to collapse. Surely you must know that all societies that survive are built on marriage. To refuse to hold up marriage as a standard for our society is itself irresponsible and is an attitude that directly helps fuel the very problems you are trying to address!


You admit that many of your students have irresponsible and neglectful parents. Yet you claim that your concern is not to offend the values of these families or parents! Do you see the tragic inconsistency with this posturing? What values of those homes do you wish not to offend? The value of drug and alcohol abuse? The value of neglecting and/or abusing children? The value of moving from one sex partner to another while the kids watch and ultimately imitate? The value of complete lack of parental involvement or concern in any aspect of a kid's life? Yet somehow you are afraid of offending these parents' (if you can call them that) religious or moral values? These kids -- who most need someone, some adult in a position of power or influence (maybe you) to actually hold up a societal standard for them for the first time in their lives -- are instead getting more of what they have (haven't) gotten at home. What a missed opportunity! Shame on all adults who don't hold up the highest standard of behavior for those kids who need to hear from some adult in their life that there are expected standards, standards that will serve them well.


You've admitted that the values you model for your kids and grandkids are the values of marriage, commitment and parental responsibility. You know the values that kids need to succeed in this world. Forgive us, but if the highest standards are good enough for your kids, whey aren't they good enough for less fortunate kids? Isn't it a bit condescending (liberals might even use the term "racist") to assume that the less fortunate kids you teach are somehow incapable of living up to the high standards that you and we set for our own kids? And aren't they the ones in our community who most need to hear about high standards? And isn't it selling out those kids if you teach them the lowest common denominator of sexual behavior? 


We realize that "while AIDS is sexually transmitted, so is life," as you said. But unmarried teens should be transmitting neither! They have no business having sex, risking their own lives as well as the lives of the children they will very likely bring into the world. You surely know that where abstinence programs have been tried seriously, they have worked. We received a letter from a school nurse who gave us some fantastic and dramatic statistics from her school district after it committed itself to teaching abstinence. The same results are found around the country when abstinence-based programs are tried. Can it be that you are not aware of this?


You say you hope our kids will never need our services -- but that's one of the points of our article, that parents too often don't have a say (or even know!) what their kids are being taught in their public school! While we work hard to teach our children (against the prevailing culture) that sex is more than recreational activity, you are in the schools teaching moral relativism to our kids. Whether you admit it or not, you are undermining the values our kids are taught in the home. That is why many caring, concerned and responsible parents are up in arms these days. We should be able to send our kids to taxpayer-supported schools without you or another educator teaching our kids that heterosexual marriage is no better than any other sexual pairing -- something you yourself don't even believe! Bottom line: Adults should not implicitly nor explicitly condone teen sex. Kids should have age-appropriate information, but the message that unmarried teen sex is wrong must be unambiguous.


We know we won't convince you that every child, even the most disadvantaged, needs standards. All we ask, then, is that the truth be told. That's all we said in our article, as you'll see if you read it again critically. And the truth is, like smoking and drinking, sex is not an acceptable teen activity. We are baffled that the same people who have no qualms about teaching children that teen smoking is WRONG and dangerous (even though "they're gonna do it anyway"), will not also say to teens that having unmarried teen sex is WRONG and dangerous! And the consequences of teen sex are much more devastating than teen smoking. Telling teens that a condom or the notion of "serial monogamy" will protect them is flimsy protection to be sure. If teens are not mature enough to raise and nurture children, then they have no business having sex. This should not be controversial!


We are sorry if we sound harsh, but we are so frustrated by this philosophy that says societal standards are bad, or that adults should remain neutral. Too many kids these days have no adults who love or respect them enough to have high expectations from the, either at home or at school. We think that's a tragedy, and the kids are suffering mightily. Setting standards is not a mean and judgmental thing, it is the loving thing to do for our children, within our own families, and within the greater culture.


Sincerely,


Kim Manning    Leila Miller


I still remember waiting eagerly for her response to our letter. What surprised me then -- but does not surprise me today -- is that we never heard from her again.

I think the most disturbing part for me is knowing that adults in this society have abdicated their role. The most vulnerable, neglected children are the ones who most need to hear a message of hope and truth and dignity, and yet all they seem to hear is: "Let me help you to facilitate your catastrophically bad choices." It makes no earthly sense to me.

And the idea that "marriage" or "heterosexual" are judgmental concepts? I am still flabbergasted. But it's the same left-wing, social engineering mindset that recently proposed dropping the (discriminatory!) words "mother" and "father" from U.S. passport applications. Thankfully, that idea was shot down and scrapped. For now.

Anyway, this woman's letter is a perfect example of good intentions gone horribly wrong. I hope those at-risk kids she taught ultimately found their human dignity and worth somewhere, because Heaven knows they weren't ever going to find it in a condom.



*Within two years, both of our husbands became Catholic. Kim and I were their RCIA teachers! :)

115 comments:

  1. SOOOO good!!!!!! So many good points! I need to keep this for later!!!

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  2. Very interesting set of letters - thanks for sharing! "Moral" teaching doesn't have to be religious... so I don't see why the schools can't teach morals, like "stealing is bad" and "drugs are bad" and "unmarried sex is bad." I've also heard of some African countries using abstinence to stop AIDS (rather than pushing drugs/condoms) and having great success, but unfortunately have no research/data to back that up. I would say the biggest problem is that kids hear one thing at home and something else at school... whether that is your children getting good messages at home and bad messages at school, or the underprivileged children that the Red Cross educator mentioned, who are getting good messages at school and bad messages at home. Which one sinks in further?

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  3. And teens are not dumb. They can smell an inconsistent or hypocritical message from a mile away. The action of providing condoms or birth control information completely undermines any message regarding abstinence or responsible sexuality. It's the supreme illogic behind "harm reduction" strategies which basically will tell a drug addict "drugs are harmful, but here's where you can acquire and administer them safely".

    Leila that letter was awesome, you called her out on the inconsistencies and her condescending attitude towards the poor, an attitude in liberals that I find revolting, which I never noticed when I was one but I see all too clearly now. They spring back and forth so easily between contempt and condescension, contempt for those of a more traditionalist or conservative bent...which a lot of poor people are, especially in the developing world, and condescending attitudes that say "we just need to teach these people the right way to live, to be like us...tsk..tsk...look at these ignorant 20 something mums with their three kids...they should be in University, throwing contraceptives into their bodies, learning about how white culture is the source of all evil and sleeping with as many people as possible, then they can abort their babies, ditch suburbia and move into a third floor downtown walkup condo, by a bike and a dog and be sterile pretentious intellectuals and navel gazing artists like the rest of us".

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  4. BTW: a good part of pedagogy is moral, it always has been...from Children's books and fairy tales to public service announcements for teens. The idea of education is to teach children and teens not only information, but basic codes of social conduct and behavior. Telling kids to plant trees and recycle is "moral," telling them not to smoke or do drugs is "moral", encouraging sharing and mutual respect is "moral", discouraging bullying is "moral". To suddenly turn to the issue of sexuality and say "we are not going to impose morality on these kids" is disingenuous, and really, really stupid...because sex is one of the fastest routes to major problems for teens.

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  5. I remember distinctly as a teenager working at a summer camp, hearing the camp policy that there were to be NO relationships between staff members, NO public displays of affection. Not 30 seconds after emphatically telling us this, the camp directors told us where the camp kept free condoms, in case anyone needed any. The same was true for drug use. Emphatically NO drugs or alcohol would be tolerated in the staff.... but here is the place to dispose of your syringes and needles. Then and now... the message was clear rather than muddled. We're saying "no" but not meaning "no". Go ahead and do what you want. And believe me... the staff members (all highschoolers and young college students) at that camp DID.

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  6. I've been following along and I love your response. It should be printed and distributed as a brochure for all kids in schools to take home and give to their parents! Then this kind of education can get back where it belongs...at home! I love it. I'd send it to my husband at work but he might fly out of his seat and make a lot of noise applauding. :-)

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  7. This is great, Leila. God has given you great gifts in speaking the truth! The entire letter was great, but I liked that comment about "We are baffled that the same people who have no qualms about teaching children that teen smoking is WRONG and dangerous (even though "they're gonna do it anyway")," so true. I hear that excuse all the time, "They're going to do it anyway, so you might as well how to teach them how to do it 'right'." I'm sorry that we have such low expectations of our young people! I've met such good teenagers who are good people; if only they were taught the truth, I think we would see great surprises from them. Teenagers already go through such difficult times, it makes no sense to make things even more complicated by stringing them a web of lies.


    Great work, I'm going to read this to my hubby!

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  8. Um love this response!!!! So true!! So well articulated!

    This was one of the many lines that got me: "Whether you admit it or not, you are undermining the values our kids are taught in the home." Yes, exactly. So often, they are holding standards that are too low for the kids and not only does this hurt those from disadvantaged, neglected backgrounds but it undermines the homes that do hold high standards.

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  9. Is anyone else out there reading this post and feeling piqued (sorry, big, snooty intellectual word Barbara) about the commentary as well? Any fellow liberals out there who are according to Barbara:

    "throwing contraceptives into their bodies, learning about how white culture is the source of all evil and sleeping with as many people as possible, then they can abort their babies, ditch suburbia and move into a third floor downtown walkup condo, by a bike and a dog and be sterile pretentious intellectuals and navel gazing artists like the rest of us"

    I am chortling at this lovely paragraph above-oops! another "big" word Barbara! It would be so fun to retaliate Barbara and yet there is so little space to even begin.

    -miss g

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  10. Miss G, I would consider yourself lucky if you've never encountered people such as Barbara describes.

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  11. Bee-U--Ti-Ful letter, Leila!

    -- Nubby

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  12. Miss Gwen, I know you like to comment on the comments, but if you could comment on the post, that would be helpful to me. Can you put yourself in the place of the sex educator who never answered and please respond directly to the points in my letter?

    Thanks!

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  13. BTW: a good part of pedagogy is moral, it always has been...from Children's books and fairy tales to public service announcements for teens.

    Which prompts me to get working on a post I've been thinking of... about Disney's Pinnochio. Now there's a great moral tale, the likes of which are not made anymore.

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  14. Leila, I don't know if I can get to all of the questions/ideas you present here.

    I don't have a problem with teaching about the effectiveness of abstinence in high school.

    I do think that there are parents who are too uncomfortable or unwilling for whatever reason, to talk to their children about sex and give them information about it. And I think sex education has a place in high school to help support gay/lesbian/bisexual teens, a demographic with notoriously high suicide rates.

    I think there is an assumption that teaching students about the effectiveness of contraception and passing out condoms "promotes" sexual activity. I am not convinced that it does this. Further, teaching about contraception can lead to interesting classroom discussions/debates about how to actually use it effectively, whether or not you agree with it, and the need for more studies about the long term effects of taking hormones to control fertility (I'm thinking pros and cons of contraception).

    what's wrong with a little open debate/discussion in the classroom?

    What I see as a downfall to the abstinence only program is that it attempts to make young people feel fear about having sex (If I do this, I'll get all sorts of diseases and die!) and it stigmatizes those who may have already had sex or had sexual activity.

    Teaching kids that marriage is the ultimate goal is not sex education. If that is your belief, so be it, but it does not belong in official high school curriculum about sex.

    What does belong in such a curriculum? in my opinion:

    Teaching kids to feel confident about their sexual orientation, understanding the various debates around contraception, knowing the different kinds of contraception and the pros and cons of using it, understanding that abstinence is the most effective way to not become pregnant, talking about relationships and romance, knowing all the services provided by PP and Crisis Pregnancy Centers, having open ended debates/discussions about sex and all of the above.

    -miss g

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  15. Miss G, I am a Graduate student in one of the most liberal cities in North America. I have heard far too many conversations amongst faculty and other students in my department in which the contempt for conservatives, pro-lifers, religious people and various non-intellectuals (generally with large families) was thick enough to drink...chased with a wholesome shot of "these poor people just need to be "educated" to the right way of thinking."

    Then of course there's this, satire of course...but every bit of satire has a grain of truth:

    http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/02/10/62-knowing-whats-best-for-poor-people/

    As for the comment about aborting your babies to live in an urban walk-up...there's this:

    http://michellemalkin.com/2004/07/18/terrifying/

    CBC (in Canada) recently did an expose on "single life" in which they asked single and childless people what they thought about having children. The reasons people gave for not having children were the most superficial, materialistic and narcissistic statements I've ever heard from "If I had a baby I would never have time for myself" to "I'm an artist, so I need time and space for my art" to "I have a nice apartment downtown and I would have to move to the suburbs".

    This is the attitude, from the inside it looks like a matter of "individual choices and living a creative lifestyle", but seeing it from the outside it is pure, unalloyed narcissism, mixed with intellectual elitism and small-heartedness. At this point in my life I'd rather sit and talk with moms in the cry room at Church about diapers then talk to coffee shop intellectuals about Sartre.

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  16. Miss G, basically, if I am understanding you, you are in agreement with the sex educator. You believe in "values-free", non-judgmental sex education. But there is my question: Do you also believe in "values-free" smoking education? Or "values-free" drug education? Or "values-free" environmental education? Or is it just sex which should be approached with no moral judgments?

    Do you believe that there is such a thing as "responsible" unmarried teen sex?

    Barbara, thank you for the follow-up and the fascinating insight. I believe that Obama spoke for all liberal elites when he spoke of the unwashed masses "clinging bitterly to their guns and religion." He didn't expect that his insular left-wing fundraising speech would be recorded and then disseminated to all of us hicks. :)

    But it really is no secret how they think of us. It never has been.

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  17. Miss G said: Teaching kids that marriage is the ultimate goal is not sex education. If that is your belief, so be it, but it does not belong in official high school curriculum about sex.

    But teaching acceptance of homosexuality does belong in a high school curriulum?

    What I see as a downfall to the abstinence only program is that it attempts to make young people feel fear about having sex (If I do this, I'll get all sorts of diseases and die!) and it stigmatizes those who may have already had sex or had sexual activity.

    So you object because it might make the kids feel bad? I know many chastity speakers who make sexually active kids feel hopeful and relieved. Here's one, with "no fear tactics, no guilt trips." The do great work:

    http://www.chastity.com/

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  18. http://www.catholic.com/audio/chastity/chastity-public.mp3

    Here is their public school talk, with no religious content. What do you think?

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  19. Leila,
    We can't have this conversation because there's no meeting of the minds, so to speak. My values are directed towards a non-judgmental sex education platform."Values" means something entirely different within Catholicism, no? Many teens smoke. I can encourage them to stop, but I can't make anyone do something they don't want to do.

    Barbara, I'm particularly haunted by your phrase "learning about how white culture is the source of all evil." But to address the points you made earlier, I can attest to seeing/hearing where i live, some of what you say is all over your liberal university. But the class divisions and assumptions about class and politics you talk about are not so easily summed up the way you've characterized them.

    that's all

    -miss g

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  20. Miss G, even people who have no meeting of the minds can have a conversation and ask/answer questions. I will try just one question:

    Do you believe there is such a thing as "responsible" unmarried teen sex?

    Thanks!

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  21. Miss G - When comprehensive sex educators list the lengthy risks that come with sex, are they using a fear-based curriculum? Why is it only fear-based when promoting abstinence but just "facts" and "eduction" when teaching about contraception?

    I personally don't think you have to instill fear into kids to teach abstinence, btw. When I heard my first abstinence "message" (actually I read it in a book), I was amazed at how positive it was. Instead of focusing on STDs and contraceptive failure rates (I was shown graphic pics in my health ed class of the horrors of STDs and a video on the horrors of giving birth), it focused on issues like responsibility, love, making good choices, etc. I was so sad a teacher never got into those topics with me and instead just showed me mechanics on how to have "safe" sex.

    So, I think it's a myth that an abstinence message must be negative or have a negative effect.

    I also have to say, at least for me personally... sex talk and comprehensive sex ed classes most definitely pushed me towards having sex earlier than I would have. Are you aware that the D.A.R.E program was pulled in many schools because an unintended consequence of it was that it normalized drug us ("everyone is doing it, except you!"). Psych 101: When on the fence about an issue, most people will go with the masses. Teens, who are vulnerable to poor judgement as it is, are especially prone to default to what they see as "the norm" even when described to them in the context of the norm being unhealthy (DARE was *all about* how bad drugs were... didn't' matter... drug use increased in the schools that implemented DARE).

    When I learned this phenomenon as a psyc student in college, a light bulb went off regarding my sex ed experiences. So why would they pull the DARE program but keep promoting sex education based on the premise that "the norm" will be teen sex?

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  22. I had responsible, unmarried, teen sex (18,19 on.) Then I had responsible, unmarried sex in my early 20's. Then I had responsible, unmarried sex with my now husband. We owned a home together & had a joint bank account a year before we were married. Here we are, 12 years later, three children (hopefully that's enough for Barbara to feel that I am not a selfish, narcissistic navel-gazer) and doing great. None of my choices resulted in unwanted pregnancies, damage to my soul or even any negative feelings.I have and had a great life and am very happy.

    Sorry to disappoint you, but many people do not regret sex before marriage.

    Miss G - if Leila can rip the sex educator's letter apart and liken her to the abortionist Finkel, why do you bother? Girl, go have a latte and leave these ladies to it. If a "full sex education" involves "God's plan" for sexuality, these women are not coming from a place of discussion, they are coming from a place of defense and self righteousness.

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  23. Anonymous@1:58pm - You said, "If Leila can rip the sex educator's letter apart and liken her to the abortionist Finkel, why do you bother?"

    Leila said, "Footnote: I am NOT comparing the despicable criminal abortionist Finkel with this kind-hearted, if terribly misguided, sex educator..."

    Go, go Gadget reading comprehension!

    Wheh you were having sex in your teens and early 20's, were you doing so with a person who would be a responsible parent, and in a position to support a child if one would have been conceived? Were you in a position to pay all of your medical expenses in case you contracted an STD? If not, you were not having "responsible" sex in the slightest. You were having very irresponsible sex.

    I did not have premarital sex. My husband did. He regrets having had premarital sex, whereas I never have regretted not having it.

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  24. To clarify my last paragraph above... my husband had premarital sex with former girlfriends he had prior to meeting me. Upon rereading it I realized it sounded like he'd had premarital sex with me, but I hadn't with him, and that just sounds bizarre. :P

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  25. Anonymous, do you think most teen girls are enjoying the sexual experiences they are having? Also, is there an age that you think is "too young" or does it really just vary from girl to girl?

    For both anonymous and Miss G: I once talked to a secular, pro-choice Jewish friend of mine. She was curious about Catholic teaching on sex, and asked me about why we didn't use contraception. I answered her as best I could, and then we started talking about the misuse of sex in general. I told her that it seemed like the greatest, deepest, most painfully devastating wounds in women's lives were related to the misuse of sex: rape, promiscuity and broken hearts after having sex (being used and discarded), divorce, adultery, child molestation, abortion, etc.

    My friend looked at me like a light had gone off in her head: "You know... you are exactly right."

    It is scary how much devastation has been left in the wake of the misuse of sex. I think all women can look at ourselves and our friends and our co-workers and find so much sadness and brokenness around this issue. (Except for anonymous, since she managed to come through with no heartache or regrets.)

    Thoughts?

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  26. Miss G, what would responsible unmarried teen sex look like? In other words, how old? What kind of life circumstances? What kind of teens (maturity levels, income)?

    Thanks!

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  27. Anonymous, please give yourself a name so that we can identify you. Thanks!

    Also, you mentioned "defense and self-rigteousness"... do you not believe we have the children's best interests at heart? And you might not be aware that most of the Catholics on this site have a "past" (even some really racy, pop-culture-approved stuff), so we aren't all speaking from a gilded pedestal of purity. Just in case you were wondering. Many of us are really the last to judge or be self-righteous. So if it comes off that way, then forgive me.

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  28. You are so right Anonymous, and I do need a latte around this time in the afternoon. I get caught up reading things I don't agree with and then against better judgment, can't resist writing a response.

    Leila, suffice it to say we have different viewpoints on what teens should be taught regarding sex.

    -miss g

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  29. Miss Gwen, we already knew that we have differing views. That's a given.

    I was trying to get you to answer specific questions. I always answer your questions, and it's so frustrating that you won't answer mine. I will never understand that. My goodness, I wrote a whole post about my frustrations with that.

    Sigh.

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  30. Question: "what would responsible unmarried teen sex look like? In other words, how old? What kind of life circumstances? What kind of teens (maturity levels, income)?"

    do you mean what does teen sex look like? because it's happening right now.

    how about defining what is not responsible sex These are just a few ideas that come to mind: having no knowledge of human fertility or barrier methods that can be used to prevent pregnancy and disease, having no knowledge about public services that can provide information/help, believing poor self esteem will be vanquished by having sex, and no discussion about sex with parents, mentors, teachers or friends.

    Am i correct that in your estimation there is never responsible teen sex or unmarried sex?

    -miss g

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  31. Great ending, I only wish she had responded and continued an open and honest dialogue with you, but something tells me you hit a nerve and it would be interesting to find out what she teaches today, probably the same thing but maybe with reservations in the back of her mind after your letters. There's always hope.

    In terms of what the comment debate is arguing about back and forth: I grew up in a broken, low income household where there was no discussion of sex (I could tell you horror stories of how it affected not only me but my older brother in the worst ways imaginable). I was a very reckless teenager who while never sleeping around managed to shock my mother in other destructive ways, and later had premarital sex with my now husband and I regret it. Nothing about it was responsible, I was on the pill and we lived a God-less, unfulfilled life. It was only when we joined the Church that we became responsible mature adults capable of making the right choices because we believed in something bigger than us, someone that in the end we will all have to answer to. even those seculars who deny His existence.

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  32. She (miss g) won't reply to you, Leila, because she is too busy being cute and has already firmly settled her mind that teen sex is good thing after all, she celebrates National Condom Day, whatever that entails.

    Teaching self control and self respect is apparently a very Ignoble way to go, I guess, to the condom loving, teen-sex advocating miss g.

    Miss g, to use your analogy: you said you can't make kids stop smoking. Course you can't but neither should they be handed cigarettes. And does the fact that you can't control if they smoke or not mean you shouldn't educate them on the healthy benefits of abstaining from smoking?

    Abstaining from sex is a choice among choices. It's the healthiest choice and it doesn't have to even have a religious context. Whatever your "values" are that you refer to, the's no reason to omit advocating the healthiest choice which is abstinence.


    - Nubby

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  33. Miss G, if you could just answer the question the way I asked it, I would be grateful, so that I can understand. What does responsible unmarried teen sex look like? In other words, how old, what kind of life circumstances, what kind of teens (maturity, income level)? I want to know what you think responsible unmarried teen sex looks like.

    Your question to me was: "Am i correct that in your estimation there is never responsible teen sex or unmarried sex?"

    Yes, that is correct, as you already know, because you know that I am a practicing Catholic. Catholics believe that sex only a responsible choice within the committed bonds of marriage. For many, many, many reasons. It's what the vast majority of society always understood before the sexual revolution came plowing through.

    So, I've answered you, will you answer me?

    I'm willing to answer more, if you'd like.

    No

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  34. *I have no idea why that "no" is there!!! And, I meant to say, "...that sex is only a responsible choice...." Too many typos, sorry!!

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  35. Leila,

    Teens and young people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, political backgrounds and income levels make decisions about sex everyday. Being responsible about the decision to have sex means being aware of methods to protect against disease and prevent pregnancy. I can't answer your question any better than this.

    Nubby, I've stated before that I have no problem with abstinence being taught as one method to pursue throughout the teen and young adult years. And thanks for your underhanded assumptions about what I'm too busy doing. I assure just sitting around being "cute" isn't one of them.

    -miss g

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  36. Go Miss G!
    Love your points; you're braver than I to take this on.

    Also loved the points the sex educator mentioned in Part 2. Nodded my head in agreement the whole time.

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  37. Anonymous, could you give yourself a name? Are you the same anonymous as the earlier anonymous? Trust me, we are benign here. We don't swear or censor. No need to fear this group of ladies.

    Instead of just saying that you nodded your head in agreement with the sex ed lady, please could you do what she did not attempt, which is to answer my questions? Remember, lurkers are reading, and they want to see your side of things, but that means you have to have the conversation.

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  38. Miss G, then just to clarify: It doesn't matter the age or circumstances of a teen having sex, it only matters if they use a condom? So, if two (or more?) teens having sex are using a condom, then that is responsible sex in your mind, correct? I think that is what you are saying. Yes?

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  39. miss g said:
    "You are so right Anonymous, and I do need a latte around this time in the afternoon. I get caught up reading things I don't agree with and then against better judgment, can't resist writing a response."

    This (above) is what being "cute" looks like. Trying to appear clever and witty. No "underhanded assumptions" were made.

    Just waiting for you to engage in some lofty discussion.

    -Nubby

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  40. Leila,

    I think that is mostly correct. I understand the correct use of a condom or other method of birth control to be a sign or measure of responsible forethought on the part of a sexually active person. I also think abstaining from sex until marriage (if that is what you think is right) or until one is in a committed relationships (again, if that is what you think is right) is a responsible decision as well.

    Nubby, I actually do enjoy coffee quite a bit and have been known to drink a latte in the afternoon. So I'm trying to be witty and clever and cute if I appreciate the humor and response of someone else and voice my preference for a latte in the afternoon? Who knew being witty and clever was so easy!
    Also, I don't think you'd recognize "lofty discussion" if it hit you in the forehead so no need to wait around for it.

    -miss g

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  41. Miss G, thank you, that was clear and I understand. Now (as I am wont to do), I will ask more questions to take it a bit farther:

    Let's say a nineteen-year-old college guy (pot smoker, high school dropout, and "player" with a cool car) sees that a fourteen-year-old girl (from a fatherless home) has a mad crush on him and is willing to have sex with him. He is very interested in one night of sex in the park, and she is starry-eyed in love. They both agree to use a condom correctly. Do you think that is responsible sex?

    Thanks!

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  42. I'm guessing that chapter 2 of this scenario unfolds as either: the condom breaks, starry eyed girl discovers she's pregnant and cool dude won't have anything to do with her or starry eyed girl is scarred for life because she realizes she was intimate with a man who just wanted satisfaction from her?

    I'm certainly not saying that in every case the decision to have sex is a good one-but using a condom or other barrier method is a responsible decision. No one wants to end up with an STD (especially w/o healthcare!)

    -miss g

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  43. Miss G, my scenario would play out in the world of perfect condom usage. So, the girl gets no horrible disease (thank you, condom!) and no baby/aborted baby (thank you, condom!). However, as happens every day (whether in a perfect or non-perfect condom world), the young girl, already from a difficult home/lifestyle, gets used and tossed away.

    It literally hearts my heart to think about it. Because, that is common. And as far as I can tell, the best, most compassionate thing that the left has set-up for such a situation is the neighborhood Planned Parenthood, to take care of any problems that should arise. Can they stop her from having a life of promiscuity with dozens of men who will use and drop her like the others? Can they fix her broken heart and ruined life?

    I don't see liberalism as compassionate. I think of it as very cold.

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  44. I just want to clarify, though, because you say that the girl and the young player having sex are making a responsible decision. However, I asked about "responsible sex". Not a particular decision during that act.

    For example, an adulterous man may make a "responsible" decision to use a condom with his mistress and then a prostitute. But is his affair with the mistress "responsible sex"? Is his quickie with the prostitute "responsible sex"?

    I hope you understand what I am asking. I would say that those scenarios are grossly, horribly, terribly irresponsible. I guess we may have different terms/ideas in mind when we speak of "responsible sex" so we may be talking past each other?

    And if we are talking past each other, then how is an at-risk kid to understand what a sex educator means when she tells him of "responsible sex"? It seems so fraught with danger, and again, does not seem compassionate or loving at all.

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  45. Wait, it should be "literally HURTS my heart" not breaks. Because, even though I misspelled it, it did hurt my heart to think of a girl like that. My heart aches for all those millions of lost girls.

    Oh typos, how I loathe you!

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  46. FYI

    re·spon·si·ble (r-spns-bl)
    adj.
    1. Liable to be required to give account, as of one's actions or of the discharge of a duty or trust.
    2. Involving personal accountability or ability to act without guidance or superior authority.
    3. Being a source or cause.
    4. Able to make moral or rational decisions on one's own and therefore answerable for one's behavior.
    5. Able to be trusted or depended upon; reliable.
    6. Based on or characterized by good judgment or sound thinking.
    7. Having the means to pay debts or fulfill obligations.
    8. Required to render account; answerable.

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  47. First Anonymous here again. (I only wrote the 1st comment, no others)

    Real quick: There are no hard and fast rules to what constitutes responsible teen sex in the way of age, income level, etc etc. It is entirely a case by case call. I know a couple that got together when he was 17 and she was 12 (YES it weirded me out to hear that, too!) She came from a broken home and was completely susceptible (like the girl in your scenario) to having her heart broken. well, turns out he loved her and they are married with children still today. No tragedy.

    And let's not blame pot, okay? I've smoked a fair share of the stuff in my younger days and it did me no harm. Had fun, actually. Also had 1 boyfriend cheat on me and I dumped him promptly. Did I cry? Of course. Then I got up and moved on without being lost and broken.

    I guess I feel you paint a picture of women where we go to pieces the moment we lose our virginity. And I am sure a few do. But I always enjoyed sex and had control of who I had sex with and what pace we would be moving.
    So have a lot of my friends (but not all, to be fair.)

    Self love & self esteem are key when it comes to that.

    PS - JoAnna: I was always on an insurance plan and I have a very loving family and great group of friends who would have supported me whether the guy took off or not if I got pregnant. And why do you think he would duck & run? Are men jerks in your book?

    Also, My mother (who has passed by now) would have helped me, I know it. She loved babies and doted on all of mine, when I was ready to have them.

    And SAYING "I'm not trying to compare the two" while DOING JUST THAT is called being hypocritical. Go go Gadget actions speak louder than words! :)

    That's all I am going to say,
    Anon#1

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  48. Anon#1 -

    "PS - JoAnna: I was always on an insurance plan and I have a very loving family and great group of friends who would have supported me whether the guy took off or not if I got pregnant. And why do you think he would duck & run? Are men jerks in your book?"

    Not all men, no. But men (and boys) ducking out on child support (or support, period) when their sex partners become pregnant is becoming an all-too-common scenario in this day and age. :( That's one reason why a woman may decide to abort -- her partner says he won't support her or stay with her if she has the baby. Abortion by coercion happens far more often then you'd like to think. :(

    Also, do you honestly think a 12-year-old is capable of consenting to sex? The thought makes me ill.

    I'm curious; did you have contingency plans in place prior to your decision to have pre-marital sex, or was that just a happy coincidence?

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  49. Anon #1,

    a) I, too, know many situations that turned out well, even after a questionable, or even sinful start. My own marriage, for one. But so what? Are you saying that because something bad turned into something good that the bad is to be applauded? Praise God that couple turned out okay and that little girl (yes, 12 is a little girl) did not end up the way many other such girls end up. More likely, those scenarios don't turn out well. You would never counsel your little girl to date someone of that age, much less have sex with him, would you?

    b) I've smoked my share of pot, too. And dated pot-heads. Now that I am an adult, I wouldn't want that for my own child, but I guess we are all different.

    c) I used to use sex as a power trip over guys, too. I was always very confident in myself. I've never had a self-esteem problem. But looking back at how things were then and what I know and experience now, it's like coming out of the dark and stepping into the light. There's something out there that's a lot better than just power, control and pleasure.

    d) When I really understood what self-love was, I didn't allow myself to use others for my own pleasure, nor did I allow myself to be used. Love and be loved? Yes. Use and be used? No. As to our (probably different) definitions of "love", go here:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/01/is-christian-love-gibberish.html

    To be continued....

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  50. e) Are all men jerks? Do they duck and run? Well, my experience with men is varied. I know incredible, wonderful, kind, responsible and gentle men. I love men. I think they are given a horrible rap by feminists and the wider culture who like to devalue them and their role as protector and provider and hero. However, we have a huge crisis of manhood going on, if you haven't noticed. Do men duck and run? Every single day. And guess who is usually escorting their girlfriend to the abortion clinic? "Here honey, let me help you 'take care of it' [slips her $400]." Yes, some men are jerks, and some men use women, and some men leave. But you knew that, right?

    f) Hypocritical? Well, when the abortionist Finkel wrote those words, he was still just a heroic legal abortionist in the eyes of the left. Even though he was a heinous predator, the world didn't know that yet, nor did we. So, those words were spoken as a "servant of women" and not a criminal, and they were very similar to the sex ed lady's words. I was comparing their words and liberal mindset, not their character. That's a huge distinctions. Distinctions are very important to me.

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  51. Anon:

    My grandmother smoked three cigarettes a day for fifty some years, one in the morning with her tea, one while driving to town to check the mail, and one at night after supper. That doesn't mean however, that I'm going to go into schools and promote "safe smoking...'cuz they're just going to do it anyway...". My grandma was an exceptional case. The larger majority of people who start smoking in their teens end up as pack a day or multiple pack a day smokers.

    And the majority of teens who have sex, especially young women, recognize it as a wrong choice and regret it. I've heard and seen more examples of girls saying "I did it because boyfriend x wanted to and I didn't want him to dump me, because my friends told me that being a virgin made me a loser, because I wanted to be cool like friend X who was telling me all about her experience with her boyfriend, because I got drunk at that party and started making out with guy X I hardly knew and ended going to bed with him"...then I have of girls saying "My boyfriend and are so happy and in love with each other and our sex life is an expression of that".

    This isn't just true with teens by the way, a lot of single women on the dating scene get involved sexually with people they don't really want to have sex with, but they want company and like the person so they give in. It happens more than you think. This is why making "consent" the only boundary between right and wrong sexual activity is, frankly, stupid. Consent can be manipulated and often is. People consent to things which they don't really want, but they believe that by consenting they will get something they do. Finally people often consent to something that they realize in retrospect was a wrong decision.

    BTW: Miss G. I'm sorry my comment on "white culture" scared you. I've been in an academic environment in the arts for a very long time. Here you don't learn how to read great books, but to tear them apart because the writers were men and they were European and God forbid they write from that point of view.

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  52. It needs to be said that sex with a twelve-year-old is against the law, and the fact hat he is 17 is no longer in his favor. Period. That was a terrible example. If the left used that publicly as an example in a public debate forum of this type, the debate would shut down.
    And the debater would be discredited.

    So let us all close that one debate point and move on to a different example.

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  53. Barbara, thank you. You are so right... I'll never forget the ABC special that Diane Sawyer did years ago (I think it was Diane) and she was interviewing all these sexually active teens (who had started when they were young and had many partners). They chatted and laughed and talked about their exploits very casually. Near the end of the program, Diane asked them the big question: Do they wish they had waited? Every single one of them got very quiet and serious, and said that if they had to do it all over again, they would not have sex. They wanted to be innocent, they wanted to wait till they were married. It was the saddest thing I have ever seen. My heart broke for them. I think Diane was surprised. (April, thank you, you are right.)

    PS: Barbara, you should read this post by Jen at Conversion Diary. She lived the high life of elite liberalism that you describe, and now is everything she thought she would never stoop to be. It's so amazing to see her change from her high rise apartment domicile and her purple wedding dress to a beat up minivan and (now) a fifth child in seven years:

    http://www.conversiondiary.com/2008/10/five-years-later.html

    It made me smile all the way through. :)

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  54. couple didn't have sex for a few years, FYI - she was 14 I think when that happened. (Yes in my mind still too young - but look at them now). My great-grandmother was married off at 16 to a 22 year old and they were Catholic.

    I never used sex as a power trip Leila, I just enjoyed it. By in control, I mean no one coerced me or pressured me to do what I wasn't ready for.

    You asked for an example of responsible unmarried sex and I gave you one - simple as that.

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  55. Anon, there is a big difference between a 12-year-old, a 14-year-old, and a 16-year-old. Anyway, I am at least glad to hear that you think a 14-year-old should not be having sex with anyone, much less a man. Do you think the sex educator should have told the 14-year-olds that they needed to be chaste?

    By "responsible" do you mean that no one got hurt (at least in ways that can be seen)? My definition is probably different from yours. If a teen does drugs he may end up okay in the end. If a teen drag races, he may end up okay in the end. If a teen smokes cigarettes, he may end up okay in the end. He may get pleasure out of all of them. But a responsible adult would never remain "nonjudgemental" about any of those activities. Because those aren't responsible activities, they are reckless activities. Just like unmarried teen sex.

    Of course, I also believe that our acts have spiritual consequences. If there is that rare teen having sex who is not physically or emotionally hurt, there is still the matter of the human soul.

    BTW, if you never hurt anyone and no one ever hurt you in your unmarried sex days, that is exceedingly rare. However, I contend that when people use each other, it degrades them, no matter how much pleasure is involved.

    I do appreciate your comments, and I hope you will stick around.

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  56. I'm not surprised that you didn't hear from this person ever again!

    Amazing response Leila!

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  57. I donot know what is more interesting, the article or the comments!!
    Dear Miss G....
    Have you read the book "Unplanned" by Abby Johnson?? Very very interesting!!
    signed
    Theresa in Alberta

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  58. Anon #1: "There are no hard and fast rules to what constitutes responsible teen sex in the way of age, income level, etc etc. It is entirely a case by case call."

    So how does that translate in the context of sex education? Sex educators can't give a group of impressionable tweens and teens some wishy-washy "SOME of you may be ready and some may not, based on x, x, and x factors" kind of message. Talk about muddled! So how do you suggest they are taught?

    Because unfortunately that method is completely arbitrary. With so much peer pressure, most teens can't handle arbitrary as a message. They need to be taught the hard facts. They need reasoned, rational, verifiable truths about what responsible sex is. And that is ONLY within the confines of marriage. I think the North Carolina curriculum that Leila points to is brilliant.

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  59. "Go get a latte!" ha! That line cracked me up. I really liked this series Leila. Your blasts from the past are really interesting to read!
    I wish I had got in on this convo a little earlier but I'll just make a few points:
    1. Miss G, thanks for your comments. You're great at showing opposing views, how everyone is coming from a good place of trying to help the next generation, and I think it’s commendable that you're open to dialogue. I really do enjoy reading what you think so thanks for taking the time to write it!
    2. "Teenagers aren't stupid” In fact, I'd wager that teenagers seek out inconsistencies. Only 10 short years ago I was there, looking for any argument from adults that wasn't foolproof and if it wasn't, well I wasn't about to listen to them. Of course there are many factors that contribute to a teenager’s decision, but you can bet that it’s almost impossible for parents to give advice at home and teachers another at school and have the kid follow ONLY the parents. The idea that they can be kept separate is absurd, my own history proves that (but don't go by me alone!). Teenagers really are just looking to prove everyone wrong, they think they know so much.
    3. About the white culture comment...That Stuff White People Like site is so on the money! My husband and I are involved in a grant by the government right now and let me tell you, the frequent use of the word 'colonialism' by all the other academic grantees is comical. There really is a hatred of white culture and history in academia almost to the point of demonization. The best post on Stuff White People Like to me was "Hating the religion of their forefathers". So true.
    4. Ultimately, educating students about the real statistical user failure rates amongst teenage contraceptive usage is a necessary point. They are staggeringly lower. I remember the moment I realized that the only difference in high school between me and that girl down the street with a baby was not that I was "more responsible" but had merely won a game of CHANCE and it sealed the deal for me. We're lying to our kids and worse, making it look like the teenage girls who got pregnant were merely "irresponsible" instead of statistically probable.

    How's that for moral judgment?

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  60. I'm sorry to post without much to offer, but you ladies are saying it all so well.

    Liberalism IS cold.

    I was a liberal for years, with all the trimmings, and I only wish someone like Leila and the other wise women here would have talked to me sooner. Some things I remember from my old circle which was all facade: "Never admit you aren't happy or can't have it all! You are better than those religious fanatics and never fail to tell them so."

    One day I realized the only person I wasn't convincing was myself.

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  61. Stacy, bless you for your honesty!

    And matchingmoonheads, this line is amazing: "We're lying to our kids and worse, making it look like the teenage girls who got pregnant were merely "irresponsible" instead of statistically probable."

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  62. I'm sorry, I have to depart from the teen sex conversation for a moment. I'm very interested in this sudden stream of commentary about "White culture"

    #1) who qualifies as part of "White culture"? Last time I checked, there were pale complexioned people of Mexican-American, Native American and South American ancestry. Most people who would be quickly racially profiled as 'white' are of European heritage and usually of more than one European region/country (English, German and eastern European for example).

    #2) It seems to me this is really about class and poor Anglo people (who have lost jobs thanks in no small part to the fact that we produce very little in our own country).

    #3) academia has done very little to reach out to poor Anglo communities. Even in the graduate program I am in, professors continue to be "shocked" to discover that not all of their graduate students come from academic, middle class families. "what!? you actually worked in high school?" (gasp!).

    #4) I don't know any academic who would argue that great pieces of European/American writing aren't worth reading. Ulysses, Shakespeare, Ezra Pound, and Mark Twain were staples in my high school curriculum. That said, the reality is that we have diverse student bodies and just as it is important to read Ulysses, isn't it important to be exposed to writers from South America (One Hundred Years of Solitude?) or African American poets (Langston Hughes?) or Feminist Mexican American writers as much as you may disagree with them? (Gloria Anzaldua?).

    #5) When I hear and read people laughing about "colonialism" (and, it's more like post-colonialism now), it makes me think they really aren't aware of the subtleties and entrenchment of racism in this country based on skin color and poverty level. There's a reason why poor, hard working American Indian people can't always get mortgage loan just like there's a reason poor, hard working Anglo people can't always get a loan either.

    #6) I think another huge fault of academia is not the elitism that many of you feel is out to get you, but the very structure of advanced degree programs that fail to take into account the huge numbers of women (and men) who choose to become parents and want children in addition to life as a scholar. There is absolutely no support for female graduate students who decide to have babies while in school (or even after school). As soon as you give birth, you're expected to drop your kid off at day care and begin writing as many articles as possible and touring the job/lecture circuit. But i think a number of academic women who are moms would actually have quite a bit on common with women who have chosen to make raising their children a priority and stay home with them (and/or home school them).

    Okay, sorry this is so long.

    -miss g

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  63. Miss G, regarding #4 - I take it you haven't heard about the attempt to sanitize Huckleberry Finn.

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  64. I have and I think it's ridiculous.

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  65. that was me responding to Joanna

    -miss g

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  66. Oh, did you mean you didn't personally know any academics "who would argue that great pieces of European/American writing aren't worth reading..." I thought you meant in general.

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  67. Miss G,
    I'm a little confused, but I don't think anyone is talking about class at all? I believe its more about history of oppression, as you mention. "White people" have oppressed, therefore everything associated with "white people" (yes, completely unidentifiable) is evil. Clearly not a valid conclusion. And I think you're preaching to the choir...which is why I also find it ridiculous to reduce "white culture" to being synonymous with 'colonialism'.

    As far as #6...I know you do not know me, but I am entrenched in academia at a tier 1 research university right now so, I also completely agree! Having a female adviser with a 15 months old and watching the other women in my department get pregnant and struggle has been great training for me.

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  68. Miss G, I thought that liberalism (leftism) was all about class and race and gender distinctions, meaning that there are identifiable victims and oppressors. I thought that was the paradigm in academia. It's what most of us in our higher studies have encountered.

    You've seen this, but for the benefit of newbies:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/08/unpacking-liberalism-interview-with-my.html

    Would you say that is incorrect?

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  69. Long-time lurker here.

    Do y’all not see that you’re shifting back and forth, from arguing that unmarried teen sex is universally bad (“there is no such thing as ‘responsible’ unmarried teen sex”) to arguing that it’s often, or usually, or commonly not a good idea?

    Barbara said it earlier: kids aren’t dumb. Lots of us have had wonderful experiences with unmarried teen sex. I have. I would be lying if I were to stand in front of a group of kids and tell them—as Leila insists we do—that unmarried teen sex is necessarily bad or irresponsible. And, as matchingmoonheads points out, teenagers sniff that stuff out.

    Leila, you asked: “What does responsible unmarried teen sex look like?” Good question, and I’m working on a response. I hope the conversation is still going when I get it finished.

    Matchingmoonheads, you said that not getting pregnant while using contraception is a matter of chance. Not exactly. A high proportion of incidents of condom failure, for example, are concentrated among a small percentage of users. Those users tend to be poorer, younger, and less educated than users who never experience condom failure. That suggests it’s not about luck (or responsibility)—it’s about access to information.

    Barbara, like you I’m a graduate student in one of North America’s most liberal cities. But I think your portrait of academia is over the top. It’s a left-dominated world, sure, but I don’t know anyone who is open about having had an abortion, and none of my professors or colleagues looks down on family life. In fact, I’ve been to several baby showers this year, and we’re always celebrating weddings, engagements and anniversaries.

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  70. Pedro, welcome! I honestly don't understand your first point, so if you could clarify. My stance is that unmarried teen sex is always wrong, and always harms those who engage in it, because fornication is against human dignity and God's plan for sex. So, whether one knows one has a soul or not, it harms the soul. Now, there are instances when it harms the body as well, and the psyche, and the heart and the self-worth, etc. Sometimes there are more harmful effects than others. For someone who just thought it was fun to have sex as a teen, I daresay that someone, somewhere, got hurt. Possibly a girl's feelings or heart, and for sure each of the partners human dignity was damaged (not to mention the soul). This is inevitable when we use people for our own needs or pleasure. I could go deeper into this point, but not much room in a combox.

    As for the uneducated condom users, I think you are right in the sense that it's Russian Roulette with more than one bullet. But for even the educated user, it's still Russian Roulette -- and it only takes once. My husband and I were condom users in our early marriage. My husband has a master's degree and I am an honors grad from my university. Ummm.... the condom broke. So, your theory is nice, but in practice... condoms break and slip and fail all the time. The difference between my situation and the young teen being used? I was married, so a pregnancy would have been unexpected, but welcomed.

    As for academics, I will let those who work there pipe in, but I don't think anyone was saying that those on the left never have marriages or children, and of course they would love them! Also, those you mention may not be open about having an abortion, but I'm guessing they are open about supporting abortion.

    I look forward to seeing your piece on responsible teen sex. Thanks for joining the conversation!

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  71. PS: Pedro, if you think I was implying that teen sex is not thrilling or pleasurable, please know that I wasn't saying that at all. There are many, many things that feel great and make us giddy, but which are not responsible. So, I would never tell a teen that sex is no fun in the moment. But that is completely and totally beside the point.

    Thanks!

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  72. 99% still means a 1% failure rate. 85% success rate still means 15% failure rate. That is simple math, even in controlled scientific studies. No contraceptive is 100% safe and I have had 3 friends, educated mind you, get pregnant on contraception in the last year alone. Knowing the true consequences of sex and anticipating them is responsible sex.

    Even if what you say is true, then why would we teach the young and poor about contraception, knowing that they are more likely to have failure rates? Now that seems intentionally cruel and misleading. Maybe you can 'educate' them, but you can't take away those other risk factors.

    And I'm not advocating scare tactics and telling children "YOU WILL DIE IF YOU HAVE SEX." I am advocating telling them the truth: sex produces babies and that's not something you should gamble with.

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  73. A few thoughts:

    The elitism I'm talking about is not based on race or class, indeed here in Canada there are a lot of low-cost Post-Secondary options and getting a student loan is almost too easy. It's a purely intellectual and ideological elitism. Ideas and opinions that fall outside of the ring of leftism's discursive scope are viewed with contempt, as are those who dare to hold them.

    Examples are myriad: the debaucle about Ann Coulter being barred from speaking at the University of Calgary, the protests from faculty and students against bio-ethicist Margaret Somerville's honorary degree from Ryerson University and University of Victoria's continuous underhanded attempts to hamstring the pro-life club Youth Protecting Youth are three recent ones that come to mind.

    In my own experience I was almost shouted down by fellow students when I came out and admitted that I was beginning to re-consider the abortion issue. I hadn't even become fully pro-life at that point but was just "considering" that position. Even, apparently, admitting the possibility that pro-lifers had a point made me enough of a part of the "enemy camp" for at least a few people I considered friends and colleagues....muy bien.

    Miss G. I am aware that "white culture" is poor terminology, and I was only using it as a shortcut. My field is Latin American literature so obviously I have no problem with textual diversity. I love my field precisely because the aesthetic innovations that came out of that region during the last century are so amazing. Writers like Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo, Cesar Vallejo, Raul Zurita et. al actually make you read books differently. That is awesome! In fact part of the reason I dislike post-colonialism is because it reduces entire regions literatures to Manichean victim narratives. Latin America's literature isn't amazing because the region was oppressed, but because the writers from that region did awesome things with language.

    With post-colonialism, as with feminism, there is only one way to read a text, as the Manichean struggle between evil oppressors who oppress 'cuz they love oppressin' and good victims who come up with creative ways to transgress the oppressors. And this model is applied regardless of what the text is about. It's applied to Little freakin' Red Riding Hood for crying out loud (because the woods and the wolf are symbols of otherness and sexual transgression which must be brought under rigid control by the social order in the form of the woodsman...doncha know....I thought it was a bloody kids story touching on primal fears regarding the dangers of the unknown, which for small children is very concrete...but what do I know..)

    Leila, thanks for the recommendation. I've read some of Jen's articles before. I love her site. What amazes me is how she is able to travel so far in her conversion without becoming angry at who she used to be. I feel like I'm angry all the time.

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  74. I have a lot more to say but my arms are full of baby who won't sleep unless mom holds her. I am a grad student mother myself. My department has been reasonably supportive, letting me take a year off and retaining my TA-ship for me. Luckily my husband is able to take her when I need to teach or work on my thesis.

    Most of my complaints regarding leftist attitudes towards children are referring to the culture at large. The two issues of academia and childbearing just got conflated in my mind as I was angry about liberal attitudes regarding children as well as their attitudes towards academia.

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  75. Thanks for the welcome, Leila. I'll try to clarify my first point when I get a chance. Like Barbara, I'm on daddy duty, so this will have to be short.

    Matchingmoonheads, you said: "99% still means a 1% failure rate."

    A 1% failure rate means that 1 woman out of 100 who uses that method will get pregnant in a year. It doesn't mean that one in 100 condoms fails. It's not like Russian Roulette, a pure game of chance, in which the probability of getting the bullet is equally distributed across all players. Since failure rates for birth control are distributed unequally across users, the same lady who gets pregnant on birth control one year is more likely than everybody else to get pregnant on the same birth control in the future. And everybody else has a less than 1 in 100 chance of getting pregnant.

    And we should teach the young and poor about contraception because the fact that they're disproportionally affected by failures shows that it's not about luck at all. Nor do I think the problem is any of the other risk factors; it stems from a lack of education. Leila made a good point about high standards earlier, and it’s condescending to assume that lower income teenagers can’t learn to use birth control properly.

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  76. Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. (Guttmacher)

    Pedro, thanks for your responses... I know it's hard to write with little ones around!

    Just to clarify, considering the statistic I put above: You say a lack of education about contraception is the issue. What would full and effective contraceptive education look like? Because clearly you don't think there has been enough.

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  77. You know, I'm just going to throw this out there.... As someone who grew up in a public school setting K-12, with lots of sex info and sex ed, an in a more affluent area of the city (in other words, not at-risk or disadvantaged), I have to tell you something that is simply common sense:

    Teens don't use condoms regularly if at all because they don't want to, not because they are uneducated (BTW, using a condom is not rocket science). If you are having sex as a teen, you are not doing it to be responsible, you are doing it to have as much pleasure and passion and "romance" as you can. As a rule, teens having sex are not going to use condoms. Goodness gracious, even adults do not like them. They are gross and unnatural and bizarre and contrived.

    There ya go. Common sense. Human nature. Teenagers. So, educate away (non-judgmentally), and condoms will still not be used correctly or consistently (though there will be lots of kids having sex because adults give 'em tacit approval) so you will continue to see lots and lots of disease and teen pregnancy.

    Okay, tell me where I am wrong.

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  78. Let's consider Texas, a state with a Republican Governor who supports abstinence based programs and has seen to it that these programs are implemented throughout the state. And yet Texas is ranked third in the country for number of teen pregnancies, and first in the country with repeat teen pregnancies. Clearly, the part about abstinence isn't working in these abstinence based programs.

    Barbara, love your area of study! I am a fan of South American/Latin American literature (and should read more of it). I think you are reducing post-colonialism to a one dimensional beast, but that's a debate for somewhere else.

    -miss g

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  79. Okay. I’ve got a bunch of issues to address now.

    1) I don’t have a problem with condoms. Sometimes my wife and I still use them when she gets off the pill for various reasons. I definitely didn’t have a problem with them when I was first having sex—it was rubber or no lover, and the choice was easy for me. So I don’t buy that kids won’t use them. If the culture says no sex without a condom, then people that want to have sex will use condoms.

    2) You’re right, condoms aren’t rocket science, but people still make all sorts of mistakes with them: storing them improperly (like in a wallet), opening them with their teeth or a sharp object, putting them on too late, not having enough lubrication, not using the appropriate size. In any given sexual encounter, these mistakes might not lead to failure, but over time they definitely increase the risk of breakage.

    3) I’ve been thinking about your two much larger questions over night. First, what do I think good sex education would look like? It’s hard for me to answer, because I don’t know what’s being taught now, or how, or whether it’s working (aren’t teen pregnancies near historic lows?).

    You might find this funny, but I actually think gun safety education might be a useful model. Guns malfunction (rarely, but it happens), bullets ricochet or go astray, and even well-trained hunters have accidents. We could just say “The only way to avoid gun-related tragedies is to never be around guns” and leave it at that. But without downplaying the negative potential of guns—in fact, I think the NRA instills a healthy respect for their danger—gun safety education teaches their responsible use and, as a result, decreases the number of gun-related tragedies.

    The analogy might not be perfect. Like I said, it just came to me last night.

    As to what responsible unmarried teen sex might look like, I’ll submit that I think my wife and I had plenty of it. I was eighteen when we met, a college sophomore, and a virgin. I can explain why I think it was responsible, even good, and not just lucky, but it will take a much longer response. Maybe even a separate blog post.

    4) Re: common sense and human nature, one issue I take with your approach is the idea of chastity and of God’s “plan” for sexuality. One reason I was able to wait to have intercourse (the baby-making kind) until I met my future wife was because I wasn’t chaste in the years leading up to it. Let’s just say hands and mouths were involved. Oh yeah—and I masturbated a lot. Can I say that on your blog? But you oppose all that, right? And I know that, say, oral sex carries its own risks, including the heartache you mentioned earlier. But, looking back, I know I was aware of them at the time, and I think I managed them well. I definitely didn’t leave a string of broken hearts behind me, at least.

    Okay—I have got to take a break from this topic. The conversation is great, and I look forward to your response. I’m not running off (I know you hate that!), but I’m not going to allow myself to respond for at least 24 hours.

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  80. Don't worry, Pedro, I have a busy, busy day ahead so I might be slow in response, too. Thanks to you and Miss G for understanding. And, if any of the Catholic readers want to jump in, please do! I love when you all have conversations while I'm gone! :)

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  81. Pedro, what is your religious background and/or current belief system? Thanks!

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  82. The high teen pregnancy rate here in TX has more to do with culture than sex education of any sort.
    The local ISD's bus their pregnant students to the OB/midwife for goodness sake. Teen pregnancy is accepted and even encouraged in some circles. What their health teacher tells them in class won't make a lick of difference either way. There is no stigma attached to teen pregnancy, many of these girls are third generation unmarried teen moms, the problem is much deeper than a lesson on how to put a condom on a banana can solve. How to achieve goals, self-worth, self-respect....none are addressed in sex-ed and that is what these girls need.
    If you take a room full of 4th grade girls in Texas and ask them what they want to be when they grow up, not one will say 'a teen mom' they will say doctor, nurse, teacher, vet, pilot, mother (not teen), fashion designer etc....
    get those same girls together at 16 and many are already beaten down by life and if asked about their goals would shrug their shoulders and not make eye contact.
    What is happening between 8 and 16? Why do they give up on life so early, why do they turn to sex and babies to feel like they are worth something?

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  83. Anon from Texas, thanks for your perspective! Miss G, here is a report from the Washington Post (not a conservative paper!), which admits that abstinence programs just might be working:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/01/AR2010020102628.html

    Pedro, I appreciate all the points you have made, and I was going to go through each one and discuss (because I can never actually shut up, ha ha), but then the big picture really hit me:

    Your view is that sex is about pleasure, and as long as a teen can avoid the pitfalls of babies and disease, then sex (different ways to get to orgasm) should be had and had often, for pleasure's sake. In fact, lots of masturbation and oral sex would be a great way to go for teens, so that at least babies can be avoided. (I believe Planned Parenthood teaches kids all the ways to "do it" short of vaginal intercourse. I plan a post on that soon.)

    It's a view that is so diametrically opposed to my view (the Catholic view), that the two views cannot even begin to be reconciled.

    I guess I always assume that even most liberals do not think that teens should be engaging in sex. But I have to wake myself up to the reality that many liberals don't mind at all if kids have sex, so long as they are "careful" and "safe". Sex is recreation, and kids deserve some fun.

    So, when I said in my letter to the sex educator that adults have abdicated their role in the lives of these teens, that would not resonate with you or others who believe that sex is primarily for fun, and that teens should have their orgasms as they can (so long as no one gets "hurt"). In other words, it's not teen sex that has you worried -- in fact, you think it's good so long as disease and pregnancy are avoided. At least that's what I am hearing you say.

    See, it's just a totally different paradigm.

    I would say that shift in paradigm since the sexual revolution is a huge reason we have such tragically messed up youth in our nation today. Whereas you might say we just haven't educated them enough yet about sex and condoms.

    I think the two views of sex are clear, and everyone has to pick a side.

    Let me know what you think of my analysis. :)

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  84. I agree we’re not going to reconcile our differences, but this is a good opportunity to clarify, because your post doesn’t exactly reflect my point of view.

    I don’t think sex is primarily about pleasure. I think there are three reasons to have sex: reproduction, bonding, and pleasure. That’s not far from your view, although you believe that pleasure is a side-effect, not an end in itself, and the other two are the real purposes of sex. Right?

    We differ in that you believe those purposes are inseparable. I think all three of those purposes are good, and can be pursued together or separately. In other words: I think orgasms are good and healthy. I think bonding with a lover is good and healthy. I think having babies is good and healthy. I think using your body responsibly to pursue any of those ends is good and healthy.

    But don’t downplay the importance of the word “responsibly” in that sentence. For one thing, I think there are more pitfalls than babies* and disease—like the emotional ones you mentioned earlier. So it’s nearly impossible to have responsible sex purely for pleasure’s sake. I can think of one way, masturbation, but you think it’s a sin.

    Like matchingmoonheads, I think responsibility means that when you make a decision you’re aware of both the risks AND the gravity of the possible consequences, for you and anyone else involved, including any new lives your actions might create.

    So, to turn back to your original question, “What might responsible unmarried teen sex look like”?

    Sorry to keep using my own experience, but it’s the story I know best: At 11 and 12, I was ready for physical pleasure, but not for bonding with girls. Solution? Aloha, Mr. Hand! The risks were low, the gravity of the consequences was low… Honestly, I have a really hard time seeing, from any non-religious perspective, a problem with this behavior.

    Then, at 14, 15 and 16, I was ready to start bonding with the opposite sex. So, I got physical in some semi-long-term relationships. To be honest, there was some heartache—but c’mon, that’s part of growing up. The emotional risk may have been high, but the gravity of the consequences was low, even though they felt catastrophic at the time.

    On the other hand, I was not ready for the gravity of a potential pregnancy. So I waited to have vaginal intercourse. By the time I was 18, that possibility would no longer have been a disaster. It still wouldn’t have been ideal, and that’s why we were careful to keep the risk as low as possible. But if my then-girlfriend (now wife) had become pregnant, we definitely would not have been the first 19 year olds in history to start a family.

    *Also, I wouldn’t call babies a pitfall. Like I said, I think they’re good! They’re an outcome that might not be desired with every sex act, though.

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  85. Pedro, I can respect a lot of what you say. I think you are (outside of the context of any religious considerations or revelation) reasoning and acting with the best of intentions.

    But let me press you a bit. If it's morally okay to have sex with your hand, then is it also morally okay to have sex with a blow-up doll, or a hole in the wall, or a tree, or any inanimate object? (I have a police officer friend, and you don't want to know what people have sex with.) Is all that moral, too?

    Catholics would say that sex is not meant to be a solitary act, but that the very nature of sex organs and human nature (drawn toward bonding/love)presupposes an "other" who can receive that love. The fact that masturbation occurs simultaneously with a mental fantasy or actual pornography is, in my mind, a "natural law proof" that sex was designed to be a communion of persons, not a solitary act.

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  86. Pedro said:
    "I don’t think sex is primarily about pleasure. I think there are three reasons to have sex: reproduction, bonding, and pleasure. That’s not far from your view, although you believe that pleasure is a side-effect, not an end in itself, and the other two are the real purposes of sex. Right?"

    No no no- believe it or not, we Catholics enjoy sex. Pleasure isn't a "side effect", like we're lucky if we enjoy it. It's very pleasurable as it should be.

    Our view is that the sexual act is procreative and unitive. Sex is for making babies and sex is for pleasure. We don't see avoiding pregnancy as sinful, this is why Catholics are taught to practice Natural Family Planning. Basically it entails avoiding intercourse during the fertile times of the month to avoid pregnancy.

    The major difference btwn contraception and NFP is that there is no mechanism involved that would manipulate the human body.

    Part of "growing up" as you state surely includes rushing hormones and all the sensations that come with attraction to the opposite sex. The Church doesn't wag her finger at this and frown as an unapproving parent. Rather, Catholics are taught to steer one another toward virture, toward a higher love.

    Sex is for marriage to Catholics because it's the proper context for procreation. Human bodies are built for reproducing, not inhibiting that. It's the most natural thing, to reproduce. Our bodies are built for it.

    Back to 'responsible sex' for teens or even premarital sex, consider these facts:
    1-Couples who sleep together before they are married have a divorce rate three times as high as couples who saved that gift for the wedding night.

    2-Because a teenage girl's reproductive system is still immature, she is much more susceptible to STDs. In fact, early sexual activity is the number one risk factor for cervical cancer, and the second is multiple sex partners.

    3-According to an article by Drs. John Diggs and Eric Keroack, "People who have misused their sexual faculty and become bonded to multiple persons will diminish the power of oxytocin to maintain a permanent bond with an individual. Oxytocin is vital to helping a mother bond w/ her infant during breast feeding. It is also released during sex, so the more it's used, the less the power to bond w/ a person.

    Good things to consider, and anything that points us to higher love is worth considering, isn't it, Pedro?


    source: Jason Evert's book If You Really Loved Me.

    -Nubby

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  87. I happened to stumble across this blog last night and have been reading all of the comments. Leila, your letter to the sex educator is beautiful. I pray that it touched her heart, and that your points were able to get through. The thinking she expressed in her own letter is pervasive and it could take time for her to consider all you had to say. Since she sincerely wants to help people, my bet is that she gave long thought to all of your points.

    I do have a couple of questions from what I've read above. I had wanted to ask Pedro about masturbation. Pleasurable, right? But did you ever end a session thinking, "Wow! That was great sex!" It may have felt great, but wasn't it such a poor substitute for the real thing? Ultimately, I believe that every sexual act outside of marriage is a poor substitute for the real thing. Jason Evert (through JPII!) expresses so well that our very bodies show the purpose of their design (union and procreation), and the fact that even the hormones produced during sex enhance bonding shows how well we are designed for the proper use of sex.

    (I do use the oxytocin example with my son who at 13 is already heading down the road of the world in his attitude toward sex. I pointed out how important that wonderful bonding is for the couple, but most especially for the well-being of the children they produce. If that bond is repeatedly made and broken, it certainly is weakened, and the chances for his own happiness in marriage, and far more importantly the happiness of his children, would repeatedly be reduced. To me, it is a very strong argument for chastity. Are teens, who just want to have fun, better off for the reduced ability to bond?)

    My post was too long, so I had to split it up. To be continued...!

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  88. If you'll pardon a long list of comments from me, I also would like to comment on Pedro's and miss g's experiences, where your sex lives were not in conformity with what the Church teaches as the ideal, yet you feel that there have been no apparent negative consequences in your lives. I think you might be able to see that you were among the lucky ones, not having to suffer from STD's, seriously broken hearts (at least not your own), unwed pregnancy or abortion. But there are always examples of people who have made risky choices and not had to suffer from them. I just finished reading a book by an alcoholic, and in spite of years of seriously drunk driving, she never had a car accident, never killed anyone. So - sometimes drunk driving turns out ok, right? You may not like the comparison, but I think it is a comparison worth making. You were willing to take the negative risks of sex outside of marriage, and lucky for you and some other people, you apparently didn't get burned, even though so many other people have. My point is, the fact that you were (by the grace of God, one might say) spared what other people were not spared, does not make you proof that sex outside of marriage - or drunk driving, for that matter - really isn't so bad.

    And finally, I think my points to Pedro and miss g could also be applied to Leila. Unless I read wrong (and I often do!), you also experienced consequences-free sex outside of marriage. It was fun for you as a teen, and no one got hurt. Doesn't exactly make you a poster child for abstinence, does it! :) So - what changed your mind?

    And finally (I really mean it this time), I want to point out that, if there really is a God, and if he made us out of love, and if he really tries to tell us what is best for us, and if he has never been understood to condone sex outside of marriage but warns against it, and if he loves us and wants to be with us always, and if disobeying him actually reduces our bond with him - then to me, that disobedience is the greatest tragedy of all. You know, all that we did to Jesus in his passion and death was so much less than what he allowed to happen to himself when he took on our sins. By taking on our sins, from the seemingly most benign to the most thoroughly revolting, he separated himself from his Father. Because, in varying degrees, that's what sin does. And I believe that that was by far the worst thing that he experienced in all that occurred on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. And I suspect that that truth has something to do with Leila's change of heart!

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  89. Sharon, one of the points I'm trying to make is that it wasn't luck, and that my behavior wasn't very risky. That's why I made the parallel with gun safety education. When teaching people how to use guns, you don't just say "accidents happen." You say that accidents happen for reasons, and that they are preventable, and you show how to prevent them.

    I also want to re-emphasize that I didn't take any actions whose consequences I couldn't stomach. That's why your drunk driving analogy doesn't work. Even if the risk of hurting someone while driving drunk is small, the consequences would be unbearable. So one doesn't drive drunk, period. At almost 19, having a baby would have rearranged my priorities, but wouldn't have been a tragedy.

    You also said of masturbation: “But did you ever end a session thinking, "Wow! That was great sex!"” No*. But, since sex often gets compared to eating, let me make an analogy: I looooooove a full, healthy, balanced multi-course meal, lovingly planned and prepared and served with good conversation and a moderate amount of wine. I also sometimes pig out on oreos. The two don’t cancel each other out.

    (Note: I’m not talking about pigging out on oreos BEFORE the big family meal, which would obviously be a mistake)

    Nubby, thanks for clarifying the Catholic position on sexuality. I didn't mean to imply that y'all are anti-pleasure. I have some problems with the stance you outline, but I DO want to make clear that I think following Catholic doctrine on sexuality will lead to happiness, healthiness and responsibility. I just don't think it's the only path to happiness, healthiness, or responsibility.

    I'll have to think about the oxytocin stuff.

    Leila, I'm really curious where you're going with these questions! Okay, it doesn't sound fun, but yeah, I think it's okay to do it with a hole in the wall, a tree, etc. The caveat is that it's done responsibly, ie. the hole in the wall doesn't lead to a neighbor's apartment, and the tree is somewhere deep in the woods and not in a city park or something.

    *Although I have sometimes thought, “Wow! I needed that!”

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  90. Hi Pedro! I appreciate the friendly spirit in which you dialogue!

    I think, first of all, that the proper food/sex analogy would not be healthy food vs. oreos, but rather proper eating vs. bulimia.

    As for my questions, I just like to walk you down the path of logical consequences, and so far you are very consistent in your belief system, so at least you have integrity (even though I think you are wrong). Let me keep going down the path, though:

    1) Would you counsel your own son that having sex with a tree or other inanimate object is a moral choice for him, should he feel the urge?

    2) If a tree or hole in the wall is okay for sex, then what about an animal? Or, a dead body? If not, why not?

    3) You are against your son having sex with a tree in a city park or a hole near your neighbor's house... but why? Is there a moral consideration? Or is it simply a social convention, or a matter of law? I'm trying to figure out why the morality of a teen having sex with a tree in the woods vs. in a park is anything other than arbitrary (morally speaking).

    Thanks!

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  91. Hi Pedro,

    The drunk driving analogy works, I think, because for one thing, if everyone who drove drunk got in a serious accident, it is much less likely that people would drive drunk. But people get behind the wheel after drinking and, if they are still able to think well at all, choose to drive drunk because they know that not everyone who does so will get in an accident. And most people don't on any given night. Sex outside of marriage is risky, both for the people involved and for society. But people are willing to take the risk because maybe nothing will happen, and they can hold up people like you as an example. (The author of that book I mentioned inadvertently gave a tip on "safe" drunk driving, by the way, when she mentioned that to reduce blurred vision she would cover one eye. Worked for her. Maybe it would have helped if other drunk drivers had done the same.)

    You made what you believed were responsible choices, and maybe if you had had a baby at 18 or 19 it would have turned out fine, even though that, also, turns out poorly for many (most? I'd have to look it up) of the people who give it a try. But, it is true, some people get married at 18 or 19 and their marriages make it, and that is the spark of hope that is in the heart of every couple that age that walks down the aisle.

    You think that the use of condoms would be widespread if the message of society was, "use them or don't have sex". I would think that that message is already being tried and isn't working, but it is true that it is up to the couple. If they don't use condoms because they don't like them, or just don't happen to have any, then they are taking more of a risk than you did.... unless you had gotten one of condoms that Joyelyn Elders allowed the distribution of in Arkansas, even though she knew they were defective. She is a glaring example of a cold-hearted liberal, one who was perfectly acceptable to the man who appointed her. But if you didn't know that the condoms were defective, you would have been at risk using them. And since you didn't say that everyone should 1.) use condoms and 2.) be in a relationship that could be expected to lead to a successful marriage, just in case and 3.) be in a relationship with a virgin to reduce the chances that your partner already has an STD, just in case - well, you really haven't covered enough bases. I am willing to agree, though, that you yourself made efforts to reduce the risk in your personal life, and it turned out ok for you... in terms of worldly results.

    Except for.... the tree... You completely lose me there. What a very sad example. I can't help being just sad for someone who was so desperate for pleasure of any kind that he would unite his body with a tree... I hope that in your heart of hearts you can recognize how dehumanizing that is.

    But... if anything goes... why not?

    I have to conclude, Pedro, that given God's advice, and given Jocelyn Elders' advice, and given your advice, the one who really cares about my dignity as a human being... is God. You sound like a pleasant guy, and I'm glad you have not had to suffer in the ways you could have suffered, and I am glad children have not suffered because of your choices. But... the tree... Your line of thought leads to despair, Pedro. The despair of a human being who realizes he has united himself to a tree.

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  92. Sharon, thank you. You covered many points that I didn't. I think you are right on, and I am interested to hear Pedro's response.

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  93. Pedro, you said: "Even if the risk of hurting someone while driving drunk is small, the consequences would be unbearable. So one doesn't drive drunk, period. At almost 19, having a baby would have rearranged my priorities, but wouldn't have been a tragedy."

    But Pedro, there are myriad others who did just what you did sexually at 19, took precautions, got pregnant anyway, and aborted the baby. For that baby (those many babies), "the consequences are unbearable."

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  94. Leila,
    I see why you object to the oreo analogy: eating oreos still provides calories, even if they’re worthless calories. But I’m not going to let you go with the bulimia comparison either, because I can think of two other analogies that are at least as apt.

    First, the more neutral one: masturbation is like drinking Coke Zero. Or chewing bubble gum.

    Second, the more positive one: masturbation is like eating some oreos and then going on a run to burn them off. The result is the same as purposefully vomiting—you get the pleasure of the oreos without gaining any (net) calories. But, unlike vomiting, running and masturbation both provide physical and mental health benefits. See, for example:
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,401722,00.html

    Now back to the questions, not in order:

    “If a tree or hole in the wall is okay for sex, then what about an animal? Or, a dead body? If not, why not?”

    Forgive me for answering your questions with questions, but: is it okay for me to kick or punch a punching bag? Could there be a good reason to do so?

    If so, is it okay for me to kick or punch a kitten?

    If the answer is no, do we need to explain the difference in the situations by invoking “God’s plan for kicking and punching”?

    Actually, as an interesting follow up, let me push you on your natural law beliefs. Do you think God has a divine plan for fighting? Do you think there are ordered and disordered ways for us to use our hands and feet to punch and kick? If so, where would you categorize punching a punching bag? Why would it not be subject to the same judgment as masturbation?

    “you are against your son having sex with a tree in a city park or a hole near your neighbor’s house… but why?”

    First, we need to clear up some terminology, even though I may have been the one who introduced the confusion. You can’t “have sex with” an object, for the same reason you can’t “get into a fight with” a punching bag. “Having sex with X” requires reciprocal subjectivity. At the very least that means X’s consent (I would argue it requires more, though). Masturbation, on the other hand, means pleasuring yourself. You might use an object to do that, but a woman masturbating with a vibrator is not “having sex with” that vibrator. And there is no “union” between a man and a hole or a tree. So maybe that will alleviate some of Sharon’s revulsion.

    That points to my answer for this question. You don’t masturbate where it would affect your neighbors because you recognize that, unlike a hole in the wall or a tree in the woods, they are human beings equal in dignity to you, and they have a right not to come across you naked in a park humping a publicly-owned tree.

    I know this leads to your biggest question, which is why do I think people are equal in dignity? Personally, I believe in the sanctity of life, which (most days) I believe comes from life’s divine origin. But atheists have been wrestling with the question of why to behave ethically for centuries, and they’ve come up with some pretty compelling arguments. I just don’t have the energy to make their arguments for them right now.

    Your other question, about what I would teach my kids, is a great one, and I’ll have to think about it overnight. Also, regarding your last post: I think abortion takes a human life, and if I were in charge of sex education I would tell my students that, maybe before I said anything else.

    Sharon, I know I owe you a response. Also, Leila, I see you have another good conversation going, and hopefully I'll get time to check it out in the next day or so.

    Pedro

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  95. Pedro, yes, there is quite a discussion going on on the PP post! I hope you might go over and even say a few encouraging words to "college student". Even though you are a bit liberal on the sexual issues, I think you would agree with the rest of us that the guys she is thinking of giving in to are dirtbags!!! Talk her out of it!

    Okay, so maybe I can start here: Natural Law (or, the way God designed things) says that things thrive when they are used according to their nature. So, we ask, "What is the nature of a thing?" The nature of a punching bag is to be punched. It's what it is made for, designed for. A kitten, by contrast, is not made to be punched.

    What is the nature of sex? What is the nature of a penis? When you investigate, you will see that the nature of sex is not to be solitary. It is designed for two. That is why there is a penis on a man, and a vagina on a woman. The penis was "made for" a vagina. That is the function of a penis, sexually. A penis was not designed to go just anywhere (hand, hole, animal, dead body) and release its contents anywhere. There is a purpose and design to sex and the human body. It's a beautiful design and when we mess with it, we get into all sorts of trouble. :)

    You are right that there is no legitimate "union" with a hand or a hole or a tree. That's because true union can only happen with another person, and one who is made for that union (so, man can only have true sexual union with woman). In its essence, sex is for the union and bonding and love of two people. Sex was not designed to be a solitary act, though some ( erroneously) use sexuality that way. One can "have sex" with a tree, but one cannot have "union" with a tree. There is a distinction there.

    If you and I stipulate that all humans have equal dignity, then we don't have to go into any atheist arguments. I feel satisfied that we agree on that. :)

    Now, you still haven't answered why someone couldn't, under your philosophy of sex, morally have sex with a dead body or an animal.

    And as for your "God's design for punching" question, it's not a proper analogy. Our sexuality is an essential part of our humanity. My femininity and your masculinity are inherent, written into our very beings. Punching and kicking? Not so much. Now, if you want to ask what the design for a hand is, then I can tell you about the nature of a hand.

    But keep in mind: The nature of human sexuality is so different from any other function, because it is the way that we transmit human life itself. That is on a whole different plane of importance and sacredness than "what is the nature of a hand" (even though hands are wonderful and important in their own right).

    As to the oreo/Coke Zero analogy. I would say that if you are ingesting those items and putting them in the place they would naturally go when ingesting, then you are okay, natural law-wise. The nature of Coke Zero is a beverage, no matter how weak or non-nutritional, and beverages are designed to go down the gullet and into the tummy.

    Gum, on the other hand, was designed to be chewed only. If you swallow gum, you are going against the nature of the thing. So, gum and Coke Zero are not comparable here. (Unless there is gum which is also designed to be eaten, and then I refer you back to what I said about Coke Zero.)

    I am very glad that you are willing to state clearly your belief that abortion takes a human life. That is wonderful to hear!

    Blessings!

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  96. Hi Pedro,

    I understand there is a very active discussion going on in Leila's Planned Parenthood post and hope you're getting to join in! With 142 comments already as of yesterday, I just know I don't have time to delve into it all, but I am praying for the participants.

    I just wanted to make a quick comment about your post, even if the discussion has moved on! :) For one, I see of course the difference between "sex" and "having sex with X". Actually, I had been thinking all along that masturbation, to me, is not sex, but would more accurately be called "sexual genital activity". But I figured I was just using a more narrow definition of sex. While the man couldn't be said to have had sex with a tree, he sure would seem on the outside to be trying. And I do believe that the hypothetical man in the tree example would certainly want to avoid parks or any place where his behavior could become public knowledge, because that man's behavior would be considered deviant even by most people with 21st century sexual sensibilities. I think most people would see that man as having behaved in a dehumanizing way, even if they wouldn't put it in those words.

    I would also say that your choices reflect more concern for yourself and others than many, many other men bother to exhibit. You did make disaster less likely.

    God bless and as I said, I'm praying for the discussion about Planned Parenthood!

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  97. Sharon: thanks for the comment. I know I've got to get to the other thread, but I've got to do other, non-internet-related things today, too. I'll try to find time, because I definitely think these conversations are important. Also, I'm thinking about your idea of dehumanization, because to me it seems more dehumanizing to use a blow-up doll than a tree (and I have to emphasize that the tree is a hypothetical!!! I can't think of any good reason to masturbate with a tree!!!). I have to think about why; right now, I don't know how to respond.

    Leila: Wait! Let’s look again at that chewing gum comparison. You’re right, a person chewing gum is using an object (gum) according to its nature. But then so is a person masturbating with a vibrator or a blow-up doll.
    You disapprove of that, because you think the masturbator is misusing his/her body. It doesn’t matter that they’re using the object as it was intended, right?

    Well, the same is true with gum, if we stick with the eating/sex analogy. The nature of chewing and tasting is tied to the virtuous purpose of extracting nutrients to fuel the body. As with sex, the pleasure of the action should not be separated from its virtue. To do so would be disordered, right?

    I might revisit the punching bag example later, but for now I want to make sure I've got the gist of what you're saying. Tell me if I’ve got all this right:

    1. You believe things (including parts of our bodies) are designed for specific, limited purposes AND that we are capable of discerning all of those purposes.

    2.You believe that it’s wrong to use things (including parts of our bodies) for purposes other than the ones for which they were designed. It doesn’t matter to you if we *can* use things for other purposes—the fact for you is we *should* not, because that “gets us into all sorts of trouble”.

    3.You’re positive that the nature of human sexuality does not include self-pleasure.

    I have issues with all three of those points, but I want to make sure I’m presenting them correctly before I write more. Have I got it?

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  98. Pedro, Hi! I have to first comment on the blow-up doll vs. the tree. I think the blow-up doll is less dehumanizing, because as disordered as that is, at least there is a pretense of being with another person! :)

    Let's specifically discuss the vibrator. An inanimate object is morally neutral. It's what a person chooses to do with an object that is the moral component. So, a vibrator is morally neutral. Sex toys, including vibrators, can be legitimately used during sex between married persons (as long as the "end" of sex is carried out in the proper, normal way... i.e., genital union of spouses, with sperm deposited in the vagina).

    If a vibrator is used morally (i.e., between spouses during married sex, or even for neck pain or occupational therapy on other parts of the body like the neck, back, arms), then there is nothing wrong with using it. You can use it for moral means. If I were to use a vibrator in a way that it was not designed (say, as a doorstop or a clothes hanger, for example), then things don't "thrive" as they should, because you are using it for a disordered use. It doesn't work so well.

    Now, if the motives of a manufacturer are to do something immoral (like someone producing chemical weapons of mass destruction), the product might work very well as designed, but the use of it would be immoral.

    That may have answered more than you asked, but I hope you can see distinctions there.

    Will answer your numbered points next....

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  99. 1. You believe things (including parts of our bodies) are designed for specific, limited purposes AND that we are capable of discerning all of those purposes.

    Not necessarily. I would need more specifics. It depends on the thing, or the body part. But I do think everything has a "nature" and we ask, "What is the nature of a thing." Things definitely work best and thrive when they are used as their creator designed them to work. (Whether a human creator or a Divine One.)

    2.You believe that it’s wrong to use things (including parts of our bodies) for purposes other than the ones for which they were designed. It doesn’t matter to you if we *can* use things for other purposes—the fact for you is we *should* not, because that “gets us into all sorts of trouble”.

    Again, not necessarily... you'd have to give me specifics. For example, I can use my hand to mix scrambled eggs, and that would work and not be immoral, but it would be better to use a fork or a mixer. But if I use a fork to work on a light socket... not a good idea. So, you really need to look at each object or body part and let analyze that way. So, give me a for instance.

    3.You’re positive that the nature of human sexuality does not include self-pleasure.

    Yes. Sex is for union with another person. It's about giving and receiving. This "law" is written into the very design and nature of our male/female bodies. Sexual activity was not designed to be a selfish, solitary act. Love never is selfish, and it is never solitary. I will stop there, but my answer is "yes".

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  100. Hi again, Leila. And thanks for your patience with these posts. I’m sure you’ve answered these objections before, but these are questions I’ve always wanted to raise with natural law folks and the conversation rarely gets this far.

    I've got a lot to write and think about: the animal/dead body question, the tree vs. the blow-up doll, and your last response, especially to point #3. But I've got a conference presentation this weekend and I've got to take a break. I hope you (and Sharon, and Nubby anyone else) will be willing to talk next week?

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  101. Pedro, absolutely! I have no problem taking things at a leisurely pace. I can even get some laundry done!

    Good luck with the presentation!

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  102. I'll check back next week, Pedro. I hope you take a look at the Theology of the Body some time. Jason Evert's books are great (thanks, Nubby, for quoting him!) You'll find answers to a lot of your questions about Catholic teaching on sexuality. I really appreciate the fact that you are asking questions as well as giving your perspective, because so many times people who criticize Church teaching have no idea what that teaching is, and see no reason to find out. And that includes a lot of Catholics!

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  103. Hi, Leila and Sharon! It took me awhile, but I made it back before this post dropped off the first page!

    I'll start with the animal and the dead body. I think, judging by your response about punching kittens, that you see animals as objects--we don't punch them because that's not what they're made for, you said. Presumably, you would be against raping kittens for two reasons: a) that's also not what they're made for, and b) that's not what our sexuality was made for. Whereas only reason b applies to a blow-up doll.

    Though I don't grant them the subjectivity I grant humans*, I don't think animals are exactly objects, either. I guess this is how I'd formulate it: kittens (and other animals) are living creatures, and therefore they should be respected, and respecting them includes not raping them.

    Respect for the living also includes not raping their remains after they're gone. So that's why I think we shouldn't rape dead people (or dead animals).

    *I admit there is some arbitrariness in my granting animals less subjectivity than humans, and that (conveniently) allows me to do some things to animals that I wouldn't do to humans. Like eat them. But that inconsistency is better framed as an argument for veganism than one against prohibitions on raping animals.

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  104. Back to the main(?) discussion:

    Leila, regarding points 1 & 2, we don’t have to go into for instances, because it sounds like we agree more or less. But let’s look at your answer for point 3.

    “Sex is for union with another person. “

    I didn’t say sex. I said human sexuality. Because I agree that sex is meant for two people—and masturbation is meant for solitary pleasure. I think human sexuality has room for both. I guess that’s our most basic disagreement: I’m drawing a line between sex and masturbation, which I think are different activities, whereas you see masturbation as a debased form of sex.

    Maybe we can come back to that later, or maybe it’s a fundamental, unbridgeable disagreement. But I really think you're wrong to assert that masturbation is not part of our natural design. In fact, I think biology does more to disprove your point than to prove it.

    To wit: Masturbation doesn’t harm a human’s reproductive potential. Sperm is as close to a renewable resource as a man’s got, and clitoral stimulation does not in any way negatively affect a woman’s ability to conceive. In fact, frequent ejaculation improves the fitness of a man’s sperm, and masturbation increases the likelihood that a woman will reach orgasm with a partner.

    And you’ve got to at least admit that the design of the human body does nothing to discourage us from touching ourselves. Our hands are adept at pleasuring our genitals, which are located conveniently within our arms’ reach. In fact, when I sit, my rest naturally in my lap; when I stand, they fall just below belt level.

    And if we’re going to talk about nature, it’s worth noting that masturbation happens across species, especially among animals that, like humans, can easily reach their genitals. So it’s not some kind perversion that we wicked humans dreamed up. It also comes quite easily to us—so easily, in fact, that it happens to many teenaged boys in their sleep. When you say the human penis wasn’t designed to deposit semen just anywhere, well, the bedsheets of millions of 13-year-olds beg to differ.

    That leaves two objections: the first is the question of oxytocin brought up by Sharon and Nubby. I still haven’t read the book they mention so, I can’t comment on his specific points. Nubby provided this quote:

    "People who have misused their sexual faculty and become bonded to multiple persons will diminish the power of oxytocin to maintain a permanent bond with an individual. Oxytocin is vital to helping a mother bond w/ her infant during breast feeding. It is also released during sex, so the more it's used, the less the power to bond w/ a person."

    I’d be interested to read the study cited*. I want to know if the authors have actual research that suggests that frequent orgasms harm a person’s ability to bond with a future spouse, or if they're speculating based on oxytocin’s role in human bonding. I WILL say, though, that we can get oxytocin several ways, including receiving a massage or eating chocolate. I’ve never heard anyone suggest that chocoholics have trouble forming relationships.

    The second is your point that people tend to think of other people when they masturbate. That's interesting, and it ties into our disagreement that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Again, I think that fantasizing about an act is different than doing it. Not a debased form of doing it, but a separate act.




    *That quote already sends up some red flags. For example, the phrase "people who have misused their sexual faculty" suggests a clear bias, and the "will" in the first sentence indicates a certitude that I doubt the authors can legitimately claim.

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  105. Oh, man. I wrote another long post, but I think it disappeared. Maybe it's just trapped somewhere?

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  106. I got the comment out of spam jail, Pedro! And, I will be back to address your points just as soon as possible. :)

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  107. Pedro, you said:

    No, I don't see animals as objects. I see them as living creatures made by God, and we have a responsibility to treat them humanely. Because they are living creatures, we don't punch them. As for objects... I think it's moral to punch inanimate objects, unless we are damaging someone else's property, and then it becomes immoral.

    Presumably, you would be against raping kittens for two reasons: a) that's also not what they're made for, and b) that's not what our sexuality was made for. Whereas only reason b applies to a blow-up doll.

    I would change say we don't rape kittens because that is animal abuse. And, yes, we were not made to have sex with animals, or they with us.
    Yes, blow up dolls were made for men to have "sex" with, and while a blow-up doll is a morally neutral object, the man who designed it and manufactured it would be sinning, if he intended that inanimate object to be used for deviant sexual practices. But the blow-up doll has no moral culpability. :)

    Though I don't grant them the subjectivity I grant humans*, I don't think animals are exactly objects, either. I guess this is how I'd formulate it: kittens (and other animals) are living creatures, and therefore they should be respected, and respecting them includes not raping them.

    Yes, we absolutely agree.

    Respect for the living also includes not raping their remains after they're gone. So that's why I think we shouldn't rape dead people (or dead animals).

    Well of course I do agree with that, as a Catholic. However, what if the dead person gave permission for his/her body to be raped after death? That would not be disrespectful, it would be fulfilling a dying wish of a loved one. So, in that case, if the person gave consent before death, would it be immoral to have sex with the dead body? If so, on what grounds?

    *I admit there is some arbitrariness in my granting animals less subjectivity than humans, and that (conveniently) allows me to do some things to animals that I wouldn't do to humans. Like eat them. But that inconsistency is better framed as an argument for veganism than one against prohibitions on raping animals.

    Actually, I would not say that granting animals a lower moral status than humans is wrong. It is right of you to do so. Animals do have a lower moral status than humans. People instinctively know this truth, and that is why even sensitive people eat animals.

    More to come....

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  108. Pedro, I said, “Sex is for union with another person. “

    You said, I didn’t say sex. I said human sexuality. Because I agree that sex is meant for two people—and masturbation is meant for solitary pleasure.

    Quick clarification: Masturbation isn't "meant" for anything, because masturbation is not a morally licit act. I would say that masturbation is used for solitary pleasure, but not meant for solitary pleasure.

    I think human sexuality has room for both. I guess that’s our most basic disagreement: I’m drawing a line between sex and masturbation, which I think are different activities, whereas you see masturbation as a debased form of sex.

    Yes, you are right that this is our basic disagreement. Catholics believe that there is a sexual faculty that is an integral part of each person. The sexual faculty can be used rightly or wrongly. Our use of our sexuality can be ordered or disordered. So, any sex act is part of the use (or misuse) of our sexuality.

    Maybe we can come back to that later, or maybe it’s a fundamental, unbridgeable disagreement.

    Yeah, that one's a fundamental, unbridgeable disagreement.

    More to come....

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  109. But I really think you're wrong to assert that masturbation is not part of our natural design.

    Masturbation is no more a part of our natural design than is punching someone in the face. (Though both may be tempting.)

    Masturbation doesn’t harm a human’s reproductive potential. Sperm is as close to a renewable resource as a man’s got, and clitoral stimulation does not in any way negatively affect a woman’s ability to conceive. In fact, frequent ejaculation improves the fitness of a man’s sperm, and masturbation increases the likelihood that a woman will reach orgasm with a partner.

    True, and completely irrelevant as to whether or not the act is disordered. (Having an adulterous affair doesn't harm anyone's reproductive abilities, either, for example, but adultery is still not moral. Same with man/boy love.)

    And you’ve got to at least admit that the design of the human body does nothing to discourage us from touching ourselves.

    The design of the human body does nothing to discourage us from punching people in the face, either. Or "cutting" ourselves (people use that as a stress reliever).

    Our hands are adept at pleasuring our genitals, which are located conveniently within our arms’ reach. In fact, when I sit, my rest naturally in my lap; when I stand, they fall just below belt level.

    My baby puts his finger in his nose at the dinner table, because it fits in the hole perfectly. He thinks that's pretty neat. :) We teach him to control his actions and eventually he learns not to stick his finger (or peas, or pencils) up his nose.

    From your description, one might infer that the hand should be touching the genitals (masturbating?) when you are sitting naturally, or even standing. Why wait till you're alone, if your body was designed so that your hands are always near your genitals? Why not go with the design, if that's a legitimate point? In fact, perhaps the clothing you wear in public is an impediment to nature's design for your hands, since they are naturally in constant contact with your genital area.

    Now of course, there is a time and place for your hand to touch and hold your penis, but that would be for cleaning purposes, health exams and urination.

    And if we’re going to talk about nature, it’s worth noting that masturbation happens across species, especially among animals that, like humans, can easily reach their genitals.

    Animals also eat their own poop, eat their own young, they attack and kill each other, etc. They do these things, not as a reasoned, moral choice, but because animals act on their instincts. They have no moral culpability for anything they do. We are not animals, we are humans, and we have the ability to reason, and to make moral choices.
    Would you agree that humans are different from animals, morally, and that just because we are inclined or tempted to do something doesn't mean we should?

    So it’s not some kind perversion that we wicked humans dreamed up.

    Actually, all sexual sin is a perversion, and has been around since the Fall. No one had to "dream up" any sin. Just because animals can do something, doesn't mean humans can. Animals kill each other. Would you argue that humans who kill each other are simply doing what comes naturally? Or would you say there is a higher standard for humans?

    It also comes quite easily to us—so easily, in fact, that it happens to many teenaged boys in their sleep. When you say the human penis wasn’t designed to deposit semen just anywhere, well, the bedsheets of millions of 13-year-olds beg to differ.

    I'm glad you brought that up. An involuntary deposit of sperm is not a moral issue. There is no culpability involved in any involuntary act. Sin is an act of the will (it is voluntary). Our discussion is about willful masturbation.

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  110. Hi! Jumping in here, hoping Pedro sees this very late interjection, because of course I thought of Pedro this morning when I read this article (you never, ever know when another person might be thinking of you! :)

    http://www.insidecatholic.com/feature/in-which-we-deal-with-a-delicate-subject.html

    I thought this point in particular was interesting (although the fact is, adultery often enough has not the least to do with "love" of another person but has everything to do with self-love):

    "from the logic of divine charity and, in particular, the theology of the sacrament of marriage, the Church's teaching about the gravity of masturbation makes perfect sense. Indeed, I would note that it can (not must, but can) be argued that it is, in fact, graver than adultery. After all, which sin -- adultery or masturbation -- at least involves the disordered love of another person and so participates, to that degree, in divine love (albeit, I repeat, in a radically disordered way)? Answer: adultery. With masturbation, even disordered love of another person is totally excluded. It is a much more purely selfish sin, reducing the core act of marriage to something ordered completely toward one's own appetite with no love for any other human being involved at all."

    I appreciate the referral to "the core act of marriage" - I like the perspective it gives to the reality of masturbation.

    It's a long article and, like Leila's philosophy in her "please read first", you may not ever agree, but it will certainly explain WHY the Church holds this teaching on masturbation. And as always happens, the more I learn about her teachings, the more grateful I am to be Catholic!

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  111. Sharon, that is excellent! Thank you!! I miss Pedro's presence here, and I sure do hope he will jump in and comment again! We were really having a great conversation!

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