Sunday, February 13, 2011

My correspondence with a sex educator, Part II

Read Part I here.

So, shortly after the Arizona Republic ran our column on abstinence-based sex ed, we received the following letter:

November 6, 1995

[Name and address of sender]

Dear Ms. Manning and Miller,

My husband and I read your column "Just say yes to abstinence for students" and then checked to see if we had horns growing out of our heads. We are both American Red Cross trained and certified HIV/AIDS educators. We have done that educating in public schools on occasion. That probably puts us in your "free-love liberal" category.

Actually, we are the parents of nine and the grandparents of 13 (with another on the way). We are also in a "monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage." That is what we live and what we modeled for our children (something they took to with enthusiasm, judging from the number of grandkids!).

We feel you are giving "sex educators" a bad rap. Number one, the Red Cross treats AIDS as health education, not sex education.

It is true that we are taught to be what you call "non-judgmental," meaning we don't include moral teaching in our instruction. The reason should be obvious. We go into public schools where there are children of every conceivable racial, ethnic and religious persuasion. It is our job to try to reach all those children, not just the ones who belong to "our" group.

This is where we disagree with you. You seem to be saying that information about sex should be taught at home, and morality (in this case, your particular moral beliefs) should be taught in school. You have it backwards. This is the United States of America, and our Constitution guarantees that no one religious group will impose its beliefs on all its citizens.

Like it or not, there are children in the public schools whose families do not follow traditional fundamentalist Christian beliefs, and they have that right. Religion and morality should be taught in the homes, according to each family's belief system. Schools are for imparting information, not for imposing moral judgments.

If it makes you feel better, Red Cross instructors do teach abstinence as the best way to avoid AIDS. Of course, permanent abstinence would lead to the extinction of mankind (while AIDS is sexually transmitted, so is life) so we then recommend what we call "mutual monogamy." We leave out judgmental words like heterosexual or marriage, because we know some of the children listening to us are gay (homosexual monogamy is every bit as effective as heterosexual monogamy in avoiding AIDS), and many are from backgrounds where marriage is not held in high esteem. We need to reach those children, too! Every child deserves the information necessary to make intelligent, educated, responsible decisions about their sexual behavior.

We do tell the older children (high school age) about condoms. They need that information because many of them are sexually active. We also tell them that condoms are not 100 percent reliable. We explain that there is no such thing as "safe" sex, only responsible sex. I share the story about a young woman I knew who did all the right things. Unfortunately, her husband did not. She died of AIDS at the age of 26. That's why we use the term mutual monogamy.

My husband and I recently did an AIDS "teach in" at [a local Phoenix high school]. The majority of kids were non-white, and from disadvantaged homes (where parents are often absent or too burdened by life to parent effectively). I asked the students (as I do at the beginning of every talk) to give me a show of hands if their parents had ever given them any information about AIDS transmission. Not one hand went up. I then asked if they had previously had been given HIV/AIDS instruction in the school. Not one hand when up.

I didn't have to ask them if they were sexually active. There is a nursery and preschool on campus for the use of students with children.

In a perfect world, all children would grow up in homes with happily married, financially secure, socially and religiously correct parents who treasure their children and lovingly pass down the highest standards of moral and ethical behavior.

In reality, there are millions of kids outside that cozy picture.

These are the children we are trying to reach.

So, by all means teach your children your religious beliefs and moral standards at home. If you do (and if they buy it), they will never need my services.

Then leave my husband and me and others like us to do our job: which is not to morally corrupt children from good homes, but to try to save the lives of those who are not so fortunate.



Our response to come, in my next post....


Footnote: I am NOT comparing the despicable criminal abortionist Finkel with this kind-hearted, if terribly misguided, sex educator, but as I transcribed her words today, I noticed that some of them bore a striking resemblance to Finkel's words. Liberal talking points? I have no idea, but it got my attention:

They refer to themselves as the devil, as if I had said it:
Sex Educator: My husband and I...checked to see if we had horns growing out of our heads. 
Abortionist Finkel: It made me want to polish my horns and my cloven hooves!

They remind me that they do their jobs without a moral compass:
Sex EducatorSchools are for imparting information, not for imposing moral judgments.
Abortionist Finkel: I do not project or inflict my personal spiritual beliefs into the personal tragedies of my patients.

They consider themselves heroic servants of the less fortunate:
Sex Educator: So, by all means teach your children your religious beliefs and moral standards at home. If you do (and if they buy it), they will never need my services. Then leave my husband and me and others like us to do our job....[trying to save the lives of the not so fortunate].
Abortionist Finkel: I am a servant of women. I provide them with service that they want, need, and seek out. I am a physician; not a prosecutor. ... I take a great amount of pride in being there for the woman of Arizona when they need a physician and a friend. 

There were other similarities as well. Anyway, it's not a scientific analysis, I just thought it was interesting.


  1. Do parents have to be religious to be able to teach their kids well about sex?

  2. Anonymous, I think anyone can teach the biology of sex, and a thoughtful secular person can teach about the emotions and earthly consequences of sex. But to understand the fullest truth and meaning of human sexuality, one must understand what God intended when He designed this sacred act. God is the author of sex and sexuality (not us), and so if one doesn't know God and His plan, then one cannot be fully "educated" about sex.

  3. By the way, great question, anonymous! Thanks.

  4. Judgmental words like heterosexual and MARRIAGE?!?! Good lord.

  5. I actually think that this is really interesting, and it brings up a question that has often bothered me about the "abstinence-only" method.

    Some of what she said is true. Some children/teenagers don't know anything about sex, AIDS, pregnancy, etc. except what they've learned from peers. They have no religious training and most of them have no religious knowledge whatsoever. They will have sex because they've never been taught not to. So, well, is what they're doing really that bad? I mean, isn't it really better that these kids understand what AIDS is, how to avoid it (and yes, I understand that the only way to really avoid it is to not have sex), and how to avoid (to the best possible way that they are able given that they just will be sexually active) other STD's?

    I'm not defending contraception as such, because I do understand that the contraceptive mentality is pervasive, sinister and everywhere. But using a condom to at least try to avoid AIDS...well, is it that bad? Is it that bad to try and save a few kids who simply won't be abstinent because they've never been given a reason to?

    I really can't wait to read the rest of this because I hope you answer these questions. This has always bothered me about the "abstinence-only" model.

  6. Leila, as a former lefty I do believe you are correct. They are, not so much left wing talking points, but "thinking points", axioms, phrases and associations that underlie the schema of left-wing thought and perception of the other side, which are so deeply ingrained that they don't even question whether they're true or false, they're "everybody knows" statements. "Everybody knows" abstinence education and opposition to abortion are "Fundamentalist Christian" positions by people who have no respect for diversity, who want to punish the poor and who hate free expression of sexuality. "everybody knows" that "morality" is only imposed by these people, never by us. "our side" doesn't make moral judgments, but accepts everyone. etc...

    So here's what I would say.

    Dear Ms. blank.

    The state of your soul is no business of mine, nor do I have any desire to pontificate with you on its goodness or lack thereof. If you look in the mirror and see horns and a tail then you might want to consult a psychiatrist or at least have your home checked for gas leaks. I would however appreciate you refraining from making assumptions or patronizing statements towards me regarding my religious views and how they inform my perspective on this topic. It is quite reasonable for one to debate the issue of abstinence and sexual education outside of a religious framework. Yes, I draw from a Judeo-Christian understanding of right and wrong uses of human sexuality, however that does not make me incapable of engaging in a rational exposition of my viewpoint without referring to my opponents as "evil" or "satanic". You seem to have a lot of prejudices yourself, maybe before discussing this you ought to reflect on whether you consider me as the evil one, as is indicated by the not-so-subtle subtexts in your comments. Just a thought.

    But that's just me. I'm tired and have had a couple of rum colas and am working on the whole anger thing.

  7. By the way on what planet is the phrase "marriage" judgmental? Here's the thing. I was always told by well meaning, "non-judgmental" parents to "wait until you're emotionally ready"... this vague, airy fairy point of 'readiness' meant that I stayed a virgin until I was in my twenties then hopped into bed with the first guy who took an interest in me when I was in college...who turned out to be married with four experience which I still carry a lot of guilt and shame over. Followed of course by a series of sexual escapades with guys who said the right things at the right time when I was vulnerable and longing for love and companionship. So yes, non-judgmental airy concepts like "emotionally ready" were so much better than a concrete well-defined boundary like "wait until you are with someone who loves you so much that he has already committed to spending his entire life with you and made that commitment in public forum before family, friends, God and the State."

    Oh yeah....much...much better....

  8. Barbara, wow, you have a lot of wisdom and experience to share, and I hope you continue to!

    Calah, great questions that I know a lot of us have pondered... I think I may have to do a whole post on that question. You might find I touch on some of it in my answer. Stay tuned...

  9. BTW: I'm NOT blaming my parents for my choices, they were mine. My parents were sincere, honest people doing what they thought was right, doing what the culture told them was right. It's the culture that's messed up.

    Sorry to post so many comments, there's no edit post function on these things for me to add new thoughts. Anyway I'll shut up now.

  10. No Barbara please don't shut up!

  11. Please, Barbara, keep the comments coming. I am learning so much from these posts!


  12. Very interesting!!!
    I picked up a book the other day titled "Unprotected" by Miriam Grossman MD (psychiatrist)
    VERY enlighting about what is happening in our schools today and what PC is doing to our society!!!

  13. What I observed is that the tone of the letter is a bit sarcastic and unkind. Regardless of the point of view we should keep ourselves in check (and that applies to Christians as well, please, don't feel judged but it makes me sad when I read a comment and it's just as sarcastic in tone while clearly stating a Christian position.)
    Though I disagree with the 'condoms are evil because the Pope said so' position, I uphold a biblical view of sex in marriage for the health of everyone involved, if not for the moral reason.

  14. I got a good chuckle out of finding out that "heterosexual" and "marriage" are judgmental words. Does that mean that "homosexual" is NOT a judgmental word? I'm glad you pointed out the similarities of the two conversations you had, because your Big Fink post was running through my head as I was reading. Barbara hit the nail on the head when she said they're more "thinking points" than "talking points." I would however, argue that they're NON-thinking points, only because I don't think a lot of liberals do a lot of thinking when formulating their beliefs. It's more of a "feeling" for them - "What feels best for me?"

  15. The lets teach them the safest way to have sex, because they are going to do it anyway is like saying, the kid is going to take the car. I know they just weren’t ever taught how to drive it, and I know they don’t have a license but we might as well give them the keys ourselves instead of them having to find them to take the car. You know they are going to do it anyway. That logic doesn't sand up does it? Do you know where I learned about sex first? TV, then I got it in school, my peers, and then my parents. Does that mean I was sexually active as a teenager? Does that mean I've ever used a condom? No to both. I was abstinent because I was scared to death of getting pregnant, my parents disowning me, and having to live with the consequences. Did my faith play into it? Sure at some level but I promise it was not towards the top of my list. Now that I'm married to another previous virgin who I dated for 8 years before getting married. The reasoning that says because they can't control themselves is always very maddening to me because it doesn't give people the credit that's due. I teach high school kids, and was one not so long ago. I promise that it is infuriating the way that "adults" look down on young people and say well since you've never learned self control and you haven't been taught not to, we are going to teach a better way to explore things you have no business exploring. Not the best way to deal with that situation.

  16. Hi Olya!

    You said:

    Though I disagree with the 'condoms are evil because the Pope said so' position

    Actually, Catholics reject contraception and sterilization because it's been the Christian position for 2,000 years, unbroken. So, it's a little more nuanced that what you have said here.

    Remember, you will know something by its fruits:


  17. Um... she doesn't want to offend kids who come from homes who don't hold marriage in high esteem so she leaves out marriage in her talks? Wha?????

    American kids in particular (in *every* socioeconomic bracket) long for marriage. Even when their parents don't hold it in "high esteem." In fact, these kids often long for it the most. Setting the bar so low (just be "mutually monogamous") only continues to deflate those dreams that their parents are already deflating.

    Also, since when did teaching abstinence strictly belong to religious circles? Lol. Anyone can be abstinent for health reasons. Not just us crazy religious folk.

  18. "Though I disagree with the 'condoms are evil because the Pope said so' position".

    Two things are wrong with this statement, Olya.

    1. Condoms aren't inherently evil. It wouldn't be evil for an OB-GYN to use sterile condoms on his/her transvaginal ultrasound machine probe, for example. It's also morally acceptable for Catholic couples to use perforate condoms during the marital act if they're attempting to collect semen for infertility testing. It's not the condoms themselves that are "evil," it's using them as a barrier to prevent unity during intercourse that's sinful.

    2. Contraception isn't evil because the Pope said so. The Pope says contraception is evil because it is. The Pope doesn't create Truth, he merely proclaims it. Creating Truth is above his pay grade. :) Only one Being can do that!

  19. Btw Barbara... wow, yes do keep the comments coming! Would you believe that thanks to the same words of wisdom that by age 18, I really had no idea that anyone in this era *ever* waited until marriage? I was taught sex outside marriage is just what "everyone is already doing so we might as well equip them." I also imagined that my future husband would feel "emotionally ready" before marriage too, so I better not be a fool and wait. I was so afraid to be left behind or abnormal so I wanted to make SURE I got experience. Ugh! Then I was SO MAD when I started reading other perspectives and started realizing my "education" was sorely lacking. I also think it's really interesting when people claim abstinence is just unrealistic. Really? That's weird. Because I, an immature young adult, embraced it very readily once I learned more about the benefits of waiting.

  20. I can't resist: Happy National Condom Day!! (doing my little secular, free loving dance : )

    Hooray for those of us who have used/do use/ believe in access to condoms for all!

    cheers to our differing opinions on sex education

    -miss g

  21. Lol... sorry, Miss G, even when in my "secular, free loving" days, I didn't like condoms much. Ick. *Shudder*

  22. Sarah, me either! Yuck. Condoms are not fun. Was so happy to be done with those!! :)

  23. Yeah I can't imagine that would be comfortable for anyone ... yuck!

  24. If I didn't think my kids were reading, I might do a whole post on condom-sex vs. real sex! Because I've done both and here's to sex au naturel!

    Which reminds me, I need to get this book:

  25. Leila, on the subject of your previous post (or the one before that, the comic relief one) you HAVE to see mine from today. Promise you'll go look :)

  26. miss g said:
    I can't resist: Happy National Condom Day!! (doing my little secular, free loving dance : )

    Hooray for those of us who have used/do use/ believe in access to condoms for all!

    cheers to our differing opinions on sex education

    A National Condom Day, for real? What a stretch. As to any cheers for condom use, I don't think people whose condoms have failed them are much for cheering. Seems a weird thing to celebrate, anyway. Like saying Happy National Hemmorhoid Cream Day, and hooray for all who choose to use it and believe in access to cream for all!


  27. Olya, that was funny!!! :)

    Nubby, that was funny, too! I never thought of it that way... ha ha ha!

  28. Miss G, your comment reminded me of Captoe's post at the Catholic Phoenix today:

    "With artificial birth control your Valentine’s Day card really says I Love All of You, except for those parts of yours which are intended for conceiving and nurturing babies, I would like to frustrate their natural functions and keep the parts to myself as toys."

  29. I know this is coming a little late, but thanks for answering my question (I was the first person, "anonymous"). I meant to check back the next day, but have just been so busy.
    ~Chabella T

  30. The sex educator is 100% right: do not pretend schools to impose YOUR sense of moral on people. My mother is also a sex educator (and also a devoted catholic who relies on NFP), and she does inform people in a secular, objective way. She doesn't go around telling people things like "abstinence or hell", or " you should go to church more often". So, I don't see your point in bashing sex educators.

  31. jay jay, did you actually read what I wrote? Where on earth did I say "abstinence or hell"? or "you should go to church more often"?

    Are we reading the same blog?

    Please, if you are going to comment, and I hope you will, stick with the actual arguments that were made, not something that isn't even posited.


  32. jay jay, I think it's the next part (the next post) that you need to respond to. We make our arguments there, so please go ahead and comment on those points, once you have read them carefully. Thanks!


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