Monday, 11 June 2012

Love And Consequences

Looking at it, you wouldn't know that it has been heavily edited several times.

I'd wanted to put in more, but that would've given the piece a bias. So I had others look at it. They got rid of the oddly shaped, rough-edged parts.

Stunned as I was by what this girl did, I also wondered whether certain parties would use this case to highlight the 'dangers of Facebook' and push on with more efforts to combat 'online filth' and curb Internet abuse. This, in light of Facebook mulling whether it should let kids in - and why this could be a very bad idea.

What I also left out was that, for the 2009-10 period, Hispanic students made up the largest percentage (48.6%) of the total number of students, more than half of which were considered economically disadvantaged. One could, with some more reading, see that unwanted pregnancies and births and STD transmissions would occur more frequently within this group.

I'm no education or health expert. Nor do I have my own children. But I'm still frustrated and angry that, when it comes to the safety and sexual health of the young, we seemed to have either taken the hardline approach or dropped the ball entirely. So what if today's youngsters have access to more information? Smarter doesn't necessarily mean wiser.

But with issues, you often don't know what to keep and what to leave out - and when to stop.

Guess that's why I write mostly about books these days. At least a book has a beginning and an end. Issues can go on forever.

Love and consequences

first published in The Malaysian Insider, 11 June 2012

"We're in love. I don't think what I did was wrong. How can it be when it is something personal between the two of us?" So said a 12- or 13-year-old girl who had slept with her 16-year-old Facebook boyfriend. Both families found out, and they made the news.

"She later confessed to the relationship ... but we decided to let it go," said the girl's brother. "They are still young and we did not want them to get into trouble with the law." The girl's family reportedly went to the press "to create awareness on what is happening to our youths these days."

I'm hoping at least one person was misquoted here.

Sex with a minor is statutory rape, a crime. If the family wanted no trouble, going to the press may not be a good idea. The girl's excuse that who she's in love with is a "personal thing" and that it's not "wrong" is an archetypal "liberal" defence conservatives love to tear to bits.

School of hard knocks
For those with a tendency to police morality, sexuality is low-hanging fruit: the youth's loose morals are caused by Hollywood, the Internet, etc. It is never our fault; there's a demon for everything. We're just doing what our good books are teaching us, like what they're doing in the US with what some call the "war on women".

The US state of Texas, which has among the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, persistently pushes abstinence-only sex education programmes in schools while seemingly ignoring other aspects of sex ed such as contraception. This only makes sense if, according to Amanda Marcotte, the idea is to let teens deal with the consequences of premarital sex.

"At a certain point, you have to stop assuming it's an accident when you see politicians who, when given the choice between improving sexual health outcomes and punishing girls for sex, always choose the latter," she writes in Slate's XXFactor blog. The 2009-2010 student enrolment figures for Texas says there are over 1.2 million teenage high school students. Let's not forget about the teens who are not in school.

High teen pregnancy rates means a lot of young moms, and there are concerns about the state's "ability to rear, educate, and prepare all the little Texans" for their role in society.

Speaking of which...

Be fruitful and... overpopulate?
There were about 60 million Filipinos in 1990. That number went up about 50% in the last two decades or so. And it looks like its government is hard-pressed to accommodate the new arrivals - on top of its economic woes, corruption and sectarian tensions. Still, the topic of contraception is virtually taboo in the Philippines, where its bishops feel almost as if it's worse than murder. An attempt to introduce state-sponsored birth control measures last year was shot down.

"It's not the business of government to be promoting contraceptive devices," said Bishop Teodoro Bacani, according to the BBC. "It's like the government saying it will pass a law which will fund the promotion of pork-eating among the Muslims. Can you imagine what an uproar there would be among the Muslim population?"

Not all Filipinos agree with the good bishop. "I used to believe in the Church's teachings about having lots of children," said Clarita, a mother of ten kids, in the same BBC report. "But now I really think we should have family planning."

While it may not be their intent to punish rampant sexual behaviour, the Filipino clergy's intransigence on birth control sounds selfish, especially when the burden of the country's growing population is being borne by a state that still has no solutions to its all too earthly problems.

It's more than personal
Does the girl know what love is? I'm not sure, especially when adults can't figure it out, either. However, it takes more than a necklace or a hymen to seal a relationship, and 'taking it further' implies shared responsibilities in the future, as well as consequences should the relationship fail.

Sadly, of all the ways to convey this to our children, we seem to be taking the bully pulpit route: "Sex is bad, so don't do it." If that fails, blame the Internet, Lady Gaga and LGBT advocates, and blame the girl (while the boy slinks away unpunished), especially if she is pregnant or dumps the baby.

Could it be that youngsters aren't listening because we've stopped talking to them? What happened to plans for sex ed classes in our schools? Is that still on, or was the ball dropped due to complaints from concerned parents or teachers' fears?

We sure as hell need to start talking to them, like the adults we are, like the adults they will become.

And if they screw up anyway, throw the book at them.


Post a Comment

Got something to say? Great! Rant away!