Politics & Policy

An Unplanned Education

Sex and the loneliest number.

Editor’s note: This column is available exclusively through United Media. For permission to reprint or excerpt this copyrighted material, please contact: Carmen Puello at cpuello@unitedmedia.com.

Planned Parenthood took me “Down There” and exposed it all. The self-evident wrongheadedness of their thinking, that is.

A new campaign waged by the abortion provider is as crass as its name suggests. But it is more than that. It is an expose — in that most pithy and au courant of forms, web video — of why we get nowhere in America when we talk about sex education.

The “Take Care Down There” campaign takes shape in web videos of young people talking about threesomes and sexually transmitted diseases, because that’s all kids could ever talk about, right?

A creepy older man suddenly enters the picture and dispenses advice — say, how to use a condom — to the eager teens, sparing no one’s delicacy in the process.

Check out Planned Parenthood’s Teenwire web magazine and you’ll have everything you forgot to think about before you embarked on that summer abroad: “Condoms, dental dams, and lube…Even if you think you won’t need any of these items, they may come in handy for a friend.”

What would you do on vacation, after all, without dental dams?!

And therein lies the problem with groups like Planned Parenthood — and with way too much of pop culture. For Planned Parenthood and the anything-goes ethos it represents, young people are always going to have sex. In their worldview, there’s no reason for living if you’re not going to mimic the rutting bachelorettes of Sex and the City. What could you possibly do to have a successful, happy life if it doesn’t involve going through a condom a day?

I would have hesitated to brush with such broad strokes, until I watched the abstinence video on the “Take Care Down There” website. In “Let Me Do Me,” a teen girl turns down her friends’ invitation to a party because she has plans to “stay in tonight” and “do a little strumming the banjo,” because “I like spending time with me…Tonight I think I want to go all the way with me.”

She adds, to her friends: “Plus it’s not like I can get me pregnant or give me diseases or something.” Older dude walks in and tells the girls “abstinence can be a beautiful thing. It’s kinda’ like being a virgin all over again.”

Whoa, there. So abstinence to Planned Parenthood means masturbation? No wonder they think abstinence education is a total waste of time. They can’t get their minds out from Down There. They can’t believe that if you challenge young people to want more than what they see on TV and in the movies, they’ll take you up on it. Planned Parenthood just doesn’t get it; abstinence education can never be about simply saying, “Here’s what you can do so no one gets pregnant but you can still get some sexual kicks.” It has to be part of a greater education: a character education. A physical education. A moral education.

Planned Parenthood and most sex education is about finding a stopgap solution, trying to fix kids’ warped view of sex while still allowing them to watch One Tree Hill. But condoms and STD awareness aren’t the fix that kids need. We must teach our kids to treasure all their gifts, to see themselves as complete persons who have tested values that won’t be compromised in the face of peer pressure or biological urges.

The girl in the Planned Parenthood video is, of course, right to say that her night at home won’t give her disease or a baby. But it’s no way to live. She’s cutting herself off from others. She believes she lives in a world in which sex and simulating sex are the only options on a Friday night. There are, of course, alternatives, and good ones at that. If there weren’t, all married couples would get divorced after only a few years of nuptial bliss.

The bottom line is that we need to be doing more than simply saying, dont have sex. Of course that wont work. Teens are not stupid; theyre human and know theres something appealing about it, and they shouldnt be told otherwise. But they should understand that theres more to want, and that they should hold out for more — for love, commitment, and fulfillment. We need to seriously talk about character formation. This is why some of the religious schools exist. This is what a group like the Best Friends Foundation does for schools. But those groups and messages are getting hard to hear in a prurient culture obsessed with youth and selfish pleasure.

– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

© 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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