Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And you thought I just talked about boobs...

Not so! Here at Total Drek, we're interested in all manner of sexually charged subjects, so long as they include the potential for some humor. And, failing that, are at least interesting. Today, I have a pair of articles for you that you may find to have a link, or you may not. In the latter case, however, you're just not trying hard enough.

The first is a report about what happens when you let religious doctrine determine your sex education program:

Teenage pregnancies and syphilis have risen sharply among a generation of American school girls who were urged to avoid sex before marriage under George Bush's evangelically-driven education policy, according to a new report by the US's major public health body.

In a report that will surprise few of Bush's critics on the issue, the Centres for Disease Control says years of falling rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease infections under previous administrations were reversed or stalled in the Bush years. According to the CDC, birth rates among teenagers aged 15 or older had been in decline since 1991 but are up sharply in more than half of American states since 2005. The study also revealed that the number of teenage females with syphilis has risen by nearly half after a significant decrease while a two-decade fall in the gonorrhea infection rate is being reversed. The number of Aids cases in adolescent boys has nearly doubled.

The CDC says that southern states, where there is often the greatest emphasis on abstinence and religion, tend to have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs.

So, not only did Bush screw our foreign policy, and screw our economy, he (metaphorically) screwed our kids. Lovely. Still, advocates of abstinence-only haven't given up, no matter how much we all may wish they would:

Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for American Values, which describes itself as a supporter of traditional marriage and "against liberal education and cultural forces", said the abstinence message is overwhelmed by a culture obsessed with sex.

"It is ridiculous to say that a programme we nominally invest in has failed when it fails to overcome the most sexualised culture in world history. Education that emphasises abstinence as the best option for teens makes up a minuscule part of overall sex education in the United States," she said.

"In every other area of public policy - food, drugs, alcohol - we tell children what is the best choice. It seems very bizarre that the sex education establishment rejects the idea that we should talk to kids about what is best for them. We don't take vodka to drivers education because children will drink and drive."

Which is all well and good, except that she's apparently never experienced an alcohol or nutrition education program before. My nutrition courses did not teach "abstinence only" when it came to saturated fats, for example. They did not put on skits about happy kids who never eat twinkies or have me sign a pledge, and wear a ring, to indicate that I wouldn't eat pringles. No, they explained how certain foods carry certain risks and taught ways to balance what I wanted against what was healthy. Likewise with alcohol which, as it happens, I do abstain from completely. Nonetheless, I abstain because of personal choice and I am perfectly aware of the pros and cons involved in various kinds of alcohol. So, in short, abstinence-only sex ed resembles nutrition or alcohol education not at all.

The second article also deals with sex, only this time it's a shade more positive. Specifically, it's an article that briefly outlines the Case for Choking the Chicken.*

Isn't it wonderful when science and religion come together? My Slate colleague William Saletan points out that a recent paper has laid the groundwork for a pro-life defense of onanism. According to obstetrician David Greening, a rigorous program of daily masturbation can actually improve sperm quality in men with fertility problems. (Samples collected at the end of the program showed less DNA damage and higher sperm motility than samples from control subjects.) Since masturbation can help you have babies, Saletan argues, it must also serve the "procreative and unitive purposes" described in the Catechism.

Let's take this one step further. If we've redeemed this dangerous supplement for man, what about the fowl of the air and the beasts of the field? Surely what works for God will work for Nature, too: Since masturbation improves fertility, then it ought to be a prime target for natural selection. That is to say, any animal that evolves the ability or inclination for self-pleasure will end up with healthier sperm, and more offspring, than its competitors. Indeed, if you take the theory of evolution seriously—as the Catholic Church has since February—then you might expect that all animals masturbate, or at least all animals with a reproductive system sufficiently like our own.

Sure enough, hairy palms abound in the animal kingdom. (Wikipedia offers a good summary of the evidence.) Dogs, cats, lions, bears, and a number of other mammals self-stimulate with their front paws; randy walruses use their flippers. Horses and donkeys, whose masturbatory habits have been particularly well-studied, engage in "rhythmic bouncing, pressing, or sliding of the erect penis against the abdomen" (PDF); male deer do the same. The 19th-century physiologist Karl Friedrich Burdach has even described something like female ejaculation among solitary mares, which "rub themselves against whatever obstacles they find, often spurting a white, viscous mucus." A bull, meanwhile, stimulates itself by alternately protruding its penis from a genital sheath, while some moose can ejaculate simply by rubbing their antlers on bits of vegetation. According to observations made at the University of Buffalo in the 1940s, both male and female porcupines manipulate their genitals with inanimate objects—they're also known to "seize, straddle, and ride sticks about the cage."

And these two articles together, of course, raise an interesting question: if we really want to deter kids from having sex,** and, when they do have sex, we want them to procreate because god loves that shit,*** then maybe we should convert "abstinence-only sex ed" into "masturbation-friendly sex ed". Seriously, folks, I think it's a win-win. We could reduce STD and teen pregnancy rates by encouraging our teens to dry hump for Christ!

Rick Warren? Call me. We've got plans to make!

* Eat your heart out, Strobel.

** Of course, we actually want kids to have sex, just not until they're married. Or so some people think. I would settle for "mature" myself.

*** But we don't want them to have kids until... you see where I'm going. Is anyone else thinking that the fact that we really DON'T want them to do certain things until, all of a sudden, we DO want them to do certain things is confusing?

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Blogger Ken Houghton said...

I suppose my perpetual quibble that Onan (Gen 38:9) is clearly coitus interruptus, not masturbation and that, therefore, Saletan is even stupider than anyone ever thought.

Also, I can't be the only one who wants to know who the Bill Staines fan is at Slate.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 10:08:00 AM  

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