Conventional Wisdom

The ringleader of Friday Fictioneers, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, always manages to teach us something with her stories. I admire her ability to use history to show us the way forward. I hope that no matter what personal beliefs you hold dear you know that I respect an individual’s right to their own beliefs. There can be no argument, however, that going backward takes us to a dangerous place our culture has been before.

There is only forward.

PHOTO PROMPT © G.L. MacMillan
PHOTO PROMPT © G.L. MacMillan

It was the most stupid five minutes in recorded history followed by paralyzing fear followed by horrific agony. Sarah and Jake were classmates. Their parents were friends. Their daily lives were orchestrated through group texts; busy, after all, is the new family value. Sadly, they hadn’t received the most important message.

“Name your poison.”

“What about the ban?”

“Come on, you know the rule. Can’t see us, can’t stop us.”

“There are cameras everywhere.”

“Not at my grandma’s.”

It was there, on the picnic table, that they made a memory. It was there that the consequences would be never forgotten.

*****

Thanks for reading.

*****

If sex is where the personal becomes political, then sex education is where, as they say, the rubber meets the road. What is taught matters. Where it is taught also matters. Left to an awkward moment in the backseat of a Chevy, sex education for our mothers and our mothers’ mothers was not improved by a chance encounter with a copy of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie or Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Our mothers’ mothers knew too little when it came to sex, even less about reproductive choice. But they knew enough to recognize that it was an important right worth fighting, even dying, to secure for future generations of women.

In the best of circumstances, sex is discussed in the safety and privacy of our homes. Unfortunately, many American homes are not safe places, neither are public schools. Right now, as it has always been, sex education isn’t being appropriately addressed in any place. When legislators don’t know the difference between human female physiology and that of a duck, there is a problem not only in our education system but in our representation. When the power structure uses targeted regulation to restrict women’s access to medical care, they are creating a neoslavery class.

Abstinence only ideology does not come close to meeting the urgent need to educate and empower young people to fully comprehend the personal responsibility required for choosing behaviors that come with life-long consequences. How many have been taught to critically think through risks? How many young people see beyond the next five minutes, beyond the selfie? For that matter, how many adults do?

Sentimentality and romantic falderal are not acceptable substitutes for the knowledge of how our bodies work. Teaching anatomy and physiology to students is the responsible thing to do. After all, knowledge is power, and who couldn’t benefit from more knowledge or empowerment?

Learning about reproductive health is more important than learning to drive a car. Knowledge of reproductive responsibility is as critical as learning not to text while driving a car or knowing not to leave the scene after you’ve rammed into someone’s car in a parking lot. There are important reproductive health facts to consider when wading through the political sewage spilling into the public domain about a woman’s right to choose for her self to be sexually active, to use birth control, or to consult privately with her physician to terminate a pregnancy. You don’t have to take my word for it. You can find out more here.

26 thoughts on “Conventional Wisdom

  1. Wow! Not only a great story, but also a very passionate and true post. I can only high-five you, I live in another country where things are different (not perfect, but better in that regard)–but this message is so true for so many places.

  2. I heard it said that nowhere is common sense less common than in sex education. Well, being a pacifist, I can think of a few other candidates, but it certainly makes the running.

  3. I was raised on a farm. Sex education consisted on watching the bull mount a cow. As for us boys, Dad’s recommendation was, “Keep that thing in your pants.” (like that was going to happen)

  4. Wonderful story, wonderful message. We are sunk so low right now, it is a frightening time for women I think. The loss of access and agency, we are nearly back to an era where we have no control over our prospects. I fear for all of us, truly. Education makes all the difference.

  5. Dear Stephonie,

    I won’t argue beliefs. But the indisputable fact is that parents need to be responsible to educate their children and not limit that to what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’

    When I was fifteen my mother bought a copy of the book “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex: But Were Afraid to Ask. It was a controversial book in its day. But I applaud my mom for wanting her daughter to be knowledgeable. We read it together and discussed it. If she did one thing right it was that.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    1. Dear Rochelle,
      I’m with you on not arguing beliefs. There are so many more useful things to do with our words. 🙂 Sounds to me like your mom knew what she was doing. The topic of sex may be best approached like any other topic we want our children to fully understand, like math, you know, how one plus one makes three.
      Seriously Challenged,
      Honie

    2. Your mother did more than mine ~ and I don’t fault her for it, sign of the times and all. My sex education came from the Nuns of Mercy. “Glory be!” as grandma would say. I learned next to nothing.

  6. Forty-five years ago I went to an all-girl, convent school run by the Sisters of Mercy, yet we had sex education. Okay, it wasn’t the best but it did leave all of us with one clear message – unwanted pregnancies are bad so prevention of some sort is /necessary/.

    Growing up as I did at the tail-end of the swinging 60’s, that message led me straight to a local family planning clinic for contraception. Those clinics were setup by the government and they were /free/.

    On the other side of the equation, we have acknowledged that abortion will happen no matter what legislators do so it’s better to regulate it properly than allow it to continue in dangerous back street establishments.

    There are those who disagree, but as always, they seem to be men. Luckily, here they are very much in the minority.

    1. “Luckily.” That cracks me up. Family planning is having a rough go of it just now over here in the land of the free. I’m writing a paper on the current reproductive choice/women’s health public policy. Just the facts, ma’am. But still, it is difficult for many people separate the emotion from the problem(s).

      1. That must be…fun. :/ I wish lawmakers all over the world would stop thinking of women as chattels. Imagine how the other half of the world would feel if there were laws sending them to jail for contracting STDs?

        I know it’s not the same thing, but I’m sure the sense of outrage would be.

  7. Good points. Another thing to consider is a child is considered a badge of honor , a desired accessory, a physical token of “love” or symbol of a relationship and a valued sign of passage to adulthood to many teens in this area. Children are showed off at basketball games. Girls ooo and ahhh over maternity clothes and bask in all the attention and envy of their peer. Childlike view of motherhood.
    Lonely 5th graders are getting pregnant so they will have “something of their own that loves them”
    Sometimes the teen’s parents are just as warm and fuzzy brained over having a grandchild – even if the mother and father are just children themselves.
    It’s not just facts and birth control that is important, but understanding what a infant/child is and how having a child impacts the mother’s life for the rest of their life. (And realistically, it’s the mom that bears the challenge for life. The dad often drifts off – but brags about all the kids he’s fathered)
    I live in a large metro area – so it may be different where you are.
    There’s a lot of work to be done and it’s not going to be easy. No simple answers for the naive attitudes.

    1. This is a bizarre phenomenon. I have actually witnessed it. In fact, just last year a baby picture was given to me by a young mother I hardly know. The father I know even less. Actually all I know of him is that he is not good to this young woman or their new daughter. But the mother (and grandmother) were so proud to be handing out the photos. It seemed odd and sad. Of course, I suppose it is better that they are attentive to the child and trying to make the best of a difficult situation. And you’re right, simple answers don’t explain this behavior.

  8. I agree wholeheartedly, Honie. Responsible sex education is one of the best ways to decrease unwanted pregnancies. The right to choose wouldn’t have to be such a volatile issue if we could prevent the need to make the choice in the first place.

    1. So true, Carrie. The culture here in Texas is overwhelmingly traditionalistic. Prevailing attitudes are largely influenced by the period of westward expansion which took place during the 19th century. Back then, moral purity laws prohibited women from taking control of their reproductive health. What’s puzzling is that a belief which most Texans embrace, that government should minimally intrude in the lives of citizens, such an individualistic and reasonable expectation does not appear to apply to women, as Texas legislators go to great lengths to restrict women’s reproductive rights.

        1. Tracey, no offense taken. I understood your meaning. The story is vague, and could have meant the characters got drunk, got sick, or got caught with their pants down. I should have included a 🙂 in the reply to your comment. 😉

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