Religion, Gender, & Sexuality (was Re: carol and lou on religion)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Thu Dec 28 13:32:14 MST 2000


>BTW, on the subject of religion, Marx was clear that the attack against the
>conditions and forms of oppression that give rise to religion and the "need"
>for religion, should not take place primarily through an attack against
>religion but rather the reverse--the analysis of/attack against religion
>should take place via an attack against the conditions and forms of
>oppression that give rise to and shape the content of religion.
>
>Jim Craven

In the main, yes, but on the question of gender & sexuality,
forthright criticisms of conservative religions are often called for.
Ill effects of religion & religiously-legislated morality are
disproportionately felt by women.  For instance, the article below
discusses the federally subsidized promotion of "abstinence" in
classrooms.  The abstinence-only programs shun the discussion of
contraception, abortion, masturbation, same-sex love & sex,
prevention & treatment of STDs, etc. (to say nothing of feminism),
thus hindering all youths from gaining essential information to
negotiate the coming of age with ease.  They also try to instill fear
& disgust of sexuality outside of "marriage," probably creating
unnecessary psychological hang-ups in the minds of children.  While
all these ill effects -- physical as well as emotional -- must be
felt by both boys & girls, they weigh especially heavily upon girls,
for it is they who must bear the costs of unwanted pregnancies.

According to the article, the abstinence-until-marriage programs are
contrary to "the wishes of more than 80 percent of the parents
surveyed in a half-dozen national polls over the last decade."
Religiously-legislated morality (mainly the creation of conservative
-- as opposed to liberal & left-wing -- religionists) is out of touch
with not only actual sexual practice of human beings today but also
what most parents & children really want.

Leftists in general (Marxists included) should make efforts to
consign conservative religions to the dustbin of history where they
belong.

*****   New York Times  28 December 2000

Sex Education With Just One Lesson: No Sex

By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO

CHICAGO - Jenny, a cartoon teenage virgin, is about to give in to her
boyfriend and climb into the back seat of his car.  Suddenly, the
emergency brake gives out and his car rolls until it teeters from a
cliff
off lover's lane. Their lives hang in the balance.

That is when Windy, the good witch in high-tops, leaps to the rescue.
"Paul loves me," Jenny protests.

Windy asks, "Oh. Is that why he asked you to do something that could
mess up your life forever?"  Using her time machine, Windy shows
Jenny how she would have awoken pregnant.  Had the car's brakes not
failed, her boyfriend's condom would have.

The cartoon, shown to sixth graders at Burbank Elementary School
here, is one weapon in an arsenal of films, celebrity rallies, school
classes, even lollipops and pencils, pushing a message of chastity in
classrooms around the nation.

A recent survey by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found an elevenfold
increase since 1988 among secondary school teachers who say they do
not discuss any method other than abstinence as a way to avoid
pregnancy.  The percentage of these teachers rose to 23 percent from
2 percent.

Groups promoting abstinence until marriage have flourished since
conservative Republicans in Congress, in a little-noticed amendment
to the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, stepped up federal financing to
promote chastity, which had totaled $60 million since 1981.

The new law set aside $250 million for five years - $437 million
including mandatory state matching funds - and barred participating
programs from encouraging use of condoms or contraception, or giving
any information that might undermine the abstinence message.

Along with other increases in financing for abstinence programs,
federal and state governments will pay $100 million over the next
year to teach chastity as the only realistic strategy for avoiding
disease and pregnancy, dwarfing the $30 million a year Washington
spends on education to fight H.I.V., largely by urging youngsters to
use condoms if they do have sex.  Aside from spending on abstinence
and H.I.V. programs, the federal government designates no other money
for sex education.

New York State spends $6 million a year on a range of abstinence
education programs, including advertising.  The largest grants go to
nonprofit organizations like the New York archdiocese and Harlem
Hospital, which use the money to teach abstinence in public and
private schools and other sites.

The abstinence-until-marriage programs teach young people to view
commercials, television shows and movies portraying sex between
singles with skepticism, and to refuse physical intimacy not anchored
in wedding vows - values most parents tell pollsters they want
schools to pass on.

But the programs part company with parents, who overwhelmingly favor
teaching youngsters to take precautions if they do have sex, in
shunning practical information for students who ignore the abstinence
message.

Contrary to the wishes of more than 80 percent of the parents
surveyed in a half-dozen national polls over the last decade,
abstinence-until-marriage programs do not tell youngsters how to
obtain or use birth control and condoms, instead emphasizing their
potential for failure.  Some describe in gruesome detail the advanced
stages of venereal diseases, but do not mention where teenagers
should go or what they should do if they catch one.

In recent classes at Lane Technical High School here, given by the
Southwest Parents Committee and Project Reality, Griska Gray, an
instructor, showed a videotape demonstration meant to parallel sexual
intercourse.  On the tape, a half-dozen teenagers chew cheese snacks,
then spit into glasses of water.  The dirty water represents bodily
fluids, which the teenagers share by pouring their water into one
another's glasses.  Before long, the class echoed with exclamations
of disgust.

Another point the film makes: the murky water, even if passed through
a strainer, can never be clean again.

The growth of abstinence courses appears to reflect inroads by
conservative, often religiously based groups on local school boards
and at the federal and state level, rather than a ground swell of
popular support for such classes or evidence documenting their
success.  Educators predict a vigorous debate next year, when most of
the money available faces reauthorization.

"This is really an argument not about research," said Sarah S. Brown,
director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which
believes that teenagers need information about birth control and
disease prevention, which the abstinence courses avoid.  "It's about
what people believe is right."

"It's the culture wars writ large," Ms. Brown said.

So far, the three studies of abstinence programs generally recognized
as the most valid have shown insufficient evidence that they delay
sex, said Douglas Kirby, a senior research scientist at Education,
Training and Research Associates in California.  Mr. Kirby's group
produces its own curriculum, which promotes abstinence but also
emphasizes the importance of using condoms and contraception.

A second review of the studies by Rebecca Maynard of Mathematica
Policy Research, a data analysis company in Princeton, N.J., reached
a similar conclusion.  Ms. Maynard is running the government's first
evaluation of federally financed abstinence programs.

A National Academy of Sciences committee on H.I.V. Prevention
recently called spending on abstinence-only programs "poor fiscal and
public health policy."  A panel of scientists the National Institutes
of Health convened in 1997 deemed the programs an obstacle to
reducing the risky behaviors among teens that spread H.I.V., and
called for the elimination of their financing.

People under 25, many of whom may have been infected in their high
school years, account for half of all new H.I.V. cases in the United
States.  African-Americans and Latinos appear to be the most severely
hit by the disease, representing 84 percent of new cases among 13- to
19-year-olds, although they make up only 30 percent of teenagers in
the country.

Debbie Olson, a Chicago nurse who heads the Southwest Parents
Committee, which teaches abstinence, acknowledged that few recognized
studies proved conclusively that courses like hers keep teenagers
from having sex.  But, Ms. Olson said, she just knew it was right, on
moral grounds if not scientific ones.

"It's a philosophical difference over what is sex for," she said.
"Is it for recreational sport or is it something special and
meaningful?"

Though advocates appear polarized into two camps, pitting "abstinence
only" against "comprehensive sex education," studies over the last 15
years have documented success among programs that combine both
approaches: discussion of the risks of early sexual involvement and
the skills needed to refuse advances, backed up with instruction
about precautions for those who have sex.  The studies found no proof
that talking about protection led teenagers to have sex earlier.

Abstinence programs are rising against the backdrop of a steady
decline in teenage pregnancy, for which advocates of both
comprehensive sex education and abstinence claim credit.  From 1990
to 1996, the pregnancy rate among 15- to 17-year-olds fell 17
percent, after rising 23 percent over the previous 18 years, the
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy says.

By age 17, roughly half of all high school students remain virgins,
but recent studies suggest a more complicated picture of teenage sex:
students are more frequently resorting to oral and anal sex - both
condemned by the abstinence movement - even as they avoid vaginal
sex.  And venereal diseases among teenagers are increasing.

Leslee J. Unruh, president of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse,
based in Sioux Falls, S.D., says the new federal money, which goes to
states in the form of block grants, has invigorated the abstinence
movement.  Because the federal government left policing of abstinence
education to the states, the clearinghouse moved into what has become
an apparent vacuum, issuing a national report card rating the
faithfulness of abstinence programs to Congressional guidelines.

Taking a page from antidrug campaigns, the National Abstinence
Clearinghouse gives teenagers stickers that say, "What part of NO
don't you understand?" or, simply, "NO."  Another group, the Pure
Love Alliance, affiliated with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, draws an
idealized portrait of marriage between virgins and describes
premarital sex as a downward spiral, beginning with "regret" and
"heartbreak" and ending with "depression or suicide."  The group,
which taught in 61 Chicago schools until this summer when newspapers
reported the link to the Unification Church, urged students to take a
"pure love pledge."

Scott Phelps of Project Reality asked a class of freshman boys to
list the emotional and physical risks of teenage sex. He came up with
anger, jealousy, violence, pregnancy, cancer, sterility and death.
His message: While all of these problems may not strike teenagers who
have sex, some of them will. "And you don't know which," he said.

One student in the front row suggested a solution: "What if you only
have sex with virgins?"

"That's looking at sex from a getting perspective," Mr. Phelps said.
"We want to help you think through the giving part of sex."

Later, the teacher tried again. "Sex isn't about getting," he began.
"It's about -- "

"Taking," a student, Scorpio Perry, blurted out.  The class erupted
in laughter, before someone provided the expected answer: "Giving."
But the 15-year-old student later said his answer was no joke.

"I mean that's what it's about around the school - taking," Mr. Perry said.

At no point do the teachers invite questions, which could pull the
classes into unplanned areas.  Mr. Phelps said that youngsters had
already learned about sex from friends, television and perhaps
family.  He was here, he said, to teach abstinence.

Keith Foley, the principal of Lane Tech, said the abstinence classes
represented the sum of what the 4,300 students in his magnet school
will learn about sex from their teachers.  He acknowledged that some
parents wanted schools to teach more, but said, "I firmly believe
it's the only thing we should be teaching.  To do anything else only
gives kids a mixed message and confuses them."

Afterward, several students said they liked the classes, but wanted
to know more.  Upperclassmen do brag about sex, Mr. Perry said, but
they never mention getting tested for diseases, or how to keep girls
from getting pregnant.

"They shouldn't hide anything that we need to know to keep safe," Mr.
Perry said.   *****

Yoshie





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