Wednesday, February 25, 2004

American Pie
In the wake of news that the Bush administration intends to keep shoveling millions of federal dollars into abstinence education programs of dubious value comes a news item today that will likely be swept quickly into the barrage of misinformation that accompanies abstinence education. Researchers have confirmed that a sexually transmitted infection linked to cervical cancer could also have something to do with tumors in the mouth in people who engage in oral sex. However, the researchers also say that a person is much more likely to get this form of mouth cancer from smoking or drinking. In fact, the New Scientist story says, "The researchers are not recommending any changes in behaviour." So if you're planning to indulge, carry on. Interestingly, that critical detail is missing from a Reuters report on the story.

But it's the lead sentence of the New Scientist story that has the nugget guaranteed to get everyone's attention (and guaranteed to be read on every wacky morning radio show in the country tomorrow): "Oral sex can lead to oral tumors." Well, yes it can, but in the same way that sucking on the barrel of a .38 can lead to getting shot--certain circumstances must exist, and they won't necessarily exist every time you put the gun in your mouth. Nevertheless, this bit of research will quickly end up as another bullet point (so to speak) on the list of 1001 Reasons Why Sex Will Kill You.

Of all the wingnut fantasies corroding the culture, the ones regarding sex education are the screwiest: You can't talk about birth control because that will give kids ideas. But those of us who haven't forgotten what it's like to be a teenager know that kids already have ideas. And when kids are told abstinence is the only proper response to these ideas, they develop some rather odd ways of compensating. Take oral sex, for example. It's scarcely considered sex at all by many young people, whereas in days of old, you might have actual intercourse with someone first and only later begin exploring alternate methods of working the equipment. I've even read stories of kids engaging in anal sex because everything they've been taught leads them to believe that's not really sex, either. And we already know about the sky-high divorce rates in the Bible Belt, as horny teenagers marry so they can legally get one another's rocks off two or three times a week, only to discover that sooner or later, they're going to have to talk to each other.

I can't help thinking that all across the country, some of the same parents who will be dragging their teenagers to Mel Gibson's horrifically violent The Passion of the Christ would go batshit if their kids saw the love scene between Nicole Kidman and Jude Law in Cold Mountain, or the opening shot of Scarlett Johannson's lovely backside in Lost in Translation. But maybe old H. Rap Brown explained the apparent contradiction when he said "Violence is as American as cherry pie." Everybody likes cherry pie. Sex, on the other hand, is decadent and awful and dirty and let's not talk about it so nobody will know it exists.

Tonight on Best of the Blogs: States' Rights? What's That Again?

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