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Where the boys aren't.

After digging through a paper which I downloaded from the British Medical Journal's web-site, summarizing the findings of a McMaster University survey appraising 26 North American and European sex education programs for teenagers, I felt a kind of numb despair. Two of my own three children are in the 15-19-year old age group highlighted in this survey. I shuddered to see the world they now inherit, portrayed in these 20 desiccated pages as such a soulless, desolating, and unmagical place.

I was braced to see God and any suggestion of "conscience" or "decency" taken out of the equation. Nothing like that would be acceptable in our Craven New World where the only absolute is relativism and the only thing worth getting belligerent about is the need to tolerate whatever our neighbours get up to. But somehow I hadn't expected an overarching survey of how we teach our youth about the most intimate form of human expression, to be so bereft of any notion of "love," "romance," or even "relationship".

The four Hamilton researchers behind this survey arrived at the only possible conclusion: ethically neutral sexed courses have achieved none of their purported aims. Sex-ed has not delayed sexual initiation among teens, has not made sexually active teens any more responsible in the use of contraceptives, and has not prevented unwanted pregnancies or prevented the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

While the researchers reached the right conclusion, their recommendations to improve sex-ed left me pounding my head against the wall in blathering frustration. What can they be thinking? True believers in the possibility of subjugating eros to strict, rational control, if we can indoctrinate the little blighters early enough, they recommend a sex-ed curriculum for children as young as five.

Will they never learn? The sex educators, I mean. Childhood has already been tragically shortened by media that bombard our kids with prurient drivel from the very dawning of their consciousness, imposing a randy itch into their psyches before puberty even equips them to relieve it. Aren't things squalid enough already? Is it really too much to ask that kindergartners at least be spared the corruption of learning how to roll condoms onto bananas?

And finally--as in the last straw--our researchers suggest that all of us take a few sex-ed pointers from the Netherlands, "the sick man of Europe." Sure, the Netherlands may "boast" one of the globe's lowest teen pregnancy rates. As its capital city, Amsterdam, also happens to be the pornography, prostitution, drug, abortion, and euthanasia metropolis of the western world, it isn't too hard to guess what sort of grisly expedients help to keep all fertility rates in that country so famously low.

While there are pretty wide distinctions to be drawn between the different countries and regions studied in this survey (on a proportional basis, for instance, there are twice as many teenage pregnancies in the States as in Canada), every country is inexorably drifting in the direction of the netherworid ... er ... the Netherlands. Like joyless, academically accredited sirens waving us onward to cultural extinction, the McMaster researchers hasten us toward a sterile wasteland that looks at first like a sexual playground; a land where sex has been completely removed from the context of the sacred or the romantic, the procreative or the humanly binding, and is openly marketed as just one more recreational pleasure available to the modern teenage consumer.

In this modern scheme of things, teenage boys have been let completely off the hook, to the detriment of their own development. They don't even have to buy their own condoms anymore. There is nothing left to elicit a boy's sense of obligation or duty in matters sexual. In the past, if a fellow accidentally made a girl pregnant, there was a code of honour and decency to appeal to, to make him face up to the situation as something that was also of his making. Nothing is more responsible for the disappearance of that old assumption than abortion legislation, which has become a commonly practiced form of retrospective birth control that makes every rash mistake erasable.

Somehow, the politics of abortion has decreed that nowadays procreation is a strictly female prerogative. If a father wants his conceived child to be born and the mother does not, that child will cease to exist. If a father doesn't want the child and the mother does, that child will not only be born, but the father will be legally responsible for support. Biologically and emotionally, fatherhood has always been the more remote of the two parental roles. Historically, social and moral pressures could overcome such aloofness and help boys grow up. Today we don't even bother trying to marshall such pressures, leaving our boys stranded in a Pinocchio-style Playland where the pointless round of pleasure eventually starts to harden their characters, and to sicken and bore.

Herman Goodden writes from London, ON. His column or latest interview appears every other month.
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Author:Goodden, Herman
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:823
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