Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pleasure principles

This article takes a long time to get to the point in its title. And it spends much of that time crossing the line between being forthcoming about sex (good) and freaking out everyone within earshot (obnoxious). I learned about sex and reproduction at an early age, but at home through books and pamphlets, not through graphic discussions of genitalia at Piccadilly. Anyway.

The author's overall point is a good one. Sex education often leaves out the simple, yet uncomfortable, fact that adults most often do it simply because it's fun. This was largely missing from my earliest education. I knew the mechanics and the consequences of sex, but knew nothing of the allure. I didn't have any urge to have sex, and didn't understand that I wouldn't always feel that way. When I learned about teen pregnancy and STDs, I was left wondering why anyone would take those risks, and came to the conclusion that they were just bad, or weak, people.

This was exactly the same case with drugs. Drug education rarely, if ever, concedes that people take them for pleasure. I came of age at the height of Just Say No, coming away thinking that people who used drugs were Drug Abusers, a special class of Others who spent their time lecturing kids on the horrors of drug addiction when they weren't in jail or rehab or out committing crimes. What I didn't learn was why people would ever do a drug in the first place and risk ruining their lives. Maybe they were just bad, or weak, people.

In both cases, it's as if educators are afraid they will give children ideas if they admit that sex and drugs generate good feelings. But to quote Ann Landers, "the kids already have ideas, and many have put those ideas into action." 

The problem with overlooking the pleasure aspect is that it leaves a giant logical hole the first time someone tries sex or drugs and likes it. If they've never heard anything but the horror stories, they begin to wonder if everything they've learned is a lie. It isn't. But they aren't sure what to believe anymore.

Kids will learn about the pleasure aspect anyway, probably from TV, the Internet of the famed street of yore. This will seem rebellious by comparison, further making the trusted school advice seem one-sided and reactionary.

Honest, frank education about sex and drugs in the classroom would remove a lot of the forbidden aspects from both, while impressing upon kids the seriousness of engaging in them. That alone would slash the rate of both among teens.

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