For the last few weeks, community action site Amplify Your Voice have been chronicling the extraordinary vestiges of the Bush administration’s disastrous policies on sexual health and education: Derek Dye, the Abstinence Clown.
Derek Dye is supported by Elizabeth’s New Life Center, a Christian-orientated organisation that received a federal grant of $800,000 in 2007. Dye appears to be a little more reticent to wear these religious overtones during his talks, preferring instead to compare pre-marital sex to juggling with machetes.
For a person whose success depends upon popularity, it was strange then that Dye ordered YouTube to remove a video of him in action, spreading the message of abstinence to a group of middle school children. To their eternal credit, Amplify Your Voice have decided to host the offending video in the face of repeated legal threats from Dye and the New Life Center. What are these people so ashamed of? Aren’t they proud of their covert religious piecemeal sexual education project? Is is the machetes?
During the video, the part I found most upsetting was seeing Dye compare premarital sex to juggling machetes over a prostrate child. He says:
You know what? I can’t do it… …Because if I juggle these machetes over him, there’s risk. Something could happen. I could make a mistake… …I tried to reduce the risk a little bit, by practising. But it doesn’t matter how much I practice, an accident could happen. The only way I can completely eliminate risk of something happening to him, is if I put the machetes [away] and practice abstinence.
This to me is perhaps the most revealing explanation of the logic behind abstinence-only sex education, saying in essence: “be completely intolerant of risk. Do not take responsibility for yourself”. This is the most depressing message I can possibly think of teaching children. Imagine that logic played to different circumstances:
- Never go swimming, you might drown
- The only way to eliminate the risk of crashing is to never learn to drive
- Don’t apply for that top college, aim low and surefire
- Don’t tell her how you feel, she might reject you
What a terrible world it would be if everyone lived according to these rules.
If I had one wish, it would be to see a sexual education programme that managed to instil one simple truth into kids’ heads: if you’re not in control of your sexual activity, you’re at risk. Programmes such as Dye’s are the complete opposite of this.
Abstinence-only programmes are the hallmark of a society that wants to see its children as completely innocent and chaste beings. That sadly just isn’t true. It’s ridiculous to believe that young men and women suddenly become responsible adults with the relevant working biology overnight on the cusp of their 16th birthday. And it’s dangerous to behave as if that’s the case. As we speak, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced that the Government plans to investigate the sexualisation of young girls. It’s a winner in terms of generating press, but what does this actually mean? Does Jacqui Smith plan to send morality squads into the bedrooms of 14 yr old girls to tear down posters of Robert Pattinson?
If you want further proof of the harm that people are willing to inflict on young women to protect them from their own burning loins, look no further than attempts by religious groups to prevent uptake of the HPV vaccine, designed to protect women against cervical cancer.
Thankfully, the Obama administration is looking like it will roll back many of the harmful sexual health policies instilled by Bush. However, it’s still important that you write to your government and encourage them to ditch these failed practices. You can find out how to do this at Amplify Your Voice.