Apathy Jack writes:
Okay, the last abortion thing was a bit ranty. It wasn’t because I was any angrier then (well, not much more) but just because I was channeling RSJS for no reason I can logically explain.
I did, though, write two things on the topic. Here’s the other one. I think you’ll find it sounds a bit more like me.
(Oh, and by the by, this was written three or so years ago, so some of the references to politics, my age etc are out of date.)
“Sir, every time my baby hears your voice he kicks.”
“Good – I’m training him! In thirteen years when he gets to my class, every time I yell at him, I want him to flinch!”
Y’know, back when I was deciding to be a teacher, it’s amazing the number of conversations it simply never occurred to me that I’d have...
This is why I feel strongly about the issue of contraception – I Know More Pregnant Teenagers Than You Do.
And, sadly, when talking about the idea of contraception as it relates to my students, I find it disappointingly expeditious to shortcut straight to abortion.
There has been a lot of talk recently about this issue. Here in New Zealand the government debated changing the Care of Children Bill with an amendment that would force doctors to inform parents if their child needed an abortion. In America (where such a statute already exists) George W Bush is tightening the regulations in such a way that some commentators are saying will lead to an overturning of Roe vs Wade (which, as I understand it, is the eternal debate on the best way to get across a river).
I’m actually quite anti abortion. Frankly, the idea that at the stroke of the final midnight of the first trimester a motley collection of parasitic cells quicken like a reverse Cinderella into a precious human life has always seemed pretty arbitrary to me. Fundamentalists will tell you that quickening occurs the moment sperm and egg fuse, whereas, if I’m remembering my history correctly, some theories once saw the foetus as part of the mother’s body until such point as it was completely removed during birth.
I don’t like the idea of abortions simply because they are too grey an area.
However, they are necessary.
I have seen fourteen year olds out of their minds with fear at missing their periods. I can’t approach this scientifically, because I have seen the panic, the worry, the tears. Over and above the fact that children should not be having children, it’s a safety issue; First of all there’s the physical impact on a young girl who has to give birth. The birth process counts as pretty major trauma, and before a certain age is reached the human body simply is not physically ready to go through it.
But hey, what do I know about biology? Maybe I’m talking bollocks. But I do see the social side of things; how their families react. One of my girls had to move cities to escape the negativity of her mother, understandably upset at becoming a grandmother in her late twenties. (This is another reason I can’t be too detached and objective – I occasionally wonder if I am mature enough to teach kids, without even considering having any of my own. The idea that someone a year older than me could be a grandparent is too much of a headfuck for me to approach clinically...) I remember having to deal with a mother who thought her daughter was pregnant, so came down to the school to try and confront the supposed father. I was in the office when this woman – who was known for not being entirely stable – started ranting and raving to the point of being quite threatening. And that was to the office staff and me – God alone knows how she had been treating her daughter when she found out. And that doesn’t even look at the cultural issues. In the same way that Catholic Girls schools always top the stats for teen pregnancy, we have enormous issues with our Tongan and Indian girls. (Well, you know what happens when you tell teenagers they can’t do something...) I’ve seen too many of these girls the week after their boyfriends were found in their rooms, come back to school with black eyes, yellowing bruises and a note saying they were away for a few days because they had the flu.
Of course, everyone reading this is currently scoffing, saying “Well, teenagers shouldn’t be having sex in the first place.”
Yes. You’re right. What a stunning insight.
They are, though. It’s what teenagers do, given half an opportunity. Certainly, not all of them do, but, short of dressing them in wetsuits with boxing gloves taped to their hands and locking them in hermetically sealed rooms being monitored at all times by crack teams of Security Eunuchs™, there’s not a lot we can do to stop them if they’re determined.
“But surely they’re taught about safe sex and the like?”
Yeah yeah. Do you actually remember your high school sex ed?
I remember mine. The school guidance counselor took us for a few lessons in fifth form. This poor doomed bastard blushed the colour of beetroot whenever he said the word ‘sex’. In front of a room of bored sadistic teenaged boys, he didn’t stand a chance. Our sex education consisted of asking the unfortunate sap to repeat the word hymen over and over again because we “didn’t hear it properly the first time sir”, and pointedly not listening to two thirds of the lesson lest your peers catch you paying attention and discover that you didn’t actually know the intricacies of female reproductive biology at the experienced and worldly age of fifteen.(As an interesting aside; those students in the accelerate program, working a year ahead of the rest of us proles, didn’t do this course – I guess it was assumed that the nerds in the smart class would never need to know about the complexities of having sex with an actual human girl.)
It taught us the important stuff, such as condom use, and that abstinence was the only form of truly safe sex.
But here’s the thing: We were teenage boys - We didn’t care. We wanted to engage in the human sexing. (That wasn’t an option for some of us of course, but, y’know, the intent was there...) The specific details of the whole thing didn’t matter to us, so we didn’t really pay attention to the video that had some youth TV presenter from the eighties putting a condom on a banana.
The biggest problem with the blanket solution of “The dirty animals just shouldn’t have sex” is: Try convincing them of that. I mean, they shouldn’t be. I’m all about the little bastards being thrown into convent schools with the hair shirts and the cold showers and the threat of eternal fire for the sin of lust, but (and trust me, I’m less happy about this than you are): Teenagers have sex. And in the cultures that come down harder on it, they have more.
So how do we make sex ed better? Well, for a start, we’ve got to start thinking outside the box we’re currently in.
Recently, Exeter university pioneered a study that said sex education for girls under the age of sixteen should encourage oral sex as an alternative form of ‘intimacy’ in order to lower the teen pregnancy rate. Early trials suggest very strongly that this is working.
Now, here’s the thing: Clinical trials back this up, but I’m still hugely unhappy about the idea of this being taught to my girls – and I admit that they’re having sex. Can you imagine how parents would react if the school ran it past them...?
One of my friends says that the key is to teach girls the difference between having sex and letting some guy fuck you. The idea being that if girls knew that sex was for them as well, about them getting satisfaction, something they could take power in rather than just something that made their boyfriends like them, then it would be easier for them to have some control and be safer.
Like the Exeter study – Great idea, but I just don’t see a way of effectively putting it into the class (not without my fragile little brain doing the explodo, anyhoo...)
Realistically, the key is for parents to take a certain level of responsibility. The proportion of teenagers who are pregnant matches pretty closely to kids who are raised with sex being a taboo subject in their household. (That’s a generalisation, but, y’know, it’s also true.)
Hell, I don’t know. My job is to teach the little incubators what an adjective is; I don’t have the solution to this – just a lot of sadness at the position some of my girls find themselves in, and anger that politicians are turning my kids’ real lives into some abstract moral crusade.
Here’s the best plan I’ve been able to come up with thus far: We line the girls up in the hall every three months and give them a contraceptive injection.
"What's the needle for, sir?"
"I'm inoculating you."
As for dealing with the boys, well, I imagine working some manner of castration joke in here would be fitting, but frankly, after I’ve beaten the horny little bastards to death, castration won’t really be necessary...