Sunday, February 22, 2009

Virginity Testing? But of Course!

This morning I was reminded of Ernest Smith’s suggestion a few years ago that high-school girls be given virginity tests as a condition for readmission at the start of a school year. This has sent me reeling, as I had somehow missed that report when it was first reported. My immediate reaction was: How sexist! How demoralizing! How puritanical! I will disregard the proposal however, for it was made by an individual who notoriously talks through his ass, spewing shit at unsuspecting, and ignorant civilians.

Sex is everywhere. Humans have a built in time clock, which is dormant for the first decade of their lives, but that kicks into high gear throughout puberty- that odd time when hair starts growing in unseemly places, among other things. Adolescents are having their first sexual experiences at increasingly earlier age, which for me is alarming, because I understand well the pitfalls that they expose themselves to when they start having sex. Forget the psychological trauma, or the chastisement to me endured if anyone finds out... I am talking about pregnancies (the pregnancy isn’t even scary- it’s the thing that comes out crying at the end of the process) and diseases (some incurable).

I am reminded of sex education classes in primary school, in which the guidance counselor used various scare tactics to discourage sexual activity. I remember looking at blistered vaginas and penises covered in gaping wounds brought on by Sexually Transmitted Diseases. I was never reminded that these images depicted STD’s in their advanced stages, and that there were treatments available to cure said illnesses.

I was shown how to put on condoms on a banana, which surely helped me by the time I turned 16 and could actually fit a condom. But my thoughtful Guidance councilor forgot to mention that even if I was having sex, I wouldn’t have any of these available to me, for children were not supposed to be engaging in sexual activity in the first place or that they never made then in my size.

I learnt about sexual intercourse from a very young age. People who has sex got pregnant, and if they didn’t they would get nasty infections which produced sores all over one’s genitalia that festered into eternity. I shouldn’t have sex, but if I do I should wear an oversized latex contraption known as a condom...being careful to roll it on just the way she did it onto the banana. Most importantly however, I was never to forget that abstinence is the best safeguard against the inevitable pregnancy or malodorous infection. I would never have sex EVER

Now let me consider. Her efforts to dissuade those who had never had sex from doing so worked well. In all honesty, however, I doubt that I would have started having sex any earlier than I did, if I had been given a more accurate picture of what sex was and the possible ramifications of engaging in such activities. The more pertinent question is, what effect did her scare tactics have on those who were already more likely to start having sex at an early age, or who were already engaging in sexual activities? It’s hard to tell, but my intuition tells me abstinence/ ‘ignorance based’ education is not very effective.

In a hyper-sexualized society like Jamaica’s there will always be a significant number of adolescents who decide, or are persuaded, to engage in sexual activities. Does it not make sense to truthfully educate students as to the real chances of getting pregnant (which are slimmer than we were warned), contracting infections, (slim to nothing if condoms are used properly), and what options are available to students who fall victim to any of the unfortunate situations. Resources are available. Dare I say, potential pregnancies couls easily be terminated using, dare I say it, the morning after pill, or and many treatments are available for the Syphilis and the Gonorrhea we could so easily contract, before our pubes broke out into those sores that were plastered all over the walls of the guidance counselor’s office.

I’m so tired of hearing people talk about how making condoms accessible will provide an incentive for having sex. Sex will take place with or without the condom; but that is not what we should be concerned about. We should be concerned about how an unwanted pregnancy will change the life of the teenage mother forever, and how contracting diseases puts EVERYONE in society at risk. I’d be happier knowing that everyone was having safe sex, than that a few were having unsafe sex, because diseases will come always come back to bite everyone in the ass. Unfortunately, the movers and shakers of education policy in Jamaica do not see eye-to-eye with me on this matter. They view Jamaican society through the lens of 1960’s nostalgia; the good old days when children were respectful of their parent, and sex was a sacred affair between two consenting adults who dedicated their lives to each other.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but the evangelical doctrine that sexual intercourse is primarily for procreation no longer holds sway. The good old days are long gone, and it is time we create policies that reflect that paradigm shift. I can imagine it is hard to let go of a belief so rooted in religious morality, but let’s get real. Sex is sex is pleasure is before marriage is pregnancy is AIDS is can be avoided is time is overdue is when will we act in the service of future generations.


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