Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Abstinence Bites.

I would like to turn your attention to this article in the Boston Globe:
Taking a pledge to remain a virgin until married may help some teens and young adults in delaying the start of sexual activity, U.S. researchers reported Tuesday.

A study by the Rand Corporation research institute found that 34 percent of youths who took such pledges as teens had had sexual intercourse within three years compared to 42 percent of similar teens who did not make virginity pledges.


The Rand report cited estimates that 23 percent of U.S. females and 16 percent of males have made a virginity pledge.


"These findings do not suggest that virginity pledges should be a substitute for comprehensive sexual education programs, or that they will work for all kinds of kids," said Martino. "But virginity pledges may be appropriate as one component of an overall sex education effort."

One debate has centered on whether school-based sex education policies should focus on abstinence-only, with virginity pledges as a possible component. Many sex educators argue that youths need information about how to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The headline of this article - "Virginity pledges help some delay sex - US study" - is not misleading, but the implication is. It might be assumed that what it means is "Virginity pledges help some delay sex until marriage." But this study does not show that teenagers who take abstinence pledges wait until marriage to have sex. It does not show that abstinence pledges effectively decrease the number of teenagers having sex. All it shows is that teens who have taken abstinence pledges tend to have sex a few years later than other teens.

It is problematic to suggest that this study demonstrates that abstinence-only sex-ed is successful. People have sex for the first time at different ages regardless of what they plan to do. (Note: I do not use the term "lose virginity," but that's a post for another time) Someone who reallyreallyreally wants to have sex might not do so until much later than another like-minded individual. It doesn't matter when a person starts having sex (taking age of consent laws into consideration, of course), as long as she or he is prepared to do so in mind and body.

Mitchell Lichtenstein's recent film "Teeth" could be called a horror film for the virginity-pledge crowd. I call it the feel-good chick flick of the decade. The movie is about one of my favorite topics, the vagina dentata, or toothed vagina. (Cue music.) It stars Jess Weixler as Dawn, a high schooler growing up in a town where diagrams of the female genitalia are covered in the biology textbooks. (Oh, and did I mention there's a nuclear power plant behind her house?) Dawn and her culty friends wear Promise Rings, a symbol that they have pledged not to have sex until they put on that "other ring." No folks, not the NuvaRing - a wedding ring. In my opinion, Dawn's wedding fantasies are the creepiest scenes in the movie. Unfortunately, Dawn will never live out her virginal wedding fantasy, because she gets raped by one of her Promise Ring buddies. Then something goes wrong - wrong-er than most rapes, that is. But Dawn doesn't know what's wrong because she doesn't know what a "normal" vagina is supposed to look like in the first place. She figures it out, though, and talk about female empowerment! The scenes where she puts her nether-teeth to work are the most satisfying, cheer-out-loud moments in recent cinematic history. The film is bold and hilarious. Even the ending credits are delectible, including a "No men were harmed in the making of this film" disclaimer, and a special thanks to Camille Paglia.

My friends and I can't wait for the sequel - "Teeth 2: Wisdom Teeth" and "Teeth 3: Dentures." And a prequel, "Baby Teeth," perhaps? Oh, if only. We also like to speculate about the daily tribulations that might face a woman endowed with a vagina dentata. How does she floss? Does her electric toothbrush double as a vibrator? Does she douche with Listerine? (Troubling fact: Lysol used to be marketed as a douche.) What if she gets cavities? Is there a vagina Tooth Fairy?

At this point I should mention that the title of my blog is only tangentially a reference to vagina dentata. A more in-depth post about the title is forthcoming.

Images used in this post yoinked from IMDb and ArtThrob

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