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Sex-ed vs. Pop
Guess what everybody!?
Last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states were facing legislation regarding the teaching of sex-ed in schools, and while much of this is about refining the requirements of school district programs, in the case of a handful of states, it's about the availability of these classes in the first place. New regulations in several states requires parents to sign a paper opting their child into these classes, and additionally, prevents organizations like Planned Parenthood from distributing information, such as pamphlets about STDs or safe sex, in schools.
This really gets my goat, because it implies that if young people are informed about sex, then they are definitely going to be having lots and lots of it. And god forbid that while they taking a break from having all that sex, someone actually tells them what a condom is!
A study by the Guttmacher Institute shows that there are currently at least 4 states that require parents to make the active choice to enroll their children in sex education courses and 35 states that allow a parent to opt-out. I suppose, that allowing for an opt out isn't THAT big of a deal.. for the sake of free choice. I'm sure that some parents very sincerely want to take it upon themselves to teach their kids about safe sex and babies and all of that hullabaloo – to do it in their own way at their own pace. But seriously, let's face it, a ton of these parents sign their kids out of sex-ed and into an extra study hall because the idea of their kids learning about making babies makes them uncomfortable.
In the US, sex is still taboo. It's still a subject that makes us blush and giggle, or start examining our shoes with unwarranted interest; a topic not to be kicked around in mixed company. We've got all sorts of residual victorian-era shame left over from the last century, and sex is still not to be stared directly in the face. As a country, we have not matured beyond the middle-school mentality of sex being at once fascinating and sorta icky.
Well ok. Why not just keep dancing around sex in all of it's nitty-gritty glory? That would maybe be a viable solution except for the fact that all of us (well most of us, at least) live and function in the 21st century, and GASP! the modern world is full of music, media and technology and all of them work together to woo your kids into their web of sparkles, and product placement, and guess what - SEX.
Maybe you don't think your kids are ready to learn about sex, but here's a secret: They probably already know. They probably know A LOT. They might not know what an anatomical drawing of the uterus looks like, but thanks to the internet, they know exactly how sex happens. Heck, not even the internet, there are some incredibly racy commercials for blue jeans!
You may say that you have parental settings on your cable and internet, but if you're being honest with yourself, you know for a fact that your kids are far more tech-savvy than you will ever be. They have deeeefinitely already figured out how to get past your roadblocks into the dark underbelly of pop culture.
This may come as a surprise, but the media in general is not super concerned about America's youth getting a healthy dose of sexually responsible, cause-and-effect based information. It's all about selling albums and merchandise and again, surprise, surprise – sex sells.
Sure there quite a few songs out there talking about true love and even one or two talking about teen pregnancy, but those aren't the songs your kids are listening to right now. Turn on the radio to just about any pop station and within the hour you'll get a taste of what the kiddies are listening to. Gee whiz, it's some danceable stuff, but listen a bit more closely and check out what little Billy and Suzy (who are just not ready for comprehensive sex-ed) are soaking up.
Example number one: Ke$ha, who's second album launched two singles that just couldn't get enough airplay. The first, "Die Young" features lyrical gems such as, "Young hunks taking shots. Strippin' down to dirty socks" and "It's pretty obvious that you've got a crush. That magic in your pants is making me blush." The chorus is delightfully lecherous as well, implying that the object of Ke$ha's affection did not come to this party alone ("What a shame!") "So while you're here in my arms, let's make the most of tonight, like we're gonna die young."
This is fairly average pop-music fare, but oh good-golly is the music video just too much to handle.
This party anthem accompanies what can only be described as a wild west Wiccan orgy, and we all know that no one watches music videos quite as much as kids do... so that should be fun. Similar material would NEVER be allowed in schools, so maybe you should talk about it at home. Maybe now would be the perfect time to start a dialogue about the unrealistic objectification of women (and men) in pop culture.
Her second single, "C'mon," is literally just a song about sex. Lots and lots of sex. And some partying, for good measure. The video even features one of the internet's favorite fetishes! Don't worry, ask your kids. They can probably tell you what that is.
Even young Mr Beiber's hit "Beauty and the Beat" has a wonderful moment, in which Nicki Minaj, who collaborated on the song, implies that she is going to drug the poor young canadian and have her way with him, while of course, staying on the lookout for his ex girlfriend.
"Justin.. Bieber, you know Imma hit 'em with the ether
Buns out, wiener, better keep an eye out for Selena…"
And finally, if anyone rivals Bieber's popularity with teen/preteen girls, it's the five young gentleman who make up the group One Direction. Their summer anthem "Live While We're Young" seems like some good old fun in the sun, and the video is cheerful and harmless looking. Still the chorus is bluntly sexual:
"I know we only met but let's pretend it's love"
"Tonight let's get some, and live while we're young"
Unless the terminology has changed in the last 5 years and I'm much farther out of the loop than I thought, "get some" is short for "get some lovin'."
I'm not prude, by any stretch of the imagination. Young people will be exposed to all kinds of things that their parents would rather not think about, but burying your head in the sand is not a terribly effective method of child-rearing. Instead of insisting that young ears are too delicate for words like "reproductive system," maybe we should worry about the way that young people are being bombarded by a media that flaunts a romanticized, lyrical, no-consequences world in which everyone has the innate right to endlessly party and partake in (presumably unprotected) sexy-times.
According to the Center for Disease Control's website and nslc.org, the United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy of all industrialized countries, which really, should come as no surprise considering that 47% of high school students admit to having had sex, and 15% have reportedly had four or more partners. Included in the CDC's 2011 survey was the fact that only 60% of teens who'd had sex in the last three months had used a condom!
New regulations and the upholding of out-dated sex-ed requirements in many states is further distancing these young people from the information and resources that they need to protect themselves. Lord knows that Mr. Bieber isn't going to be standing around on a street corner, passing out prophylactics.
So parents, for Pete's sake, take the time to have a candid conversation with your kids about sex. About not having it, if that's how you feel, or at least about using protection. And you know what… if you're still a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of having "the talk" on your own, our public schools are there to pick up the slack. Or at least they should be. Now, more than ever, is the time to pay attention to what kind of sex-education is available in your state.