ntang (ntang) wrote,

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Teenage sex -or- why I think Eric Raymond is wrong.

First off, let me preface this by saying that I'm a father, and Eric Raymond is, to the best of my knowledge, not. That does not inherently make me more knowledgeable about the subject, but it does give me a different point of view. While I do think he's wrong, I think he says a lot of right things on the way to being wrong.


In his article, "Teen Sex vs. Adult Resentment", he says essentially that adults have no good reasons for being against teen sex, and that it's mostly just envy, covered by various excuses such as fear of STD's and unplanned pregnancy, and that if parents were really concerned about that, we'd see different things, such as adult demand for STD testing in high schools, or a change in anti-sex rhetoric.

Hey, he's right about a lot of things. He's right when he says "Lurking beneath both Judeo-Christian and secularized taboos is a fear that too much pleasure will damn us -- or reduce us to the state of animals, so fixated on the drug of orgasm that we will become unfit for marriage and society and adult responsibility." He's also probably right about a lot of people when he says "The unpalatable truth is that a teenager's "immature" hormone-pumped capacity to have lots of mindless sex makes adults jealous." I have to add: the fact that anyone is having any sex at all while I'm not makes me jealous, damnit.

I can't speak for every adult, and maybe he's right about most of it, but I can tell you that when I say that I think teenage sex is often wrong, it's not because of envy or jealousy, it's because, simply, that most teens don't know well enough to think about the consequences of their actions. Some do, and while to be honest it still bothers me, I can accept that happening. I think the same is true of doing drugs, for instance, or driving, for that matter, or owning and/or using a firearm.

There's a reason there are parents, and why children - and teens - live with them and are raised by them. They're still developing. They need time to learn wisdom, to learn from their mistakes, and to be guided along their path by their parents. I care about teens having sex because most of the time they don't take the time to really think about what they're doing before they do it, and that can have serious consequences on not only themselves but also on others. It's why I've always felt that purely age-based restrictions were somewhat silly, and that in the end it should be based on mental and emotional competence. I've seen 40 year olds that had no right being behind the wheel of a car, and I've met 15 year olds that could probably do a pretty competent job of it (in some cases with a booster seat >;) ). Sex is different, but the same idea applies: some people should probably just have their cranks yanked off completely, to put it in a somewhat rude and blunt way. Some people are not emotionally, physically, or mentally capable of dealing with the consequences of the act of having sex, and those people should not be having sex, regardless of their age. Since most humans tend to develop over time, it's not surprising that many teens fall into the category of "not ready yet". We make our kids grow up too quickly as it is, it'd be really nice to let our kids just be kids, sometimes - and I sincerely believe that it's still possible to give them that gift, it just takes a hell of a lot more effort than most parents are willing to put into it.

The other big issue is the moral issue behind it. Morally, I think it's wrong for teens (or at least young teens; at the age of 18 or 19 I don't really think of a person as a teen so much anymore) to be having sex. I happen to think that sex should have some weight beyond merely the physical reality of it, although I will say that I don't think it always has to, and sometimes I guess everyone probably just needs a bout or two of mindless, purely physical sex.

In the end, morals - and laws - are merely ways of codifying things like common sense and respect. They are there to protect ourselves from ourselves, and from each other. They also assume a lowest common denominator, which is why many people feel insulted and in some cases threatened by them - after all, if I'm capable of making an intelligent decision for myself, why should I have to listen to the laws or my society's moral code? If I'm ready to have sex at the age of 15, shouldn't I be allowed to? Well, the answer is a yes, with a but. Yes, if you are actually ready - in every way - to have sex at the age of 15, you should be allowed to... BUT... in a lot of cases said 15 year old is simply not mature enough to be able to make that judgment themselves. Being a teenager is about making the leap into adulthood, into maturity, and experimenting and making mistakes along the way until they find their way. The problem is some of those mistakes can hurt others - look at the teens who have killed or hurt others through things like drunk driving, who have gotten their teenage girlfriend pregnant and forced her to either change the course of her entire life by raising that child, or by having a (in some cases) back-alley abortion...

The fact is that not everyone is really ready to make certain decisions, and while yes, the laws, and yes, our moral code, can be confining, I think they're also necessary, because not everyone is willing to play ball and be mature. Hell, look at the linux community - half of the time we end up shooting ourselves in the foot because we can't even be bothered to have a bit of patience or understanding or to think before we stick our foots deep into our mouths. If we can't even handle simple things like posting to bulletin boards and emailing people, how the hell can we be expected to handle the responsibilities of teenage pregnancy?

So, I can't speak for every adult out there, only myself. I think we may in fact sometimes cling to easy scare tactics (AIDS! STDs! Teenage pregnancies!) to use on our kids, and maybe some of them do smell some of the hypocrisy there, but do you really think they'd be any more accepting if we said "Hey, you know what? Let's face facts, you're just not ready to take responsibility for your actions, and until you are, you sure as hell aren't ready for sex" to those teens? They're too busy rebelling, in many cases, to see the truth - and that is the very reason we sometimes use lame excuses to try to scare them, because you get desperate for any way to try to help them. I'm a parent, I know this - it can be damned hard to make a child understand the real reason behind something, and sometimes it's easier and more effective to come up with a BS excuse until they are ready. I overstate the truth of the matter about many things to my children as well*, because sometimes, if you don't really impress it upon them, they simply won't listen, or care. When someone's figured out a way around that one, please let me know, and I'll adjust my tactics accordingly.

* - For instance, maybe they weren't really about to be hit by that car, but the fact is they weren't paying attention and were wandering towards the road and if left unchecked could have been hit by that car - or maybe the next one - so I exaggerate a bit. I don't think it's a harmful exaggeration, and I don't do it every time, but I also don't feel that bad when I do do it.

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