[Paleopsych] "self" control

Michael Christopher anonymous_animus at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 16 14:27:28 UTC 2005

>>Parents want-- and youth need-- more uplifting
messages of self-control from abstinence education,
not less.<<

--Problem is, "self control" is a bit paradoxical when
the self WANTS to "lose control". Kids don't just say
"oops, I had sex." They *want* to have sex. Those who
avoid sex are generally the ones who have the fewest
opportunities, are shy, or have enough attention from
the opposite sex not to put as much stress on sex as a
sign of approval. Guilt is probably not the highest
motivator, and fear of social disapproval is only
effective in pushing people to hide their "sins", not
prevent them. The kids who are most likely to TAKE a
virginity pledge are those who aren't giving up as
much, the ones who feel the dating pool is stacked
against them. They increase their value on the
marriage market by taking the pledge. A common sense
move. Those who have more opportunity and don't stand
to lose their social status aren't going to take a
virginity pledge, and if they do, they won't take it

A parent or peer group saying "Control yourself, don't
have sex!" is sending a mixed message. What they're
REALLY saying is "don't have sex, because we don't
want you to." "Control yourself" implies that your
true self, your *valid* self, wants for you what we
want for you. It's an odd sort of double bind.

Warning kids about disease, pregnancy and
dysfunctional relationships is common sense. Sending
the message that the group's sexual standards should
control the individual while forcing the individual to
convince himself or pretend that he's doing it for his
own benefit rather than to avoid scandal, is probably
not as healthy. Whether virginity pledges work or not,
they teach a really bizarre value: that one's
sexuality, one's virginity or lack of virginity, is
the group's business. A girl on an ex-fundamentalism
forum tells me that back when she was in a Christian
school, a guy asked her in class if she was a virgin.
She felt humiliated, almost raped. I tend to think
sexuality should be private, between a person and his
doctor, psychiatrist or priest. Or even his own
business, period. Even if you're a teenager. Making it
everyone's business seems intrusive to me. 

Then there's the sexual double standard... boys are
given signals that say "Sex for you isn't such a big
deal. But if a good girl goes wild, it's everyone's
problem." It may be no wonder that girls in some
subcultures learn to value their virginity as a sign
of social approval and respect, rather than as a
personal quality meant for someone special. The group
uses disapproval, labeling some girls "sluts" while
boys gain an aura of dangerousness that elevates their
social status rather than punishing them. That's how
real-world peer pressure works, and virginity pledges
gain a sort of fascist tint when viewed in light of
how high school culture (especially in very
male-dominated areas) actually functions. 

The parading of virginity in public is almost
indecent, if you think about it, like bragging
publicly about one's sex life. But the way social
politics is used deliberately by puritannical adults
to pressure kids, is downright tragic. Peer pressure
is a volatile, cruel thing. It shouldn't be used as an
instrument of reward and punishment to keep kids
coloring inside the lines of the old book. If someone
has a soulmate and wants to wait until marriage,
that's a great thing. But it shouldn't be politicized
in a way that makes others feel like pariahs.


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