It's not often I'm moved beyond my own sphere of personal indulgences and contemplations to discuss the political, except where I feel it is treading heavily on my turf. This is one of those times. Nadine Dorries - harridan of the conservative party and general hater of all things fun - proposed a bill to teach abstinence in schools, but only to girls aged 13-16.
Now, the "reasoning" behind such a blatantly sexist move is precisely the sort of backwards thinking I would have expected from that corner of the House of Commons: it purports to have a socially useful function but the narrow range required for its execution will succeed only in increasing the blame for unwanted sexual activity, and its consequences, onto young women.
Thus, Dorries follows in a grand tradition of pointing the finger at female sexuality as something that needs to be controlled and managed for the good of society and the "protection" of women. There's a long history of considering cunt as the antithesis of all that is good and pure and I am heartily sick of it. We need to stop creating virgin and whore dichotomies and look beyond the crass and unfair media depictions of single mothers, lesbians, prostitutes driving down property values on "our streets" or those unmarried young women going out and enjoying their lives instead of settling down and breeding the next generation (within the context of wedlock, naturally).
I was dismayed to see that MPs (narrowly) passed the bill at its first reading despite a very well thought out and detailed rebuttal from Chris Bryant. That, together with this article in the Guardian outline all of the issues and pitfalls with the a bill in some detail. Both suggest much better alternatives to tackle what are real problems, starting from the shocking idea that we should perhaps teach boys as well as girls to say no to sex. I wonder when will we start accepting that men have an equal place in sexual responsibility and treating them in an equitable and respectful manner rather than automatically assuming they have no existence beyond their raging hormones or that they are all only after one thing? The hideous stereotyping of the genders is shocking, and I'm concerned at just how many of our elected representatives must view the world in this light for the bill to have passed this stage.
To be clear, I don't have an issue with teaching abstinence. I think that learning how to say "no" to sex should form a part of everyone's sex education: whatever their gender. But it should be part of a total discussion of the physical, emotional and psychological experience of any (and all) kinds of sexual activity. After all, how can someone make a decision when they are lacking in the facts? Blindly saying "no" can be as bad as blindly saying "yes", and encourages people to focus on the damaging and negative parts of sexuality, without an understanding of its pleasures.
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