Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Attachment, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Family, Fatherless Children, Fatherless Daughters, Fatherless Girls, Friends, Human Nature, Jackie, Jerks, Judgementalism, Life, Living, Love, Lovers, Mental and Emotional Health, Obsession, People, Quality of Life, Relationships, Sarah, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-determination, Self-Knowledge, Sex, Sexuality, Society

All the Young Women

SUMMARY: I take a look at the women I met some years ago in Colorado Springs, and then draw a few conclusions about the challenges they faced at that time in their lives.

(About a 8 minute read)

People are often more predictable than life itself.  I can often predict, with surprising accuracy, what a long-term friend will do in almost any situation, but my life has taught me that it can be considerably more difficult to predict where I will be in a year or two.

I certainly did not expect when I came to Colorado that I would soon know — at least casually — about 200 young men and women twenty years younger than me, nor that about two dozen of them would befriend me.

Yet that’s what happened — largely as a direct consequence of my choosing to frequent a coffee shop that both served the cheapest cup in town and was the hang out of hundreds of local high school students.  Since it was also the oldest and most established coffee shop in town, it was also the hang out of everyone else — from the mayor and some city council members to several homeless people.

Continue reading “All the Young Women”

Abuse, Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Alienation, Art, Artist, Attached Love, Attachment, Celibacy, Competence, Erotic Love, Ethics, Free Spirit, Horniness, Human Nature, Lovers, People, Political Issues, Quality of Life, Relationships, Self, Self-Knowledge, Sex, Sexuality, Sexualization, Values, Wisdom

I Dumped Her When She Soaked Me With Buckets of Love

(About a 6 minute read)

Ask nearly anyone to sum up adolescence in a few words and most likely one of those words will be “confusing”.  Whatever else it is, that word is just as focused on a key truth as a teenage boy is focused on his friend’s suddenly perky nipples the very first time he espies them by the light of the werewolf moon.

What is often not mentioned, however, is how frequently adolescent confusions turn all manner of relationships into cruel ropes that jerk their victims back when they try to run from a bad situation.  Even blind or unintended abuse is magnified by the fact kids bond so quickly and firmly to each other.

Continue reading “I Dumped Her When She Soaked Me With Buckets of Love”

Adolescence, Children, Cultural Change, Culture, Life, New Idea, News and Current Events, Sexuality, Teresums

A Cranky Old Man’s Opinion of Period Parties

(About a 5 minute read)

One of my insufferable peeves as a cranky old man is that so many of us cranky old men enjoy meddling in much younger women’s sexualities.  Mostly, it takes the form of deciding for much younger women what their proper manner of dress should be.   At least here in Colorado Springs, when you hear someone tut-tutting about a young woman’s manner of dress, it’s usually a cranky old man.

I see that as meddling in a young woman’s sexuality because, of course, the comments are almost never about whether the woman’s outfit is creative, artistically tasteful, expresses her personality, or makes some other kind of statement — no, the comments are usually along the lines of her outfit is too sexually revealing in one way or another.

I myself am not the most astute or wisest cranky old man on the planet, but I did manage to learn a long time ago that young women typically put a whole lot more thought into their clothing, and into what they wish to accomplish with their choices, than I do.  So I tend to defer to their judgment except in the case of Teresum’s judgment — I mean, really?  Lime green striped mini-skirts with knee high paisley socks and florescent yellow plastic tops?  What’s she trying to do?  Scare to death Australia’s salt water crocodiles?  and besides, if a young woman chooses to dress pretty, or even sexy,  I figure she deserves to be honored with a silver medal for doing a public service by making life more interesting.

Of course, not every cranky old man thinks as I do, and — recently — I came across a new source of grievance for at least a few cranky old men.

Yes, just when I thought there was already enough meddling by cranky old men in young women’s sexualities, I discovered there happens to be a new way for us to meddle.

Period parties.

Period parties are parties given to young women in celebration of their first period.  A couple days ago, The New York Post published an article on them in which it described the parties as becoming “increasingly common”:

Period parties focus on educating young girls about menstruation and teaching them the lessons they may not receive in sex education classes at school.

It’s intended to be an open space, where girls can discuss starting their period, ask questions and debunk any myths they may have heard from friends (like the age-old “can you get pregnant while on your period?”)

It’s not just about education, though.

Many young girls often feel apprehensive about starting their period. For parents, period parties are about making the occasion something to celebrate, rather than fear.

Now, if you’re wondering what period parties have to do with cranky old men, you’re not alone.  I was wondering the very same thing when — you guessed it — a cranky old man (almost my own age) remarked, “What’s next?  Parties for a boy’s first nocturnal emission?”  And he wasn’t really joking.  He thought the idea was ridiculous.

He also thought he himself was a fair judge of what they should (or should not) mean to young women, and defended his view that the parties were ridiculous and on a level with celebrating nocturnal emissions.  Another cranky old man, same age as me, chipped in, “Ok, my head just imploded”.

Such wit!  The retirement homes will no doubt soon be bidding to draft either or both of them.  But more to the point, I simply don’t understand why it’s any of their business?

In my admittedly obnoxious opinion, cranky old men like me need to get completely out of the business of telling young women how to handle their sexuality — unless, perhaps, we have some genuine insight that might be of actual help to them.  But how often is that?  “That shade of red lipstick doesn’t favor your complexion, my dear.  Let me get my magic markers and I’ll fix it for you!”

Ok.  Maybe even cranky old men have more genuinely wise advice to offer young women (and others) than I’m letting on here.  You don’t need to be a perfect sage to advise a young person who is determined to “terminate her virginity with extreme prejudice” (as a 17 year old friend once phrased it) in order to advise her to use birth control.  And you only have to be marginally sensitive to the issues a young woman faces in order to encourage her to set and maintain her own boundaries in a relationship.

But let’s get real.  What do most of us cranky old men really know about how young women feel about themselves as they go through the changes brought on by puberty? Even those of us who have listened to a lot of young women on that and similar subjects are unlikely to grasp what a first period might mean to someone.  Should we be so quick to ridicule period parties, then?

In my opinion, American culture is far too oriented towards youth.  But I wonder how much of that is brought about in part because cranky old men like me typically don’t spend a whole lot of time, nor make that much of an effort, to listen to kids these days —  before we pronounce judgment on them.  Which assumes that pronouncing judgment is even necessary most of the time.  The ages have become segregated, and I do not believe that is a good thing.

There is so much cranky old men (and cranky old women too!) — if they have any wisdom at all — could provide young people that would be of genuine help to them, that I just can’t see judging and condemning things like period parties as anything other than a waste.

Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Alienation From Self, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Ethics, Free Spirit, Happiness, Life, Love, Meaning, Morality, Morals, Neil, People, Quality of Life, Relationships, Religion, Sarah, Self, Sexuality, Spirituality, Values, Wisdom

Neil and the Soul of an Artist

(About a 5 minute read)

Neil was raised in a tiny settlement in the San Luis Valley by artists.  The San Luis — over a mile above sea level, and the largest alpine valley in the world — is Colorado’s poorest region.

Because it’s so poor, the cost of living is moderate, and maybe it’s the cost of living that attracts the artists.  More than 500 working artists make their homes in the Valley.

Yet, because artists are quirky people, it might be more than the cost of living that attracts so many of them to the San Luis.  It could be the miles of open space, for instance.  Or the huge elk herd, the bald eagles and the sandhill cranes.  Or perhaps even the stars — for at night, the sky above the San Luis explodes with the music of light.

Neil’s parents were not religious people but they sent their son to church each Sunday.  When he was 13 or 14, he rebelled.  He told his parents he hated church, didn’t believe a word of anything he heard there, and was a confirmed agnostic.  “Good”, said his mother and father, “You’ve learned everything a church can teach you about life: Nothing.  We could have told you that ourselves about churches, but we wanted you to figure it out.  You can stop going now.”

When Neil turned old enough for high school, his parents decided he needed a better school than the one in the settlement.  So they packed Neil off to live with his grandmother in Colorado Springs and to attend Palmer High.  There, in his first art class, he met Sarah and Beth.  The three shared an intense interest in art and quickly became best friends.

It was Sarah who introduced me to Neil.  Sarah was regular at the Coffee Shop, and the two of us now and then shared each other’s company.  At 16, she was poised, sophisticated, and self-confident.  She liked to flirt with older men, even though she knew, as she put it, that she “couldn’t let it go anywhere”, and she once told me how much I disappointed her because I wouldn’t flirt.  I felt like a killjoy, and wrote a poem about her to make amends.

Sarah, Beth, and Neil spent hours together each day.  They seemed more mature than many kids their age.  For one thing, both Neil and Sarah held themselves much like adults, and all three of them would look you right in the eye when listening or speaking to you.  For another thing, there were seldom conflicts between them, and the three friends were remarkably free from adolescent dramas.

Back in those days, I heard enough adolescent dramas to fill a social calendar.  I had somehow stumbled into the role of confident for many of the kids who hung out at the Coffee Shop.  Sometimes, up to a half-dozen kids a day would confess their woes to me — pretty much one kid after the other.  Yet, I understood their need to talk and never rejected them.

Most of their stories were about sex and relationships, and some of the stories were painful to hear, because there were kids who kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again.  Yet, even the kids who didn’t repeat their mistakes — kids like Sarah, for instance — still seemed determined to make an allotted number of foolish mistakes, for how else do people learn?  I quickly discovered the role of confident was often more depressing than rewarding.

Through-out high school, Sarah, Beth and Neil remained as best friends, but when it was time for college, they parted ways.  Each went to a different university, and while Sarah and Beth stayed in contact with each other, Neil dropped out of the group.

I recall Neil was 22 and back from college when I ran across him one evening at the Coffee Shop.  We chatted for a while and I suggested we go to a restaurant for something to eat.

We ordered beer with our food, and were soon rambling along from one topic to the next.  A few beers into the evening, Neil decided to tell me how he lost his virginity.  “Was it Sarah?”, I asked.  I knew she’d been sexually active from the age of 16, and given their close friendship, it seemed logical to suspect her of having been his first partner.

“Not at all”, Neil said, “I wasn’t ready for sex back then, and I knew it.”

“I’m curious how you knew that about yourself.”

“I don’t make really important decisions up here”, he said, pointing to his forehead, “Instead, I go with what my soul tells me.”  He looked at me quizzically.  “Do you believe we have a soul, Paul?”

I didn’t want to sidetrack us into metaphysics, so I said, “I believe I can understand what you’re getting at.  Do you mean something like your sense of yourself…of who you are…of what’s right for you?”

“Yes!  That’s close!  I knew I wasn’t ready for sex because the opportunities never felt right to me.  None of them passed the soul test.  I didn’t want my first time to feel wrong in any way.”

“Was it ever hard waiting?”

“Sometimes.  Everyone else was having sex, and I wanted to have sex.  I was always horny.  It’s not like I wasn’t.”

“So what happened?” At that point, I wanted him to cut to the chase.

“Last year, I finally met the person I knew was right for me.  We met in a bar, but we weren’t drunk, and everything just clicked.  I knew she was the one.”

“Did you have sex that night?”

“No.  I called her on Thursday, a few days later, and we got together that Saturday.  I wasn’t in a hurry.  I knew it was going to happen.  I took her to dinner, and we went to her place afterwards.  That’s when I lost my virginity.  And I was right to wait. I was vindicated.  It was beautiful, Paul.  It felt perfect and it was beautiful.”

“Was it her first time too?”

“Oh no!  She was 26 last year — an older woman, and experienced.”

“Are you two still together?”

“No”, he said, “We never got together as a couple.  That wasn’t something she wanted or I wanted, and we understood that about each other from the start.  We’re friends now, but we’ve only had sex that one time.”

“I’m very proud,” he went on, “that I waited until everything felt right…until I knew it was right.”

“Not many people do that, Neil.”, I remarked, “Did your parents raise you to consult your soul?”  I had a strong suspicion at this point that Neil’s parents, both artists, raised him to pay careful attention to his “soul”.  It seemed like something artists would do naturally — perhaps even do necessarily.

“Very much so.”, Neil said, and he went on about that for a while.  But I wasn’t really following him at that point.

I’d begun to feel the beer and my mind was wandering back to the days when Neil was in high school and I was something of the neighborhood confident for a third of the kids at the Coffee Shop.  Neil had made the decision that was right for him and come out shining.  All in all, his story was one of the best I’d heard then or now, and I felt grateful to him for sharing it with me.


This post was originally published July 7, 2008, and was last updated April 23, 2017 for clarity.

Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Biology, Don, Evolution, God, God(s), Humor, Late Night Thoughts, Life, Lust, Morality, Nature, People, Politicians and Scoundrels, Quotes, Religion, Science, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Sexuality, Sexualization, Verbal Abuse, Village Idiots

Late Night Thoughts: Friday, March 17, 2017

(About an 8 minute read)

I turned 60 a couple months ago. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about getting older has been that I don’t worry as much about my mistakes as I used to when I was younger.

I still make as many — or even more — mistakes as I ever did, but I just don’t worry about them as much. Instead, I let the victims of my mistakes do the worrying, for part of my getting older has been my learning how to properly delegate responsibility.

I recently got involved in a discussion of nudity.  Someone said that nudity was against Christian principles for women.  That is, women should be modest in their apparel.

Then someone else pointed out there wasn’t much that was more modest than nudity.  “Hard to put on airs when you ain’t got nothing else on.”

Do you suppose American women, by and large, have similar handwriting?

At least, it’s my impression that a woman’s handwriting usually resembles other women’s handwriting to a greater degree than a man’s handwriting is apt to resemble other men’s handwriting.  Put differently, it seems more difficult to tell women apart than it seems it is to tell men apart.

If that is indeed the case, then why is it the case?

And if it is true of American women, is it true of women elsewhere?

I’ve heard people say we can never know for certain what it feels like to be someone else.  But is that really true? Is it never possible to know for certain what it feels like to be someone else?

Yesterday, I was with my friend Don for a late lunch. Don and I go back a long ways and we know each other pretty well.

At one point during our lunch, he said something that was so profound it went completely over my head and I couldn’t even begin to fathom what he meant.  I felt lost and stupid.

Then I suddenly realized: “Surely, this is what it feels like to be a politician!”

Who am I?

If you ask most of us who we are, we will answer you by naming one or another relationship. We are, for instance, a husband.  Or a golfer.  Or a businessman.  But to say we are a husband, or a golfer, or a businessman, is each case to define our self in terms of the relationship we have to something.

In contrast, we tend not to define our self in terms of what is happening with us at any given moment.  I do not think of myself as someone whose shoulder is itching. Or as someone who happens to be looking at a computer monitor.  Or as someone who is wishing it was dawn.  All of those are transient things — too transient for me to think of them as “me”.

Yet, being a husband, a golfer, or a businessman are also transient.  That is, if you really think about it, you are not simply “a husband”.  You are only sometimes a husband.  Just as your shoulder only sometimes itches.  And it is only a convention of thought that you imagine yourself to always — or continuously — be a husband.

The Cosmic Dancer, declares Nietzsche, does not rest heavily in a single spot, but gaily, lightly, turns and leaps from one position to another. It is possible to speak from only one point at a time, but that does not invalidate the insights of the rest. – Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1968, p. 229.

While it might be true Nietzsche never wrote what Campbell attributes to him, Campbell’s “paraphrase” of Nietzsche’s views ranks as a sharp insight in itself.

We humans sometimes wish to construct systems of thought — worldviews — that are consistent throughout and encompass everything.  Yet, such “views” are simply beyond us, and might even be logically impossible.

So, perhaps the best we can do is to become Cosmic Dancers.  That is, folks who are capable of looking at things from many angles and perspectives, who are capable of dancing between views, but who do not settle dogmatically on any one point of view.

The mane is thought to keep the neck warm, and possibly to help water run off the neck if the animal cannot obtain shelter from the rain. It also provides some fly protection to the front of the horse, although the tail is usually the first defense against flies.

Wikipedia

I’m not buying it.  I find it implausible that manes would evolve because horses with manes had warmer necks, and that their warmer necks proved to be significant to their reproductive success.  There must be some other reason manes evolved.

But what would that be?

I was thinking sexual selection.  That is, I was thinking manes are like the male peacock’s tail.  It provides no survival advantage, but the female peacock’s like it. So the females pick the males with the best tails to mate with.  That’s what I was thinking.

But then I remembered that both male and female horses have manes. So now I’m thinking sexual selection probably isn’t the reason horses evolved manes.

But what is the reason?

For the sake of discussion, let us assume there’s an able god.  By “able”, I mean that god is capable of doing anything that does not violate the rules of logic.  For instance, it can create the universe, but it cannot create a square circle because a square circle is logically impossible.

Next, let us assume that god unconditionally loves all of creation, including each one of us.

Is that scenario logically possible?

Well, I think it is possible. I would not account it very probable. It’s not something I’d bank on.  But possible?  Yes.

Now, let us assume the same two conditions — an able god and that god’s unconditional love — plus a third condition.

The third condition is there exists a hell that is a part of creation and to which people are sent after their death if they disobey the god.

Is the new scenario logically possible?

I do not think so.  Instead,. I think the new scenario involves a logical contradiction and consequently cannot exist.  That is, it cannot be real.  But what is that contradiction?

Well, how can you logically have an able god that loves you unconditionally and also causes you to go to hell if you disobey that god?

So far as I can see, you cannot.  An unconditionally loving god would neither impose a condition upon it’s love ( i.e. if you do not obey me, I will not love you) nor would an unconditionally loving god, if it were able to prevent it, allow it’s beloved to come to harm (i.e. if you do not obey me, I will cause or allow you to go to hell).

But what do you think?  Is it an amusing logic puzzle?  Or have I just had too much caffeine again?

Four Quotes From Voltaire:

Les habiles tyrans ne sont jamais punis.

— Clever tyrants are never punished.

C’est une des superstitions de l’esprit humain d’avoir imaginé que la virginité pouvait être une vertu.

It is one of the superstitions of the human mind to have imagined that virginity could be a virtue.

Nous cherchons tous le bonheur, mais sans savoir où, comme les ivrognes qui cherchent leur maison, sachant confusément qu’ils en ont une.

We all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it: like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.

Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois: Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre coeur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.

Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

(Source)

A while back, I was sitting in a coffee shop when I noticed — just beyond the window — a girl of about 14 or 16 dressed in a highly sexualized manner.  That is, her clothing was flamboyantly sexual even for an adolescent.  Moverover, she was flirting with a boy, who appeared a bit older than her, and she very soon straddled his lap in order to grind against him.  I couldn’t recall when I had last seen in public such an overt display of sexuality — outside of an erotic dance club.

Now, the girl was not physically attractive by American conventions. For one thing, she was much too fat to be fashionable.  For another thing, she had a rather plain face thickly coated with cosmetics.  And, though her clothing was notable for being revealing, it did not seem that she had put much thought into the combination she’d chosen.

So, it wasn’t long before I began to wonder whether the poor girl might be suffering from low self-esteem.  That is, it seemed possible that she thought of herself as not having much to offer the boys besides sex.

I was thinking along those sad lines when I heard a male voice at the table behind me say, “God! Look at that slut!”

Of course, I don’t know whether he was talking about the girl, or about someone else.  I didn’t ask.  Yet, I assumed he was indeed talking about the girl — and that made me feel old.  Old and tired.

You see, the one attractive thing I had noticed about the girl in the few minutes I’d been watching her was that she seemed so full of life.  Even if her dress and mannerisms were motivated by low self-esteem — and I didn’t know that for certain — she appeared at the moment happy.  She was, if only for a while, the queen of her universe.  It wearied me to think anyone would simply dismiss her as a slut.

Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Abuse, Adolescence, Children, Culture, Education, Health, Late Night Thoughts, Sexuality, Sexualization, Society, Values

The Two Most Popular American Attitudes Towards Sex?

Popular American culture seems to be dominated by two contrasting attitudes towards human sexuality.

On the one hand, you have the attitude that manifests itself in the stupid sexualization of youth.

It must seem to any neutral observer that America’s media, with surprisingly few exceptions,  is absolutely obsessed with sexualizing ever younger and younger children.  What else can you make of such nonsense as thongs and fishnet stockings made for preteens?  Yet, the science is in on this absurd practice: Studies show that such sexualization has numerous negative consequences and few or no benefits.  So what is the attitude — the thinking, as it were — of the people who perpetrate this blunder?

I believe what underlies the sexualization of youth is pretty murky, rather than clear cut.  Surely, some people are promoting sexualization in order to exploit kids for financial and business gain.  But what attitude or thought process encourages the mother who puts her eight year old daughter in fishnets?   That mother cannot be said to be doing it for financial or business gain.  But if not, then what is she thinking?  That puzzles me.

On the other hand, in American culture you have the attitude that manifests itself in the equally stupid abstinence only sex education movement.

I think the attitude that underlies abstinence only sex education is more clear cut than the attitudes that underlie the sexualization of youth.  That’s to say, underlying abstinence only sex education is a peculiar blind and obstinate prudishness.   There may be other attitudes mixed in with that one, but I will wager that prudishness is predominant.

Abstinence only sex education is only the sharp tip of that prudishness.  The same prudishness also manifests itself in a pervasive fearfulness towards sex that at times is indistinguishable from wretched hysteria.  That astonishing fearfulness is often accompanied by ignorance,  unrealistic expectations, squeamishness, and even outright rejection of ones sexuality.  We often make fun of prudishness in this country, but it is perhaps equally possible to think of it as crippling.

Both of these popular American attitudes towards sexuality — both the attitudes that manifest as the sexualization of youth and the attitude that manifests as abstinence only sex education (among other things) — are dysfunctional. 

In my opinion, Americans could not have picked two attitudes towards sex more stupid than those two.  Indeed, the fact those two ideas are the predominant ideas about sex in American popular culture severely argues against the notion that our country is, or has ever been, blessed by a deity.

Anyway, that’s how I see it.  So what have I overlooked here?

Abuse, Adolescence, Children, Family, Quality of Life

Is Lenore Skenazy “America’s Worst Mom”?

Last night, I was blissfully stumbling through the blogosphere when I landed on “Free-Range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy, an author and columnist who is sometimes called, “America’s Worst Mom”.

She “earned” that title by one day allowing her 9-year-old to find his way home — all on his own — via the subway and buses of New York City:

Was I worried? Yes, a tinge. But it didn’t strike me as that daring, either. Isn’t New York as safe now as it was in 1963? It’s not like we’re living in downtown Baghdad.

Anyway, for weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

After her son made it safely home, brimming with a new-found sense of independence, she wrote about his experience in a column for the New York Sun. That got her invited onto several talk shows — at least one of which billed her as “America’s Worst Mom”.  People quickly accused her of neglect and child abuse.

Are those charges justified?

The thought of a 9-year-old boy negotiating his way alone through the streets of New York City alarms us.  We can easily imagine all sorts of horrors happening to such a kid.  Many of us fear to allow our children out of our sight, let alone allow them to ride the subway by themselves.   But Lenore Skenazy — and perhaps a growing number of other parents — believe those fears are largely misplaced.

Skenazy argues that parents fear for their children’s safety way more than is warranted today.  According to her, we have become a hyper-vigilant nation of overly protective parents.  And the facts simply don’t justify our common perception that children are at exceedingly great risk of harm.

For instance, according to some crime statistics that Skenazy cites, the odds of a child being abducted by a stranger or slight acquaintance are about one chance in 1,500,000.  To translate that into more concrete terms, you would on average need to leave your child unprotected for about 750,000 years before you could be sure she would be abducted.  In 1999, there were only 115 such kidnappings in the United States.

In a recent interview, Skenazy elaborated on why these days we might feel the world is not a safe place for our children despite the facts that suggest it is:

The world is actually safer, statistically, than it was when I was growing up. In the 1970s and 1980s, crime was going up in the States, peaking around 1993. Then it came down, back to the level of the 1970s. It just doesn’t feel that way.

Now there’s the 24-hour news cycle. There is not one episode today of Law & Order that could have been aired before, say, 1971. It’s so graphic and disturbing and violent. It’s on every night of the week. Parents watch it, kids watch it.

Those images don’t just go away, even though our rational minds know they’re fiction. Those images are the first to come to mind when you ask yourself, “How safe is it for my kids go outside?” You don’t think of yourself walking to school – it’s so mundane that it doesn’t come to mind. But I can picture a missing child’s photo…. That’s how we think these days. If one child in the entire country is kidnapped and held for 18 years, that’s what we should be basing all our decisions on – the very outside, worst-case-scenario that something bad could happen.

The notion that television might be warping our sense of reality and needlessly increasing our fears has been around for some time.  I recall reading about 35 years ago a study published in Psychology Today that suggested people who watch a lot of TV tend to overestimate life’s dangers.  Since then, there have been numerous studies collaborating that one.  So, Skenazy could very well be correct to suppose TV is a cause of exaggerated fears.

She proposes that parents put aside their fears to give their children more independence:

We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence.

Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned.

I think in that, she makes a great deal of sense.  There are parents today who will not let a 7-year-old walk a block to their friend’s house, nor even allow her to go unescorted to the mailbox.   There are kids who are not allowed to play unsupervised.  Surely,  most neighborhoods are not so dangerous as to justify that sort of hovering attention.

I do have a major concern with Skenazy’s statistics.  The figure she often cites — one chance in 1,500,000 of a kid being kidnapped — is very likely misleading.

The figure seems to be based on the NISMART October 2002 Non-Family Abducted Children Report (.pdf), which found that only 115 children had been victims of stereotypical kidnappings in 1999.  But a stereotypical kidnapping is a rather special case:

During the study year, there were an estimated 115 stereotypical kidnappings, defined as abductions perpetrated by a stranger or slight acquaintance and
involving a child who was transported 50 or more miles, detained overnight, held for ransom or with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed.

Of more concern to us might be kidnappings that did not involve transporting the victims 50 or more miles and detaining them overnight.  There were — not 115 — but 58,200 of those in 1999.   Children are at significantly greater risk of abduction than Skenazy’s favored statistic might lead us to believe.

I don’t think it can be doubted that Skenazy documents numerous examples of excessive and irrational fears for the safety of children on her blog.  I do believe, however, that children are at a much greater risk of abduction than she seems to think.  Yet, it seems to me her main point — that children need more independence than our fears are allowing them — is probably a very good one.  The question is finding the right balance.

Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Children, Education, Family, Health, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, Politics, Sexuality, Values

How Texas Helps Its Teens Get Pregnant

Year after year, the United States maintains the highest teen birth rate in the industrialized world. In 2006 — the most recent year for which data is available — the U.S. teen birth rate was 41.9 births per 1,000 teens aged 15-19. According to statistics gathered by the United Nations (.pdf), this was substantially higher than any other industrialized nation:

international-ten-birth-rates-06-reduced

However, the overall U.S. teen birth rate obscures the fact that some individual states have substantially higher teen birth rates than others.  For instance: In 2006, the Texas teen birth rate was 63.1 births per 1000 teens age 15-19 (.pdf p.1).  This extraordinary rate made Texas third in the nation in teen births.

Clearly, the United States has a problem with teen births.  But why is that?  Over the years, an increasing body of evidence has suggested that a scarcity of comprehensive sex education for children and teenagers is in large part to blame for America’s unwanted leadership in sexual problems of all kinds — very much including teen births. Now a remarkable report has come out Texas that adds incredible weight to that hypothesis.

The 70 page report (.pdf), released last week by its sponsor, the Texas Freedom Network, is primarily the work of two courageous researchers: David Wiley and Kelly Wilson. Both are professors of health education at Texas State University. In the preface to the report, Wiley writes (.pdf p.vii):

“We knew we were entering uncharted waters. To our knowledge, a study of this magnitude had never been undertaken on this controversial topic. We also knew that such a study could possibly open us to criticism on both personal and professional levels. But two thoughts settled our resolve to proceed. First, Dr. Wilson and I are both the parents of daughters who have attended or will attend Texas public schools. And second, we live in a state with one of the nation’s highest teen birthrates and a population of young people who rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors. In the end, the stakes were just too high to remain on the sidelines.”

Wiley and Wilson used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the sex education curricula from 96% of Texas’s school districts.  They then analyzed the curricula to reach the startling conclusion that an overwhelming majority of Texas schools are utterly failing to teach comprehensive sex education to their students and are instead substituting irrelevant, false or misleading information in place of medically accurate sex education.  Or, put bluntly and without political correctness: All but a tiny minority (3.6%) of Texas schools are helping their teens get pregnant either by lying to them about sex or by teaching them irresponsible, proved-to-fail sexual practices.

What makes this news especially difficult to swallow is that “An August 2004 Scripps Howard Texas Poll found that 90 percent of Texans support ‘teaching students with age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education that includes information on abstinence, birth control, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases'”(.pdf p.3). Thus, the Texas schools are going against the wishes of the vast majority of Texans in providing kids with irrelevant, false or misleading information on sex.

The report, which is titled, “Just Don’t Say Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools”, relates several specific findings, including the fact that “most Texas students receive no instruction about human sexuality apart from the promotion of sexual abstinence”.  Abstinence only sex education has time and again been demonstrated to fail, yet it remains popular purely for political reasons.  It consists of teaching children the only way to deal with their sexuality is to abstain altogether from having sex.  Ninety-six percent of Texas schools teach abstinence only.

To make matters worse, “materials used in Texas schools regularly contain factual errors and perpetuate lies and distortions about condoms and STDs” (.pdf p.17).  Many of the lies and distortions can be traced back to two specific organizations: The Heritage Foundation and The Medical Institute (formerly The Medical Institute for Sexual Health).  Both are polically involved, socially conservative organizations (.pdf p.22) whose credibility outside of conservative circles is widely questioned.

The sort of lies being told Texas school children include (in varying school districts):

• “A young person who becomes sexually active at or before age 14 will contract an STD before graduating from high school. This is no longer the exception, but the rule.”

• “Out of 100 sexually active women, if a condom is used, 14 of the women will experience an unintended pregnancy during the course of one year.”

• “Although lab studies have demonstrated that latex condoms block the entry of the AIDS virus, there is no scientific evidence that they do so during intercourse.”

• “Ladies, you contract chlamydia one time in your life, cure it or not, and there is about a 25 percent chance that you will be sterile for the rest of your life.”

• “The divorce rate for two virgins who get married is less than 3%.”

• “If a woman is dry, the sperm will die. If a woman is wet, a baby she may get!”

Wiley and Wilson found that over 40 percent of Texas school districts teach “factually incorrect” information (.pdf p.25).

As if it were not bad enough for Texas schools to teach abstinence only sex education and then, in many cases, proceed to substitute lies for truths, Wiley and Wilson also found that “Shaming and fear-based instruction are standard means of teaching students about sexuality” (.pdf p.27).

Notably, many of the curricula materials seek to link sex to death:

• “FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE TO ENGAGE IN SEX NOW IS LIKE PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH ALL BUT ONE CHAMBER FULL” (emphasis in original).

• “WARNING! Going on this ride could change your life forever, result in poverty, heartache, disease, and even DEATH” (emphasis in original).

• “You’ve found this girl you love, I mean this is it, all those other girls, they were just messing around. This is the real thing. Pull out that diamond, look her in the eyes, if you’re really cool guys you get on your knees, you say marry me, by the way I’ve got genital warts, you’ll get it too, and we’ll both be treated for the rest of our lives in fact you’ll probably end up with a radical hysterectomy, cervical cancer, and possibly death but marry me.”

When not equating sex with death, some of the materials used in Texas schools attempt to denigrate sexually active youth:

• “Destructive behaviors such as violence, dishonesty, drug abuse and sexual promiscuity arise from a common core—the absence of good character.”

• “‘No one wants food that has been passed around. Neither would you want your future husband or wife to have been passed around.'”

The poor quality of sex eduction in Texas comes with several price tags.  Perhaps the most obvious is the economic cost of an exceptionally high teen birth rate.  According to an analysis (.pdf) by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, teen childbearing in Texas cost taxpayers at least $1 billion in 2004.  Fifty-five percent — or at least 550 million dollars — of those costs were picked up by the Federal Government.  That is, paid for by all American taxpayers.  It seems ironic that a deeply conservative state is, in effect, on the public dole largely because of its irresponsible educational practices.

When all is said and done, Texas was not the worse state in the nation for teen births in 2006, but only the third worse.  However, Wiley and Wilson’s extremely thorough study has put Texas in the spotlight.  At the very least, Texas is now the textbook case for the failure of abstinence only sex education to prevent or even significantly reduce the teen birth rate. For no matter what else can be reasonably concluded from the Just Don’t Say Know study, it can be reasonably concluded that abstinence only sex education doesn’t work.

Adolescence, Children, Courtship, Family, Fatherless Children, Fatherless Daughters, Fatherless Girls, Health, Marriage, Relationships, Talents and Skills, Values

Reflections on Fatherlessness by Marleen

Dear Reader:  Marleen lost her father at an early age.  In the following article, which she has written for this blog, she sensitively and with deep insight discusses both what that loss meant to her and what such a loss might mean to anyone.  She will be following the discussion of her article, so please feel free to offer her any observations you might have and ask her any questions that occur to you.  – Paul Sunstone

My father died when I was twelve years old, after having had cancer for about a year.

At that time, when I was still young and my father’s illness seemed unfortunate but also “just a fact” (because it overcomes the child), this great loss seemed as something unreal. It felt unreal because it happened to me, and something like that could not really happen to me. Because the world is good and fair, isn’t it?

This sudden loss led to a shocking change in world-view, where the world felt no longer safe. Hence, we might say, that the sudden loss of a parent may lead to a loss of certainty in the world. A certainty that is not only a trust that life in general is good and to be trusted, but also the certainty that people who love you will accept you for who you are and that they will stay.

Is the father, and the presence of the father, not a symbol of safety and certainty for a young girl? Is her world-view not grounded in the relation she has with both of her parents, and does the loss of a parent not permanently damage the trust she has in the world in general?

As a child, one might think: “If my father can leave me or die, anything can happen. Anything! My mother can die, my sister and brother…even I can die.”

A confrontation with this reality, with mortality and finitude at an early age, must influence a child’s relation with its environment.

And what can be said about women whose fathers left them when they were young, through divorce or the inability or unwillingness to take care of them? In both cases, we might argue that the loss of a father (in the sense of a withdrawal of his presence permanently or for a long time), not only shakes her world, but can also be decisive for the men she will choose to date or marry in her adulthood.

Human beings often have the tendency to repeat childhood-patterns, however constructive or destructive they might be, because they are trusted and save. The ego prefers the well known, and hence a woman might choose to date or marry men who are either emotionally unavailable, or who would eventually leave them (or the women might sabotage relationships, so that the men will indeed leave them, as their fathers did).

But as I remember, at the time of my father’s death, the sadness and confusion did not primarily originate in the loss of my father as an individual (that came later), but more – as I said before-  due to the shock that that could happen to us, to our family and to him, in the first place. Is it possible that children think that losses are their own fault, because they are or were not “good”? How responsible do children feel for the loss of a parent? These questions kept me occupied, and when I got older, and when I started to have more insight into my father’s terminal process, mourning really hit me: he knew he was dying, and that he would never see us grow up, graduate from high school and university, and that he had to let go. This insight caused me much grief, because it confronted me with my imperfections and weaknesses as a child and as a daughter. Even though I was only 12, I did nothing to help him; I just had to watch him suffer and die. This strong man was reduced to a weak individual that needed constant care. And I was totally powerless; there was nothing that I could do. Therefore, in a certain sense, the loss of a father at an early age might induce guilt in both male and female children, because they themselves are confronted with a deep sense of helplessness that cannot be overcome by means of any act.

I am curious to know how these kinds of cases can influence developing-women’s psychology. A woman whose father was absent and who had left her might always wonder why, and assume she was not worthy of his love, not worthy for him to stay. A young girl who loses her father through death, might -illogically- wonder why he left her also ( illogically because he did not willfully leave his family) , and will have to accept her helplessness in the whole situation. She cannot fight him, blame him, or ask him to come back. It seems that the loss of a father could cause a great shift in a woman’s world-view and self-esteem. Without the acknowledgment and warm acceptance of a father (or father-figure) in a woman’s youth, she will never learn that she is fundamentally good and acceptable as a woman, for who she is. A father loves his daughter because she is his daughter. She is accepted and loved for who she is, for the fact that she is. Most likely, the young girl will seek that approval, love and care with other father-figures, or in other “symbolic” father-figures and will project this need onto her future partners.

I myself was not aware of my behavioural patterns until recently. Not only did I seek men who were in some way emotionally unavailable, but I also sought men who could protect and rescue me (I dreamed of the one great love, who was strong and protective).  Additionally, I sought to escape myself with the hope of finding a complete safety and certainty in a man’s arms. Not realistic perhaps, but this behaviour was caused, I am certain, by unconscious motives. Perhaps we might even say, that I tried to “fix” something that I was not able to do or complete with my father. I wanted to get the balance straight, to heal the imbalance of our relation at the time of his death.

It is a fact that children are often excluded from the terminal or death-and-dying process, in order to protect them. But, it is crucial for children to be close to their parents when they are dying, and to be able to give their parent their love and attention, only if it is by means of sheer presence (but I must agree this depends on the child’s age). This, for the healing of the child him/herself; sometimes children have difficulty accepting that they were helpless, and could not help mommy or daddy.

I wish that somebody had told me, that I was not to experience any great loss, or mourning, until my late 20’s. Children quite easily seem to be capable to move on with their lives, but this is also a consequence of their mirroring how adults cope with mourning and death. If everyone pretends that life “just moves on”, then life will “just move on” for the child…as if it is something that is expected.

Also, I wished someone would have told me that my father’s loss would influence and guide me for the rest of my life, that it would influence my choice of boyfriends, that it would influence how I felt about life and the fairness of life, how it would influence how I saw myself in relation to men, authority figures, and to ambition and a future career.

It is sometimes written that fatherless women have less self-confidence than women who did not lose a father at an early age, and in general, I cannot agree more. Sometimes these women might think that “it happened in the past”, and that it is therefore not relevant anymore for her choices today. But this is where we make a mistake: we are, in a way, what we were taught and what we experienced in childhood. Our attachment-structures were created then, and are very hard to alter in adulthood. Hence, awareness of our loss, and how it might influence us, can be fundamental for developing control over our lives, and for developing a healthier self-esteem and self-love.

But, something beautiful and fruitful can also develop from these early losses. We see in the history of humanity, that many individuals who lost a parent at an early age were instigated to seek their approval in the external world. They projected their need for approval onto society in general, and in the acceptance of men they respected. Many of the world renowned writers, poets and thinkers lost parents at an early age, and this could have been a reason why they sought to transcend themselves and their own intellectual and spiritual boundaries: they sought to overcome the longing for a deep approval and acceptance by means of a shift from a lost father to a “symbolic father”, found in society in general or in the authority of perceived superiors, such as mentors, teachers, great scholars or great poets, which not only led them to great achievements, but also to an enrichment of their own lives, and of the lives of others.

Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Authenticity, Authoritarianism, Children, Culture, Ethics, Family, Liars Lies and Lying, Marketing, Sexuality, Sexualization, Society, Usha, Values

The Dangerous New Stereotypes

Earlier this morning, I had the pleasure of reading a post by Usha on her blog Agelessbonding that was typical of her in being a stimulating work of literature.  Usha is one of those many people on the net who makes you wish we all lived within walking distance of each other, just so you could drop by now and then for a cup and an exchange of views.  Friday, she wrote an elegant post about stereotypes that I responded to at such great length she surely by now suspects I have attempted to write a Russian novel in her comments section. But I couldn’t help it.  Her post was inspiring.

So what does she say?  Well, I will briefly outline that here.  She approaches the subject by discussing a few of the stereotypes she grew up with.  Specifically, the notion “suffering is the sure path to glory”; the notion extreme “sacrifice and self-abnegation” are our path in life to all we want; and the notion stepmothers are always wicked.  She then concludes with the remarkable observation that, while those old stereotypes largely arose from the people or the folk themselves, today’s newer stereotypes are just as likely to be the intentionally exploitative creations of one or another huge dollar industry.

That observation set me back me with its implications.  No one is really pushing the notion that all stepmothers are wicked these days, but billions of dollars are thrown into promoting contemporary stereotypes — such as the surprisingly ugly notion there is only one standard — perfect and eternal — for female beauty.   We might as individuals rail against such BS.  We might point out — as one of the commentators on this blog did yesterday — that, “Women are fascinating creatures no matter what age.” But how are we really to succeed in a media war where the other side shows up with billions of dollars to spend on advertising their exploitative fashion dogma?

Of course, stereotypes sometimes serve an useful purpose.  The stereotype that political extremists are crazy crackpots might not be perfectly true, but it is certainly true enough about those extremists who happen to be Right-Wing or Left-Wing authoritarians.  And the stereotype that they are crazy crackpots is a much easier thing to communicate to someone than the seven distinct ways in which authoritarians are extraordinarily poor and unrealistic thinkers.  But the moral of both the stereotype and the reality are the same: Only a fool would trust an authoritarian with power.

Yet the fact some stereotypes can serve a useful purpose doesn’t ameliorate those many stereotypes that are obnoxiously dangerous.  For instance, the pernicious stereotype that 50-something men who hang out with much younger women only do so to get them naked is an especially disgusting example of a completely silly stereotype.   The truth is, we 50-something men want our much younger friends to engage in the political process and vote — preferably while naked.  But I raised a more important example of an obnoxiously dangerous stereotype on Usha’s blog this morning.

One stereotype that particularly goads me is the heavily promoted notion that “cool kids affirm casual sex while losers don’t”.  I am extremely liberal in some of my sexual views, but that sort of nonsense appalls me precisely because it tries to emotionally blackmail every kid into compliance with it.  That is, it leaves no room — it grants no positive self-image — to those many kids who would actually betray themselves by adopting a casual attitude towards something they naturally take in earnest.  Instead, it labels them “losers”.

The notion those kids are losers is rampant in popular culture these days.  It is false.  It is dangerous.  And it is heavily promoted by the entertainment industries.

Some of the most vital things a teenager can do is figure out, as much as possible at those ages, what their values are, where their strengths and weakness lie, and how they can be true to themselves in a socially responsible manner.  Those are vital things for a teenager to undertake.  And they simply do not need billions of dollars poured into confusing them about their values, their strengths and weaknesses, and what it means to live authentically.  Even if those billions are not intentionally targeted at confusing them on precisely those existential points, existential confusion is the inevitable result of selling anyone on the notion they should fit some procrustean bed of what a “cool kid” is.

Sadly, I agree with Usha that, while “In earlier times it was society that had a stake in creating and sustaining stereotypes…today it seems to be a multi-billion dollar industry. And perhaps that is what…make[s] these [new] stereotypes that much harder to reject.”  For, really, how much can we do to counter the greedy, exploitative corporate stereotyping that is going on all around us?   Over the entire course of our lives, our voices are unlikely to reach even a fraction of the people just one MTV video reaches with a single airing.  What’s the solution, then?

Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Children, Family, Health, Sexuality, Sexualization

TV Sex could be Linked to Real Teen Pregnancies

According to a study scheduled to be published today in Pediatrics, adolescents who watch a lot of TV “featuring flirting, necking, discussion of sex and sex scenes” are slightly more than twice as likely to become involved in a pregnancy than are adolescents who don’t watch as much TV sex.

The study tracked 718 sexually active 12 to 17 year olds for three years, between 2001 and 2004, and found the likelihood of getting pregnant, or getting someone pregnant, increased steadily with the amount of sexual content a teen viewed.  About 25 percent of those who watched the most sexual content (90th percentile) were involved in a pregnancy compared with about 12 percent for those who watched the least (10th percentile).

“[Other] studies have found a link between watching television shows with sexual content and becoming sexually active earlier, and between sexually explicit music videos and an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. And many studies have shown that TV violence seems to make children more aggressive. But the new research is the first to show an association between TV watching and pregnancy among teens.” (Washington Post)

Ninety-one of the 718 teens, or about 13%, were involved in a pregnancy during the course of the three year study, which was conducted by researchers led by Anita Chandra at the Rand Corporation.  The researchers suggest that “Parents may be able to mitigate the influence of [TV] sexual content by viewing with their children and discussing these depictions of sex.”

Although this is only a single study — as well as the first of its kind — I find it interesting for at least two reasons.  First, it adds to a huge and growing body of evidence that suggests TV viewing can have all sorts of undesirable consequences — especially for children.  In many respects, most societies have treated television carelessly.  But it does not seem at this point that TV programing and advertising are quite as benign as we might wish.

Second, the study took into account factors such as wanting to have a baby, having only one parent, or engaging in risky behaviors, but it unfortunately did not take into account the possible influence of sexuality eduction on the teens.

By “sexuality education”, I mean comprehensive sexuality education.  We already know that abstinence only sexuality education does not work under any circumstances.  But it would be interesting to learn if comprehensive sexuality education, which has been shown to be generally effective in reducing pregnancies, remains effective even with teens who view a lot of TV sex.  If it does, that is all the more reason to make comprehensive sexuality education available in an age appropriate manner to every child and adolescent.

Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Adolescence, Adolescent Sexuality, Blog Awards, Child Sexuality, Children, Courtship, Dr. Karen Rayne, Education, Family, Health, Love, Marriage, People, Relationships, Science, Sexuality, Sun Mountain Award, Teacher, Wisdom

A Sun Mountain Award for Dr. Karen Rayne at Adolescent Sexuality

As many of us know these days, the United States leads the Western world in nearly every category of adolescent sexual problem, including unwanted pregnancies, abortions, out of wedlock births, partner abuse, rapes, and STD infections.  It’s a disturbing picture.  Moreover, it’s pretty much up in the air at this point whether anything meaningful will be done about it.  That’s largely because there is strong ideological and cultural opposition in the US to implementing the solutions that are already known to work best.

Surely, those solutions do not include telling adolescents little more than to abstain from having sex.  In the first place, only a quaint minority of teens will take that advice.  In the second place, the majority of teens who don’t will all too often behave unwisely because we failed to share with them our knowledge and wisdom.  Yet, despite all that, abstinence only sexuality education remains a very popular pseudo-solution to dealing with adolescent sexual problems.  It is highly controversial in many parts of this country to teach teens anything else.

Indeed, abstinence is so highly praised in the United States that even those of us who oppose only teaching teens to abstain from sex are usually quick to say teens should still be taught abstinence as the preferred method for dealing with their sexuality.   “Abstain first, and have sex only as a last resort.”

It seems very few of us want to tell teens having sex can be a positive experience.  One of those few is Dr. Karen Rayne.  For that reason, Dr. Rayne’s blog, Adolescent Sexuality, is in it’s own way among the more courageous blogs I’ve come across on the net.

Dr. Rayne is an educator who, in her off line life, specializes in teaching human sexuality to people of all ages.  She has focused her blog, however, on providing the best possible help and advice to parents in dealing with their teenage children’s sexuality.   That is, her blog isn’t for teenagers so much as it’s for the parents of teenagers.  And it is surely one of the most helpful blogs such a parent could find.

I find her advice insightful, balanced and wise.  Some of us might be scandalized by the notion that sex — under the right circumstances — can be a positive experience for their teen, but I am not.  To be sure, I might have been scandalized by that notion as recently as fifteen years ago.  But that was before fate led me to make the acquaintance of scores of teens.  Today, I am because of those teens in fundamental agreement with Dr. Rayne.   Most teens are going to have sex by the end of their adolescent years, and those teens need to know how to best manage their sexuality.

Dr. Rayne’s blog is wide ranging.  She deals with just about every aspect of adolescent sexuality, and never seems to exhaust the subject.  She avoids writing technical jargon and instead writes for a general audience. Her advice is based both on research and field experience, and seems quite practical.  For those and other reasons, I am ruthlessly inflicting on her the Sun Mountain Award in appreciation for an outstanding blog.