Strange Bedfellows, and Real Questions About Sex–UPDATED

Yes, Planned Parenthood counselors enthusiastically provide “sex-positive” advice to teens who ask. What’s more interesting to me is what kids are asking, and why.

I admit I was more bemused than outraged by the Daily Caller’s story on the release of Live Action’s latest Planned Parenthood sting video. In the past, LA has used actors and hidden cameras to catch Planned Parenthood workers appearing to violate laws or policy with regard to sex-selective abortions or procurement of a prostitute’s abortion by a pimp. These have brought attention to Live Action’s cause of defunding Planned Parenthood, but none has resulted in legal prosecution.

The video released today doesn’t touch on abortion at all, but instead makes the contention that Planned Parenthood, having received federal funding as a provider of sex education, is steering young people into risky behaviors and therefore betraying the public trust and harming children. This is pretty shaky grounds, as what is cheerily provided by the Planned Parenthood worker—suggestions for role-playing (including bondage), anal intercourse, and use of sex toys—is readily available where no sting is necessary to find it: on Planned Parenthood (and a million other) websites and Facebook pages, in public school health classes, on the pages of popular magazines, on unrestricted cable channels in prime time and daytime TV, on radio call-in shows, and more. Anybody who finds the advice shocking (as opposed to personally or morally objectionable, which is another thing entirely) has not been around teenagers, or the world, in a very long time. Rather than being denied or covered up, this latest Live Action video will be proudly claimed by Planned Parenthood and many, many more as evidence of success in the righteous fight to liberate young people from the patriarchal strictures of family and the puritanical oppression of faith.

The bemusing part of this story is how, quite inadvertently, Live Action gets some support from an unexpected direction. We hear from some Good BDSM Folks, who are quick to disassociate themselves from the best-selling, soon-to-be-a-movie 50 Shades of Grey (recommended to the faux 15-year-old by the PP counselor as a must-read, though not necessarily a must-do) as depicting abuse, not consensual activity. And then there’s this:

When asked for comment, Phil Derby, owner of the San Francisco BDSM club Citadel, said simply, “I will not talk about anything sexual with anyone under 18. It’s the law.”

Things have reached a pretty pass when Live Action and Citadel climb into bed together—as it were.

Here’s the thing. Shock is pointless. The narrative of Healthy Sex Is Anything You and/or Your Partner Want, Anytime, Anywhere, at Any Age, with Anyone As Long as You Don’t Get Pregnant (Unless You Are Wealthy, White, Educated, and Middle-Aged, in Which Case You Are Not Only Allowed but Entitled to Have a Child, by Any Means Necessary) is too prevalent and too insidious to evoke much outrage.

But there can still be questions, and this news leaves me with a few. Not so much Why would anybody tell a (supposed) 15-year-old this stuff?, but Why would a (real) 15- or 13- or 11-year-old ask—and they do, as part of a “routine” STD screening or not—how to handle the request of a 17- or 15- or 13-year-old partner to spice things up? How sad is it that in a sex-positive, anything-goes world, kids can be so burnt out that they need props and roles and porn before they’re old enough to drive? How can kids find honest, sex-positive answers that reflect their real value as persons, the real wonder of sexuality, the difference between abuse and love?

It’s a long, empty, sad life ahead for those burnt-out children, I think, unless we find their reality shocking enough to ask a few questions of our own.

_____

Update: At Public Catholic, Rebecca Hamilton talks to parents who are, or should be, shocked at a prescription of sex-with-pain.


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