Purity in Mississippi

Purity in Mississippi April 9, 2014

From the LA Times:

Marie Barnard was delighted when, after decades of silence on the topic, Mississippi passed a law requiring school districts to teach sex education. But the lesson involving the Peppermint Pattie wasn’t what she had in mind for her sons.

The curricula adopted by the school district in Oxford called on students to unwrap a piece of chocolate, pass it around class and observe how dirty it became.

“They’re using the Peppermint Pattie to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she’s had sex — that she’s been used,” said Barnard, who works in public health. “That shouldn’t be the lesson we send kids about sex.”

At first I thought the story was referring to Peppermint Pattie the character. I don’t think the world is ready for “The Peanuts Guide to Sex Ed.”

But no, this is even worse. With one of the worst teen pregnancy rates in the country, Mississippi has chosen to teach sex ed with a method that not only doesn’t work, but actually degrades all the people involved.

The article makes it clear that school boards refuse to consider any method that doesn’t conform to community standards. But the teens are aware of those standards, and yet there’s this:

Regardless of what schools teach, there is still a powerful culture in Mississippi that celebrates teen pregnancy, said Ashley McKay, the head of Tunica Teens in Action, a nonprofit group that works with Delta-area teenagers. Teenage girls have photo shoots of their pregnant bodies, and 15- and 16-year-olds have competing baby showers.

I don’t know that “safe sex” lectures are going to change this culture, but it’s obvious that abstinence lectures are backfiring. The idea that using more insulting analogies to describe young women or showing more disgusting picture of advance stages of STDs is going to turn things around seems naive.

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