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Jewish World Review Nov. 3, 1999 /22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Who needs 'birds and bees' when we have MTV? --
MY HEART'S AFLUTTER: MTV cares about our children's sexual health. And I care, deeply, about America's sense.

Maybe you missed it. Maybe you have a life and don't hug your TV every night. In such event, you may not have seen a recent special TV program - sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a California-based health care philanthropy, and MTV, the soft-porn purveyor preferred by teens - aimed at teaching your children about healthy sex.

Why don't we just invite Philip Morris over to talk to our kids about healthy smoking? Eat your veggies, carefully pick your genes, live in unpolluted areas and chances are, you won't get lung cancer. You can smoke like 50 million other Americans do; not a problem.

No thought is ever given these days to educating children about postponing sex, about not having intercourse for a few more years, about not putting themselves at risk for AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pregnancy, abortion, not to mention the life-long emotional repercussions that can accompany all of the above.

Instead, we effectively tell them: Do it. But do it like this.

The Kaiser-MTV program was touted as an educational event to fill the informational gaps that surfaced in a survey: "The Kaiser Family Foundation National Survey of Secondary School Students about Sexual Health Issues and Services: the Facts and More."

"Just Say No" would have made a pithier title - so much more economical, unless of course you're in the business of selling sex. Kaiser may not be selling sex, but MTV isn't selling tomatoes. I've seen more chaste behavior in barnyards than what streams across the screen during some of these music videos.

The survey randomly interviewed 1,012 public school students in grades 9-12 and found, for example, that:

46 percent didn't know you can get birth control pills without parental permission;

21 percent didn't know you can get condoms without parental permission;

21 percent didn't know that kids under age 18 can get free or low-cost family planning services (read: abortion); in some states, again, without parental permission.

If you're squirming right now, you're probably a parent. Consistently, the key message to children is, you don't have to tell your parents. You can have sex, get condoms, get birth control, get an abortion (excuse me, get "family-planning services") without ever having to tell Mom or Dad.

Why is this message so appealing to kids? Because children don't want to tell their parents.

Why? Because most parents think that children having sex is wrong. Why? Because it is.

Other things children don't know, the survey found, is that emergency contraception is available (read: the morning-after pill). "One in two high school-age girls (52 percent) do not know emergency contraceptive pills are taken after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy."

What an oversight. By all means, let's not fail to mention every possible "solution" to stupidity rather than suggest "thinking," "being responsible," "planning your life."

Forgive me for being a mother, but if MTV really wants to help kids deal with healthy sex, they might set a new standard. Insist that people in music videos put on some clothes and stop behaving like animals in rut. I realize that's not going to happen; sex is too lucrative.

It's also dangerous, not just because of the physical consequences but because kids by definition shouldn't be doing what adults do. They have no clue about the emotional/psychological ramifications because no one's telling them.

And likely no one will. Such are the importunities of parents, and as MTV and Kaiser make so clear, children need not talk to parents anymore.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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