Okay, last week's topic was suicide, and for this week I promised something lighter. So here we are: teenage sex.
I seem to be in global comparison mode lately, seeking out indexes that rank countries in various ways. Global indexes are blunt-force data and, as such, present an irresistible temptation to do some baseless hypothesizing, which I did quite a bit of with the suicide tables. Ideally, data should lead us to conclusions, but there are people who approach data with their conclusions already drawn, like gunfighters waiting in ambush.
I'm one of those people.
Here's some data.
Percentage of Dutch teenagers between 15 and 17 whose parents allow them to have their steady girlfriend or boyfriend spend the night with them: 72%. (This excludes Muslim households.)
Percentage of American teenagers between 15 and 17 whose parents allow them to have their steady, etc.: approximately 16%.
And, you may ask, so what?
The "so what" is (are) more data, some of it (them) pretty startling.
The teen pregnancy rates for the Netherlands: 11.8 per thousand. For the U.S., it's 72.8 per thousand, or more than six times as high
The teen birth rate for the Netherlands is 4.8 per thousand. In the U.S., 42.5 per thousand or nine times higher.
The teen abortion rate for the Netherlands is 7.8 per thousand. For America, 19.8, or nearly three times higher.
The HIV rate for the Netherlands (in the general population) stands at 0.2%. In the U.S., it's 0.6%, or three times as high. I admit that this is a dicey statistic, given the various modes of HIV transmission.
But this isn't. The ratio of gonorrhea infection among American teens is thirty-three times higher than it is among their Dutch counterparts.
The teen Chlamydia infection ratio is nineteen times higher here than in the Netherlands.
And on and on and on.
So here's the point toward which I'm bending all this data. Those Dutch parents who are okay with sweetheart sleep-overs reveal an attitude toward sex that is more accepting, more natural, less censorious, and less Puritan than that of most of their American counterpoints.
Puritanism is a blight on the American psyche. The apparently unending reverberations of our Puritan and fundamentalist heritage have warped the national character to the point where our horrific attitudes about sex -- attitudes that literally baffle most of the rest of the world -- endanger our children. They've mandated the banning of great books and the creation of the most insane censorship code ever imposed on the motion-picture industry, resulting -- I think -- in the glorification of violence because sex was taboo. They lead us to vote for brainless pencilnecked peckerwoods whose only qualification for public office is that they keep it zipped and pledge to distort the entire science curriculum to bar apes from the family tree.
I was in Asia -- Thailand, China, and Japan -- during the Lewinsky incident, and people kept asking me what the fuss was about. In their eyes, America was close to overthrowing one of the world's most charismatic and effective leaders because -- well, because he was a man. Mirabile dictu -- think of that. A man. And, of course, as we learned later, much to the laughter of Asia, many of those who were leading the witch-hunt (Newt Gingrich among them) were similarly sinful. Little hypocrisy there? Of course, if America were sane on the subject of sex, the hypocrisy would have been unnecessary.
Puritanism is fundamentalism. Fundamentalism encourages knee-jerk reactions and discourages rational responses - although, if I believed a Supreme Being gave us the power of reason, I would also believe that implicit in the gift of reason would be the obligation to use it.
I know this has crossed the border into rant territory, but those statistics make it clear (to me) that Puritanical attitudes toward sex are physically endangering tens of thousands of young people every year -- not to mention the emotional damage. I also know that this is a classic example of whistling in the wind.
It's not much lighter than last week's post, either. Next week, I promise.