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Pure As the Driven Slush (Personal Journal)

November 7th, Two Thousand Two

Subj: Save 30% on "Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids" by Meg Meeker
Date: Wednesday, November 6, 2002 11:36:52 PM
From: book-news@amazon.com
To: hcorinna@aol.com

Dear Amazon.com Customer,
We've noticed that many of our customers who have purchased "The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality: An Essential Handbook for Today's Teens & Parents" also enjoy books by Meg Meeker. For this reason, you might like to know that Meg Meeker's "Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids" is now available. You can order your copy at a savings of 30% by following the link below.

In this fact-filled but overheated report, pediatrician Meeker cites medical studies and her own clinical experience to argue that adolescent promiscuity has led to skyrocketing rates of sexually transmitted disease and increased depression and suicide among the young. Spicing up her statistics with...

To learn more about "Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids," please
visit the following page at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/089526143X/ref=mk_pb_tsa

Sincerely,

Ben Reese
Editor
Amazon.com




Dear Mr. Reese,
It appears my email address was added to a mailing list of yours which gave you the mistaken impression that I would like to receive religious and right-wing propaganda in my mailbox.

I'm not sure how it happened, but perhaps you have me confused with someone who would like to read work by an author whose tour appearances include visits to the 700 Club, and whose book is embraced with weeping madonna drama by such charming and credible souls as Dr. Laura Schlessinger? Books by an author who also scripted Restoring the Teenage Soul, which includes such "fact-filled" tidbits as: "We now have more than 25 significant STDs.  Before 1960, we had two ­ syphilis and gonorrhea. "

An interesting statement, considering that she chose to leave out mentioning granuloma inguinale, lymphogranuloma venereum, and chancroid as well as the fact that up until 1960 there were many other such diseases and infections but they were not RECOGNIZED AND NAMED until that time (but I'm not a doctor, so what the hell do I know). Tell me pubic lice didn't exist until 1960, and I'll tell you to go back to high school history class -- bring that before a medical board and see how long you keep your license. Chlamydia is a microorganism that has appeared in people and birds for ages. If Hepatitis didn't exist until after 1960, perhaps Dr. Meeker would care to explain how it was that in WWII, thousands of troops who were to enter yellow fever belts received a vaccine, one which was being stabilized by human plasma -- some of which came from HBV-infected donors. About 50,000 servicemen developed Hep B. Were they infected by some space-age time traveler from the future? According to Dr. Meeker, all we have to blame for these things -- in her selective history -- is "promoting teenage sexual promiscuity." Which, by the way, those of us who teach comprehensive sex-ed do all the time. Why I'd get tired trying to think of how many times in a day I say, "Hey there, wallflower! Get your ass out there and go get fucked! -- go on, it's good for you. All the cool kids are doing it. But don't forget to use a condom, and remember EACH member of the home and visiting football teams needs to use his OWN condom!"

Perhaps you thought I'd enjoy a book which includes a chapter titled, "Younger and younger: what statistics reveal about the age at which today's kids are becoming "sexually active," when any novice history buff over the age of 12 knows full well that given most people are no longer being married off at 13 or sold into child prostitution, teens today are actually often sexually active LATER than most of their ancestors.

Or, perhaps you thought I simply must find out that "the sexual freedom allowed by birth control and condoms promoted the rise of STDs." Which I appreciate, really. After all, it's important I know, in the interest of my work with public health, that there are apparently birth control methods and condoms jam-packed with viruses being spread around. To whit, statements like this support what we all SURELY know -- that feminism stuff sure ain't what it's cracked up to be.

Perhaps you were trying to do me a public service? Trying to inform me that in our current culture and administration, even doctors who appear to be fairly well educated cannot for the life of them simply state the actual facts and allow the rest of us to make what judgments we will, but instead feel compelled to take the facts and twist and turn them to meet ideologies to which we SURELY must subscribe, despite what we know about human history, the daily realities of the population being discussed and biology?

Really, there was no need. I am painfully aware of these things already. But thank you for thinking of me.

When a doctor who is so well-informed as to include in her book things very few people are aware of -- such as the immunological differences in teens which make STD and STI transmission more likely in that population -- states things like, "What we know right now is that what we've been doing for the past fifteen to twenty years, which is condom-based education, isn't working because STDs are on the rise," when, in fact, what's new in the last TEN years as the rates have been skyrocketing is that teens no longer GET information on condom use and other safe sex practices, it's pretty damned clear. Especially since we have reports in our hands which show that abstinence-only sex education is NOT WORKING, by such oh-so-questionable resources as the World Health Organization and SIECUS; studies such concerned parties as Dr's Laura and Meeker refuse to even look at, or give weight to because family values are simply more important than sound healthcare and medicine. Jerry Falwell tells us so. When an educated woman says, "I think people believe that abstinence programs are run by people who aren't informed of the medical facts -- which is certainly not true -- and [by] people who believe that sex is a bad thing, which also isn't true," when, in fact, most abstinence programs are NOT run by people with any background or current information in STD/STI transmission or human sexuality and abstinence funding REQUIRES they not discuss those items, I am all too aware. Abstinence-only or abstinence unless married programs, to receive federal funding (now in the millions, annually, a sum comprehensive sex-ed never came close to getting), MUST teach that:

  • abstinence is the only option for unmarried people.
  • sex outside of marriage is mentally and physically harmful.
  • abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Recipients of federal abstinence-only program money must agree not to provide any information that is inconsistent with the abstinence-until-marriage message. Therefore recipients often:

  • provide no information about condoms or other contraceptives except to mention their failure rates.
  • ignore topics including HIV and AIDS, STD and STI transmission, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population issues, and abortion.

"Sex Respect, [a] popular abstinence-only curriculum that has been put to use in many a Title V-funded program, describes abortion as "killing the baby." The curriculum, written by Colleen Mast -- who also authored "Love and Life: A Christian Sexual Morality Guide for Teens" -- teaches kids that premarital sexual behavior can lead to anything from selfishness to death. "Even the practice of petting before marriage can develop negative habits that carry over into marriage," according to the curriculum, which also refers to AIDS as nature's way of "making some kind of a comment on sexual behavior." Sex Respect -- which has been the subject of two lawsuits that charged it provided medical misinformation and religious teaching -- also refers to homosexuality only in the context of AIDS." (http://www.salon.com/health/feature/1999/09/23/abstinence/)

To comply with funding for abstinence-only ed, schools are often simply required to purchase a "manual" for teaching -- like this one -- to be qualified to teach the subject. Given over 40 states have ZERO requirements or qualifications for teachers to teach sex ed, one is left to wonder how we're all wrong in thinking these folks probably don't have any background in what they're teaching, save a basic curriculum or manual. But can a teacher not learn everything they need to know to teach abstinence-based sex ed from such a handy 40-page manual as this, you ask? You bet they can.

How to respond to arguments against abstinence-until-marriage education -- the philosophy of abstinence education versus that of comprehensive sex ed -- practical advice on working with school boards to develop abstinence-until-marriage education policies. (From the manual's promotional page)

It's uncanny, really, how much sex education curricula can sound like a lay missionary manual. Who'da thunk it? But there it all is. Exactly what they need to know to teach abstinence-based sex ed.

Oh no, they aren't saying sex is a bad thing. Only if you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, intergendered, any other brand of queer, unmarried, nonmonagamous, kinky, using birth control, HIV positive, a heathen, un-American, or the like. For ALL the rest of us who aren't any of THOSE people, sex is just swell, especially since the advent of Viagra. Hell no, they aren't misinforming anyone! I expect to drop dead due to unmarried sex any day now. My pediatrician told me so. I can't tell you how hard it's been watching so many of my friends and lovers perish in this fashion.

If AIDS doesn't kill you, well you know... God will.

It's funny, really, my getting this email from you. You may be unaware that every day, over 5,000 teenagers worldwide come to visit Scarleteen.com, a comprehensive sex education site I have run for four years now. Every day, we talk one-on-one to handfuls of them on our message boards. Every day, I have the fine pleasure of seeing just how great a job the abstinence lobby is doing. What, between the endless lines of kids who are having anal sex and oral sex unprotected -- because you know, it isn't intercourse, so it must be safe, and do it safely? Safe sex? That's like... pulling out, right? -- to those who are wallowing in guilt and self-loathing because they're certain God will strike them down where they stand for having touched their own or someone else's genitalia, to parents who feel lost and helpless as to how to educate their children because, like this current brand of sex education, what they got in the fifties and sixties gave them NO real information, only value messages (and we all know how oh-so-very-low the rates of teen pregnancy were in the fifties -- when, in fact, they were far higher than they are right now) -- I know very well how influential abstinence-only sex ed is. I am also the child of an epidemiologist -- a person whose profession and course of study IS infectious diseases, and NOT merely general pediatrics. And who parks her religious beliefs at the door when she goes to work, because she's supposed to be a healthcare professional, not a minister. But then, as well all know, plop a "Dr." in front of someone's name and we all get to suspend our disbelief and believe they must be a Dr. in every possible subject they can address. In what other culture would a throng of people give credence to psychological "expert" advice from someone like Laura Schlessinger, whose doctorate is in PE, and who has stated numerous times she is accredited in a field (psychotherapy) in which she is not?

I know, too, that getting "accurate information" published without the value messages right now is nigh unto impossible, and I know this because in trying to sell a book of such over the last two years, I have never seen more publishers running for the hills terrified in my life. Dr. Meeker, on the other hand, surely had an easy time of it. After all, if in our book, we said, rather than "you can choose to be abstinent," instead, "You HAVE TO be abstinent or you will burst forth with pustules, die, then burn in hell... or bypass that by claiming to be a born-again virgin," we'd have a publisher faster than I could find a case of gonorrhea of the throat in a churchgoing beauty queen. Which is pretty darned fast.

If I have received this mail because years ago I purchased The Underground Guide to Teenage Sexuality: An Essential Handbook for Today's Teens & Parents (a book which is fairly lame, but which is based in comprehensive sex education) I am amazed to discover that you find this new tome related. But if you do, I certainly hope Dr. Meeker and her ilk will be receiving mail in turn pointing her oh-so-helpfully to, say Psychopathis Sexualis (which includes a few case studies on periodical insanity and dementia she may find of interest) or The Whole Lesbian Sex Book. Because I'd really hate to think I'm the only one who has received such helpful and apropos bulletins pertaining to what I'd enjoy.

With great affection,
Heather Corinna



(It is worthy of note that the review from Publishers Weekly provided in part in the email I received was cut off in just the right spot to make us think the review was largely flattering, when instead, it read entire: "In this fact-filled but overheated report, pediatrician Meeker cites medical studies and her own clinical experience to argue that adolescent promiscuity has led to skyrocketing rates of sexually transmitted disease and increased depression and suicide among the young. Spicing up her statistics with obscene rap lyrics and lurid reports of teen orgies and the high school "craze" for oral sex, she blames the usual suspects: post-60s permissiveness, the misguided equating of condoms with safety and sexualized media imagery in, for example, Cosmopolitan and Ally McBeal. In opposition to a "conspiracy" of sex-ed "bureaucrats" to "maintain sexual freedoms rather than prevent disease," Meeker advocates teaching teens to "postpone sex as long as possible" and, when they don't, to reflower themselves as "secondary virgins." In the end her advice to parents boils down to the age-old injunction to talk to their kids, with tips ("ask how he felt when he saw sex in a television show") that make this awkward task not much easier. On the other hand, forcing teenagers to read her unsparing and truly alarming descriptions of the ravages of venereal disease should kill their mood for quite a while. ")

I don't suppose I'll hear back from Amazon on this, but I did ask why I'd never received anything like this before and what the publisher or agent for this book was paying for this sort of targeted (in every sense of the word) promo spam. Because I have a very hard time believing it's randomly generated, as this particular comparison is a bit like saying, "We've noticed that many of our customers who have purchased "Necessary Illusions" by Noam Chomsky also enjoy books by Billy Graham." Uh huh.

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