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September 05, 2008

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I agree that it is not only the abistinence only "learners" that are getting pregnant at 15, 16 and 17 However in the case with Sarah Palin, I believe that if you are in a position to preach and preach you do, you should also be prepared to teach. I agree with a previous post about her head being stuck in the sand.

As for teenagers and their sexual ways, it is part of growing up, and with today's society, whether it be from Disney 1950's view or the hormones in today's diet, kids are growing up faster than ever, physically, sexually, and emotionally. But from an education stand point, a 5th grader is still a 5th grader even if she wears a 34B. I believe that education at home, in the classroom and wherever it can be taught should be, and if we do not prepare our children for the what-if's of tomorrow then shame on us. If we are reading these blogs...we do know better.

I wish someone had told my teenage self that having sex in no way makes you "accepted" by boys.

I was awkward and desperately wanted to be one of the "pretty girls" who had a boyfriend.

I think somewhere in my brain I thought if I had sex with boys, it meant I was one of the pretty girls.

Or maybe that I was better than the pretty girls. I didn't need a boyfriend. I could just have sex.

No one. Not my parents, no one addressed this fallacy with me.

Great points. My daughter is really into the princesses right now as well. Another thing that really bothers me about them, and Barbie, and most of the other dolls, is that they all have 23" waistlines and 38" bust lines. Seriously -- no one actually looks like this, do they? Yet another thing that bothers me is Disney's issue with mothers, since they are all killed, leaving only the evil stepmothers.

Oh, and I also highly recommend The Ordinary Princess. I grew up loving Barbie and Disney, but having a balance with books like that really made the difference.

So well said, Kristen! I'm especially happy to hear that you are concerned with raising your boy to respect women!

And I love Sarah's idea of changing the typical fairy tales around with updated ideals. Afterall, haven't those tales been around for hundreds of years? Maybe women and their goals have evolved some since then?

I stayed out of this as long as I could. I have strong opinions on very few matters, anti-depressants being the first one, and teenage pregnancy being another. Here's my thoughts:

http://www.momecentric.com/?p=727

Talking up abstinence without acknowledging things like desire, feeling sexy, sexuality, love and intimacy is a giant cop out, in my opinion. And these right wing conservative sanctimonious types? Hypocrites.

In my opinion. :)

My favorite "princess" book growing up was called "The Ordinary Princess" by M.M. Kaye. Its about her aunt casting an "ordinary" spell on her and she became a regular kid, making mistakes, doing regular things. I loved it, I read it a thousand times over. After adoring Cinderella and the rest, I found such comfort and possibly even a roll model. I didn't look perfect and I could relate to this princess for once. Anyway, excellent all around post about other issues as well. Just wanted to share that book.

You know, one of the differences between what we were told and what we have to tell out kids is that in this world, pregnancy is no longer the worst thing that can come out of uneducated, unprotected sex. Those choices now carry life-long side effects and potentially fatal disease. I think we do our kids a great disservice to believe that telling them not to do it is any kind of real sex education.

I struggle with these issues, too. I can't really shelter them from Princesses and Barbies and Hanna Montanas and High School Musicals. Those messages are out there. I can only talk to them about what our values are, show them by example, and hope for the best.

You don't need Disney Princess immersion to create that "happily ever after" (with a prince or equivalent) illusion.

Life is not about finding someone to spend it with. First and foremost, you have to be happy spending it with yourself.

One more thought...on the whole "Princesses" thing....

Have you ever read or heard of a book called "The Paper Bag Princess" ??

Check it out. Princess decides Prince is a dip and walks away.

I've told Girl Child (who is six) as a balance for all the happily ever after BS: "Unless you're standing on your own two feet, no Prince Charming can sweep you off of them."

I agree Karen, as I mentioned extremes in either circumstance don't work.

My issue with Abstinence ed, which is not the case with general sex ed programs is that there is no offered alternative.

With general sex ed programs, abstinence is still promoted as the only way not to get pregnant and not to get STDs.

Clearly, pregnant teens run the gamut in terms of what education they received. But there are trends, at least in my experience, as I so noted.

(I sound so professional). HAHA.

I think education is fine but, if kids aren't getting love or attention at home the WILL find it somewhere else. For a young teenage girl, it is in the arms of any young man who will have them. They are looking for their Prince Charming to take them away.

I think the most important part of this post is those !@#$!# princesses. My daughter caught the princess-fever at preschool, and even though I cherry-pick which movies she can see (thank you, Mulan) - there is only one ending to those movies, and such a ridiculous, disproportionate focus on "romantic" "love" in contemporary American popular culture. Like, there are no other goals as fulfilling as being with your one...true...love...

I would like to see a movie about a glamorous princess that develops an AIDS vaccine and stays home on Saturday nights with her feet soaking.

"And if you put that excitement in the hands of 17-year-olds who aren't educated, then you sometimes get a baby."

You just summed up the entire long winded liberal argument against abstinence education so perfectly.

And bravo for talking about the importance of raising a son with respect and an understanding of his role in this all. More people should follow your lead.

RE: sex ed in it's many iterations....

It could also be argued that unveiling the mystery so they have every last bit of education about sex can also lead to a baby.

I don't agree with abstinence-only education, but I don't think kids who get abstinence-only education are the only ones giving the teen mother statistics a boost.

My mother talked to me openly about sex and how it worked and a tiny bit about the desire part from the age of four up. She stressed very heavily the religeous side- no sex before marriage. Combine that with a father who openly talked about how reckless he was as a 'young GI'. So what happened? I made my own decisions based on what they both told me and the sex education I garnered from books and my school sex ed program (given at the horribly late age of 16!)

I believe in moderation. You need to teach kids early and teach them ALL of it. Insert religeon if that is your thing or don't. There can be no 'one way only'.

That being said, my mother was appalled when at the age of 23 I told her I had slept with my now husband because, "I wanted to see what all the talk was about." She said, "I DID NOT raise you to be that way."

My mom was upfront with us from puberty - in our family we believe in waiting until marriage for sex. BUT - if you are going to have sex just ask to be put on BCP and there will be NO questions, lectures, judgement. And she was telling the truth. When I did ask to go on BCP it was totally fine. Thank goodness, or I could have a ten-year-old right now.

It's all about being realistic, IMHO.
:) Becky

My parents weren't prudes, and we knew the basics about sex, but that was about it. There was nothing more adult than that "here are the facts of life" discussion.

When I moved away to Tunisia, and asked if my parents would foot the bill for a year's worth of contraceptive on their drug plan (I was 23 mind you), my mom dissolved into tears and said something along the lines of my turning into a loose girl who was going to go out and have sex with everyone I met. Now, I think that she was probably just upset about my moving away, but what it reaffirmed for me at the time was, don't ever insinuate that I might be having sex. In my 20s. God forbid! :)

I was raised in a home where sex was dinner time conversation, as were politics and sometimes religion. But the sex thing was always with in the context of marriage, or a discussion on the heartbreak that one friend was experiencing as a result of a bad sexual choice. There was nothing on how sex was bad, but how the consequences for its misuse were so devastating.

I still had sex before I was married, and I certainly struggled with my own ideas on what a good balance was. But I never had sex with anyone without a clear understanding of the consequences. So perhaps teaching that is the best we can do as parents.

I got a little confused by all your well-reasoned and eloquent opinions and ideas, but I think I caught a hint of something disturbing-- are you suggesting my kids won't be toddlers/preschoolers until I'm tired of it?

We had babies, not teenagers-- I hate teenagers! Why would I do that? I'm going to have to seek out a second opinion.

In this day and age, I think it's only responsible to educate our kids about sex. But like Undomestic Diva, I think there's a balance. It's a lot tougher growing up nowadays than when I was younger (and I'm only 33, geez... imagine what it'll be like in 25 years), and parents can't cling to the notion that "sex is bad, so let's not talk about it" (which is how a lot of us were raised) because let's face it, sex and sexuality isn't going anywhere. It's all over the place and I hope to use that as an opportunity to talk to my kids about it when the time comes.

All well put. Freedom to make informed decisions is great. I explored the edges of all the social rules, but I knew to keep near the edge. All in moderation.

Talk about sex until they blush, then a bit more (start by age 3)

Serve wine and water mixtures for special meals starting with teens

Don't heckle them for bad decisions or they'll never tell you again.

I think those that teach abstinence only and don't expand on it are just sticking their heads in the sand. Like a pp said, the DESIRE to have sex is just so extremely strong as a teen you're just fooling yourself if you don't educate and thus protect your children.

I have a feeling that Sarah Palin had her head stuck in the sand...

It may sound odd but I got almost all my ideas about love, sex, and relationships from old harlequin romance novels. My Gram was a subscriber and she'd pass around the books she'd finished. I didn't like them all; not all of the stories/"heroins" appealed to me; but the ones that did always featured strong women who were trying to figure out life and fell in love. Often with the guy who turns out to be different than first impressions imply. I'm damned glad to have read them when I did because those books set an enormously high standard for a man to raise to on a personal and sexual level.

It's one of our faves here, Juli!

You TOTALLY need to get the book The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. You would love it. It's a favorite here!

When it comes to sex and our children a friend of mine put it well when he said:

If you have a boy then you have to concern yourself with one penis. If you have a girl, then you have to concern yourself with EVERY penis.

LOL... I always got a kick outta the truth in that.

I like what you say here, "And it doesn't mean my kids won't end up needing years of therapy (which really isn't necessarily a bad thing)." -- it's just a little tiny bit of this post, and not even the point of this post, but important! Counseling is a really useful tool to maintain good mental health, images, whatever... and in a world where, as you said, we are literally bombarded with unrealistic social standards, it's easy to get lost.

My parents talked about sex and they gave us options and there was never any religious discussion with relation to sex and look! Five kids and no teenage pregnancies!

But I think it had more to do with a stable, reliable family environment than it did with how many times we talked about sex. My parents had us at the dinner table every night and we just couldn't handle the thought of betraying/letting down our family that way. None of us could. So we didn't.

Anyway, that's beside the point. My point was: the princesses.

My niece was super-absorbed in the princesses and it concerned my sister-in-law because of the unpragmatic fairytale ending and unrealistic expectations from life and not showing princesses going to college, etc.

So my sister-in-law made a couple of books and home videos of her own. For the books, the whole family illustrated the stories with alternate endings and told from alternate perspectives. We took examples from history - so in my husband's version of Sleeping Beauty, for example, she is the one who saves Prince Charming from the dragon and then she goes on to rule alone as a strong queen who doesn't need a king. She "married" her country and did what was just and fair, like Queen Elizabeth I. (You'd be surprised the sort of stuff kids understand). And in my brother-in-law's Little Mermaid, it was from the perspective of the frightened and concerned father Tritan whose daughter was making irresponsible choices running off with strange men. For the films, we dressed as princesses and paraded around and talked about going to college and crap like that. It felt super stupid, super super stupid, but you know what? It worked. Because the kid likes to laugh at me in a princess wig and prefers watching us look stupid than watching Cinderella.

So maybe something like that would work for you too? =) Good luck!

I love this post. I was raised in a very open household where my own mother offered to buy me a vibrator as a young teen when I started dating boys. She wanted me to know that sex was awesome but I should wait until I really cared about someone, not only for physical but also for emotional reasons. It was always SUPER embarrassing when we had the "sex talks" but i never felt inferior for being sexual and having sexual feelings and because of that I was open with her from the get. She knew when I was having sex, let my boyfriend sleep over (she'd rather it happen under her roof) and got me on the pill right away.

I would have definitely been the girl to get pregnant in High School if my parents had been any other way but open. But as it was, I had safe sex in High School. I plan to educate my kids openly in the same way. Even if it embarrasses the shit out of them.

Exactly! All of it- especially the Disney princesses!
BRAVO!
I so wish you lived in SC... then my daughter could play with your soon-to-be-born child... and we could have cocktails.

My parents didn't talk about sex, except to say "Don't do it." I'm pretty sure I would not have gotten the reaction (at least the one that is publicly being shown) that Bristol Palin is getting from my parents. I was out of the house and on my own (in college, where my parents weren't there to hit me, and where they didn't control my money) when my parents knew I was having sex. Besides the desire, I'm pretty sure there was some "fuck you parents" going on there!

We have a little boy right now, and are trying to show him different ways of living (DH is a SAHD, for instance) than one sees in the mainstream. Not that the mainstream is BAD, per se, but that it isn't the only way to live.

This is something that I wonder about and struggle with every day. I want my girls to be independent women who know what they want and know who they are. I also want them to have love in their life. What I don't always know is how to balance that with what they see in the world.

Yesterday when Nata said she wanted to be Hannah Montana when she "growd up", I cringed. It's hard to balance wanting her to fit in and wanting to keep them innocent. And there's no easy answers. I just want them to be happy to be them.

Also I married the first man I slept with, but I also dated him from 14 on. So I'm not really the best example for them, because it just happened that way for us.

Its interesting how just as many girls (if not more) get knocked up when they had the "abstinence only" education.

I certainly will talk with & already do talk with my children. They will know about sex and the ramifications of becoming sexually involved too young. They will also know how to protect themselves.
I fear my daughters will not have choice as an option when they grow up, all the better to inform them of all their options. It would be a sad day for me if my teenage daughter was to get pregnant by a "F'in Redneck" who tatooed her name on his finger... all because I gave her now options but "NO SEX".

I'm not trying to lose sight of the entire post, but I am going to dwell on the sex part of it: I think that parents tend to forget, it's not just about pressure and education and wating versus not waiting. There is a legitimate DESIRE to have sex. I remember watching a movie with my older brother about a brothel (he was fun like that) and I got HORNY! I think I was about 11 at the most. My parents were available to speak to openly about sex, but I never talked to them about it. I figured everything out on my own or with friends. I was dumb enough to have sex way too young, but I was smart enough to use birth control. I don't know what the magic combination is, but I would rather my daughter have protected sex at 15 then pregnant before 25. And I would prefer to never hear her utter the words "BUT I LOVE HIM!!!!" Ugh.

My parents viewpoint was that anything in extreme can be bad and to try moderation with everything. From religion to drinking to sex, this served me well growing up and is the course I plan on taking with my children.
I was lucky enough to have parents that talked to me and listened when I (or my friends) had really stupid questions. Maybe we were uncomfortable because they were parents, but they always told us the truth even if it was uncomfortable. I can only hope I do as well with mine.

You're a genius. Please tell me you're running a summer camp next year where I can send the goats to learn from your brilliance...?

I was raised Mormon and let me tell you, curiosity damn near killed this cat. And not just in regards to sex... there were so many rules and restrictions and preaching going on that before I turned 18 and ran from that chapel, I'm pretty certain I'd tried EVERYTHING.


It's always easy to say this, but finding some sort of balance is really important... letting the reigns have a little slack and knowing how far to take certain dialogues between parents and children.

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