- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 15, 2009

Part two of two

The massive health care reform bill in Congress contains a measure to spend $75 million a year on comprehensive sex education, under the heading of “adulthood training.”

This kind of education, which I am abbreviating as “sex ed,” enjoys broad support in the current administration and Congress, so if health care reform passes, sex ed should be part of it.

A warning shot across the bow, however, has been issued by Dr. Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist who spent 20 years counseling college students.

Her new book, “You’re Teaching My Children What? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Education and How They Harm Your Child,” is intended to challenge the “sex ed oligarchy.”

She specifically wants to smash the ideas that “sex trumps everything” in life, and “promiscuity, experimentation and fringe behaviors” are healthy.

WETZSTEIN: Seeking the best in sex education

The pandemic of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in America — in which one in four teenage girls has an STD — is “a direct consequence” of such vision and ideals, Dr. Grossman writes.

Rather than rehash the entire sex-ed debate, I offer some of Dr. Grossman’s examples of information she says is missing or downplayed in sex-ed programs.

• Having multiple sex partners is a proven health hazard, especially for females.

• Anal sex is at least 20 times riskier than vaginal sex, because of infectious germs in fecal matter, lack of natural lubrication and cell composition that favors absorption of germs.

• Teenage girls’ cervixes are immature and more vulnerable to infection compared with cervixes of older women.

• Female brains are different from male brains beginning at eight weeks gestation; thus gender differences are innate.

• Both men and women are hard-wired for close, lasting attachments.

• Female brains are bathed in estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin. Thus females are built to bond to a sex partner — and become disoriented and distressed by casual intimate encounters.

• Teens’ brains, especially when it comes to judgment, do not mature until the mid-20s. In unemotional (“cool”) situations, teens use their “thinking” brain and executive functions. However, in intense, novel and stimulating (“hot”) situations, they revert to their “feeling” brains, i.e., respond with spontaneous, risk-taking emotion, not logic (or classroom knowledge).

• It’s distressing for children to hear information they cannot easily assimilate into previously held beliefs. Explaining sexual intercourse and HIV to young children, for instance, likely will result in misunderstanding and confusion.

• The number of STDs has multiplied from two (syphilis and gonorrhea) to more than two dozen, including HIV/AIDS. What is “never, ever raised” in sex ed is the idea that the STD explosion isn’t over yet.

• An STD diagnosis often results in emotional anguish, regret and feelings of unworthiness, and may lead to depression or suicidal thoughts.

• Cases of oral cancer, anal cancer, anal herpes and anal warts are on the rise.

• Parents, not health care providers, have the biggest influence on their children’s behavior and beliefs on sex. (Thus, if parents are clear about why they want their children to postpone sex, the children usually respond.)

• Other proven ways for parents to protect their children from inappropriate sexual activity are to maintain close relationships with them, convey their religious beliefs, know their children’s friends and activities, and reduce their children’s opportunities for sexual encounters.

Meanwhile, Dr. Grossman’s prescription for modern sex ed is that it should (a) start over, from scratch, and (b) have one agenda — “keep kids free of unnecessary physical and emotional distress.”

When sex is exaggerated or misused in life, “it is hazardous,” she writes. “But with the right person and at the proper time, it is transcendent and life-affirming.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at [email protected]

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