Enemy of reason?

I had a wee bit of a twitter spat with Steven Baxter of the New Statesman last night. He had attracted quite a bit of opprobrium after suggesting that “Seven-year-old children should be taught to put a condom over Nadine Dorries’ face”.

That was plainly an attempt at humour, clearly in poor taste and several tweeters pulled up Mr Baxter on the violent and sexist undertones of his “joke”. Whilst checking out the resulting brouhaha (@stebax on Twitter), I noted that he had called Dorries’ views on sex education “dangerous”.

I therefore enquired what he meant by dangerous. It seems to me that if, as the writer for a national publication (although the New Statesman is hemorrhaging readers) you are going to call a certain viewpoint dangerous, then a certain amount of elaboration and explanation is necessary. Otherwise we can all go around smearing those who hold viewpoints as contrary to ours as “dangerous” in an attempt to discredit what are legitimately held views and close down any meaningful debate. If something is dangerous, then there’s a possibility that it could cause real, definite and lasting harm. I fail to see how not having sex until adulthood falls into this category.

I can’t quite work out how to reproduce screenshots from Twitter onto a Mac as other bloggers do (any technical help would be much appreciated) however here’s the conversation in full, I’m in blue:

 I’m trying to understand @Stebax ‘s notion that teaching teens not to have underage sex is somehow dangerous…

 It’s not ‘teens’ though, is it? It’s just girls.

so teaching girls that they can resist pressure (from many different sources) is “dangerous”? I agree boys should be included too. 

It is to focus on them in the way Dorries is.

but given girls bear the brunt of pregnancy, abortion, STDs, cervical cancer, then it’s hardly dangerous to focus upon them.

Everyone can resist pressure. That is not what is being advocated, and you know it.

what do you think is being advocated? Serious question.

OK, the reason why I said what I said was because I was implying that was your tactic.

No, I’ll start by asking you, then I can pick holes in your tweet. Off you go.

what we are talking about is SRE. Not just plain mechanics, or here’s how to do it “safely”. Abstinence *plus* approach. Google it.

Why abstinence though? Google ‘patronising’.

because there is no such thing as 100% safe sex. Because condoms do fail. 15% typical use failure rate. Hormonal contraception also.

so the only way to truly prevent pregnancy is not to have sex. Society with high rate of teen sex has high rate of teen pregnancies

There’s no such thing as safe life. All we can do is make it as safe as possible. People stuffed with hormones will fuck.

so we stuff teen girls still going through puberty full of synthetic hormones designed to simulate pregnancy? I know what is safer. 

The only way to stop people dying is to make sure they don’t cross the road. Which kills more kids than sex.

But as in my analogy, it’s safer for no-one to leave the house. But we will leave the house. We have needs.

sex is not a “need”, particularly for teens. If sex is a “need” does that act as a defence for rape, if a man isn’t getting any?

Oh, don’t do the ‘you just justified rape’ thing. That cheapens you completely. Disappointed in you.

I didn’t say that, don’t twist my words, I am asking how you quantify sex as a “need”. Let’s not do ad homs, it’s a logical stance.

You asked if I thought it justified rape. No, it doesn’t. Not at all. Is that clear? But sex is a need. And a lovely thing.

I agree on the latter. But what happens if a teen doesn’t have sex? What harm comes to them by waiting a bit? What are the risks?

 Nothing apart from seeing something natural as something wrong & forbidden.

so you agree now that abstinence as part of SRE not dangerous? Besides it doesn’t teach sex is wrong or forbidden, but appropriate.

think I love appropriate sex more than any other kind. And no, I don’t agree with you.

 but why is abstinence, i.e. not having sex, or teaching that kids shouldn’t be having sex, “dangerous”? Where is the “danger”?

so teaching kids sex best left til they can handle consequences is dangerous as it makes them think sex is wrong & forbidden?


all I’m trying to do here is unpack your notion that abstinence as part of SRE is dangerous. You need to define what you meant.

All I am trying to do is say that we should agree to disagree. I think it is, you don’t. OK, fine.

Fine. I’ve explained why abstinence is not dangerous, you don’t want to substantiate your assertion to the contrary. Understood 🙂

That’s a spectacularly passive-aggressive tweet. So well done for that. I think our discussion might be over.

Subsequent to this conversation, Steven Baxter was the recipient of several tweets stating that I was clearly a “loon” and “moron” and poor man, he had a difficult night and been misunderstood and I should really leave him alone. Perhaps I am a moron because I still don’t understand why he insists on calling abstinence inclusive SRE “dangerous”? Other tweeters picked up his cause and laid into Nadine Dorries. They may well have had a point, however, just because an individual may lack personal credibility it doesn’t automatically follow that her views are lacking. We should certainly engage and evaluate before writing them off and if they are going to be called “harmful” the harm should be quantified.

I am more than a little amused to have been rebuked for being mean and unkind to him, when it is clear that the aggression was not coming from my side. I asked him a reasonable question and was met with personal aggression for not conforming to his viewpoint.

Steven Baxter runs a website called the enemies of reason. How very ironic.

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