Carrot not stick

*Reader discretion advised – this post contains discussion of an adult nature*

Fr Tim Finigan has blogged along similar lines to my post of the other day, detailing the type of material that could be used in schools, if the ‘Equal Marriage Bill’ is enacted into law. Teachers and parents who object to having detailed descriptions of  anal sex or homosexual practices on the curriculum may be compelled to accept it in the classroom or face legal consequences.

For those who haven’t the constitution to read about the ins and outs of ‘bum fun’, couched in gay street parlance (and to be fair this specific booklet is not aimed at schoolchildren, they would most likely get a watered down version minus some of the expletives), I’ve read it for you which required much clenching of cheeks alongside a dose of mind bleach. This is the trouble with viewing sexually explicit material. Visual images are extremely powerful, they burn and imprint themselves into the brain, you can’t actually ‘unsee’ them and this really isn’t something we want young impressionable children or teens to be seeing and automatically associating with sex. ‘Anal Play’ does not come without  considerable risks, listed at the end of this post.

Though diseases and injuries resulting from anal sex occur far more frequently in homosexual men, this practice is not restricted to men –  it is becoming increasingly mainstream and is prominently featured on the most popular adult heterosexual porn sites. This is a problem in that young men are now beginning to expect it as par for the course from their girlfriends; that teenagers are drawn to exciting, exotic and dangerous practices which make them feel more grown-up , is not a new phenomenon and teenage girls report that they are under increasing pressure to conform to sexual pressure not only in terms of engaging in activity, but also in terms of performance. Furthermore, some young men who are experiencing same sex attraction, whether fleeting or permanent, report feeling under pressure to experience anal sex in order to be ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ gays.

Speaking in an article for Jezebel (caution a soft porn image and graphic discussion) a popular online feminist journal, Hugo Schwyzer a Professor in gender studies, tries to explain the seeming rise in popularity of the practice, which seems to me to be a symptom of feminism, in terms of the record levels of anxiety that young women are experiencing and how cultural sexual expectations of females have increased considerably over a relatively short time. Women are routinely expected to undergo increasing amounts of physical pain (such as intimate waxing) and extreme dieting, in order to fulfil male ideas of beauty – that this extends to sexual practices is hardly surprising. But at least there is an admission that this a painful business along with the acknowledgement that it is this causation of pain that is most stimulating and satisfying to the male.

And more than any other sex act, anal simultaneously symbolizes both the capacity to push through suffering and the willingness to please. For a generation uniquely acclimated to pressure, anxiety, and pain, it’s little wonder that this once taboo act has become so celebrated, so popular, so expected. 

Almost invariably, the camera focuses on the young woman’s grimaces. More so than with any other sex act in mainstream heterosexual porn, in depictions of anal sex there’s an explicit connection between women’s discomfort and male arousal.

Is this really the authentic and joyful vision of sex that we want to be instilling into our children? An idea that has more to do with twisted, subverted desires and concepts of  pain, domination, control and submission than the idea of mutual self gift?

sex-ed

Discussion of sex and sex education is a total minefield for Catholics, not least because as I am painfully aware in writing this post, we don’t want to titillate, be  gratuitous, cause scandal or lead others astray. We know what we don’t want to see – like all parents, whether they admit it or not, we are disturbed by the idea of our children being given chapter and verse on sexual practices and techniques, which is wholly unnecessary. As John Paul II wrote in Love and Responsibility:

This is where the ‘culture of marital relations’ comes in and what it means. Not the ‘technique’ but the ‘culture’. Sexologists often put the main emphasis on technique, whereas this should rather be thought of as something secondary, and often perhaps even inimical to the purpose which it is supposed to serve. The urge is so strong that it creates in the normal man and the normal woman a sort of instinctive knowledge ‘how to make love’ whereas artificial analysis (and the concept of ‘technique’ implies this) is more likely to spoil the whole thing, for what is wanted here is a certain spontaneity and naturalness (subordinated of course to morality).  

But we are scared to discuss this for fear of appearing homophobic or even sexually repressed, whereas the reality is that it’s not as simple as worrying that this type of intimate sexual education may, to use the unfortunate term ‘gayify’ children, for which there really is no evidence, simply that we do not want to normalise or give tacit encouragement to a sexual practice that is as harmful to women as it is to men.Given there is a spectrum of sexuality, we do not want organisations such as the Terence Higgens Trust or any sex educators misleading children into thinking that a fairly common fleeting but intense same-sex crush is indicative of a fixed sexuality or that children should seek to define themselves in that way, or sexually explore those feelings.

Laurence England has written an extremely courageous post outlining an experience of sexual abuse as a youngster, which he believes contributes to his same-sex attraction – his abusers being little more than boys themselves. Teaching children about sexual experimentation is not only unnecessary, it also contributes to the hyper-sexualised culture and pressures that are placed upon teens, as well as encouraging them to experiment sexually amongst themselves. If children are taught that they should explore their emerging sexual desires, it logically follows that they may well enculturate other younger youngsters such as in Laurence’s case. It also makes life very difficult in terms of protecting children from exploitation by adults. The recent appalling cases of child sex rings in Rochdale and Oxford, whereby social workers ignored the fact that children were working as prostitutes, deeming them to have made their own sexual choices, stems from such a policy of mistakenly assuming that children and adolescents should have sexual agency. That Peter Tatchell deems it appropriate to lower the age of consent to 14 and has lobbied No 10 to this effect, is cause for concern. Why is a 13 year old able to consent to sex with a 16 year old but not a 19 or 20 year old? And of course that will be the next logical progression, if any such decriminalisation were to occur.

Rather than simply saying that we don’t want this type of material taught in schools, Catholics need to be able to explain why and that this is not born out of the dreaded homophobia or obsession with what other people are up to in the bedroom. Let’s take another fairly niche practice – BDSM, which can take many light or heavier forms. If there was a push to have this as part of the sex education curriculum, there would be an outcry. If educators took the view that people are inevitably going to try it, everyone has read 50 shades of Gray,  and so children may as well learn how to do it safely and consensually, we would rightly be horrified. It’s not that anyone is phobic of, or has hatred for those who wish to engage in fringe sexual behaviour, what folk get up to in the bedroom is their concern and theirs only, but the state should not be giving tacit encouragement to or promoting this in schools. After all the Terence Higgins Trust leaflet is aimed at those on the scene, why not continue to target those already engaged in sexual activity and give advice as to safety as required, instead of steering young people in that direction.

And why do schools need to make such a big deal about teaching sex anyway – by the time they’ve clinicalised it and endlessly discussed it and talked children into using hormonal contraception and condoms etc, no wonder it’s lost half its allure and fun and children then feel the need to go and try something bit stronger, more grown-up and edgier, whether that be anal intercourse, unprotected sex, multiple partners or group sexual activity.

contraceptives
Enough to give anyone a headache.

Some discussion of sex in schools these days in unavoidable and probably rather sensible. The question needs to be, what vision should we be presenting to children? The idea that sex-education can be morally neutral is a fallacious one. Sex education is always taught from an ideological viewpoint – an allegedly neutral stance which allegedly imparts only facts, is an ideological viewpoint in itself, leaving the decision as to when or whether to start sexual activity up to the individual. It is the moral relativistic stance of ‘whatever is right for the individual’. Children and adolescents possess neither the emotional intelligence, the wisdom or experience to make wise choices in a moral vacuum.  Even the so-called ‘relationship advice’ does not advise children other than to tell them that they should wait until they feel ready, which is meaningless. When are you ready to have sex? When you are ready to face the consequences that a baby might occur from such an encounter and both partners are ready to take on the responsibility of raising a child together.

But all in all carrot needs to accompany stick and carrot is generally a much better tactic in terms of motivating and encouraging people to reach their aims and goals, rather than a tactic that consists of scare-mongering, i.e. you’ll get pregnant, an STD and here are the harms caused both to your body and the environment by hormonal contraception…

Catholics and Christians are rather poor at presenting a positive vision of sexuality, instead appearing like a bunch of miserable party-pooping puritans out to spoil everyone’s fun. It all seems to be about ‘thou shalt not’, rather than the beautiful, authentic, joyful, wonderful vision of sex, love and sexuality by our faith. We should be shouting this from the rooftops. Catholic doctrine on sex is fabulous stuff, it’s not about power, domination, submission, control or cultural expectations of beauty and behaviour but about mutual self-gift, taking delight in the other and real love, a love that is not solely based on selfish personal sexual satisfaction, but a love based in body and soul. It’s heady and empowering stuff that really does set you free.

Here are some more extracts from Love and Responsibility:

From the point of view of another person, from the altruistic standpoint, it is necessary to insist that intercourse must not serve merely as a means of allowing sexual excitement to reach its climax in one of the partners, i.e. the man alone, but that climax must be reached in harmony, not at the expense of one partner, but with both partners fully involved.

There exists a rhythm dictated by nature itself which both spouses must discover so that climax may be reached both by the man and by the woman, and as far as possible occur in both simultaneously. 

There is a need for harmonization, which is impossible without good will, especially on the part of the man, who must carefully observe the reactions of the woman. If a woman does not obtain natural gratification from the sexual act there is a danger that her experience of it will be quali- tatively inferior, will not involve her fully as a person.  

 A woman finds it very difficult to forgive a man if she derives no satisfaction from intercourse.

The natural kindness of a woman who (so the sexologists tell us) sometimes ‘shams orgasm’ to satisfy a man’s pride, may also be unhelpful in the long run. 

There is here a real need for sexual education, and it must be a continuous process. The main objective of this education is to create the conviction that ‘the other person is more important than I’. 

Not the kind of stuff that one would expect from a celibate old man in a dress! The reason that I, and I suspect most Catholics who have read anything of Theology of the Body, feel so strongly about sex education in schools is not only because it is the parents’ primary duty (and why aren’t schools empowering parents to be able to talk to their children openly, instead of assuming that they won’t and usurping our roles) but also because children deserve so much better. I really wish I had been taught this in school, it would have saved me a lot of pain and heartache. I recently read Dawn Eden’s The thrill of the Chaste which should be required mandatory reading in every school – confirming and endorsing my experience (as someone who has previously co-habited and then was entirely chaste up until my marriage to Robin) that actually waiting until such time you are married, is awesome and improves your marriage, your intimacy and the quality of your relationship no end. The rewards of chastity are immense and more than outweigh any temporary frustration, temptation or impatience. Instant gratification is a false god, leaving you impatient, restless and hungry for the next thrill or hit.

the_theology_of_the_body_by_aodhagain-d3kszig

By all means teach children about reproductive biology, teach them about contraception, how it works both physically, emotionally and spiritually, but also teach them the really good stuff – what it is they should be aiming for and why. And for non-Catholics or non religious schools who may grumble about indoctrination or religious belief, ask why it is that they should want to expose their children to early sexual activity, multiple partners and whether or not this is in anyone’s long term best interests, be that emotional or physical, because sooner or later, your past will catch up on you.

Which vision looks more attractive, a series of passing transitory encounters for which you need to take precautions in order to mitigate risk, in the hope that one day you might find the right person and do the same thing with them for the rest of your life as you have with umpteen other people, or one intimate life-long relationship which from the outset engenders mutual love, respect and responsibility?

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For those in any doubt here’s the ewwww part from the Terence Higgins leaflet.  Diseases and injuries Are we still sure we want this stuff taught to our kids?

  • Rectal gonorrhoea
  • anal herpes (no cure for this one and it makes HIV transmission more likely)
  • anal syphilis (making a comeback according to THT due to multiple partners, often symptomless until its spread)
  • anal warts (treatment for this is ouchie. Frozen off with liquid nitrogen or acid, treatment takes months and they may reoccur)
  • LGV (lymphogranuloma venereum)   – rare type of chlamydia, first made its appearance in the UK in 2004
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B&C

Moving onto gut infections now which are more common (you really don’t want to know why)

  • Giardiasis   (invisible parasite, chronic infection can last months or years and be hard to treat, known as Beaver Fever in the US due to polluted rivers)
  • Amoebiasis   (very nasty if it spreads to the liver)
  • Shigellosis and Salmonellosis
  • Threadworm

Then of course HIV. Not a death sentence these days, but certainly a very serious disease requiring an enormous cocktail of retrovirals to be taken for the rest of your life and constant tests and check-ups

Next we have prostatitis which comes in three different forms

1 Acute bacterial prostatitis.
2 Chronic bacterial prostatitis.
3 Chronic non-infectious prostatitis.

Still on the prostate there’s also Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

Compared to all that lot the piles and anal fissures are a walk in the park really.

Hope no-one was eating their lunch.

Protecting children?

Allison Pearson’s column in yesterday’s Telegraph gives pause for thought if one has children who are attending a mixed-sex school. In the absence of many single-sex state schools, not many people are able to afford private single-sex schools or to be able to give up an income to home school. As Pearson says, if this happens in an upper-class boarding school, it’s going to be happening in schools up and down the country.

It is scandalous that one the one hand parents are being asked to take responsibility for their children’s internet, politicians seem to be finally waking up to the fact that we live in an over-sexualised society and yet on the other parents are actively excluded from information pertaining to their children’s sexual health decisions.

Is it really such a consistent idea to be encouraging teenagers to be experimenting with sex so long as it is with each other and ‘consensual’ whilst at the same time acknowledging that children are exposed to unprecedented amounts of sexual pressure, regardless of their gender. How is encouraging children that it’s perfectly acceptable to sexually experiment with each other without their parents’ knowledge or consent going to do anything to address sexual exploitation? We are already seeing plenty of cases whereby young teens are abusing even younger children – telling children that perhaps they should try oral sex or mutual masturbation instead of full penetration is hardly conducive to a society that wants to protect its youngsters.

And before anyone moots yet more education is needed, take a look at this:

Teen STD diagnoses The figures are from the Health Protection Agency and are an amalgamation of the under 15 and 15-19 age brackets. Diagnoses of gonorrhoea have decreased which is a good thing, seeing as there is a worrying outbreak of an antibiotic resistant strain, which seems to be on the increase in the US, but the rest of the figures don’t look so great. I haven’t included cases of syphilis in teens because the numbers are too small to register on the scale, but it should be noted that between the years 2002 and 2011, diagnoses of this disease in teenagers increased by 96%. That our young people should be battling this potentially fatal and wholly avoidable chronic condition is absolutely horrifying.

When it comes to teenage pregnancy rates, the numbers state that the under-18 conception rate is at its lowest since 1969. This is obviously very good news, but it is not indicative that the teenage pregnancy strategy was in any way successful, in terms of teenagers’ sexual health, indicated by the chart above. When talking about the teenage pregnancy figures, we need to remember that the under 18 conception rate is for the age ranges 15-17. As Professor David Paton points out, the under 16 teenage pregnancy stats have seen little change between 1969 and 2012, fluctuating between 7 and 10 girls per 1,000 every year. In any event, even with the drop, the UK teen pregnancy figures are still amongst the highest in Western Europe, before we all start congratulating ourselves.

What is evidently happening is that more or at least the same amount of teenagers as previously are having sex, most of them are using long-acting reversible contraceptives or hormonal contraceptives like the pill and thus leaving themselves open to disease. The Health and Social care Information centre reports that the 16-19 year old age group had the highest number of attendances at contraceptive clinics of the entire female population and that oral contraception was the primary method of contraception for 45% of women who attended.

Clearly something is going awry with sex education in this country and it doesn’t take much to figure out what. More on this anon.

Culture of Confidentiality

multi-tasking

Clare Perry, the rising star in the Conservative Party and David Cameron’s new advisor on childhood has said some eminently sensible and refreshing things today which will no doubt cause Louise Mensch to turn a shade of green.

Mrs Perry, a mother of three, points out that it should not be assumed that children have an automatic right to privacy and that society as a whole has been complicit in a culture which allows children to make unsupervised and inappropriate contact with strangers any time of the day or night.

She argues, in the same way that I did post publication of the Bailey Report, that parents need to take ownership and responsibility for their children’s internet access on their laptops and mobile phones. If you don’t want your children to have unsupervised access to the net, either don’t buy them a device, or if you must, install various filtering software and blocks. If your child is up on the internet until the early hours of the morning, then the solution is simple – switch the darn router off. He who pays the piper, calls the tune!

I grew up in the eighties and nineties where having access to one’s own private telephone line was an unimaginable luxury, although admittedly in my day, mobile phones were simply beyond the means of most individuals, not only in terms of money, but also in terms of sheer size, with the look, feel and weight of a house brick. Like most households of that time, our telephone was situated in a very public place, on the hall table and consisted of an unwieldy non portable handset, with a dial – push buttons were the last word in decadence. As a result all incoming telephone calls were received in a public place, every word could be overheard and any talk about one’s love-life either with friends or heaven forbid the young man himself had to be couched in code, making the whole thing far more exciting that I’m sure it would otherwise have been.

Ever mindful of the bill and the fact that my father ran a business from home, calls had to be kept quite short and it would not have occurred to me to pick up the phone and make a call without first asking permission. As teenagers, if we did answer the phone and the call was indeed for us, we would have to inform our parents as to the identity of the caller. My father is something of an eccentric and used to delight in causing maximum mortification by deliberately winding up callers for myself and my sister. My best friend Anna, was regularly treated to a medley of hits from the King and I, female friends would be sung to and any male callers could be guaranteed either to have my father’s version of Stanley Unwin’s language, or worse still, not be allowed to speak to us until they had made the request or spoken an entire sentence in Latin!

It’s difficult to know whether or not the internet could have got us into trouble as children, my parents were sensible types but equally I can see how difficult it is for parents these days, many of whom might not be as conversant in the new technology as their kids, but Mrs Perry is right to state that parents have a responsibility to regulate their children’s internet access. Given that it is practically impossible to escape the internet in one form or another and that it will be an integral part of children’s lives, it does seem fitting that the IT curriculum should incorporate lessons on basic safety and service providers and the industry as a whole should agree a new code of conduct, along similar lines to the rules of broadcasting.

It goes without saying that children and adolescents do need to be afforded some level of trust and privacy and we need to be realistic that at some point they probably will use the internet to get up to some naughtiness or other (just as children used to look up all the rude words in the dictionary), but limiting the scope for mischief, whilst helping them learn responsible behaviour, can be no bad thing and neither should it be left entirely in the hands of schools or regulators. Parents do have the primary responsibility.

But has anyone spotted the huge inconsistency yet? Clare Perry has correctly pointed out how internet technology can be used to degrade , objectify and sexualise young girls who are often at the receiving end of sexual bullying, citing the terrible case of Chevonea Kendall-Bryan, the 13 year old girl who fell to her death from the top of a tower block whilst begging her boyfriend to delete a sex tape he’d made on her phone.

‘We’ve given our children all these opportunities to communicate in private, but we’ve lost the confidence to actually get involved in that.

You have to ask yourself whether or not confidential sex advice, access to contraception and abortions provided to teens without the parents’ knowledge or consent has enabled and encouraged that attitude. Whether the deliberate exclusion of parents from knowledge pertaining to their children’s development and welfare and usurping of parental role in the provision of sex education has produced a generation of impotent parents who lack the skills and confidence to intervene?

‘We have to feel more empowered to ask. Make sure your kids allow you to be friends with them on Facebook, ask them whether what they are doing is appropriate.

But whatever you do, don’t ask them whether or not they are taking large doses of synthetic hormones designed to subdue their developing fertility, don’t ask them whether or not they are having sex and whatever you do don’t try to prevent them from doing so. What your child is being taught about sex , whether or not they are engaging in sex or risky sexual behaviour, whether or not they might be aborting their unborn baby is none of your concern as a parent.

Whilst schools continue to provide under 16s with contraceptive advice, products and abortions without the knowledge or consent of their parents, frankly fussing about whether or not they have unfettered access to Facebook or the internet is like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. How can parents be expected to protect their children when they are excluded from the most crucial and key decisions involving their personal health?

Make no mistake, the internet and mass media can have a deleterious effect on children’s development and expose them to sexual predators and unrealistic visions of sex, sexuality and body image. But just as harmful can be the physical effects of early sexual activity which stems from premature exposure to the internet and sexualisation. Isn’t it time for a double-stranded approach?

What’s the plan, Stan?

So, I said I’d do one final post, before a break of a few weeks, and here it is. As will become obvious I do want comments to continue to pour in as I think that this could actually prove very constructive.

Let’s be honest. There is no coherent pro-life movement in the UK. I have spent hours pouring over pro-choice literature, academic studies, political analysis, I follow them like a hawk on social media and I have to concede they are expert operators with cogent strategies, smooth PR machines who are able to drive headlines and influence public opinion. I know one or two people who have attended their meetings incognito. I’ve thought about doing the same, with the addition of a black wig and my glasses. What I have been told is that the pro-choice lobby are friendly, very well-organised and above all democratic, transparent and accountable.

What do we have to counter that? A disparate bunch of well-meaning squabblers, and I admit in some respects I may not have helped, but it pains me beyond belief to see the mess our side are in; whilst we squabble, bicker and fight, countless die.

I know all the arguments about Catholic teaching, about Christian teaching and so on and so forth, there is a time and a place to evangelise and I don’t simply mean in Church, but trying to base legislation upon Biblical, Scriptural or Magisterial Authority has not worked since before the Enlightenment. I think we have to draw an important distinction between Christian evangelisation and attempting to achieve our goals. Of course the two are inexorably linked and should complement and support each other, but campaigning for the dignity of the unborn and sick and elderly does not necessitate or require theology or biblical exegesis. We can draw on that to other Christians or in the course of general apologetics, but appealing to God, whilst trying to convince an atheist as to the horror of abortion, or why it is not right to put to death terminally ill or elderly people, is simply not going to wash.

It seems to me we have two options:

Option one

We all agree that I am a cheeky bumptious upstart who has no business sticking her opinionated nose into pro-life politics. If I want to do something I can rattle some collecting tins in Church, attend coffee mornings, bake cakes for pro-life charity sales, maybe do a bit of typing for the Pro-Life times or some such, but generally get back to my life of witness by continuing to have as many babies as I can until my uterus falls out.

In the meantime, the internecine squabbling continues, positions are more firmly entrenched than ever before, pro-life groups carry on doing what they’ve always done, groups are as polarised as ever before, John Smeaton retires in ten years time and passes on the family firm to his son, whilst LIFE carry on doing what they do. Both groups do some things well, but no real progress is made, things just tick on as before, it’s all about the damage limitation.

In the meantime, Dorries pushes for the 20 week reduction and fails miserably, much to the cheers of her detractors. Bouyed up by Nadine’s failure, the pro-choice lobby, decide to push on with their agenda, the requirement for the second doctor’s signature is removed, pro-life groups are no longer allowed to present in schools and are barred from carrying out any pregnancy counselling. Marie Stopes and BPAS build more and more clinics, abortion numbers go up, more sex education is thought to be the solution, more condoms and morning after pills are given out and so the cycle continues. Who knows, they may challenge for an overturning of the abortion pill to be administered in a clinic and will probably start hawking mobile abortion services, or even dial-an-abortion whereby a woman can have her consultation over the phone and the pill delivered by courier.

In short, doom and death.

Option 2

How about a meeting? (I won’t come, I promise, I’ll be too busy skulking or giving birth or something, besides I don’t want to be lynched by anyone). I know this seems incredible, I know we aren’t going to get x, y and z to actually sit down together in a room and begin to talk, dear me no, that could never happen could it, because of things that happened 20 years ago.

How about a team of professional mediators and ALL the major pro-life players and when I say ALL, I mean ALL? Not just representatives from SPUC, LIFE, Right-to-Life, but everyone, from people like Peter Saunders, to John Smeaton, Jack Scarisbrick, to Phyllis Bowman, Josephine Quintavelle, Ed Rennie, heck even Lord Alton, EVERYONE, lets get them all together to sit down, agree common goals and talk, to see where we can all go from here.

What I would love to see is a consolidation of all groups, – one huge group with different arms and focuses, say a euthanasia arm, an education arm, an outreach arm, a political arm, a research arm and so on and so forth. Consolidation has to be the name of the game in this day and age. It’s a clunky analogy but look at the airline industry. All the little airlines could not survive single handedly, routes were being duplicated, losses were being made and so we’ve seen some mergers in order to ensure survival. I know that the pro-life movement is not a business, but surely if we had one movement, one that was democratic, transparent and accountable, then certainly Catholics would know to whom to donate in good faith, as would Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, people of all faiths and none. We seem to have so much duplication and wastage and yet no coherent strategy.

I know there are so many thorny issues to be thought through, I know there are many competing egos, but surely with professional mediators and then with the help of management consultants (sorry, but they would need to be a prerequisite) we could take stock of the resources and expertise available, consolidate and move forward? I know there are issues such as LIFE only do non-directive counselling and really Catholics must tell people the truth that abortion is the killing of a baby and morally wrong, but surely there has to be areas of consensus and commonality?

I really don’t think we can carry on as we are, it’s 2012, it’s time to finally sort this mess out, and getting everyone together in a room seems a good place to start. If the Irish peace process can manage to get Gerry Adams and David Trimble around the table, then there’s hope for all of us.

Which brings me to something that I’ve always wanted to do. One of those poll jobbies. Over to you. What do you think? Maybe the first thing we can organise is that long overdue rally?

Think I’ll pass on the stuffing

You have to hand it to BPAS. My abhorrence at their latest campaign, cheekily entitled “Santa Comes” is intermingled with jaw-dropping admiration for a very slick PR job, very well done.

It seems that BPAS are so concerned by the seasonal spike in unplanned pregnancies, that they are providing a new service which enables women to obtain stockpiles of the morning-after pill in advance of the Christmas festivities, in case of an unforeseen instance of unprotected sex.

Given BPAS’ concern for the needs of women and the awareness that perhaps more women than usual might need to obtain access to emergency contraception, one might think that a charity who claim to have the best interests of women at heart, would open emergency clinics over Christmas. As a charity who are mindful of their costs, after all opening on Boxing Day would entail double-time payments and the cancelling of annual paid leave, the handing out the pill in advance is obviously an infinitely more cost-effective and practical notion.

As BPAS admit, it is more than likely that underage teenage girls will be able to access advance supplies of the morning-after pill, but well teens will be teens won’t they? It’s probably very unlikely that any girls will be coerced into ringing up or that anyone sexually exploiting teen girls will misuse the service isn’t it? No teen will contemplate passing it onto a friend or selling it will they?Parents have absolutely no right to know whether or not their children might be contemplating engaging in un-protected sex, let alone whether or not they are taking huge doses of a synthetic hormone. Parents don’t really have any need to know what might be going on, enough information is given so that the responsible young teen engaging in unplanned sex will know that if she is sick within two hours she might need another dose and that if she has a persistent pain in her lower abdomen, she will need to consult a doctor as Levonelle (the morning after pill) does nothing to prevent ectopic pregnancy.

It’s not at all irresponsible to suggest that unsafe or unforseen sexual encounters are all part of the Christmas tradition and that people will be unable to resist the lure of a quick tumble with a relative stranger after one avocat too many. Forgetting to use a condom goes hand in hand with a drunken rendition of Fairy Tale of New York does it not?

Still let’s not be too condemnatory, BPAS do chuck in some free condoms just to prick the conscience and to provide justification for their handing out of emergency contraception, which when it was introduced was intended only ever to be administered on prescription in exceptional circumstances.

Considering the evidence that the morning after pill does not have an impact upon unplanned pregnancy rates, in the words of Dr Caroline Scherf, a consultant in sexual and reproductive health with the Cardiff and Vale University Health board

the pill as emergency contraception is preferable as opposed to nothing after unprotected sex, but there is still a very high chance that they will end up pregnant

it is surely ungracious and cynical to suggest that this is merely a ploy to surreptitiously increase their customer base?

This scheme does not discourage irresponsible sex, it positively sanctions it. According to the doublethink of BPAS, planning for irresponsible sex is the height of responsibility.

Of course, compassionate souls that they are, BPAS wouldn’t dream of encouraging yet more sexual encounters that might lead to more demand for abortions now would they? After all, there is no possibility that more drunken or spontaneous sex, safe in the knowledge that there’s always a back-up, will lead to more unplanned pregnancies or STIs now is there?

And who will be the first port of call when the emergency contraception or even the free condom fails? BPAS, those caring people who gave me the free contraception in the first place. Stunning piece of marketing and indeed PR. Even if it transpires that there are no spikes in STIs or unplanned pregnancies over the Christmas period, (I hope someone monitors this)even if our young responsible girl (the advert is clearly aimed at a certain demographic) resists the lure of a quick pash on the tinsel bedecked photocopier, or her contraception works, well she’s still got the pill for another time. Together with a heightened brand awareness of BPAS. You have to hand it to them, this campaign gets their name all over the media, in the same way as Benetton’s Pope stunt; it wins the praise of pro-choicers and professional copulationists sex education advocates whereas anyone with half an ounce of sense will shake their head in despair. The scheme vastly increases awareness of BPAS in the teenage market with carefully targeted, fun and festive advertisements featuring in teen magazines and young adult glossies.

Santa’s coming, how witty, how risqué, what a clever and sophisticated double-entendre. I can think of a much more responsible slogan in a similar vein.

“Say no to the stuffing”.

Naming of parts

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring.

I have been toying with the idea of blogging a rather amusing incident which occurred around the dinner table last week as a bit of light relief, it’s the moment every parent dreads.

By way of background, small person (aged 7) understands the following by way of “sex ed”. Babies are made by ‘special cuddles’ which you can only have once you get married. During the ‘special cuddle’ the man gives the woman some seed which joins with her eggs to make a baby. (Not a stork or a gooseberry bush in sight).

Small Person (SP): Did you have a special cuddle and make a baby last night?

Husband spits food. 

Me (po-faced): No darling, why?

SP: I just wondered. Are you going to make one tonight?

DH: No darling we’re not. We are going to wait until the baby is older before we think about making another one.

SP: Well you’d better make sure that you don’t give mummy any seed by accident. Because that’s what happened last time. You said “Whoops, oh look I’ve accidentally given you some seed”.

Adults snigger

SP: So what happens when you have a special cuddle?

Exchange of panicked glances

Me (attempted sotto voce): Is this the part where we fetch the banana and the condom?

SP: What’s that mummy? Bananas?

Me: Nothing

Toddler (eyes lighting up): Narna, narna, narna. (pointing insistently and leaning out of high chair) Narna. NARNA! NARNA! NARNA! NARNAAAAAA!

Me (in manic tone of voice): WELL DONE!!! You said banana. CLEVER girl!! Oooh would you like a banana darling, lovely, see, look mummy will peel it for you. Would you like one too small person, you can have some ice-cream to go with it if you like.

SP: Yes please. Anyway mummy…

Raises eyes heavenwards

SP: What happens when you have special cuddles? (Inquistively) Describe it!

Hysterical and nervous laughter and exchange of glances

SP: (plaintively) Don’t laugh at me!

DH: (pulls himself together and adopts serious tone) Sorry darling, we didn’t meant to laugh at you. It’s important that you feel you can ask us whatever you want. What did you want to know exactly?

SP: How the baby is made!

Me: Ah well….cue lots of explanations about seed being called sperm, looking like tadpoles, losing tails, how the eggs don’t have shells, promising to get out pregnancy books and look up some pictures on the internet so she can see the sperm merging with the egg and the baby being formed and pictures of the baby growing in utero. Stuff that she already knows, but perhaps needs refreshing.

DH: Anything else you wanted to know

SP: What is the baby thinking when it’s in mummy’s tummy then.

More general discourse, followed by:

SP: But what if there were one hundred eggs and one hundred sperm, you’d have one hundred babies

DH: (reddening slightly) Well that wouldn’t happen because although mummy has lots of eggs, she only releases one a month, sometimes ladies release two which is when they have twins as you know, or if the egg, once the sperm has joined it splits in half.

SP: Oh right, anyway what time is my bedtime tonight.

DH: (sensing we’ve made a bit of a pigs ear) One thing though darling, you must always ask us if you’ve got questions and we’ll do our best to answer, we’re sorry if we laughed at you, we were just a bit surprised. One thing we didn’t tell you is that when husbands and wives have special cuddles they don’t wear any clothes.

Doh!!

Bullet dodged. For now. Admittedly that wasn’t handled quite as well as it could have been and we are now scouring the bookstores for some appropriate material.

It’s probably time for Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to you-know-what.