Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Keep 'em ignorant...

You have to give Nadine Dorries MP points for trying. What a shame she’s a deluded pro-lifer who is putting her efforts into restricting girls’ and women’s freedoms and reproductive choices.

This is the MP, you will recall, who tried to get the abortion limit brought down from 24 weeks, and preached about ‘counselling’ (i.e. pro-life bullying) being the best option. This is the woman who believes it is no big deal to go through an unwanted pregnancy, because there’s the option of putting the baby up for adoption at the end. Writing as a 13 weeks pregnant woman, now on my ninth week of puking and fainting, I can tell you that pregnancy is no picnic. Indeed, over the last two months I have repeatedly thought, with abject horror, of how traumatising it must be to go through this experience against one’s will. It is hard enough when you really want the baby, believe me.

Now the delightful Tory MP is celebrating because she’s just got a 10 minute rule bill through the House of Commons which is all about teaching 13 to 16 year old girls abstinence. Notice it’s about teaching the girls not to have sex, not the boys. This reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my husband’s relatives a few weeks ago. A woman in her seventies, she had told her granddaughter at the age of 13 “to remain a virgin for as long as possible.” I asked if she was going to be giving the same advice to her now 13 year old grandson? “No!” she exclaimed. “He’s a boy!” I’ll let you imagine my retort!.

Dorries is concerned that girls are being taught about sex too young, and this is making them want to do it, instantly. My four year old daughter already knows the very basic facts about how babies are made (“a seed bashes into an egg”, to quote her directly!), and I think an on-going dialogue about sex and relationships is the way forward, with the degree of detail depending on the age and maturity of the child and the questions they ask.

I don’t think that knowing about sex means that you feel the need to go off and try out for real what you’ve learnt. I always felt that I was one of the most informed of my school friends when it came to sex, thanks to the fact that I read ‘Just Seventeen’ every week (I always turned to the problem pages first!). However, when 14 year old girls in my class, with little clue about sex, were already sexually active, I was in no hurry to join their ranks. Doing it for the sake of doing it held zero appeal, partly due, I expect, to the fact that I was clued-up and so not going to be easily led or misinformed. Knowledge is most definitely power.

What also annoys me deeply about Dorries’ latest mission to protect the virtue of the nation’s girls is how heterosexual the whole thing is. She talks of ‘girls making boys wait’. I wonder if sex education is still as heterosexual-centric as it was in the early nineties, when the fifteen year old me was given extremely short shrift by a visiting sex education woman when I asked – rather daringly, I reckon -about safe lesbian sex. (I ended up getting my information from a programme on Channel 4 – thanks, Channel 4!).

Here’s an idea for Dorries’ next mission: she should bring in a ten minute rule bill suggesting that school kids should be taught about gay sex, because you can’t get pregnant from that, and all of this malarkey is about lowering the abortion rate (I think that’s what she’s aiming for, though frankly, who knows?!). Somehow though I am not sure Dorries will go for my suggestion…!

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