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Sex and science stuff 26/10/09

October 26th, 2009

Dr Petra

Here’s a roundup of some of the sex/science stories that I’ve been following this past week.

I’m sure pretty much everyone tuned in to see Question Time last Thursday, and to find out what British National Party leader Nick Griffin had to say. I found the programme a bit disappointing, although Griffin did manage to give us a few gems. Including his dislike of school based sex education (he doesn’t agree it ought to be taught to primary school children). And homosexuals, or rather the ‘militant homosexuals’ (seemingly mild mannered ones are fine in Griffin’s book). Men kissing. He doesn’t like that. He finds it ‘creepy’. So if you want to bring down the BNP a well organised gay male snogathon might be a good place to start.

During Question Time Griffin is he tried to discredit Islam by discussing its approach to women. While Islam may be problematic in its treatment of women in places, the BNP hardly does well in this area. Witness their Family Law White Paper (which incidentally also returns to Griffin’s bete noir – the homosexual – as the BNP propose dissolving gay partnerships). Or you might want to see what policy resolution they proposed for teenage mothers at their recent conference:

‘Teenage mothers – the problem and the solution

Any amount of sexual health education is not going to reduce Britain’s high teen pregnancy rates, whilst the ‘rewards’ for becoming an unmarried teen mother remain so [relatively] attractive. The cycle of girls getting pregnant by man A, then being allocated a council flat & welfare benefits, then getting pregnant by man B, and being allocated a bigger council flat & more benefits, then getting pregnant by man C, and being allocated a council house & yet more benefits has got to STOP. It leads to all sorts of social problems, resulting from mothers who are not mature enough to parent effectively, and end up raising dysfunctional families in poverty. It also costs tax payers a lot of money, to fund these ‘alternative’ lifestyles.

Furthermore, people who have been on housing waiting lists for several years, and who conduct themselves in a responsible manner, find themselves being ‘queue-jumped’ by these feckless members of society.

So, I suggest that there be no council flats and no welfare benefits available to unmarried mothers under the age of 21. Instead they will be placed in ‘mother & baby homes’. Here they will receive academic education as well as parenting classes, plus courses covering all aspects of their social development. The homes will be run by ‘matron’ type figures. The homes should not be ‘institution’ like, but at the same time there will be rules which must be adhered to; such as a curfew of approx 9pm, a dress code which states skirts must come to at least the knees & no cleavage to be on show. Failure to comply with the homes’ rules will result in the mother being sent to prison, and the baby being taken in to care.

This is not a short-term remedy, but a long-term solution. Eventually I believe the implementation of this policy will result in a vast decrease in teenage girls becoming pregnant – as the consequences will be positively unattractive. Of course, teenage pregnancies will never be completely eradicated, and the homes will allow for the girls who do still become teen mothers to learn how to be good parents, whilst not being fast-tracked to the top of the housing queue.

If an 18-20 year old pregnant woman is married [marriage should not be an option available to 16/17 year olds, even with parental consent] and her husband has a job, then she will be exempt from going in to one of the homes.’

[A reader got in touch asking whether I agreed with the BNP policy for teenagers. The answer is no. They also wanted clarification about why the suggestions above are problematic. Firstly, the BNP state sex education won’t make a difference to teen pregnancy rates, yet evidence clearly indicates it does. Secondly they outline a pattern of activity (different babies by different dads to upgrade accommodation) that doesn’t happen in reality as much as the tabloid’s would have us believe. Many teen mothers live with their families or the baby’s father, or if they are in social housing often are placed in bedsits or flats. The most vulnerable mothers are often placed in the most inappropriate housing. I do agree that some young mothers can end up not being mature enough to parent effectively and this plus poverty can cause problems to mother and child(ren). However maturity isn’t age related and while some teen mums can struggle, not all do. Mothers who are older may also lack the maturity or social support to parent effectively.

Thirdly, the BNP’s report describe teen mums as feckless queue jumpers who get housing above those who’ve been waiting longer. Although there’s no evidence for this happening on any large scale – again often teen mums are housed in bed and breakfast or shared accommodation rather than a home of their own. Withholding to young mothers (single mothers under 21) means they will have no independence or the opportunity to enjoy life. Enforcing a dress code is impractical and patronising (also if you’re a young mum then a below the knee skirt and top where no cleavage is on show is not a great outfit when you’re busy with a baby and might be breastfeeding). These suggestions imply young mothers will be being punished for having a baby. Parenting classes and support are ideas that are good, but these are already on offer and in most areas considerable effort has been put into providing these for young parents. Certainly the idea that those who do not confirm will be imprisoned and have their baby put into care is draconian and unworkable.

My main concern with the policy is it’s not considered evidence, it has not researched what actually happens to young people, and has only focused on teenage girls – ignoring the roles and responsibilities of young men.

This is also discussed over at Lancaster Unity and Sim-O’s Good Old Fashioned Values. The issue of what to do about teenage pregnancy is an important and emotive one. I’ll be writing a future blog about what contributes to teen pregnancy/motherhood and what we can do about it]

Back to Question Time which also featured Sayeeda Warsi who has opposed gay marriage and school based sex education. In 2007 she said “I will campaign strongly for an end to sex education at seven years and the promotion of homosexuality that undermines family life”. So while Warsi was placed on the programme to challenge Griffin, there was little opportunity for the audience or other panelists to identify that sadly it’s not just the BNP who are promoting homophobic or sex negative policies.

Staying with the topic of bigotry, Jan Moir has tried to explain her recent column about the death of Stephen Gately. Moir’s most recent response does not fully apologise for her column, nor does it put right the inaccuracies about sudden death or sexuality she described. Perhaps it might have been better for Moir to issue a genuine and short apology, or say nothing at all.

Still on negative stories, Ben Goldacre over at Bad Science alerts us to The Spectator’s plans to screen the AIDS denialist movie House of Numbers as a means of encouraging ‘debate’ about AIDS. Goldacre’s blog highlights the problem with the movie (and links to numerous blogs who’ve been challenging the film and how it’s been accepted/promoted by people who ought to know better). Although gossip now suggests the event may be off.

On a more positive note, Halloween is just around the corner (although I promise not to mention the (over 18s) Pumpkin Dildo again this year). So in the run up to the event why not think about something suitably supernatural and consider dating a (real life) vampire? Actually I’ve done little else but fantasise about Edward Cullen of late, so this guide is useful in case he tires of Bella and comes for me. Join me, and check out the Twilight series, or tuck into Susie Bright’s Bitten – a great new gothic erotic anthology.

And if you want some super sex education this week the Kinsey Institute’s running a Sex Research Live event on 28th October where you can find out about your sexual personality and find out more about how we research sex. Or pop to London’s Science Museum (also on 28th) from 6.45pm where you can find out more about sex – including a chance to test your own sexual knowledge. And I’ll be telling you exactly why scientists study sex.

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