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Brooklynite.
Fathers and Daughters.
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brooklynite
Fathers and Daughters.
At an event over the weekend, Barack Obama was asked his position on sex ed in the schools. Here's a chunk of what he had to say:

The most important prevention is education, which should include abstinence education and teaching children that sex is not something casual. But it should also include other information about contraception. Look, I've got two daughters, nine years old and six years old. I'm going to teach them first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at the age of 16. It doesn't make sense to not give them information.

Chris Dodd said something similar last summer, when he was asked about gay rights during a presidential debate:

My wife and I have two young daughters, age five and two. I'd simply ask the audience to ask themselves the question that Jackie and I have asked: How would I want my two daughters treated if they grew up and had a different sexual orientation than their parents? Good jobs, equal opportunity, to be able to retire, to visit each other, to be with each other, as other people do. I feel very strongly, if you ask yourself the question, "How would you like your children treated if they had a different sexual orientation than their parents?" the answer is yes, they ought to have that ability in civil unions.

I've got some issues with the specifics of what each of the candidates said. I'm disappointed that Obama equated "values and morals" with teen abstinence, and that Dodd opposed full marriage equality. But whatever problems I have with their policy stands, I'm impressed by the way they framed their responses.

There's a standard script that fathers of girls are supposed to follow when talking about their daughters' sexuality. Even today, even in New York City, I've grown accustomed to hearing winking comments about how I'll need to lock my girls up in a few years.

But that's not my script, and it's not the script that these two candidates were reading from.

Obama's youngest and Dodd's eldest are Casey's peers. As fathers, the three of us have some time to figure out how we're going to deal with what's coming. But our daughters are going to be sexual beings sooner than we can imagine, and it's not going to be long before we're going to be facing big questions of how we can help them stay safe, stay healthy, and --- yes --- be happy and fulfilled and assertive.

It's easy to say --- and it's not wrong to say --- that my daughters' sexual identities are none of my business. They're going to grow up and lead their own lives. But at the same time, I want them to understand that there's a difference between something that's private and something that's shameful. I want to pass along some of the stuff I've learned about sexual ethics and morality, and I want them to know that their mother and I are here for them if they need us.

I don't have much of a sense of how the specifics of all this are going to play out. A lot of it is going to depend on aspects of the kids' personalities, and of my relationships with them, that haven't emerged yet. But I know I want us to be talking, and I know that talking means I can't pretend that they're going to stay kids forever. And it's striking to me that Barack Obama and Chris Dodd --- serious candidates for the US presidency, cautious men living in the public eye --- are so comfortable with this stuff.

When Bill Clinton ran for president Chelsea was only a little older than Malia Obama is today. Can you imagine Clinton speculating in 1991 about the possibility that his daugher might grow up gay, or discussing what he'd want her to know about contraception and the prevention of STDs?

Me neither.

There's something going on here. I'm not quite sure what it is, but I think I like it.

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oddprofessor From: oddprofessor Date: April 3rd, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like it too. As the mother of two adult women (24 and 21), one of whom is gay (and out), I thought I'd done a pretty good job at walking that morals/values/ethics tightrope. Well, maybe I did, in the heteronormative sense, but my gay daughter tells me that, even in a loving, accepting family, growing up gay was a lonely, isolating experience. Thank God for Mount Holyoke College. She found what she needed there, socially and culturally. Not all young women are that lucky, though.

It's good to hear politicians, who have to consider and reconsider every last word that comes out of their mouths, talking about their daughters as humans, rather than as possessions to be kept unsullied until they are handed over to a younger man.
From: ptomblin_lj Date: April 3rd, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
But abstinence-only sex ed works so well:

http://www.local6.com/news/15773787/detail.html

Summary: Florida teens think that drinking a capful of bleach will prevent HIV, and drinking Mountain Dew will prevent pregnancy.

It's hard to believe that even Republicans didn't see that coming.
From: kevin_t_keith Date: April 3rd, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

See It Coming? They Guided It In for a Landing

What makes you think they didn't see it coming? What makes you think they care?

This is par for the course for right-wing policymaking - not just in the area of sex, but almost everywhere. There is such overwhelming evidence that their pet ideologies simply don't fit the facts and don't work when implemented as policy, and that mismatch is so commonplace and of such long standing in many cases, that I am absolutely convinced that right-wing policies are to be considered disingenuous until proven otherwise. There is simply no reason to believe that what they say and do is ever seriously intended as a rational response to whatever situation they're dealing with. Many of their policies are either (a) window dressing for their nutcase constituency (creationism, abstinence), (b) a smokescreen for their true, selfish interests (supply-side economics, the "war on terror"), or (c) cynical destruction of the very systems they were supposed to be fixing (eliminating immediate hybrid-car requirements in favor of years-off changes to CAFE limits, deliberate military overspending to bankrupt social welfare programs).

The fact that their sex-ed programs not only don't work but actually increase unwanted pregnancies and STIs is not a bug, it's a feature. They punish women and teenagers for having sex, take the place of effective programs that would increase support for realistic sex policy, and act as a sop to the religious loons. Certainly, none of that comes as a surprise to them.
From: ptomblin_lj Date: April 3rd, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: See It Coming? They Guided It In for a Landing

Next you'll be saying that the reason they're wrecking the educational system and the economy is because stupid poor people are more likely to vote Republican than middle class educated people. HEYYYYY. That makes sense now.
muse0fire From: muse0fire Date: April 3rd, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I prefer to look at the bleach thing as Darwinism at work...
muse0fire From: muse0fire Date: April 3rd, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really hope that the general public are able to appreciate these responses, and don't all fall into that "sex is BAD!" Puritanical mindset that seems to have been sweeping the nation (thus the full-of-fail abstinence-only programs). I love that both Barack and Chris talk about their daughters in terms of them actually being their own person at some point - acknowledging that they will grow up and have minds/bodies/lives of their own.
eeminy From: eeminy Date: April 3rd, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hope so, too. I particularly like that (to me, anyway) they seem to be crafted in a way that manages to be accepting and open without sounding wishy-washy. So much of the allure of the puritanical approach is that it's easier to deal with a lot of the time. It's binary -- right and wrong, good and bad -- and allows people to compartmentalize morality without having to think much about context or individuals.
kmelion From: kmelion Date: April 4th, 2008 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Can you post the original link to their comments please?
brooklynite From: brooklynite Date: April 4th, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Obama:
http://mediamatters.org/items/200804010008

Dodd:
http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2007/07/question-on-gay.html

I cleaned up both quotes a little for coherency's sake.
kmelion From: kmelion Date: April 4th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks!
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