Thursday, October 30, 2008

Red Sex, Blue Sex....From the New Yorker

This week's New Yorker has a fascinating article on evangelical teenagers and sexual behavior.

You can read it here at : http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/11/03/081103fa_fact_talbot

The author reports that white evangelical teen girls on average begin sex earlier than girls who are Jewish or mainline Protestant or Catholic.

I found this paragraph about reactions to Bristol Palin's pregnancy intriguing:

"... the reactions to it have exposed a cultural rift that mirrors America’s dominant political divide. Social liberals in the country’s “blue states” tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teenagers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter’s pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in “red states” generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teenager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn’t choose to have an abortion."

I actually think that "social liberals" don't like high school teenage sex any more than "social conservatives" but I do agree that many of us would be even more troubled by our teenage sons and daughters dropping out of school to have babies.

I know I have a lot of "social conservative" readers...what do you think about how the author describes you? And really, "relatively unruffled?" Surely conservatives share the concern about teenagers truncating their futures, entering into teenage marriages with high rates of divorce, ending their education. Yes??

6 comments:

Cassandra said...

Hi Rev. Debra,

Thanks for sharing this article. I quite enjoyed it!

While I share the "social conservative" label with evangelicals, as a Catholic, I don't identify with them so I didn't feel this article was speaking to me.

Mostly, I see a huge disconnect between the values many evangelicals are taught and the actual implementation of those values at home. This paragraph, in particular, stood out to me:

Religious belief apparently does make a potent difference in behavior for one group of evangelical teen-agers: those who score highest on measures of religiosity—such as how often they go to church, or how often they pray at home. ***But many Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals, and who hold socially conservative beliefs, aren’t deeply observant.****

And this paragraph also:

Even more important than religious conviction, Regnerus argues, is how “embedded” a teen-ager is in a network of friends, family, and institutions that reinforce his or her goal of delaying sex, and that offer a plausible alternative to America’s sexed-up consumer culture. A church, of course, isn’t the only way to provide a cohesive sense of community. Close-knit families make a difference. Teen-agers who live with both biological parents are more likely to be virgins than those who do not. And adolescents who say that their families understand them, pay attention to their concerns, and have fun with them are more likely to delay intercourse, regardless of religiosity.

Cassandra said...

And, no, I don't think it's a good idea for a pregnant girl to marry her baby's daddy to make things right.

Andrea said...

Facebook reader here, first time commenting. Love your blog. :)

Surely conservatives share the concern about teenagers truncating their futures, entering into teenage marriages with high rates of divorce, ending their education.

Mind you, I'm not a social conservative, but I come from a very heavily conservative and evangelical family. My feeling is that in such a situation, it's not so much "truncating" the future as it is jumping ahead to it. That's to say, the ideal for a lot of girls with that kind of background (at least what I've seen in my family and community) is to get married, have kids, and be a stay-at-home mom. Therefore, higher education is unnecessary (and in my family anyway, often out of the picture due to monetary concerns) and if you don't finish high school, oh well, it's only another year or two. So yeah, it kinda sucks that the girl got pregnant before she got married, but at least she's doing the "right" thing by marrying the father and settling down to start a family, rather than deciding to be a single mother (unacceptable) or getting an abortion (heavens forbid). And as for the high divorce rates with these marriages, the attitude often seems to be, well, that sucks, but it won't happen to *me*.

Mind you, this is painting with really broad strokes. But that's the impression I've gotten (and I've had more than one relative in that situation).

Daisy Bond said...

I actually think that "social liberals" don't like high school teenage sex any more than "social conservatives" but I do agree that many of us would be even more troubled by our teenage sons and daughters dropping out of school to have babies.

Really? That strikes me a very obviously untrue. Social conservatives are opposed to teenagers having any information and might well do everything in their power to keep their teenagers from having sex (forbid the kid to see her boyfriend/girlfriend, etc) and would probably deny their teenagers access to contraception, and, based on my observations of the kids at my high school from strit, traditional families, kicking a kid out of the house for having sex wouldn't be unheard of (especially if the kid is queer). Social liberals, on the other hand, tend to do their best to ensure adolescents have accurate and information and, whether they approve of their kid's decisions or not, would probably try to make sure she has whatever protection she needs. I can't imagine a liberal throwing a kid onto the streets for having a lover or being gay.

I'm a nineteen-year-old college student; my girlfriend and I got together two years ago, while we were both in high school. My (liberal) parents were totally supportive of the relationship; my mom knew we were having sex and had no problem with it. (Granted, I was 17; she may have reacted differently if I'd been younger.) All my friends were also having sex with regular partners in high school -- all their parents trusted their judgment and mad sure they had all the safer sex materials they needed. So, in my experience, that's how social liberals feel about and react toward high school students having sex. Am I to believe hardline social conservatives do the same?

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how much of this is class rather than red/blue state values. Working class and poor people start having babies earlier and middle and upper class people have them later.

What happens when you look at a class breakdown among evangelicals, or a religion breakdown within the working class or the middle class?

caitlin said...

This comment isn't about this particular post, but about all of your posts in general. I have recently read just about all of them, and I must say that I admire and respect you. You have a strong faith and yet choose to not impose that faith upon others. I have known many who also have a strong faith, and yet they use any opportunity possible to preach grandly and look down their noses at others who don't attend the same church or who don't have the same values.
Thank you for spreading the sexuality education message to the American populace, and for emphasizing the fact that each person's belief is their own.