Friday, 27 April 2012

The Failure of Sex Education

"Comprehensive sex education," mandated in seventeen states, is the educational fad of the hour, yet there is little evidence that it "works"--prevents teenage pregnancy and stanches the spread of sexually transmitted disease. Defended by its professional-class originators as "getting real" about teenage sex, it fails to speak to the grim reality of what the author calls "the new sexual revolution" among the young

by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead

[Also see the transcript of an online conference in which Whitehead discusses this article.]
Amid rising concern about the hazards of teenage sex, health and school leaders are calling for an expanded effort to teach sex education in the schools. At the moment the favored approach is called comprehensive sex education. The nation's highest ranking health officer, Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, has endorsed this approach as the chief way to reduce unwed childbearing and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among teenagers. The pillars of the health and school establishments, including the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Medical Association, the National School Boards Association, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine, support this approach. So do a growing number of state legislatures. Over the past decade seventeen states have adopted mandates to teach comprehensive sex education, and thirty more support it.

Sex education in the schools is not new, of course, but never before has it attempted to expose children to so much so soon. Comprehensive sex education includes much more than a movie about menstruation and a class or two in human reproduction. It begins in kindergarten and continues into high school. It sweeps across disciplines, taking up the biology of reproduction, the psychology of relationships, the sociology of the family, and the sexology of masturbation and massage. It seeks not simply to reduce health risks to teenagers but also to build self esteem, prevent sexual abuse, promote respect for all kinds of families, and make little boys more nurturant and little girls more assertive. As Dr. Elders explains, comprehensive sex education is not just about giving children a "plumbing lesson."

This approach is appealing for several reasons. First, it reaches the vast majority of American schoolchildren, through the public school system. Second, it is inexpensive. Principals have to do little more than buy a sex-education curriculum and enroll the coach or home-economics teacher in a training workshop, and their school has a sex-education program. Third, to panicky parents, worried about their ability to protect their children from AIDS and other STDs, comprehensive sex education offers a reassuring message: The schools will teach your children how to protect themselves.

Nonetheless, comprehensive sex education has provoked vigorous opposition, both at the grass roots and especially in the organized ranks of the religious right. Its critics argue that when it comes to teaching children about sex, the public schools should convey one message only: abstinence. In response, sex educators point to the statistics. Face facts, they say. A growing number of teenagers are engaging in sex and suffering its harmful consequences. It is foolish, if not irresponsible, to deny that reality. If more teenagers are sexually active, why deprive them of the information they need to avoid early pregnancy and disease? What's more, why insist on a standard of conduct for teenagers that adults themselves no longer honor or obey? As usual, the Surgeon General states the basic proposition memorably: "Everybody in the world is opposed to sex outside of marriage, and yet everybody does it. I'm saying, 'Get real.'"

This rhetoric is politically shrewd. It is smart to identify sex education with realism, honesty, and sexual freedom. (Its opponents are thereby unrealistic, hypocritical, and sexually unliberated.) Similarly, it is advantageous to link the sex-education campaign with the struggle against religious fundamentalism and, more generally, with opposition to religious argument in public life. When the issue is cast in Scopes-trial terms, it appears that an approach to sex education based in science will triumph over one rooted in blind faith.

But the sex educators' rhetoric is double-edged. As credentialed professionals, trained in the health and pedagogical sciences, advocates for a "reality-based" approach must at some point submit to reality tests. Their claims raise the inevitable question, How realistic is their approach to solving the problems associated with teenage sex? Or, to be more specific, What is the evidence that comprehensive sex education can achieve its stated goals? Does comprehensive sex education respond to the real-life circumstances of teenagers today? Does the new sex pedagogy take into account the realities of teenage sex in the 1990s?

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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Parenthood is not just a private project

The state’s role in marriage is essential to protect the rights of children against the mere wilfulness of adults.

lesbian parentsI was once a libertarian activist. I was on the platform committee of the national libertarian party twice in the late seventies. I used to give introductory talks about libertarianism in people’s homes when I was a graduate student.

I would begin these talks by describing the problems that contracts between consenting adults could solve. Often someone would ask, “What about children?” I would always admit that children posed a tough problem for libertarianism, but that we would deal with it in a more advanced lesson. Somehow the time for that more advanced lesson never came.

It was only when I had children of my own that I came to see that something was deeply wrong with the way I had been avoiding the “tough questions” about children. In my personal experience of parenthood, I have had responsibility for profoundly neglected children. These children were permanently damaged by lack of relationship. I came to see that we libertarians have been starting our theorizing from the perspective of adults who are equipped to take care of themselves, make contracts, keep promises, defend their own property, and respect other people’s property.

But no one enters the world that way: we enter the world as helpless infants. In fact, if you think about it, infancy is the only truly universal human experience. We all have to pass through infancy to get anywhere else. Yet, we libertarians essentially explain the transition from infancy to adulthood by saying, “Then a miracle happens.”

Personally, I think we need to be more explicit about this step.

The fact of childhood dependence

I decided to rethink the whole business of a free society, starting from the child’s point of view, with my 2001 book, Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village. The fact of childhood dependence raises a whole series of questions. How do we get from a position of helpless dependence and complete self-centeredness, to a position of independence and respect for others? Are our views of the child somehow related to the foundations of a free society? And, to ask a question that may sound like heresy to libertarian ears: Do the needs of children place legitimate demands and limitations on the behaviour of adults?
I came to the conclusion that a free society needs adults who can control themselves, and who have consciences. A free society needs people who can use their freedom, without bothering other people too much. We need to respect the rights of others, keep our promises, and restrain ourselves from taking advantage of others.

We learn to do these things inside the family, by being in a relationship with our parents. We can see this by looking at attachment- disordered children and failure-to-thrive children from orphanages and foster care. These children have their material needs met, for food, clothing, and medical care. But they are not held, or loved, or looked at. They simply do not develop properly, without mothers and fathers taking personal care of them. Some of them never develop consciences. But a child without a conscience becomes a real problem: this is exactly the type of child who does whatever he can get away with. A free society can’t handle very many people like that, and still function.

In other words I asked, “Do the needs of society place constraints on how we treat children?” But even this analysis still views the child from society’s perspective. It is about time we look at it from the child’s point of view, and ask a different kind of question. What is owed to the child?

Children are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents. They are entitled to know who they are and where they came from. Therefore children have a legitimate interest in the stability of their parents’ union, since that is ordinarily how kids have relationships with both parents. If Mom and Dad are quarrelling, or if they live on opposite sides of the country, the child’s connection with one or both of them is seriously impaired.

But children cannot defend their rights themselves. Nor is it adequate to intervene after the fact, after harm already has been done. Children’s relational and identity rights must be protected proactively.

Marriage is society’s institutional structure for protecting these legitimate rights and interests of children.
This is not only a humane answer, it is also the proper libertarian answer, indeed the only possible truly libertarian answer. For only this answer allows the possibility of a society in which every individual person is recognized as valuable, as bearing intrinsic human dignity, of holding rights against other people and against the state.

What’s wrong with “contract parenting”

We can’t begin our lives as objects to which other people have rights, and somehow, magically, become persons with rights of our own. Yet, the redefinition of parenthood is doing precisely this: treating children as objects. The idea of “contract parenting” is becoming the new institutional structure proposed by people who want to “get the government out of the marriage business.” Under this concept, two or more adults negotiate among themselves for parental rights. Perhaps the sperm donor will be a friend of the lesbian couple. They all agree he will be called “uncle” and get to see the child once a week. Or perhaps one woman will “donate” the egg, which is implanted in another woman’s womb. The women agree that they will both be mothers, and exclude the anonymous sperm donor father.

These cases suggest that there is something fundamentally flawed about the contractual approach to children. Rather than just recoil from the weirdness of it all, let me spell out these conceptual flaws. First, contracts are limited, but parenthood is a status. Contracts are of limited duration, but parenthood is forever. Second, and more importantly, the child has been objectified. Instead of being a gift, the child is treated as a product or an object. And this has implications for how we view ourselves, and the foundations of our liberty.

This first point about the permanence of parenthood came home to me when I read a peculiar Ohio case last summer. The Mullen case was a pretty standard lesbian custody dispute, with one wrinkle. The birth mother had written up a few documents before the child’s birth, giving her lover things such as medical power of attorney for the baby. The former lover claimed that these documents established her as the child’s second parent.

The judge in the case was not impressed. He said, in effect, look, a medical power of attorney is a revocable document. Anyone can revoke it any time. As a matter of fact, this nice lady before me in court has just revoked the power of attorney she gave you. But parenthood is forever. A collection of contracts or revocable documents stops well short of an adoption. The nice lady did not let you adopt her child. She could have, but she chose not to. I’m not about to second-guess what this mother intended. You are not the child’s parent. Case closed.

He was right. Contracts are not meant to establish permanent or unlimited obligations. Contracts are of limited scope and duration. Parenthood is, and needs to be, forever. This is the fatal conceptual flaw of the contract parenting model. That is why adoption is not a contract. No one signs an adoption “contract,” where one party agrees to deliver the child to another, who then has rights to the child. No. Adoption confers parental status permanently onto someone.

The second and even more fundamental flaw of the contract parenting model: it treats the child as an object, something to be negotiated over. Even a cursory look at these cases shows that this is true. The adults don’t mean for it to be true. I have no doubt that these adults brought children into being in all good faith, and out of love. But they simply can’t help themselves. Good intentions do not suffice to overcome the structural tendency for “contract parenthood” to objectify children far more often and deeply than natural parenthood.

When a child is conceived naturally, inside marriage, the child is biologically, legally, and practically the child of both parents. The child can be a focal point for unity between the two people. Of course, things don’t always work perfectly or smoothly. But the biological parents, married to each other, have a great advantage: they both have a connection with the child. They’ve both got skin in the game, literally. When they are married to each other, they have made a commitment to work together to build a common life. The children are their common project.

This is not so for the child of an anonymous gamete donor. The people raising the child may have a commitment to each other, it is true. But they start off on unequal footing with respect to the child. One is the natural parent, the other is not. The “contract parent” model says that this natural connection should be legally irrelevant.

The frequency and bitterness of these custody disputes says that biology continues to be relevant in fact. A mother may discover that sharing the care of her child with another woman is more difficult than she expected. A sperm donor father may find the attraction of fatherhood more powerful than he expected and want more contact with his children than he expected. Is it really the business of the law to hold people to a “contract” in which they agree, in advance of the child’s birth, that they are going to ignore biology forever? This is absurd, unworkable, and inhuman. No other part of our law makes this kind of demand on people.

A libertarian’s instinct might be to endorse Artificial Reproductive Technology, since it enhances people’s choices. But Artificial Reproductive Technology enhances the adult’s choices, without giving a moment’s thought to the interests of the child. The plain fact of the matter is that our law right now says that anyone with money gets to do whatever they want. There is no legal protection of unborn children and their identity rights. The courts are scrambling around after the fact, trying to protect their legitimate entitlements on the back end.

When the courts have to make these judgments, they end up implicitly or explicitly imposing something on someone. They can’t be neutral among the competing claimants and their arguments. There is no getting around it: when these custody disputes come to court, the agents of the state will impose something on someone. At least one party will not be happy. Sometimes, nobody is happy.

Privatising marriage is unjust to children

Finally, the deepest reason why society has obligations to children is that this is the only position that is truly consistent with the idea that people deserve freedom, rights, and dignity in the first place. Nature and Nature’s God endowed us with certain inalienable rights: among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is a core principle of the American founding, and the American experiment.

In other words, our liberties are gifts from Nature and Nature’s God. Our liberties are most specifically not the result of human will, our own, or other peoples. Just so, children are gifts from Nature and Nature’s God, not the result of human will. Accepting children lovingly from God, or from Nature, if you prefer, is consistent with a world in which our liberties are gifts.

“Intentional parenthood” is the alternative to accepting children as gifts. We are already seeing people claim that artificially conceived children are better off than other children, because “they are so wanted.” This is supposed to make the children feel better about not knowing their biological origins.

In actuality it is a statement of wilfulness: a statement that parenthood is and ought to be an act of the will and nothing else. How secure are the rights of these little creations of adult wilfulness? What independent standing do they have in society? What claims do they have on adults? What are we doing to ourselves if we act as if we believe that unborn children have no rights that any adult is bound to respect?

This is why I do not believe it is possible or desirable to “get the state out of the marriage business.” The primary business of the state should be providing justice. Children are the most vulnerable parties in any society. But children are particularly vulnerable in a society like ours that values autonomy and independence so highly. Children cannot be autonomous and independent. Adult society owes children an obligation in justice to provide institutional structures that protect their most basic interests. This is why it would be unjust to children for the government to attempt to “get out of the marriage business.” Providing justice to the vulnerable is precisely the business of the government. If it doesn’t perform that function, it has failed.

It is not possible to create a free society in which everyone begins life as someone’s “choice.” It is not is possible to create a lasting society that systematically undermines the biological basis for human identity. Privatizing marriage would perpetrate injustices on children, expand the power of the state, and in the end, prove to be completely impossible. In short, the state has a duty to be in the marriage business.

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund. She is the author of Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village, available in paperback and digitally at the Ruth Institute store. This article was originally published in Public Discourse.

Friday, 20 April 2012

April 20, 2012

In her memoir, long-time abortionist Merle Hoffman wages a war against nature’s decree that only women can keep the human race going by bearing children.

As the administration’s healthcare plan is weighed by the American public and the Supreme Court, the debate over the contraceptive mandate continues with high intensity. And for no small reason. Contraception is the only medicine we’ve heard so loudly proclaimed by the government to be completely free of charge. There are many other drugs for diabetes and cancer and heart conditions that are not free to patients and yet are much more necessary for survival and disease prevention. So, why is the administration pushing for contraceptives to be free and not graver health necessities?

For supporters of the recent HHS mandate that forces religious institutions to buy insurance that makes these items free to their employees and students, the cause served is “reproductive justice.” It was as past president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice that Sandra Fluke testified to Congress—as a victim of injustice who, along with her female peers at Georgetown, suffers from not having contraception paid for her in full. But what is “reproductive justice”? To help answer that question, perhaps we should first ask: Who is guilty of the injustice? For Fluke, it’s her school that “creates untenable burdens that impede our academic success.”

But of course it’s unfair to say that an institution, by not covering the cost of some product, implicitly creates burdens for its female students. My employer, by not covering my preferred allergy medicine, doesn’t create my burden of allergies. My allergy problems are internal to myself. They are, so to speak, natural problems I live with, ones I cannot label as someone else’s fault. Unless I were futilely to blame, say, God or nature. But I would argue that underneath it all, advocates of “reproductive justice” do blame nature. Nature is the true obstacle to these women’s idea of justice.

Fluke might not put it this way, but radical feminists who cling to terms like “reproductive justice” and “reproductive freedom” are really trying to beat the cards that nature dealt them. They want sexual license outside the scope of what nature provides as the healthiest course—sex with one person for a lifetime. They object to the reality that sex can naturally lead to babies, creating burdens that research shows they’d be best suited to bear with the help of a husband. Underneath sexual liberationists’ wish to overthrow patriarchal traditions of marriage and religious institutions’ principles of sexual ethics, there seems to be a wish to overthrow the most stubborn foundation of all—nature herself.

This thinking was impossible to miss as I read the recent book by staunch activist for reproductive rights Merle Hoffman, Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Boardroom. A rambling memoir of her personal life that spares none of the inglorious parts—having an affair with her much-older boss, marrying him and then abandoning him in the last years of his life, hiring doctors with bad records to perform abortions at her clinic, being sued for Medicare fraud—the book reveals Hoffman to be less the mind behind the abortion movement and more an accidental money-maker from it in the New York metropolitan area.

Hoffman is not your average abortion supporter. For one thing, she recognizes abortion as ending the life of another human being. She also recognizes the unconstitutionality of “the right to choose”: “the U.S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy, so the foundational legal pillar of [abortion] is vulnerable.”
It’s refreshing to see someone on the pro-abortion side speak so candidly about the issue. But, if one recognizes abortion as the ending of a life, and concedes that its legality is not protected in the Constitution, then where lies the defense?

One shouldn’t strain too hard to find logic in Hoffman’s memoir. What the book doesn’t offer in a coherent thesis, it does reveal in an underlying theme that discloses the reasoning of those who champion reproductive freedom.

Hoffman started her career working as a receptionist in a medical office, began an affair with the doctor who ran it, and followed his career path to help him start an abortion clinic in New York. Soon, Hoffman was running an abortion clinic herself. With every abortion patient she welcomed, Hoffman grew more and more committed to helping women find reproductive freedom.

After decades of abortion activism in New York, at age 66 she writes that even if abortion ends a life, it is defensible in the pursuit of “true reproductive freedom” for women. As Hoffman puts it, “the anti-choice movement claimed that if women knew what abortion really was, if only the providers had told them the truth, they would never have killed their babies. . . . But women did know the truth, just as I knew it, deep down, when I allowed myself to recognize it. Mothers saw the sonogram pictures, knew that sound bites assuring them that abortion was no different from any other benign outpatient surgery were false—knew that, as the antis say, ‘abortion stops a beating heart.’” Even still, she continues, they were making a “decision so vital it was worth stopping that heart.”

Having witnessed these hearts being stopped for years now, Hoffman admits, “I wasn’t immune to the physicality of abortion . . . but I quickly came to realize that those who deliver abortion services have not only the power to give women control over their bodies and lives but also the power—and the responsibility—of taking life in order to do that.” She continues, “acknowledgment of that truth is the foundation for all the political and personal work necessary to maintain women’s reproductive freedom.”

Unlike other freedoms, reproductive freedom has no basis in nature and no mention in the Constitution; it is not considered a God-given freedom, so to speak. Instead, terms like reproductive freedom are manufactured ideas—ideas that represent what some people want to strive for. Ideas that nevertheless, for women like Hoffman, are worth protecting in law.

Hoffman writes, “the comparative history of abortion is actually the history of power relations between states and their female populations. . . . The battlefields are different, but the war is always the same. . . . True reproductive freedom for women is never under consideration.”

So, getting back to our original question: What is “true reproductive freedom”? If it means absolute sexual license without consequences such as pregnancy and children, then it has the unfortunate attribute of never before existing in history. It’s not a freedom that women have ever fully exercised; it isn’t one that was possessed by women at some time but was taken from them and thus needs to be safeguarded from violators.

Nevertheless, terms like “reproductive freedom” and “reproductive justice” are the rallying cries of such advocates. For Hoffman and her comrades, unwanted pregnancy is an unjust imposition on women who are sexually active. Technology such as contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization have nearly evened the scales of reproductive justice—even if not completely; as long as women have had to pay for these things, they’re still being treated unjustly.

It’s this fringe-feminist thinking that can explain the reasoning behind HHS mandating free contraceptive and abortifacient coverage. But according to this logic, it would be equally unjust for women to pay $300-$500 out of pocket for an abortion. Men don’t have to go through the trouble of getting abortions or bear the financial, physical, and emotional burdens. In a sense, the millions of dollars Hoffman has made from women’s abortions are a testament to her cashing in on what her own logic would call a grave injustice to women.

In her defense, Hoffman would cling to her favorite prop to carry at abortion rallies—the wire hanger, which for her symbolized the purpose of the movement. Hoffman’s solace in her work came knowing that if doctors weren’t performing abortions or prescribing the morning-after pill, women would be taking health risks in pursuing illegal abortions. The “back-alley abortion” argument—another impressive instance of logic—relies on women implying that if they aren’t granted legal ability to end their child’s life in the womb, they’ll hold themselves hostage and threaten both lives if not appeased.

But it’s fair to say this self-destructive turn in logic hasn’t really helped today’s radical feminists. Pitting women against nature, it is running into the ground a movement that started rightly in the name of peaceful ideals. Once they justified mothers ending the lives of their children, they created an unsustainable pillar for the movement—as evidenced by abortion remaining an unsettled issue in America nearly forty years after its legality.

Hoffman describes her own abortion saying, “Now I was joined to the common experience of my sex.” But abortion has never been the common experience of women. For all of history and for most of the world, it’s childbirththat essential part of womanhood that keeps humanity going. Hoffman never treated herself to the experience of motherhood, until at age 58 she decided to adopt a girl in Russia. But not all women have that luxury. Hers is not quite a picture of reproductive justice.

It’s tragic, really. The fight against nature is a hard and constant fight. In Intimate Wars, Hoffman’s decades-long odyssey fighting the battles for reproductive freedom brings to mind the words of the Greek tragic dramatist Aeschylus: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”

Mary Rose Somarriba is chief operating officer of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., and managing editor of Altcatholicah.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage

AT 32, one of my clients (I’ll call her Jennifer) had a lavish wine-country wedding. By then, Jennifer and her boyfriend had lived together for more than four years. The event was attended by the couple’s friends, families and two dogs.
When Jennifer started therapy with me less than a year later, she was looking for a divorce lawyer. “I spent more time planning my wedding than I spent happily married,” she sobbed. Most disheartening to Jennifer was that she’d tried to do everything right. “My parents got married young so, of course, they got divorced. We lived together! How did this happen?”
Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation. This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing. But when you talk to people in their 20s, you also hear about something else: cohabitation as prophylaxis.
In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.
But that belief is contradicted by experience. Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect.
Researchers originally attributed the cohabitation effect to selection, or the idea that cohabitors were less conventional about marriage and thus more open to divorce. As cohabitation has become a norm, however, studies have shown that the effect is not entirely explained by individual characteristics like religion, education or politics. Research suggests that at least some of the risks may lie in cohabitation itself.
As Jennifer and I worked to answer her question, “How did this happen?” we talked about how she and her boyfriend went from dating to cohabiting. Her response was consistent with studies reporting that most couples say it “just happened.”
“We were sleeping over at each other’s places all the time,” she said. “We liked to be together, so it was cheaper and more convenient. It was a quick decision but if it didn’t work out there was a quick exit.”
She was talking about what researchers call “sliding, not deciding.” Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.
WHEN researchers ask cohabitors these questions, partners often have different, unspoken — even unconscious — agendas. Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage. One thing men and women do agree on, however, is that their standards for a live-in partner are lower than they are for a spouse.
Sliding into cohabitation wouldn’t be a problem if sliding out were as easy. But it isn’t. Too often, young adults enter into what they imagine will be low-cost, low-risk living situations only to find themselves unable to get out months, even years, later. It’s like signing up for a credit card with 0 percent interest. At the end of 12 months when the interest goes up to 23 percent you feel stuck because your balance is too high to pay off. In fact, cohabitation can be exactly like that. In behavioral economics, it’s called consumer lock-in.
Lock-in is the decreased likelihood to search for, or change to, another option once an investment in something has been made. The greater the setup costs, the less likely we are to move to another, even better, situation, especially when faced with switching costs, or the time, money and effort it requires to make a change.
Cohabitation is loaded with setup and switching costs. Living together can be fun and economical, and the setup costs are subtly woven in. After years of living among roommates’ junky old stuff, couples happily split the rent on a nice one-bedroom apartment. They share wireless and pets and enjoy shopping for new furniture together. Later, these setup and switching costs have an impact on how likely they are to leave.
Jennifer said she never really felt that her boyfriend was committed to her.  “I felt like I was on this multiyear, never-ending audition to be his wife,” she said. “We had all this furniture. We had our dogs and all the same friends. It just made it really, really difficult to break up. Then it was like we got married because we were living together once we got into our 30s.”
I’ve had other clients who also wish they hadn’t sunk years of their 20s into relationships that would have lasted only months had they not been living together. Others want to feel committed to their partners, yet they are confused about whether they have consciously chosen their mates. Founding relationships on convenience or ambiguity can interfere with the process of claiming the people we love. A life built on top of “maybe you’ll do” simply may not feel as dedicated as a life built on top of the “we do” of commitment or marriage.
The unfavorable connection between cohabitation and divorce does seem to be lessening, however, according to a report released last monthby the Department of Health and Human Services. More good news is that a 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found that nearly two-thirds of Americans saw cohabitation as a step toward marriage.
This shared and serious view of cohabitation may go a long way toward further attenuating the cohabitation effect because the most recent research suggests that serial cohabitators, couples with differing levels of commitment and those who use cohabitation as a test are most at risk for poor relationship quality and eventual relationship dissolution.
Cohabitation is here to stay, and there are things young adults can do to protect their relationships from the cohabitation effect. It’s important to discuss each person’s motivation and commitment level beforehand and, even better, to view cohabitation as an intentional step toward, rather than a convenient test for, marriage or partnership.
It also makes sense to anticipate and regularly evaluate constraints that may keep you from leaving.
I am not for or against living together, but I am for young adults knowing that, far from safeguarding against divorce and unhappiness, moving in with someone can increase your chances of making a mistake — or of spending too much time on a mistake. A mentor of mine used to say, “The best time to work on someone’s marriage is before he or she has one,” and in our era, that may mean before cohabitation.
Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — and How to Make the Most of Them Now.”

Friday, 13 April 2012

Leklust catalog, Sweden
Leklust catalog, Sweden

Sweden’s New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen

A country tries to banish gender.

By most people’s standards, Sweden is a paradise for liberated women. It has the highest proportion of working women in the world, and women earn about two-thirds of all degrees. Standard parental leave runs at 480 days, and 60 of those days are reserved exclusively for dads, causing some to credit the country with forging the way for a new kind of nurturing masculinity. In 2010, the World Economic Forum designated Sweden as the most gender-equal country in the world.
But for many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral. The idea is that the government and society should tolerate no distinctions at all between the sexes. This means on the narrow level that society should show sensitivity to people who don't identify themselves as either male or female, including allowing any type of couple to marry. But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.
Activists are lobbying for parents to be able to choose any name for their children (there are currently just 170 legally recognized unisex names in Sweden). The idea is that names should not be at all tied to gender, so it would be acceptable for parents to, say, name a girl Jack or a boy Lisa. A Swedish children's clothes company has removed the "boys" and "girls" sections in its stores, and the idea of dressing children in a gender-neutral manner has been widely discussed on parenting blogs. This Swedish toy catalogrecently decided to switch things around, showing a boy in a Spider-Man costume pushing a pink pram, while a girl in denim rides a yellow tractor.

The Swedish Bowling Association has announced plans to merge male and female bowling tournaments in order to make the sport gender-neutral. Social Democrat politicians have proposed installing gender-neutral restrooms so that members of the public will not be compelled to categorize themselves as either ladies or gents. Several preschools have banished references to pupils' genders, instead referring to children by their first names or as "buddies." So, a teacher would say "good morning, buddies" or "good morning, Lisa, Tom, and Jack" rather than, "good morning, boys and girls." They believe this fulfills the national curriculum's guideline that preschools should "counteract traditional gender patterns and gender roles" and give girls and boys "the same opportunities to test and develop abilities and interests without being limited by stereotypical gender roles."
Earlier this month, the movement for gender neutrality reached a milestone: Just days after International Women's Day a new pronoun, hen (pronounced like the bird in English), was added to the online version of the country’s National Encyclopedia. The entrydefines hen as a "proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon]."The National Encyclopedia announcement came amid a heated debate about gender neutrality that has been raging in Swedish newspaper columns and TV studios and on parenting blogs and feminist websites. It was sparked by the publication of Sweden's first ever gender-neutral children's book, Kivi och Monsterhund(Kivi and Monsterdog). It tells the story of Kivi, who wants a dog for "hen's" birthday. The male author, Jesper Lundqvist, introduces several gender-neutral words in the book. For instance the words mammor and pappor (moms and dads) are replaced with mappor andpammor.
The free lifestyle magazine, Nöjesguiden, which is distributed in major Swedish cities and is similar to the Village Voice, recently released an issue using hen throughout. In his column, writer Kawa Zolfagari says, "It can be hard to handle the male ego sometimes. I myself tend to get a stinging feeling when a female friend has had it with sexism or has got hurt because of some guy and desperately blurts out some generalisation about men. Sometimes I think 'Hen knows me, hen knows I am not an idiot, why does hen speak that way of all men?' Nöjesguiden's editor, Margret Atladottir, said hen ought to be included in the dictionary of the Swedish Academy, the body that awards the Nobel Prize in literature.
Hen was first mentioned by Swedish linguists in the mid-1960s, and then in 1994 the late linguist Hans Karlgren suggested adding hen as a new personal pronoun, mostly for practical reasons. Karlgren was trying to avoid the awkward he/she that gums up writing, and invent a single word "that enables us to speak of a person without specifying their gender. He argued that it could improve the Swedish language and make it more nuanced.
Today's hen champions, however, have a distinctly political agenda. For instance, Lundqvist's book is published by a house named Olika, which means “different or diverse.” Olika only publishes books that "challenge stereotypes and obsolete norms and traditions in the world of literature." Its titles include 100 möjligheter Istället för 2! (“100 possibilities instead of 2!”), a book for adults who "want to give children more opportunities in gender-stereotyped everyday life"; and Det var en gång … en ritbok!(“Once upon a time there was … a drawing book!”), the first "gender-scrutinizing" drawing book for children that "challenges traditional and diminishing conceptions of girls and boys, men and women."
But not everyone is keen on this political meddling with the Swedish language. In a recentinterview for Vice magazine, Jan Guillou, one of Sweden's most well-known authors, referred to proponents of hen as "feminist activists who want to destroy our language." Other critics believe it can be psychologically and socially damaging, especially for children. Elise Claeson, a columnist and a former equality expert at the Swedish Confederation of Professions, has said that young children can become confused by the suggestion that there is a third, "in-between" gender at a time when their brains and bodies are developing. Adults should not interrupt children's discovery of their gender and sexuality, argues Claeson. She told the Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter, that "gender ideologues" have managed to change the curriculum to establish that schools should actively counter gender roles.
Claeson might have a point. The Swedish school system has wholeheartedly, and probably too quickly and eagerly, embraced this new agenda. Last fall, 200 teachers attended a major government-sponsored conference discussing how to avoid "traditional gender patterns" in schools. At Egalia, one model Stockholm preschool, everything from the decoration to the books and toys are carefully selected to promote a gender-equal perspective and to avoid traditional presentations of gender and parenting roles. The teachers try to expose the pupils to as few "gendered expressions" as possible. At Christmastime, the Egalia staff rewrote a traditional song as "hen bakes cakes all day long." When pupils play house, they are encouraged to include "mommy, daddy, child" in their imaginary families, as well as "daddy, daddy, child"; "mommy, mommy, child"; "daddy, daddy, sister, aunty, child"; or any other modern combination.
To those who feel gender equality or gender neutrality ought to be intrinsic to a modern society, it probably makes sense to argue for instilling such values at an early age. The Green Party has even suggested placing "gender pedagogues" in every preschool in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, who can act as watchdogs. But of course toddlers cannot weigh arguments for and against linguistic interventions and they do not conceive of or analyze gender roles in the way that adults do.
Ironically, in the effort to free Swedish children from so-called normative behavior, gender-neutral proponents are also subjecting them to a whole set of new rules and new norms as certain forms of play become taboo, language becomes regulated, and children's interactions and attitudes are closely observed by teachers. One Swedish school got ridof its toy cars because boys "gender-coded" them and ascribed the cars higher status than other toys. Another preschool removed "free playtime" from its schedule because, as a pedagogue at the school put it, when children play freely "stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying." And so every detail of children's interactions gets micromanaged by concerned adults, who end up problematizing minute aspects of children's lives, from how they form friendships to what games they play and what songs they sing.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

‘LGBT’ Demands Get a Boost From Hillary Clinton and the U.N. (724)

The Yogyakarta Principles pressure foreign governments to grant special protection for persons based on sexual orientation and 'gender identity.'


In 2006, a group of self-appointed “human-rights experts” met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and developed the set of principles, the purpose of which was to pressure governments to grant special protections to persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Since then the changes recommended in the Yogyakarta Principles have received support from various sources.

On Dec. 6, in a speech in Geneva, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put the full weight of the Obama administration behind the “LGBT” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) demands, announcing “a new Global Equality Fund that will support the work of civil society organizations working on these issues around the world.” Clinton also issued a threat that U.S. “foreign assistance” could be tied to a government’s support of “LGBT rights.” U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon recently also supported the LGBT demands.

In November of 2011 a report entitled “Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence Against Individuals Based on Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” was issued by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, which incorporated most of the “LGBT” demands found in the Yogyakarta Principles. This March, the U.N. Human Rights Council sponsored a discussion of the report in Geneva.

Only those who supported the “LGBT” demands were allowed to make presentations. In protest, ambassadors from the Organization of Islamic Countries and the Arab Group staged a walkout. Before leaving, Saeed Sarwar, the Pakistani delegate, told the group: “The OIC member states would like to record their consistent and firm opposition to the subject under discussion.” Other countries, including the Russian Federation, some African nations, as well as the Holy See, also opposed the “LGBT” demands.

While those pushing for the change speak of unprovoked violence against sexual minorities, the changes demanded address more than bodily harm. Those defending family and religious freedom know that at the U.N. even the most innocent-sounding language with even the most apparently limited application once adopted into an internationally recognized document can be infinitely expanded to something that is totally contrary to the intention of those who approved the change. They are, therefore, extremely wary of approving any new language, no matter how seemingly benign. Concern in this case is justified, since the supporters of the addition of “sexual orientation and gender identity” have laid out their ultimate objectives in the Yogyakarta Principles. For example:  

Principle 3 calls on governments to change legal documents to reflect a person’s “self-defined gender identity,” whether or not the person has been surgically altered to resemble the other sex.

Self-defined gender identity would cover men and women who have been surgically altered to resemble the sex they were not born as, as well as those who simply want to dress in public as the other sex and even those who insist that they not be labeled male or female. Governments would be forced to change birth certificates and other documents, even for those who had not been surgically altered. It also would allow the so-called sex-change process to begin before puberty, allowing troubled children to attend elementary school as the other sex.

Some men who want to be women are attracted to other men and want to marry them, which would be a “same-sex marriage.” Likewise, some women want to be recognized as male and marry women. There is another group of men, labeled by some as autogynephiles” (men who are in love with the image of themselves as a woman). These men are sexually aroused by secretly dressing in women’s clothing, while outwardly living as normal males, marrying and having children. Later in life their desire to resemble a woman becomes stronger, and they seek surgical alteration; however, some continue to be attracted to women and label themselves “lesbians.”

The Church opposes surgical alteration of this kind as mutilation (Catechism, 2297) and will not change baptismal records, marry or ordain anyone who claims to have changed his gender. The Catechism teaches: “Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reason, directly intended amputations, mutilations and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law” (2297).

Pope Benedict XVI reinforced this teaching in  Genesis in an Advent address to the Curia in 2008 when he stated that God’s creation of male and female is a gift, and the Pope criticized those who would alter it.

“It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God.” 

Principle 5 of the Principles: “Impose appropriate criminal penalties for violence, threats of violence, incitement to violence and related harassment based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of any person or group of persons in all sphere of life, including the family.” There are already laws against violence that should be enforced, but sexual minorities are very quick to accuse anyone who opposes their agenda of harassment. Simply reading Scriptures on sexual sin has been treated in some jurisdictions as “inciting to violence.” This principle also calls for “awareness-raising to combat prejudices that underlie violence.” Such campaigns create intolerance against Christians who express disapproval of the “LGBT” agenda.

Principle 16: “Ensure that education methods, curricula and resources serve to enhance understanding of and respect for, inter alia, diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.” Such teaching necessarily demeans religious teachings and violates the rights of parents to control the education of their children.

Principle 19: “Ensure that notions of public order, morality, public health and public security are not employed to restrict, in a discriminatory manner, any exercise of freedom of opinion or expression that affirms diverse sexual orientation or gender identities.” This would, among other things, prevent governments from setting up dress codes or restricting grossly immodest “gay parades.”

and closing venues (such as circuit parties and bathhouses) where sexually transmitted diseases and HIV are known to spread.

Principle 24 redefines the “right to found a family” to include “access to adoption or assisted procreation (including donor insemination) without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This “right” has been used to force religion-based agencies out of the adoption business in Massachusetts, Illinois and Great Britain.

Principle 29 calls for legal accountability of “those directly or indirectly responsible” for violations of human-rights violations, as defined in the Principles. Of concern is the word “indirectly.” This reasoning has already been used to accuse ministers who preach against specific sexual sins of indirectly causing violence against sexual minorities, even when the perpetrators had never been in the church.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s representative to the United Nations, issued a statement on the 2011 report from the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. While condemning violence and unjust discrimination against any person, the Holy See opposed the use of the categories “sexual orientation and gender identity,” according to Archbishop Tomasi:

“… the term ‘gender’ [as defined in the Statute of the International Criminal Court] refers to the two sexes, male and female, within the context of society. The term ‘gender’ does not indicate any meaning different from the above. Thus, the Holy See notes that the categories ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ find no recognition or clear and agreed definition in international law. Any requirement for states to take such terms into account in their efforts to promote and implement fundamental human rights could result in serious uncertainty in the application of law and undermine the ability of states to enter into and enforce new and existing human-rights conventions and standards.”

The commissioner’s report condemns “homophobic and transphobic attitudes” and “heteronormative gender identity.” This represents a clear challenge not only to freedom of religion, but also to those who believe, based on natural law, in the differences between men and women, traditional marriage and in the impossibility of changing sex.

Dale O’Leary is a freelance writer and lecturer. She is the author of many articles and the book The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality and One Man, One Woman. She has made national and international appearances on television and radio. She currently resides in Florida.