I'm going to break my normal rule of not blogging whilst inebriated. (My Perspectives final is done, the Reg State one holds little fear, and frankly, cheap Stella Artois is too good to pass up.) So forgive me if the spelling is pretty grim, but this makes a good Reg State topic.
Will Baude is hoping that the new policy in some areas of Britain--to encourage kids to have oral sex and thus delay intercourse--is going to be a good thing. He thinks it will discourage teen pregnancy. I have my skepticism. States Baude:
I know that oral sex isn't necessarily 100% safe from disease (or from whatever moral decay some people think attaches to certain kinds of sex), but it is 100% safe from pregnancy, which is especially important when some kinds of birth control are unavailable to the young (though the British system of medicine is different from the one we have here).
Well, let's look at the 'evidence' put forward by the scheme's proponents?
Now the government will recommend the scheme, called A Pause, to schools throughout England and Wales following the success of the trial in 104 schools where sexual intercourse among 16-year-olds fell by up to 20 per cent, according to Dr John Tripp of the Department of Child Health at the University of Exeter, who helped to design the course.
But does that tell you anything? How many of the girls involved were having oral sex at 16, and graduated to straight intercourse at 17? Are we any better off as a society because those acts of intercourse were delayed by a year? How much of this was merely a delay of the problem by a statistically meaningless fraction? We don't know. (Though the study does say that, "Schoolchildren, particularly girls, who received such training developed a 'more mature' response to sex." How lovely.)
More to the point, oral sex carries its own risks. Baude mentions that "I know that oral sex isn't necessarily 100% safe from disease (or from whatever moral decay some people think attaches to certain kinds of sex), but it is 100% safe from pregnancy, which is especially important when some kinds of birth control are unavailable to the young (though the British system of medicine is different from the one we have here)." You'll excuse me if the idea of raising a generation of girls with a higher rate of oral herpes or genital warts--both nicely spread through unprotected oral sex--doesn't seem like a sterling policy victory.
My dismay at this program basically rests in its uselessness. Somehow I can't imagine that British teenagers need training in the fact that oral sex is a 'safer' alternative to normal sex, expecially with relation to pregnancy. I base this on the fact that even the benighted young gentleman of Alabama, where I spent my youth, were often quite ready to encourage a young lady to participate in fellatio as a sign of affection that didn't risk pregnancy, and I never got the impression that the men or women of England were substantially less-inclined to the obvious. In the meantime, by encouraging oral sex as a way-point, you might actually be promoting health problems, a far cry from the Observer's conclusion that this "dispel[s] the fears of family campaigners who believe such methods actually arouse the sexual interest of teenagers."
To make this conclusion, you'd need more than the Observer's hope and assertion: you'd need data that these women (and, let's not forget, their partners) didn't suffer from a greater rate of oral herpes or genital warts. You'd need some idea of the baseline number of girls who were engaging in fellatio anyway. You'd need, in short, a solid defense and reasonable data, instead of the sort of article the Observer likes to print because it can score cheap points against "family campaigners."
The relationship ot Reg State, of course, is that this is the kind of hole you have to pick in a fact-pattern: how did the proponent of the idea fail to get from X to Y. But mostly, it's just an example of why I think the Observer isn't a particularly good newspaper, unless you already agree with what it says. In which case, I can't imagine why it's useful.