Wildfires Are Like Sex, at Least That's What Focus on the Family Would Like You to Believe


Just in case you were worried that the right wing had packed up and moved to Canada after Obamacare was upheld, Focus On The Family is here to make sure you don’t forget about them (via MotherJones via Right Wing Watch.) Apparently, the wildfires currently tearing through Colorado provide them a perfect analogy for the dangers of premarital sex and sex education. You have to read this yourself to believe it:

“Wouldn’t we all agree that it’s better to prevent a forest fire, if and when possible, than treat the immense damage in its aftermath?

These questions are similar to what the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) is asking Congress and state legislatures about our nation’s approach toward pre-marital sex ... Certain questions arise: Why aren’t our schools, our states and our nation placing a clear and unquestionable priority on sexual risk avoidance (SRA)? Why are we intentionally spending billions of dollars handing kids matches (condoms), which result in careless (sexual) “fires” and treating victims who have been unnecessarily burned by sex (STDs, pregnancy)? Wouldn’t prevention be cheaper and healthier?

“Safe” sex education – or promoting casual sex, while handing out condoms and birth control to kids – is analogous to passing out matches to kids in school, and telling them, “Be sure you play safely with these in the forest and, above all, have fun!””

Do you know what I consider to be the most ironic part of this statement? The fact that we would all agree that “it’s better to prevent a forest fire.” I don’t think you could find anyone who is in favor of unplanned teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, or the other hazards that can come from (unsafe) sex. Whether you believe that abstinence-only sex education is the key or think every child should be taught everything about sex before his or her 12th birthday , I’m pretty sure that everyone has the same goal: teaching people to live safe, healthy, and happy lives.

The problem comes when one particular (moral) definition of safe, healthy, and happy is made to overshadow all others. I was lucky enough to go to a high school that taught me about the different risks inherent in sexual activity and the different ways to protect myself from them. My health teacher used the phrase “safer sex,” because, as she put it, “the only safe sex is no sex.” And yes, she was right: there’s no perfect form of safe sex. The typical 15% failure rate of condoms, though, didn’t stop her from teaching us to take advantage of the other 85% of the time (which is actually closer to 95% when condoms are used, given that failure rates take into account times when people who use condoms as their primary form of birth control have sex without one ... but you get my point).

Fundamentally, if your goal is preventing pregnancy, abstinence is safer than even the safest form of safe sex. Abstinence-only sex education, though, isn’t about pregnancy or STD’s. Abstinence-only sex education only works in a world in which you can trust, and want, an entire classroom full of teenagers to deny their natural hormonal instincts. Abstinence doesn’t even prevent STD’s, which can be transmitted through oral sex.

When we talk about sex-ed “working,” we usually talk about teen pregnancy rates, STD rates—we talk about how successfully we are managing the risks that come from expression of sexuality. Abstinence-only sex education isn’t about managing risks, because, as the wildfire analogy makes perfectly clear, it comes from a mentality in which sex itself is the risk.

This has been said a million times, but it needs to be said again: teenagers won’t suddenly start having more sex than they would anyway just because somebody taught them how to put on a condom. Condoms are not “matches” capable of  igniting a forest fire of human sexuality; anyone who’s ever been a teenager knows that that fire is already burning, baby. The longer we place the emphasis on naively trying to prevent teens from having sex at any cost, the more risk we expose them to if they do decide to have sex.

Why is this still even up for debate?