The Young & the Hot-Wired
Planned Parenthood Teaches Teenagers Perversity’s Best Techniques
by Dawn Eden
Readers are warned that this report includes quite graphic
In January of this year, when a 16-year-old boy had been charged with a felony for killing his girlfriend’s unborn child by striking her stomach with a baseball bat, Planned Parenthood acknowledged that a tragedy had occurred. But the organization’s definition of tragedy was far different from that of prosecutors.
For Planned Parenthood, the tragedy was not that the unborn child was killed. It was that the abortion was done outside a doctor’s office, with all the legal and medical protections that such an environment provides. According to The Detroit News,
That is how Planned Parenthood deals with uncomfortable moral issues, especially as they relate to teenagers and abortion: paradigm shifts. It aims to redirect people’s natural sense of right and wrong, so that they will have a sense of moral justification as they condemn what is good and uphold what is evil. How better to shift the moral paradigm of a generation than by instilling a new set of values in its young?
An article in the Madera (California) Tribune on that city’s Planned Parenthood clinic included, amid the usual description of the site’s offerings, an aside from the facility’s manager: “Our community outreach program includes providing books for the children of our clients to encourage their love of reading.”
Since its inception, Planned Parenthood has been keenly interested in providing reading material to children—and doing so in a surreptitious fashion that belies the organization’s true intent. In 1916, its founder, Margaret Sanger, published the sex-ed pamphlet What Every Mother Should Know, or, How Six Little Children Were Taught the Truth, explaining her method in its introduction: “The idea is that the child be taught the process of reproduction and absorb such knowledge without realizing he has received any ‘sex’ instruction.”
Over the years, Planned Parenthood has melded Sanger’s teachings with those of Dr. Alfred Kinsey and the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS, which received its first major grant money from Playboy magazine). The result, which has been revised many times over, is one of the organization’s most widely distributed publications, available on its website: Human Sexuality—What Children Need to Know and When They Need to Know It.
Sex education used to be given entirely by children’s parents, free from the influence of government or other outside organizations. It was based upon personal responsibility and self-control. Even when parents erred by instilling undue shame, the lesson—that sex should be reserved for marriage—gave children moral strength to resist allowing themselves to use others or be used as a means to an end.
The Kinsey/SIECUS/Planned Parenthood paradigm, as expressed in Human Sexuality, is likewise all about personal responsibility and self-control. But the responsibility has shifted to the responsibility to make one’s own “choices”—and self-control is reduced to having the presence of mind to use a condom.
Instead of treating sexuality as but one aspect of a person’s identity, Planned Parenthood assumes that sexual impulses control us, rather than the other way around. As Human Sexuality puts it:
This is Planned Parenthood’s philosophy in a nutshell. Through it, sexuality is no longer subordinate to individuals’ “values about life, love, and the people in our lives,” but usurps them to become the driving force.
The emphasis on the controlling power of sexual drives and impulses comes through most strongly in Human Sexuality’s repeated emphasis upon teaching children masturbation. By age five, it states, “children need to know that touching their sex organs for pleasure is normal,” and they “need to be able to seek privacy when they want to touch their sex organs for pleasure.” Children ages eight to twelve “need to know that masturbation is very common and that it is normal to masturbate—but only in private.” And again, in case parents didn’t get it the first two times, the brochure repeats, “they need to be able to feel that it is normal to masturbate.”
The use of masturbation as a means of educating children about sexuality from “under age five” onward, accomplishes five things for Planned Parenthood:
• It enables children to detach sexual expression from love or any
kind of bonding with another human being.
Last January, in the wake of a report by its longtime ally, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cal.), deriding abstinence-only
educational programs, Planned Parenthood announced in a press release, “It’s time to rise up and tell the federal government to stop funding abstinence-only programs and start investing in medically accurate, comprehensive, and responsible sex education.”
For an understanding of what Planned Parenthood means by such education, one need look no further than Teenwire, which the organization claims is the leading site for teenagers seeking answers about sex. No mere archive of Q’s and A’s, Teenwire is a slickly produced “edutainment” site, bursting with interactive games, quizzes, and animations. It’s the multi-media realization of all the goals of Human Sexuality and then some, including:
• An animation to educate children about sexually transmitted diseases—which
depicts a naked couple copulating with a cow.
All this would be disturbing enough if the site were intended only for teenagers. However, a check of Teenwire’s registration page—which enables users to “Ask the Experts” and to answer one another’s questions in the “Hothouse”—reveals that its target demographic runs all the way down to the SpongeBob SquarePants set. To register on Teenwire, one has to give a birth year between 1960 and 1998. So registered users may be as old as 44—or as young as six.
This is despite the fact that the site’s note to “Parents and Professionals” specifically requests that adults not register on the site. In the manner that has been the hallmark of Planned Parenthood’s sex education since the days of Margaret Sanger’s pamphlets, Teenwire advises its readers of the rules—and then gives them the means to break them.
Planned Parenthood’s stated goal with Teenwire is to educate teens to make “responsible choices.” But while the site’s materials occasionally mention abstinence as one of many choices, it never dares to suggest, even gently, that there are real benefits to waiting— benefits that are emotional as well as physical. By stressing “choice”—the organization’s mantra—it not only encourages teens to accept abortion (and thus to have abortions), but also to change their thinking about every other sexual matter, including contraception, homosexuality, and flexible gender identities.
This approach, which Planned Parenthood has been developing on Teenwire for the past six years, is the basis for the curriculum that Planned Parenthood is trying to instill in the public schools by having its representatives speak to classes. Thanks to the enormous amount of federal, state, and local taxpayer dollars that the organization receives for its operations (over a quarter-billion in fiscal 2004), it has great financial leeway to use money from donors to achieve its goals.
To explore Teenwire is to enter a labyrinth of dizzying choices, with seemingly endless options, none of which leads to truth. The only absolute certainties in Planned Parenthood’s relativist universe are the saving power of condoms—which the site stresses will enable one to attain all of one’s sexual goals safely—and the overriding importance of pleasure, which must be pursued at all costs.
The brazen way in which Teenwire creates a morality-free zone for its young visitors is apparent in essays like “Porn vs. Reality.” Christy Brownlee writes, “Now, if you’re a law-abiding teenager, we can safely say you’ve never even taken a peek at pornographic material—it’s illegal in the U.S. for anyone under the age of 18. However, not everyone follows the rules, and you may run across some porn before you turn 18. There are a few things you should know about the images you might see. Tune in, and we’ll tell you the facts!”
And do they ever. The whole article is written for teenagers who don’t “follow the rules.” Because some of them may already have been exposed to pornography, all the others get to hear about it—from a prurient perspective that implies “everybody’s doing it.” Replace “pornography” with “sex” and that’s Planned Parenthood’s “comprehensive sex education” in a nutshell.
The ostensible point of “Porn vs. Reality” is to boost young people’s self-esteem by telling them that they don’t have to look like porn stars in order to be sexually attractive: “For the most part, the models or actors used in porn fulfill certain physical stereotypes. . . . The stereotypes are designed to let the viewer fantasize about the activity, not about the people doing it. So most people who have real sex don’t look anything like people who have sex in porn, especially the women.”
To boost this hypothesis, Teenwire turns to a real-life expert: the owner of the sex-shop chain Toys in Babeland, who helpfully explains that all kinds of people like to watch pornography: “People who stop by her store to pick up porn movies ‘look just like you, me, or anyone you’ve ever met.’”
By this point, the Teenwire reader has gone beyond thinking about self-esteem and is now thinking about what it’s like to watch the perfect bodies in an actual porn video. And once again, Teenwire is there to help. The article ends with the link, “For more info, check out Scarleteen: Sex Education for the Real World.”
Scarleteen, founded by lesbian pornographer Heather Corinna, features a shop where young people can buy products from—of course—Toys in Babeland. Score one for the cross-marketing geniuses at Planned Parenthood. What’s more, when young visitors to Scarleteen and Toys in Babeland purchase pornography or sadomasochistic sex toys, no one at either site will ask them their age.
The theme that “responsible” people should feel free to indulge sexual urges rather than control them for the sake of a higher goal—and that masturbation, with or without sex toys, is a laudable means of self-discovery—is repeated constantly in Teenwire. It’s even on the site’s promotional gear. A Teenwire-brand school-supply bag bears the legend, “Being a good partner means having the right tools.” An eraser states, “Rub away the confusion.” Then there’s the pen that has printed along its side, “Different strokes for different folks.” And the brightly colored rulers—for schoolchildren—saying, “Does Size Matter?”
Some of the writings on the site read like child erotica, with teens giving firsthand accounts of their sexual experiences. One writer who calls himself “Halcyon” writes in an essay titled “Springtime in My Trousers”:
Just Don’t Do It
A parent reading such puerile and sophomoric prose written under the guise of instruction could be forgiven for thinking that Planned Parenthood’s goal is simply to sexualize children.
In July 2004, when South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, at the urging of Sioux Falls Bishop Robert Carlson, took the bold and principled stance of removing a Teenwire link from the state library’s website, Planned Parenthood attacked him as a censor. Yet the organization seems to have no concept of self-censorship when offering advice to children at the most vulnerable age, on issues that affect their physical and emotional health on the deepest level.
“Responsible choices,” made according to Teenwire’s “just do it” philosophy, are not enough. Children need to be taught to make the right choices. For that, they need a curriculum based on a strong moral foundation, which Planned Parenthood is clearly unwilling to provide. •
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“The Young & the Hot-Wired” first appeared in the April 2005 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
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