Monthly Archives: December 2009

Of Pipe Dreams and Expectations or Why Abstinence Only Education Sucks

This was going to be a comment over here but because I get long winded sometimes it turned into a post instead.

If its one thing I must give my mostly conservative parents credit for, it’s for trying. They weren’t very comfortable discussing sex but my siblings and I had the basics down. We spent Saturday afternoons complaining about being sent for youth seminars that turned out to be sex education talks. Books were bought and handed to us and we were encouraged to ask questions if we needed more information (even though the looks on their faces clearly showed that they were dreading any questions that might pop up). My friends’ parents too were determined to educate the people their children hung out with. I once went for a sleep over and lo and behold, we were taken to a counselor’s office the next afternoon and told all about the horizontal mambo and how, when the time comes, we will get to experience it. Not that we were being given permission to go out there and get busy – we were always reminded how its always good to wait and not be gullible and its always best to wait until marriage.

So by the time I got to high school, a 13 year old who had never been away from home I knew some things. You can still get pregnant even if you have sex standing up, underwater or even if he withdraws at the moment of reckoning. That condoms and heat don’t go well together and that they also have expiration dates. That I was being sent to a girls boarding school so that I could be far far away from boys and all their temptations (also known as focusing on your studies/your future is important). Then, my naïve self was not considering having sex, raging hormones or no. It was an inconceivable to me at the time but I was informed.

Enter the troupe of sex education specialists (I’m not sure what else to call them) who do the rounds at schools. To this day, I sincerely believe they did us a disservice. I was in form 2 I think and we were called to the school hall to receive “the talk”. First, they told us we were all beautiful flowers and special in our own way. Then, we were informed how every time we had sex, we lose a petal and if you keep at it all that will be left is a stem and thorns. As an adult, this is very disturbing imagery – if all my petals are still there when I get married does that mean that my hubby will strip them all away? Anyway, after the flowers story they went on to say how boys and men will say anything to get you into bed (true) and that until you get married sex is bad bad bad news. To show us how bad it is, we were told condoms don’t work, we will get pregnant and ruin our lives and that we will get AIDS and other icky diseases. Then they went on to show us exactly how icky they could be.

Truth be told, after the first few pictures I shut my eyes. The infamous “here are the diseased private bits of folks who had sex out of wedlock” slide show is something that may traumatize many but will not be a deterrent for long. I mean, how many thousands of high school students saw that and still went on to have sex, protected or otherwise? After the slide show, we were told to keep the horrors and the “you are a special flower” portions of the talk to heart and to join True Love Waits. Aaaand … that was it. Basically, the message was, sex diminishes you. If you have it before you are married, you will get pregnant, get an STD, watch your privates deteriorate and maybe get a death sentence via HIV. With this info, we were supposed to go out into the world, confident and knowledgeable in all matters sexual. This whole abstain or suffer/die message is one that will be ignored by the majority and statistics of teen pregnancies, HIV infection rates and pre-marital sex back me up.

I won’t knock any one person who decides that celibacy or abstinence is the path that they want to take. All I can say is, more power to them. It’s not an easy choice and if you manage to stick to your guns to the end then you should be applauded for making a decision as to how to live your life. Fact remains that like 99% of people living on this earth will at one point or another engage in sexual activity. Question is, by teaching abstinence only education aren’t we not being realistic and neglecting to give much needed information that we all need to know? In my experience, abstinence only education is full of guilting, shaming and misinformation. Feel bad about your sexual feelings, even though they might be natural. Those dirty thoughts you are having make you unclean and you must cease them at once! If you have sex, condoms don’t work anyway and you will still get infected. This is my main issue with it – because absent of the required info that comprehensive sex education gives there arise many issues. Like teens engaging in unprotected sex cos they figure they don’t need condoms and thus pregnancy and STD rates going up. And filling in the blanks of what they don’t know with other sources like their friends, television, magazines and the internet. Filling in the blanks isn’t always bad, there is good stuff to be learned out there. But, those myths about sex don’t spread themselves and I’m sure most would rather that if one were to learn about these sorts of things they do it from the experts and folks in the know and not Mills and Boons books and a know it all friend who in the end, knows not much at all. It’s like getting all your news from the forwards that show up in your email inbox instead of reading a reputable newspaper or watching news of maana. We would find anyone who did so ignorant and a bit daft, why should matters pertaining to sex be any different?

Its not like walking down the altar is a magic bullet – married people still get HIV and other diseases cos a lot of people are not faithful. Saying the vows is no shield against the realities of this world so having folks knowledgeable will always be useful even after they say “I do.” I find it frustrating that so many out there act like discussing sex with teenagers once they become of age is going to result in all of them humping like rabbits as soon as all the adults are out of sight. The theory, if you can call it that, goes that if they are “protected” from the more salacious details then they won’t know what they’re missing and wont be tempted to go out there and experiment. I keep having this conversation over and over with different groups of people and I’m fresh out of ways to communicate that infantilizing anyone, young or old will get you nowhere and will yield results opposite of what you want.

Information is not the devil. We all need it, young and old. I understand that there may be some who have moral objections to having frank discussions about sex and want to believe that it should be limited to a special club and anyone outside those boundaries should be excluded until they are ready. Here’s the thing – you can’t decide that for others. You cant turn a blind eye to the way things are and how they always have been (that is, humans like sex, they enjoy it and will have it come what may) and then act shocked when keeping folks in the dark just makes things worse. Give people the facts and then let them decide what to do with them but don’t deny them access to it just because you are uncomfortable – the consequences of that are too horrible to imagine and if you get your head out of the sand long enough you’ll see that its happening all around you already.

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Shuga …

listening to: Rock Box – Run D.M.C

I’m quite aware that events in this world do not occur in a bubble. I figure that this is a statement I have to open up with because I have been accused of being contrarian when it comes to my opinion on pop culture and our relationship and reaction to it. I’m the first to roll my eyes when it’s claimed that xyz show has corrupted the “youth” or giving folks the wrong idea about a certain subject. However, I am aware of the fact that we are influenced by what we read see and hear. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – somewhere between the idea that TV, movies etc are to blame for all dodgy societal behaviour and the school of thought that it occurs in a vacuum lays the truth. And that truth is that the issue is more complex that people give it credit for which is what makes discussions about it so frustrating.

As an aside, you know who annoy me? Uppity folk who figure that they are above pop culture. They get up on their high horse and sniff about how they cant believe people can be so stupid as to be influenced by a random movie or song. Of course, this they say as they carry around the coolest new phone that has been heavily advertised, use words that were clearly picked up from the top forty charts and dress in a manner that show that clearly they read GQ and Cosmopolitan on a regular basis. In my opinion they are just as bad as those who flip out about every little thing on out there as being bad for us. Its like surely, give the human race some credit but dude, you aren’t as smart as you think.

Which brings me to Shuga. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it because I was like finally, a show about sex and HIV that doesn’t talk down to its audience or treat them like daft children. In my opinion, people related to it a lot because they were able to see themselves, or someone they know in similar situations. This review by Kenya Christian disagreed and he or she saw it as importation of “western ideals” which I find baffling. The comment I left on the blog is still stuck in moderation I guess, but this is what I wrote:

i’m not sure what you refer to as “being imported from the west” and “foreign ideas”. is it that they were having sex? cos even before shuga, mtv or even a tv station that wasnt KBC folks were cheating on each other, having sex for jobs and money and having multiple partners. and yes, this included the church going, choir singing folk.

the reason why shuga resonates with so many is that it doesnt treat its intended audience like they are stupid. we all know these things go on. the story in itself shows the consequences of unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners and sex under the influence of alcohol. is your issue with the love scenes shown? in your opinion,would it (the show) have been up to par had they not been included? im seriously asking by the way, not being rhetorical or anything.

by the by, the lip lock on the church steps? in my view, not frisky (quite chaste actually, considering all else that was going on) and something i know for a fact goes on on church grounds.

in conclusion (i apologize for rambling all over your comment box) shuga is unmistakably kenyan. whether you may agree how kenya is or not is a whole different issue.

Over at SolidFreshDope’s Blog, she was able to bring  her perspective as  trained peer educator. I do wonder though, for those who found Shuga unpalatable was the issue the fact that it had some love scenes and didn’t show lovers walking into a room and shutting the door all mysterious and coy like or the fact that it showed young people having sex at all? Because, strip away the partying and the making out … does the message still come through, is it relevant? Maybe it is the way in which it came across and the vessel in which it was delivered? This I am curious to know because I want to know how conservative folk reacted to it.

For those who are like, what in the world is she talking about and why is Shuga being misspelled behold the awesomeness of shows being uploaded on the internet:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

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Of Second Guessing Yourself And Empathy

listening to: Janet Jackson – Anytime, Anyplace

Nothing can be as crippling as second guessing oneself. If let to linger it can be paralyzing, leaving you standing still and doing nothing as the world first urges you on, yells at you to get over it and move on and finally throw up its hands in exasperation at your lack of activity.

Of all the times and places I second guess myself, this space is not one of them. Here, I don’t have to worry about run on sentences, being grammatically correct or even writing something profound. Its just a place that I use to blow off some steam, be irrelevant, jot down some ideas and thoughts, to hit the reset button before I get back to the real world. So when yesterday I found myself mulling over whether or not I should hit the publish button and read and reread what I had written over and over it gave me pause. I have shaken it off however – as long as its still something I enjoy doing blogging is something I will continue to do.

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Have you ever had one of those moments where you figure that if hell exists you will be going there with your undergarments doused in petrol? Someone I know lost a pet, and that’s something I can sympathise with because as someone who has owned several of them I understand how attached you can get to them. I once had a cat called Dave and if you asked some people they would swear that he was my first born child. Not that I dressed him up in ridiculous outfits or fed him lobster but compared to how others treated their cats he was royalty. When I left home I was in tears about leaving my family and loved ones behind and yes, this included Dave. So loving a pet I get. Here’s the thing though – her pet was a gold fish.

I wont even lie, the first thought that came to mind was “mmm, fried fish*!” then, having realized the absurdity of that I started laughing and couldn’t stop. By the by, my soul may never recover from the withering looks that were sent my way for the rest of the afternoon. Thank goodness that my fried fish thought was never uttered out loud cos I think there would have been nasty words exchanged. So, after I stopped laughing I pulled my friend aside and apologized – I may not understand how one becomes fond of a fish since you can’t pet or cuddle it and interaction is limited but that was no excuse for my attack of the giggles. Thankfully, she knows me well enough to know I wasn’t being deliberately malicious and all was forgiven. When she is ready, we are going to the pet store to pick out new gold fish, though I have been told that I’m not allowed to name them since I was in favour of the name Ambrose for a boy fish which seems perfect but she clearly didn’t agree.

I have been thinking a lot about empathy recently. It started off when I was with a group of people, shooting the shit and discussing random things and there was a casual acquaintance who seemed to have none whatsoever. Kenya being colonized? Our ancestors totally got what was coming to them, they should have fought harder and smarter. (yes, he is Kenyan which makes it all the more mindboggling). The holocaust – were he there he would have done everything he could to leave the country and had he been gassed, its cos he didn’t try hard enough. Any example you brought up he would refuse to put himself in anyone’s shoes and sympathize or empathize. It was all about getting ahead, winning, being number one. I can understand the go getter attitude – living in this country for any period of time is bound to bring it up in anyone. But seriously, someone who won’t identify with the struggles of anyone else cos they “lost” is seriously unsettling to me. I told him as a Kenyan in a country that dislikes immigrants and black folks especially those who happen to be both I hope that everything goes smoothly and that he never has to rely on the benevolence of someone who understands where he is coming from. If its one thing I am sure of is that karma can be a vindictive bitch sometimes and will strike when least expected.

Here’s the thing – as humans, there are bound to be some things we will be unable to understand. Or refuse to. There are some criminals we couldn’t fathom being able to identify with, there are some situations we can’t relate to. But often, it’s the little things that we have in common that remind us that though we may not have a shared experience that doesn’t negate someone else’s or make them less than you. Its all about embracing the saying “I am because you are” and living it. Whether that means not laughing at someone who lost a loved one, even if it is a fish or going out there and spending your time with others who may not be as lucky as you are even as you claim your life totally sucks. Its easy to be very individualistic to the point of myopia in this world but I think its always safe to remember “There but for the grace of god go I.” you never know, next time, it could be you needing a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on, even if it is because you lost your pet gold fish.

*to be honest, part of the reason my first thought went to fried fish was because of this story about a woman frying and eating her boyfriends’ goldfish for revenge. Local area news can be hilarious sometimes.

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Stupid Cold …

I shouldn’t have ignored the warning signs for as long as I did cos there is nothing worse than a cold sneaking up on you midweek and life is still expected to go on despite bleary eyes, tissues all over the place, nose dripping, body aching and generally feeling like shit. I just wish that the world wasn’t conspiring to slather me in hand sanitizer and then put me in a bubble. Ok, I haven’t heard anything out loud and I have seen no concrete plans but from the way everyone whips out those mini bottles with clear liquid in them when I even look like I’m going to sneeze I wouldn’t be surprised. My only comfort today has been my ginger tea with lemon and honey – I swear its like drinking a hug, nothing like it.

Since half of last week was a holiday there was lots going on and I do think that my over doing it on Wednesday, Thursday and part of Friday was the reason that my immune system was breached. Even spending the weekend in chill mode detoxing couldn’t help.  I think I have finally reached that stage in life when 2 hours sleep is not enough to sustain me for a jam packed 36 hours … tragic really. I had a good run while that period lasted though. It was totally fun, as far as Thanksgivings go this may have been the best one yet. Good food, good company, good times. There were lots of people from out of town visiting that I got to catch up with and I totally needed to let loose and enjoy myself a little before confronting the stresses of life.

During one of the get togethers I happened to bump into someone I used to have a total crush on a while back. It was ridiculous how I would react when this dude was in the room – flutters in my tummy, my hand would start flipping my hair with no prompting whatsoever from my brain, eyelashes would be batted … gosh. Let’s just say in my mind when he stepped into a room all lights dimmed, there was a spotlight on him and sexy saxophone music would start playing. Sometimes a smoke machine would be in full effect but those stories will be told later. I had a thing for him and I couldn’t even explain why, there was just something about him I found intriguing. Yes I know my love for trashy romance novels and cheesy movies is showing with my descriptions, it’s a thing with me. Just focus on the imagery and don’t dwell on these side issues.

Anyhoo. Thing is I met him this past week and there was nothing. Like absolutely nothing there. Not even a hint of the fireworks or anything. Just a normal everyday conversation between two people. It’s like all of a sudden the off switch was flicked for some reason or another. Is it that I have changed that drastically and quickly or was the haze of infatuation and lust that blinded me? Regardless, I found it very curious and so did he (I have been known to be an outrageous flirt when I put my mind to it and he wondered where our special banter had fizzled off to) but bygones. It’s just a reminder not to let the hormones dictate your life and to let your brain do the thinking, not other parts of you.

I had started off wanting to write about empathy and how I met someone who seemed to have none at all then as usual my mind wandered and my fingers started typing their own random things. Next time I guess – this cold of mine is making everything, even thinking and typing seem like such a big deal and making the thought of bed and blankets sound like the best thing ever. As a side note, for those who have not yet watched Shuga, go ahead and do so. Totally awesome though a shame that its only three episodes long. And for those who are wondering what all hey hype is about, just go in with no expectations like I did and maybe you will be pleasantly surprised.

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