What Makes Something Realistic?

So Bristol Palin doesn’t feel that abstinence is very realistic.  

In an interview that she allegedly agreed to in order to encourage other teens to think twice about having sex, she flatly contradicts her intent.  If it isn’t reasonable to expect teens to be abstinent, then why bother giving an interview to help encourage them to be abstinent?  Which is it?  Granted, you’re only 18, and so your reasoning skills are (hopefully) not at their most developed point.  But even an 18-year old should be able to see that her stated purpose for the interview is being sabotaged by her own assessment of the reasonableness of her goal.
So what makes something realistic?  Why is it unrealistic to expect that kids shouldn’t have sex?  Is it an unrealistic expectation of parents and adults and culture in general?  Or is it unrealistic to the kids themselves?  This seems to be what she’s saying.  This seems to be the crux of the contradiction.  Palin apparently wants to affirm the idea that kids shouldn’t be having sex, and yet as a kid herself, she doesn’t find this expectation realistic.  Which means, I’m assuming that she feels kids don’t have options, resources, and support systems to help them successfully make the best choice to abstain from sexual behavior.  Apparently, she feels that kids don’t really have an alternative – sex is just inevitable, and the best that can be hoped for is damage control/avoidance.
First off, we have to understand that this apparently wasn’t always the case.  There was a time within not-so-distant memory when there were certainly kids who were having sex, but these were the minority, and not only were they in the minority, they were viewed with varying degrees of social stigma.  It wasn’t behavior to be emulated, no matter how much people may have felt the urge to participate in it.  I highly doubt that the sexual urges of young teens have grown any stronger, relatively speaking.  But clearly, it’s a lot easier to act on those urges now, without a cultural reinforcement to the contrary among teens themselves.  In other words, once upon a time, culture viewed underage sex as impermissible.  Parents felt this way.  Educators felt this way.  Politicians felt this way.  The result of such a unified front that this sort of behavior was unacceptable and not to be tolerated resulted in a youth subculture which assimilated these attitudes.  Kids were horny, I have no doubt.  But they also understood that they couldn’t act on this impulse, that they could and must find ways of dealing with hormonal impulses, other than simply acting on them.  Those who chose not to conform in this way were socially stigmatized, both by their peers as well as by the larger culture.  Culture acted as a reinforcement on a certain type of behavior.
Culture continues to fulfill that role, but now in a 180 degree opposite direction.  Oh sure, we all officially poo-poo the idea of kids having sex.  But if you look at how our culture speaks to kids, how it helps to create and reinforce their own subculture (much as they would undoubtedly argue that their subculture is their own!), we see a different story.  The assumption is now not only that kids are going to have sex – that they can’t restrain themselves – but oftentimes that they shouldn’t restrain themselves.  Sexuality is seen as something that is a right of teens just as much as it is of adults, and the only issue is whether or not teens have the same tools available (contraceptives, abortion on demand) that adults do in order to most safely and enjoyable indulge their impulses.  To that end, public schools distribute condoms, and legislatures push for privacy rights for teens so that mom & dad don’t need to know that they ever had an abortion.  
The assumption behind all of this is that sex is good – always.  Only the logical side-effects of sex are bad – unplanned pregnancy & veneral diseases.  If we simply eliminate the bad side-effects, then kids can (and should) enjoy all the pleasures of sex-on-demand that their parents have grown to expect.   No wonder Palin doesn’t think abstinence is realistic.  Our culture as a whole thinks it’s unrealistic.  That it’s an imposition, an unnecessary limitation on the behavior of folks who we won’t let drink or vote.  Apparently those are serious things with serious repercussions that need to be carefully guarded.  Sex on the other hand, is just sex.  And it’s always good.  Or is it? 
We can feign indignation over Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, and over the current situation where sexual behavior is an expected part of teen behavior – expected first by those allegedly entrusted to protect these kids, and therefore by the kids themselves.  But we’re just blowing hot air unless we’re willing to examine what we tell our kids through media, through fashion, through the way we live our own lives, and through our own refusal as adults to demand changes in our culture.  We need to quit exploiting and promoting the Cult of Youth that our culture has created, and quit assuming that the experiences of three or four generations of youth are to be considered the norm and representative of how youth should always be – ignoring the many generations of youth that preceded them with very different guidelines.  
We need to assure Bristol and the many other kids in our country that abstinence is realistic, but first we need to start acting like the moral guardians that we as parents and grandparents are supposed to be.  Otherwise, Bristol’s assessment will stand.  The kids are all right, but we need to provide them a cultural environment where they can live in an all right way.  

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