I went on a bit of a rant at the conference, during the session I presented with a pair of fellow college sex educators, about preventing STI transmission and unwanted pregnancy.
Someone asked why we have such high rates of STIs and pregnancy in the US, when in Europe they’re so much lower.
I started my answer with, “Because our country was founded by the Puritans who LEFT Europe” and ended by getting very passionate about that fact it is STILL, after DECADES of uncontrovertible evidence, controversial and problematic to do any of the three things that we WE ALREADY KNOW AND HAVE KNOWN FOR DECADES will prevent STI transmission and unwanted pregnancy. Those things are:
1. Comprehensive, age-appropriate, universal sex education.
2. Affordable, barrier-free access to birth control and condoms.
3. Economic and educational opportunities for girls and women.
Done. We lack neither the knowledge nor the means; we lack only the will.
Which is why I was so pleased to see this story about girls in India who were named Unwanted having an opportunity to change their names. This is a piece of the various efforts being made to promote girls and women in a culture that is historically not merely misogynist but actively gynocidal. I just made up that word I think, but SOMETHING has to describe a culture in which female fetuses are aborted or wives are burnt on their husband’s pyre.
One of the things I mentioned in the relationship talk is that there are cultural differences that account in part for individuals’ learning or not learning effective communication skills, and that cultural difference is not value-neutral. Just as there are some cultures in which there is more infectious disease and infant mortality, so there are cultures in which there is more depression, anxiety, violence, and dysfunction; there is such a thing as a healthier or unhealthier culture, absent all value judgment. Assessing not from a moral but a public health perspective, some cultures are sicker than others.
American culture is not the sickest in the world, but it is the RICHEST sick culture, from my point of view, so acting less like an American will probably help you be healthier and happier. If you’re not working to create change, even within your own group of family and loved ones, you’re making my job harder, so please start not being so American. Thank you.