What Do I Care If Teens Have Sex?

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Over at Slate, William Saletan notes the 35 year anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and tries to move the debate forward (good luck with that, Bill!!) by suggesting that pro-choicers like me embrace the idea that the ideal abortion rate is zero.

Well, okay.  Sure.  Natch.  I think the ideal abortion rate should be zero.  I also think the ideal cancer rate should be zero too.  But let’s face it.  It ain’t gonna happen.

But somewhere in that morass of an article, he shifts the subject to teen sex, noting with approval some comments of NARAL President Nancy Keenan which suggest that she supports the ideal teen sex rate also being zero.

Well, maybe she does, and maybe she doesn’t.  As for me, I don’t know why we as a society should necessarily strive for a teen sex rate of zero.  As long as the sex is safe and consensual, the participants have a reasonable understanding about what they’re getting in to emotionally and physically (at least, an "understanding" on a par with the average adult), then why exactly should we, as a society, care?

Saletan’s reasoning only makes sense if you assume, a priori, that teenagers will never engage in safe sex, and/or are always ill-equipped to "handle" it emotionally.  And while this is probably true on the average (compared to adults), is it true across the board such that we should declare an "ideal" teen sex rate to be zero?

To me, that’s flawed logic.  It’s like saying, teens in general — compared to adults, at least — are more reckless drivers, and therefore the "ideal" number of teen drivers should be zero. 

Well, no.  The premise is probably true, but it is too much of a generalization to make the conclusion valid. 

Now, I’m not a parent, and not too many teenagers run in my social circle.  Perhaps Saletan has access to more data than I.  But it seems to me there are probably hundreds of thousands of teenagers out there who are just as "mature" emotionally (if not more "mature") than many adults I know.  Is there any earthly reason why we should cringe at those teenagers having sex?  I mean, other than the fact that our society seems to cringe at the concept of sex?