The Voice of Hedonism
In response to Micha's first Ben Shapiro post, I couldn't help but give my inner hedonist voice:
I’d way rather live in a world where 15-year olds are taught how to tramp safely if they want to than one in which they are discouraged from tramping at all. Heck, I don’t even mind if they are encouraged to tramp - tramping is fun at any age! OTOH, priggish parents are welcome to send their kids to uptight colleges - and should be allowed to send them to uptight grade schools without having to double-pay. But I’ll happily back the libertines against the prigs in a bet on who gets less STDs.
There were two responses which I'd like to argue with here, since I think the errors are interesting. Plus the topic has the potential to be controversial, and thus warm my hedonistic little heart with the flames of active commentary that let an author know his spark has found some tinder.
The first was from Josh, who says:
I’d be pissed if I found out my 15 year-old daughter was having sex. That’s not prudish, that’s trying to protect her.
As a libertarian, I have to point out that we have a name for the institution which protects us from pleasurable experiences we wish to engage in - its called the government. I got laid at 16, and I regard it as an unambiguously positive experience. I sure didn't need (or want) 'protection' from having a good time - only 'protection' from negative consequences.
The second comment was from Tom, who writes:
Let’s start with some basics:
Less teen sex = less disease + fewer unwanted children + fewer early (and often unhappy) marriages
Parents who want to protect their children therefore try to teach them to eschew sex because of its potential consequences. Abstinence – by definition – works better than prophylaxsis and contraception.
Parents who encourage their children to use contraceptive devices are, in effect, encouraging them to have sex. Parents who encourage their children to abstain from sex – and tell them why they should do so – are doing the right thing by their children. They won’t succeed 100 percent of the time, but they’re bound to succeed some of the time, unlike those parents who – by their attitudes – give the impression that they just don’t care.
Joe corrected one of the major errors here by referring to the studies showing that abstinence-based education increases rates of STD's, without reducing pregnancy rates. I was referring to these with my willingness to bet that the sex-ignorant would get more VD. (Aside: If I'm willing to bet on something, you should assume there is a good reason!) As libertarians, shouldn't we find it unsurprising that informed individuals make better choices? After all, that is part of the cornerstone of our philosophy! I see no reason to think the capability to benefit from knowledge suddenly appears at age 18. Rather, it steadily trickles in from babyhood on - and by 15, most of what will be there at 18 is already present.
But Tom has made another error, which is to list only the harm caused by sex and not the benefit. His equation is incomplete, because less teen sex also = less hot teen orgasms, less teen self-esteem benefits from feeling adult, and less wonderfully passionate teen relationships, fueled by raging hormones. Sure, costs matter, and sure, STDs, unwanted children, and unhappy marriages are costs - but benefits matter too! And *protected* sex almost entirely removes the first two costs, and by reducing pregnancy reduces unhappy early marriages. Look, you could just as well argue that less pot smoking = less coughing, or less investing in stocks = less years where you lose money. Everything has a downside, but that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile.
By teaching your kids abstinence instead of condoms, you make two grave errors. The first is to believe that Ignorance Is Strength - to demonstrate that you don't trust your children to use information accurately, a belief which studies show is wrong. And the second is the puritan foolishness of believing that stopping them from having fun is a good thing. Fun is a big part of what life is all about, and protected sex is some great fucking fun, whether you're 15 or 55. I do care - I care about my kids enjoying life, like I do, and did, and don't regret.
Update: Follow-up here.
Update again: Follow-up here.