Sunday, February 27, 2011

A very lame class on abuse prevention

Tonight I took my teenager to a Catholic Abuse Prevention class. I had thought that this would be great-- a chance for the Catholic church to prevent some of the abuses that have occurred in the past, that have blotted her history. It was lame. The teens talked about relatiooooonshiiiips and premarital sex and waiting. It was the same lame and stupid crap that my generation heard as kids and while we parents were required to sit through it, I got the impression that the kids were speaking for us. Statistically, how many of these kids will go to the altar as virgins? How many in that room were gay? I am not worried about priests or clergy making moves in this parish because we have a lot of safeguards, but if they do and if they succeed, I will blame it on the education.

They spoke of the acronym for LIFE (Love, Infatuation, Friendship, Exploitation.) We talked in our groups about what this meant. In mixed groups of parents and youth, we were asked to write down what we thought of these four definitions. Then the moderator of the session wanted them to be read to our groups and for us to guess who said it. I told her that I didn't think this was a great idea for her to spring this after we had written these down, so she quickly told us that if someone didn't like this, to just read them. Of course when the group chose their faves to share, the woman queried, "Who said that?" Knowing who said what did not matter to what she was teaching and I have no idea why she asked. My quote was read as the best from our group, as I said that infatuation is like salad dressing. . . a little goes a long way, but it is never the main course of the meal.

They spoke of waiting for sex until marriage, but they didn't talk about the hormonal effects of sex on the body and why this might be a good thing. While I do not know if it is true,  I was told in a Crises Pregnancy volunteer class that sex produces happy hormones that make you feel attached to the person you are with, and that in a healthy relationship where there is love, it really builds your relationship up with your partner/spouse. I get that way. (I have had reason to think of it lately, bad experiences from my past, and indeed, good experiences, also, and the casual encounters, where my boyfriends didn't want to be called my boyfriends, who panicked at me calling the Sacred Act, "making love," I had to detach myself from them. One of my friends recently shared with me that if her husband is looking at his iPhone instead of paying attention to her when she is talking about her day, she feels like she did with her casual encounters when he makes moves on her later.)

I can handle that they didn't talk about abuse by clergy in the class, but they didn't talk about abuse by other people. I think that gay teens need to be warned about abuse happening just as much in their relationships and how to spot it-- and places to find out how to get out of the situations. (Of course gay youth don't exist in the Catholic church and if they squeeze their eyes shut tight enough, they can pray away the gay!) They also didn't really talk about abuse in interpersonal relationships.

The girls were wistful about what love is. It's so simple to them at this age. It was basically the crap about "True love waits!" The message of the evening was, "If it is infatuation, don't! If it is love, wait!" How simple! They didn't talk about how to get from point A (being single) to point J (being married.) Oh-- I am assigning letters to my variables. They touched very lightly on hormones which, while they are well and good, they did not over ride them. If I was 16 and making out with my boyfriend, I would not be thinking of the bookish hag that taught the class.

I think it is noble to wait until marriage to have sex-- you avoid a lot of problems, many that are too personal for me to go into here as I'd offer up my personal experiences. The issue, however, is not to wait, but how to wait. If you choose to not have sex before marriage, I think that dating is like saying that you don't want to drink, but you are going to go to a wine tasting. Don't put yourself into temptation's way! Why can't the Catholic church figure this out? They need a young adult group (not youth) director who provides outings for the singles to meet and go out just to have fun. Bowling, white water rafting, these things are all great ways to meet other singles in the group and to go out. One of my friends is an Orthodox Jew and her kids will not date and will instead be introduced to possible matches and they will not be left alone by choice, until they get married. I wanted to stand up and scream in that class, "Listen! Your bodies are made to want to have sex! Decide now what you want to do with this choice! If you don't want to have sex before you marry, going off to a party college is a bad, bad, bad idea! Involve your parents! Don't go out with your friends who like to date so they can troll!" I knitted and reserved my comments for Cloud when we got in the car. She said, "You should be teaching this class, Mom." I told her that I am the old lady who knits and covers her hair and who sits in the corner. She said that that is only believable until I start talking, and then I could be wearing a gorilla suit and no one would notice. That was sweet.

They did say that "friends with benefits" is a form of exploitation, which I thought was great. Adults need to be told this, too. Sadly, the woman giving the talk is not someone who I could see as ever having had to avoid a situation such as this. If she was pure when she married, I doubt that it was by choice. It is complicated to have kids take this advice from someone who does not seem to have ever had a life to enjoy, who was ever young and vibrant like they are.

Of course, choosing a life partner is something that one cannot cover in two hours, but this course was about abuse prevention, and I thought it did a bad job of covering abuse prevention.

The class should have been taught in a gender specific fashion. I sat in the back and watched the girls look back at the boys before they spoke, and the boys didn't talk much at all.

Overall, I felt cheated of my time. The people who put the class on felt good because they made parents and teens come together to talk. They didn't talk about anything that I wasn't discussing with my kids when they were younger.

1 comment:

steve on the slow train said...

I'm afraid Rome, like the fundamentalists, is incapable of anything but "abstinence-only" sex education--the kind that Bristol Palin got. I know Episcopalians would realize that some teens are not going to abstain. But then, I suspect there's not a big Episcopal youth group in Palmer.