Beer Me That Job

July 25, 2011

There are just so, so many things that bother me about the job search process.

For instance: why is it that nowadays, if you want to send in a resume to a job that’s located on a site that isn’t Craigslist, often they make you register with a multi-step process for their own stupid site, which then begins to send you more spam than exists in the entire state of Hawaii? News flash: If I’m looking for a job, I need to be checking my email account for serious job inquiries or, like, videos of kittens happily attacking watermelons sent from friends who want me to be less depressed about the dejecting work of job applications. I do not need it bulked up with requests for me to apply to jobs for which I would never apply and so, you know…I didn’t.

“Job available in your field: Prison Barber” Is it? Is it?

Or bulked up with ads directed at me, the job seeker. Alleged head-hunting agencies that—if really scammy—want you to pay to play, or—if merely sleazy, useless, and opportunistic—desire for you to go to their advertisement-marinated web page that no one actually uses to find jobs. Hey, glad that while I can’t find a job, you’re able to make lazy cash off advertisements springing up in my face like so many unwanted joke nut can snakes.

https://gomersasquatch.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/4e4f5-circussnake.jpg?w=344&h=373

Job peanuts.

Don’t believe me that they’re not there for you to apply to jobs? Actually attempt to apply to a job on one of those sites some time. More often than not, you can’t submit what you need to, it’s unnecessarily convoluted to the point that you end up just not applying, or you have to sign up for more advertisement abuse in order to submit a resume.

Departed are the days of sending in an application directly to the company via email or in a very simple one- or two-step process. Dead and buried are the days of just going over the building and handing the resume in.

(Yeah, try this some time. Then as you leave, hide and watch the receptionist unenthusiastically use it as a great big wrapper for stale gum.) Just, really. In a vast majority of careers, the physical resume is all but obsolete in the eyes of an employer.

Which is fine. All I wanted to do was to email the damn thing in anyway. But it’s just never that simple.

There are other things I loathe about the job application process, too. For example, feeling like the worst sort of corporate whore, having to sell yourself on your cover letter to please the sadistic evil hiring machine of the non-desperate, already-job-havin’ HR dementors while they muse over your life’s accomplishments in the most trivial of manners and make capricious decisions about the fate of your life.

Or that’s at least what it feels like. I know and love a few hiring managers—family members and friends. That’s really not dementors. …that we know of… But I’m fairly certain that all the hiring managers who’ve gone over my resume and cover letter have been exactly like this. Evil suckers of hope and identity.

But most of all, what I cannot handle about the job search process is the interview. The terrible, horrible, stinking interview.

Very possibly it’s just that I’ve always been as inept with interviews as I have been with auditions or, say, blind dates. I lose all semblance of personality (or even what a human is and how it normally functions) when faced with the daunting task of “BE CHARMING AND SAY ONLY THE RIGHT THINGS.” What the hell? It’s like someone telling you, “Be funny.” Or, “Be interesting.” Or, “Be sexy.”  Uhhhhhh. Ummmmm. Buuuuuuuh. *blink, blink, rub eye, blink*

https://monarcaresblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/dog-stretch.jpg?w=198&h=168

“Is this sexy or interesting?”  “No, but it is funny.”

You can’t put someone on the spot like that and expect them to perform well. Least of all me. It’s like I completely lose the ability to comprehend the fundamental makeup of humor or normal speech patterns at that moment and instead sit thinking totally functional and moderately intelligent thoughts with a horrified expression on my face, unable to make them come out of my mouth. It’s amazing—another person’s power to abduct attributes you might otherwise rock when not having to try at them. In these situations, rather than funny, interesting, or sexy, I instead break down into a grotesque amalgamation of the antonyms of all three—a character I think of as Abused Meg.

Abused Meg has had handed to her some of the most ghastly, miserable experiences known to man or woman and is therefore now no longer able to talk with the usual shape or wetness of her former mouth, cannot consider numbers or manifest emotions with certainty, can’t find an appropriate volume at which to express her monosyllabic sentiments, has never seen the sun nor heard loud noises, is constantly on the verge of tears or hiding in her own arm crevice like a sad baby Dracula, and otherwise behaves just as an abused, neglected dog might. At best, she has no personality at all; at worst she’s strange and alienating with the ability to rob anyone else in the room of a sense of normalcy. I am not good at interviews.

And the thing with interviews is, you just can’t ask the freaking questions you want. Mainly—how much will I get paid, and what are my benefits? I don’t get why this is such a taboo. You’re not supposed to ask that until right before you get the job. Why are we all wasting so much time?!

I understand that employers want a person who is right for the job and dedicated to the work. I get that. That makes for a more pleasant work experience for all and a more dedicated worker. But here’s a thought that is applicable for every single person I’ve ever met—unless there’s something truly horrific about my current job, I am leaving my job to look for either comparable pay or a vertical move of some sort, like more pay and better benefits. If money weren’t important with regards to the job, I wouldn’t be working in the first place. I’d spend my time … I don’t know … rowing a fucking boat or painting pictures of me rowing fucking boats. I wouldn’t be sitting in a cubicle taking orders from people. Right? And you—the job dangler—are remarkably stupid in not acknowledging that out in the open and right away.

So why can’t I ask on the first interview—or hell, before I go take off work to waste my time and the potential new employer’s time—what the pay is going to be? Then let’s see if I’m a good fit. Because I tell you what—even if I really love a potential job, I—like most everyone else—do not live in a career utopia fantasy. I have rent and bills to pay. I have to eat. I have a life outside of work I’d like to continue living in a similar fashion or better. I need to find a new job that’s going to pay me what I need to make in order to do all these lovely lifey things. And nearly everything beyond that is a minor deciding factor. The order of importance has to be: 1.) Do I vaguely want to perform this job/am I qualified?  2.)Does it pay what I need/want to make?  3.) Literally anything else that might be a point of interest. It doesn’t matter.

Number 1 is taken care of when I apply. I got the job description, I’m interested so far. Number 2 should be next. Number 2 should always be next. There is no point proceeding if number 2 is a deal-breaker. PEOPLE—NUMBER 2!! Come on.

So, yeah. This is the aspect of our job culture that I think I find most aggravating and wasteful of everyone’s time and energy.  And so does Abused Meg. As she shambles off into the shadows, totally freaking out all who exist there with her wide-eyed weirdness.

**I should note that this is not about a current job search I’m doing. In fact, I’m on the brink of going down to part-time work in a month so I can start full-time grad school (Yaaaaaay!). But being around others who are currently looking for jobs, it brings me right back to that same old rant in my head. Why the senselessness? Why the time-suckage? You know what? Let’s all just quit our jobs and join a commune.

Or go back to grad school.

My Profound Apologies

July 20, 2011

Generally what looking over these old entries is like.

Entry numero trois in my series of recent posts that have been resurrecting old bloggity ghosts from my little blog graveyard where my former blog used to live a few years before I ever started writing this one. Let’s see if I can use the word “blog” some more. Blog bloggity bloggitude. Blog.

This post is actually decently interesting (to me), because it starts out as me around the year 2007, and then stretches back to my booze-soaked mindset around late 2005. And it is vastly different from the present, mostly due to slowly diminishing levels of substance abuse over those periods all the way to my current happy resting place of better emotional health. (Also, you’ll note I’m less snobby about online journaling now. Not related, but it bears mentioning since I have lots of current friends who use Livejournal and other things, and also since I’ve been much more emotionally candid on my own blog in recent years.) However, the message of my original 2005 post still resonates with me.

Isn’t that weird, by the way? When you find an artifact that proves the existence of a part of you you barely remember, but the artifact is still relevant?

So, anywho, here is my 2007 entry, My Profound Apologies (and, you know …my profound apologies):

I know I never actually post anything truly serious on here because I prefer to make my blog entries all very tongue-in-cheek, blatantly poking fun at the teary-eyed, attention-whore drivel that so many misguided, over-funded youths around me hammer out over weak-ass coffee and cigarettes they’re too young to buy and, likely, have to hide in the basement so their parents don’t find them. …Clearly I don’t speak from past experience or anything… I don’t post serious stuff because I live only very little of my life out of the public eye. Anything there is to know about me is pretty well-known by anyone I see regularly. There’s no need. Or ask me a question in person. I’ll give you an honest answer, and hey, probably offer to buy you a beer.

However, gentle reader (I’m going to go ahead and continue by the off-chance that there is possibly one of you out there who has made it tripping over the long-winded structure of my first paragraph. Bless your little heart), I will write this one serious blog post. Because I think it is a good thought.

I have kept a series of journals since I was about 14 years old. Back before Livejournal or Xanga or whatever else people use, when some individuals (myself included) had the idea that private journals were, well, private matters. My journals are full of most of the experiences I’ve had, many of the late teens/early 20s entries are substance-tainted (and the substances vary), and feature some pretty interesting poetry inspired by…well, inspirational quantities of liquor. The great equalizer. (Makes my poetry roughly as bad as the next guy’s.)

Yore.

Tonight I came across a few paragraphs that were the end of my very last entry of my college career. I have no remembrance of writing it (not unusual for me), but I thought it was truthful enough to bear repeating. So hear it goes; an excerpt of the life of a one-time rum-soaked harlot:

“I would really like to take the end of this experience day by day, not thinking about it as a whole. That way, I guess I’ll be less saddened or scared about moving on. On the other hand, I feel like if I don’t stop and really take in the weight of this time of my life–this time on the brink–that I’ll never be able to hold on to these moments like I’m supposed to. I don’t know which will make me a happier person in the long run, or if it matters. I’d like to take more pictures before it’s over. Open myself up a little more to the people I love. Breathe these occasions in. There just wasn’t enough time for all I wanted to experience with these people. Will all of life be so evanescent? Shimmering briefly, then going out as quickly as it had flared up?

Maybe someday when I’m dead these words will be read by a few. Or by more, god help them. They’ll certainly think me a lush and perhaps too liberal with my sexuality. I hope so much, however, that they find the heart in all of it. The love of freedom of expression, the appreciation of people who’ve touched my life, the drive toward actual substance, and the strain for meaning and understanding. That is what should be taken away from every single entry. That is what I put into them, every time, in the middle of all these nights spent writing. The enjoyment, the lunacy, the abandon, the grasping, and the pain. Telling it as I see it, whether it’s meant to be read or not. I wonder if someday I’ll have grandkids who stumble across these journals in a box and are appalled by the way I’ve lived my youth. I hope not, though. Because I sincerely hope they’ll have truly known me before I’ve died, that age will not bring with it the fear of truth and feeling for me. Anyhow, here’s to the rest of it. Goodnight.”

I’m pretty sure I passed out in an alcohol-induced slumber at that point, but you get the gist, yes?

What the #$*! Do We Know?

November 8, 2010

The Path to Enlightenment… Gathers No Moss

I did not begin the other night with the intention to be enlightened. Let me be clear about that from the get-go. One of my Netflix films had come in, and I tend to get excited when documentaries I’ve ordered come in from Netflix (which actually has not happened for awhile since I’ve gotten into a Buffy kick with my darling male companion for the last half a year or so and—watching little else—have therefore been sitting on my Netflix DVDs for months). So my darling male companion and I popped the blessed thing into the DVD player, and—

BEHOLD! Nearly two hours of disjointed, blithering nonsense, distorted facts or blatant hypothesizing disguised as fact, and New Agey self-congratulation.

Thankfully we had the lava lamp fired up on top of the entertainment center throughout the film or I might have, for a single moment of the obscenely drawn-out 109 minutes, forgotten that one should be good and stoned in order to absorb this pseudoscientific documentary with any kind of wonder or seriousness. (Unfortunately, as the Netflix envelope did not contain the complimentary MaryJane it should with such a film, we were reduced to watching the documentary without any kind of wonder or seriousness. Hence I now write a straight review.)

The documentary was called What the #$*! Do We Know? What, indeed…

How the hell did I get to renting this? Ah, yes. Had a long—dear god—far too long conversation one night with a man about quantum mechanics and how we can, under the exacting eye of science, alter our realities through thought, in his opinion. And also how these two relate, which he seemed to be good and fired up about, so he definitely thought I should rent this film. And ya know, it sounded excessively douchey to me at the time, but the drinks were flowing and the man was a little on the Benjamin Bratt-side, giving me his undivided attention over a table full of friends. I HAVE WEAKNESSES TOO, PEOPLE. I went home and I added it to my queue, because, what the hell. Maybe it will surprise me with more than the illusion of depth.

It did not.

A Very Good Place to Start

To begin with, you cannot convince me that this film couldn’t possibly have been made for the purpose of showing off current computer-aided visual special effects that existed in 2004. If you cut out the amount of overly produced, hokey video editing that was recklessly added with all the graceless boastfulness of a Sex and the City pun (effects like zooming through space and running—ludicrous speed—through a series of apparent “brain tunnels”) you are left with only about half the film. The other half went plaid.

Seriously, you guys. You spent your independent film money on the visuals, not the guest speakers. We get it.

The entire opening “sequence,” or the first half hour of what-the-fuck-are-you-trying-to-say; spit-it-out-spit-it-out, could be removed entirely from the film if the filmmakers wished to make it less absurd or more centered around a complete thought.

Mmm, cohesion. I long for thee.

It was difficult to find a solid thesis statement under all the debris of stray quotes clearly taken out of context, hilarity, and pretentious psychobabble. It was more like a series of silly what-if questions (and also some serious) presented without order or follow-up in a transparent attempt to make them seem mysterious, pondering, and mind-bending. And, I assume, to obfuscate the message enough to render the audience willing to be led through this labyrinth of (mis)information.

Instead, these questions at the beginning had all the dry ice fog smell of a mysticism propaganda film, but this was being presented as a documentary on science and cognitive therapy. Which… is a whole hell of a lot of fun if you have a sense of humor and patience for the ridiculous. Or possibly fitting if you’re one of these people who uses The Matrix to contemplate all of life’s existential questions.

Guestimation

The guests they interviewed weren’t given proper accreditation until the end—so that you can’t separate out the raving kooks and touchy feely spiritual guides from the actual scientists and mathematicians before hearing all their points collectively. Woo-hoo for misdirection. And knowing little about quantum physics personally, I just had to determine for myself the credibility of a lot of this information presented.

Like a story they included about how the Indigenous Americans couldn’t literally see Columbus’s ships approaching at first because they had had no previous conception of what ships were, and therefore the ships physically did not exist in the Indigenous Americans’ reality. The ships weren’t actually there to them. They couldn’t see the ships.

No… No, that’s absurd. The person who has an false grasp of reality is rather the guest who told this story as fact. Or if he had indeed read this story in some scholarly publication somewhere, then what he has is a false grasp of figurative language. Because the Indigenous Americans did not literally see nothing coming to land. The Indigenous Americans might not have remarked, “Oh look at that. Well, shit; I bet that’s called a ship,” but they damn sure saw something foreign on the horizon.

I mean, by that logic, if they’d never seen guns, could they be harmed by them? Yes, damn it! Fucking yes. And anyone who assumes otherwise also probably talks to their microwave.

Then there was discussion of Masaru Emoto, who Wikipedia describes as “a Japanese author and entrepreneur known for his claim that if human speech or thoughts are directed at water droplets before they are frozen, images of the resulting water crystals will be “beautiful” or “ugly” depending upon whether the words or thoughts were positive or negative. Emoto claims this can be achieved through prayer, music, or by attaching written words to a container of water.”

That’s all well and good, and you can believe whatever you want. But you have people in this documentary claiming that this is science and hypothesizing that if we ourselves are 90% water, then quantum physics suggests positive thought will actually change us on a molecular level. Now, I take no discrepancy with positive thinking; I’m all for the idea that positive thinking influences our basic psychology in remarkable ways. But to suggest that by surrounding myself with the words “Hug time!” or “I’m a pretty, pretty princess,” that my water molecules will be physically affected and therefore create a difference in my overall emotion and state of health is…well, hell, cheaper than therapy. But total hogwash as scientific theory. Yes, hogwash. And balderdash. And baloney. Which, incidentally, is how “bologna” should be spelled, too. Just saying.

Story Shmory

The film also throws in some unexpected dramatic elements—characters and a thin plot—for the purpose of storytelling, which is supposed to ground you from the arcane into practical scenarios.

It does not.

Now, the story—interspersed with bizarre fragments from the New Agers and partial quotes from the mathematicians—follows a deaf woman who (poor thing) is mostly an avatar for whatever principle or random concept on the filmmakers’ agenda at that point in the film. No character concept, just random reactions and emotions at odd times. Now she’s angry for no reason. Now she’s placid for no reason. Now she’s losing her ever-loving mind.

If nothing else, watch this film for the protagonist’s entertaining, steep jackknife into a big, shiny pool of crazy juice midway through, which becomes hysterically funny by the mirror scene but goes on to be deeply concerning for the rest of the film. Certainly more than the actual point of the film does.

Regrettably, the filmmakers also introduce other characters, such as the sage, sweet-natured kid who beckons the lady to play basketball. By doing so, he sets himself up to feed us several (arguable) facts loosely using basketball as an analogy. The “facts” are related to us by a child so that they seem more credible coming from someone nice, simple, someone whom we assume won’t be lying to us, has good intentions, and can speak to us on a level that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a pretentious scientist or cultist flake.

Sneaky trick, but painfully obvious. Try again, please. Or rather, don’t. Let’s just let it lie.

Additionally, I’ve never seen so much mixed visual metaphor in one place before. Not even in this blog. Really, it’s impressive.

Each visual metaphor debuts itself by running out into the film, doing a stunning tour jeté, and smacking you square on the head. Then it hangs around getting sloppier and more distracting before totally overstaying its welcome and becoming irrelevant. In fact, I would say these visual metaphors have terrible manners. Little jerks who don’t know when to leave.

See? See how I crafted that paragraph with a terrible and strange metaphor that went on too long? Yeah. It was more painful than that, if you can imagine. Actually, don’t.

The visual metaphor mixing of which I speak is most noticeable with the odd little Flubber monsters that insist on taking up considerable screen time for what seems like an extended tangent. THIS FILM HAS FLUBBER MONSTERS, PEOPLE. I…I can’t even think of any other way to describe them. They are supposed to represent some brain function, and they scream and shriek and interact and try to have sex with each other. I’m not being figurative.

And they are the sort of horror that nightmares eat.

These are the guys.

So, these are mixed in with another visual metaphor—serotonin junkies dancing around a wedding reception in a synchronized fashion with their emotion IVs attached to their arms. Flubber monsters, IVs. Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance. Yeah, it gets murky.

Finally, the film ended. Finally, the film ended. …At least five times. I counted at least five separate logical death rattles to the film, each time giving us hope that it had now come to a close. Sheesh. By the last couple of endings, my darling male companion and I were just giggling in anticipation of another ending.

There is No Dana. Only Zuul.

When he and I finished watching, after staring wide-eyed at one another for several moments, he went and looked up what the hell it was we had just watched. And this is what was found.

Among other guests in the film with questionable reputations, the female guest who had been interviewed here more than the others, JZ Knight (formerly Judith Darlene Hampton), was identified at the end as Ramtha, who was being channeled by JZ Knight. Upon reading further, Ramtha (as channeled by JZ Knight) claims to be a Lemurian warrior who had fought the Atlanteans over 35,000 years ago.

Ah. Well, sure. Why not?

Wikipedia relates the following:

“Ramtha speaks of leading an army over 2.5 million strong (more than twice the estimated world population at about 30,000 BC) for 63 years, and conquering three fourths of the known world (which was going through cataclysmic geological changes). According to Ramtha, he led the army for ten years until he was betrayed and almost killed.

Ramtha says he spent the next seven years in isolation recovering and observing nature, the seasons, his army, making homes and families, and many other things. He later mastered many skills, including foresight and out-of-body experiences, until he led his army to the Indus River while in his late fifties. Ramtha taught his soldiers everything he knew for 120 days, he bid them farewell, rose into the air and in a bright flash of light he ascended before them. He made a promise to his army that he would come back to teach them everything he had learned. JZ Knight says that in 1977 Ramtha appeared before her and told her that he had come to help her over the ditch. JZ Knight became his first student of what he calls the great work.”

So, good old JZ started a cult er…school where she teaches people the ways of Ramtha—a knight only she is able to channel. Wikipedia continues (and I just love this part):

“JZ Knight has been involved in several court disputes, some personal and others business-related. Knight brought suit against a woman from Berlin named Judith Ravell for disturbing Knight’s psychic state and leaving her “hanging in spiritual limbo” during the five years Ravell claimed she was also channeling Ramtha. The case was brought to the Supreme Court in Vienna and lasted over five years, at the end of which Austria’s Supreme Court awarded copyright to J.Z. Knight as the sole channelor of Ramtha, and Ravell was made to pay $800 in psychic damages to J.Z. Knight. Another case involving copyright and trademark ownership was JZK, Inc vs. Glandon, in which Joseph Glandon was accused of distributing copyrighted teachings of Ramtha.”

In essence, Ramtha is JZ’s friend and only JZ’s friend. No one’s allowed to play with Ramtha but JZ. Does this perhaps sound questionable? How’s about this—it turns out that all three of this film’s directors are students of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment.

Ahhhhh. I get it now. This is a cult film.

When all is said and done, I find the film’s title to be an accurate description of the state of the filmmakers, *snicker* though I highly doubt that’s what they were going for. What the #$*! do they know? The answer is—whatever Ramtha wanted them to know when she was distributing the ancient knight Kool-Aid. Oops, I mean he. He was distributing… riiiiiiiiiight.

I did not begin the other night with the intention to be enlightened. And, you know, I was not at all disappointed.

Please put this documentary on your Netflix list next time you feel like raising your eyebrow and exchanging sideways glances. And for a really great high, I propose a special brownie game to accompany it. Like a drinking game, every time someone says something questionably factual, take a bite. You’ll be seeing a new reality in no time.

This is rather long, but I haven’t blogged in awhile. So…. dig it.

Interesting stuff going on right now. One of the topics that caught some recent buzz is the issue of abstinence-only education—long in the public’s eye, as it remains a point of contention across political parties and only recently lost its federal funding this year in favor of a more inclusive type of sex ed. I think most rational people can agree that some form of sex ed is entirely necessary in order to raise our children to be fully aware of their bodies and how not to crash, burn, and holy fuck, destroy the hell out of themselves. Like giving them a map through a land mine field, the more informative the map, the less likely they are to step on one and… blow their genitals to smithereens. Excellent metaphor, Meg. Moving on…

Deciding on which map to use is its own issue. According to recent news sources (possibly released a little too conveniently after Obama’s 2010 cutting out the federal funding for previously failing abstinence-only programs), University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine recently announced the news of a study detailing an intervention in which an abstinence-only education method proved somewhat more effective than comprehensive sex education in a trial Penn Medicine had conducted to measure success in delaying the onset of sexual activity in pre-teens.

This is actually pretty big news in the debate over effective methods in reducing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STIs). This study has noteworthy significance, mainly due to conservative groups having pushed adolescent abstinence-only sex ed for years, mostly with the backing of the Bush administration’s massive grants and funding programs for this type of health education (though it bears noting it was initially established before his first term).

Established in 1996, massive federal funding was granted to abstinence-only health courses (rather than comprehensive sex ed), which were and are widely known to be highly ideological and largely morality-based, teaching kids only abstinence until marriage. This gets especially hairy when considering it alienates whole groups of people, like those who do not choose to get married, or homosexuals, who sadly aren’t even permitted to marry in the majority of states. And they tend to portray sex in an often off-putting, negative light, not allowing any discussion of contraceptives or prophylactics.

As SIECUS reports, “While these programs often replace more comprehensive sexuality education courses, they rarely provide information on even the most basic topics in human sexuality such as puberty, reproductive anatomy, and sexual health.” Yikes. This is a problem, as these are all issues central to the health of the adolescent and, therefore, any person they decide to love up, married first or not. This is why the Obama administration cut federal funding for abstinence-only in 2010 in favor of comprehensive sex ed programs, which not only feature abstinence education, guidance, and promotion, but sexual health and sexual protection information to prepare students for when they do decide to engage in sexual activity.

For an informative breakdown of the differences between comprehensive sex ed programs and abstinence-only programs, SIECUS details a nice chart for your reference, though bear in mind it is generalized.

Before continuing, I should state my purpose in discussing this issue, as it happens to be one particularly close to my heart. Considering that I am and have always been a firm supporter of comprehensive sex education, and also noting that I have proudly worked for Planned Parenthood, I want to make it clear that my aim is not to promote some liberal ideology about how this issue should be taught in a perfect world. Rather, it is because of my tremendous concern for the sexual and emotional health of our adolescents (and adults) that I support comprehensive sex ed as the proven most efficacious method of reducing the heartbreak of abortions or unwanted pregnancy and the danger of sexually transmitted disease. Cause I’ve seen it. Since everyone does not belong to the same religion or set of moral standards—nor should we be arrogant enough to think everyone everywhere should share our own personal beliefs—I think ideology over science is pretty pointless. And in the case of something as life-impacting as sexual health—damaging on an unconscionable scale.

It is because I value science over unyielding ideology that I don’t criticize this study. I don’t. Although I would like to see a detailed public breakdown of their testing and research before I can say that about their methods (for instance: I’d like to know how they account for margin of error or circumstance, since these children are submitting self-reports of a very sensitive nature which may contain untruths; or how many 12-15 year-olds do you know have sexual opportunities readily available to them at convenient times? Lord knows I didn’t. Well, not many.), I do maintain praise for the purpose behind and conclusion of this study. Any scientific study—the word is scientific, not “morally founded”—devoted to the best ways to reach kids with messages on abstaining from destructive decisions is positive and very worthwhile. I do criticize, however, the way many media sources are construing the findings of this particular study and what these media propose the findings mean.

Many news sources, of course, strive for sensationalism and creating a stir; this isn’t lost on anyone of intellect. Creating a stir yields greater debate, yields continued headlines, yields increased circulation. Woot. And even less credible sources often strive to boost an agenda by picking over and selecting only certain facts to give their readers a hazy understanding of information, figuring that most people will not go directly to the source and see what data has officially been released. Right? Right. (Or some that shall not be named strive to bolster a conservative agenda and address a puerile desire to yell “Told ya so!” at the first potential opportunity. That part contains my own bias and observations, and you can quote me.)

My beef with many of these news sources is the way they have glazed over the information of this study in order to make the findings seem more significant or shocking than they are. For example, many of the sources I’ve read or listened to—at least 15 or so, including the wording of the Penn State press release—have given very spotty details and the vaguest terms, which make it easy to overlook what they’re actually reporting. Make sure to pay attention to the wording when you’re reading about this or listening to it. A random example from the one of the print samplings:

CNS News:

The study found that an abstinence-only message was significantly more successful in getting pre-teens to delay the onset of sexual activity than was a “health-promotion control intervention” – or general risk-reduction effort…

There was a 33 percent reduction in self-reported sexual intercourse from the abstinence-only group, compared to the control group, by the end of the study. Of the students who reported that they were sexually active during the study, there were fewer reports of recent sexual activity from the abstinence-only intervention participants (20.6 percent) compared to the control participants (29.0 percent)… After two years, one-third of the abstinence-only group reported having sex, compared to one-half of the control group.

First of all, like many other news sources, this source doesn’t go on to state what the control group actually was, aside from a “’health-promotion control intervention” – or general risk-reduction effort.” Wow. Seek out a more detailed news article, if this is all they’re giving you. A better article will tell you that this “general risk-reduction effort” from the control group wasn’t pertaining to sex at all, just general health.

See the New York Times:

In Dr. Jemmott’s research [author John B. Jemmott III, PhD, professor of Communication in Psychiatry and of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and Annenberg School for Communication], only about a third of the students who participated in a weekend abstinence-only class started having sex within the next 24 months, compared with about half who were randomly assigned instead to general health information classes or to classes teaching only safer sex. Among those assigned to comprehensive sex-education classes, covering both abstinence and safer sex, about 42 percent began having sex.

Or just pick up the Reuters article:

African-American sixth- and seventh-graders who completed the eight-hour program, which involved a series of brief activities and games (and no lecturing), were one-third less likely to start having sex in the next two years compared to their peers who took part in a similar program that targeted health issues unrelated to sex…

Jemmott and his team assigned 662 children to this [abstinence-only] program; an eight-hour “safer sex only” program designed to promote condom use; an eight- or 12-hour intervention combining both approaches; or a control group in which children underwent an eight-hour educational program on health issues unrelated to sex.

So what to take away from this is a more complete picture of the facts. Yes, this study showed that this particular abstinence-only program was about 9% more effective than the comprehensive sex ed program in preventing sex among 12 and 13-year-olds as they matured over two years, and that’s a significant finding since it contradicts numerous studies that have been done previously about the utter failure of abstinence-only programs nearly across the board. But rather than vaguely letting you make the assumption that the control group in this study is the comprehensive sex-ed group, a more detailed news source tells you that the control didn’t teach sex ed at all, just general health.

So, okay, that makes perfect sense. 12 and 13-year-olds not being taught sex ed whatsoever would logically be more likely to engage in sexual activity than those who had been effectively taught about the dangers of unwanted pregnancy and HIV, etc. Cool. At least we may have stumbled onto an abstinence-promotion system that works for reducing the early onset of sexual activity, which—if proven through more trials and testing—could help accomplish half the battle toward a sexually healthy youth. HALF the battle. The other half is preparing them for when they do decide to be active.

We need to remember that “this is the first randomized controlled study to demonstrate that an abstinence-only intervention had reduced the percentage of adolescents who reported any sexual intercourse for a long period.” So much more development needs to go into this in order to determine its effectiveness over other groups of adolescents, whether it works throughout the rest of the teen years (this is an enormous variable), what specifically about the way it was taught makes it most effective, etc.

The danger in the doing cartwheels over this one study is that findings can easily be twisted by certain ideologues in order to lead to the destruction of certain comprehensive sex ed methods we have found, through dozens of other trials over years of research, to be the most effective and health-consciously responsible. So again, do remember to put the discussions of this article in context, if your news source hasn’t for you.

For instance, as Jemmott says of his study: ““It is extremely important to find an effective intervention that delays sexual activity; the younger someone is when they have sex for the first time, the less likely they are to use condoms.” Absolutely true. But it is also imperative to find an effective intervention that teaches about condoms too, because when someone doesn’t have any helpful information on the benefits of condoms when they have sex for the first time… the less likely they are to use condoms, too. In fact, they are not likely.

He continues, “Abstinence-only interventions may have an important role in delaying sexual activity until a time later in life when the adolescent is more prepared to handle to consequences of sex. This can reduce undesirable consequences of sex, including pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS.” Yes. They should hold off until they can make more mature decisions about sexual protection. That is the value of teaching abstinence in sex ed. But with abstinence-only programs, where are they learning all these accurate and appropriate sexual decisions to make when they become adults? Nowhere? Through the grapevine? From less-informed sources? Think about the things you heard about sex before you were taught. If I have sex standing up, I can’t conceive, right? …Is that not right? Like, everyone says that’s right. Right?

What makes this abstinence-only program in Penn State’s study stand out as effective is that it isn’t promoting waiting until marriage like many morally based or religious programs that have gone before it; it merely teaches waiting until you’re ready to have sex. “Several critics of an abstinence-only approach said that the curriculum tested did not represent most abstinence programs. It did not take a moralistic tone, as many abstinence programs do. Most notably, the sessions encouraged children to delay sex until they are ready, not necessarily until married; did not portray sex outside marriage as never appropriate; and did not disparage condoms.” And if you think it’s a little shaky to merely say “until you’re ready,” at least this study shows it seems to work much better than what’s been previously taught in abstinence-only programs.

Another surprising finding was that “the theory-based abstinence-only curriculum [in this study] appeared to be as effective as a combined course and more effective than the safer-sex only curriculum in delaying sexual activity…None of the curricula had any effect on the prevalence of unprotected sexual intercourse or consistent condom use.”

Not something we’d like to hear, especially about comprehensive sex ed which does teach about using the condoms, but this actually makes sense, too, if you think about it. Allowing that the reason behind delaying sex until maturity is that immature sexually active adolescents have a lesser likelihood of weighing the consequences of sex and a lesser likelihood of having a healthy concept of their own mortality or sexual danger (and thus of feeling the need to sexually protect themselves), it is entirely necessary to teach effective abstinence information to children to guide them in holding off until they are mature enough to make responsible decisions. And that is where this new study proves exceedingly useful—possibly showing us a way to teach abstinence in an engaging and effective way. It is a critical part of sexual education. But this abstinence approach needs to then be tossed into the bowl with comprehensive sex ed and made into a beautiful comprehensive sexual health… salad—oh so good for you, and all the better for the variety of ingredients. Yeah, go with me on the metaphors. Try using some yourself today. It’s not easy what I do, people.

“The study’s authors — John B. Jemmott III, Loretta S. Jemmott and Geoffrey T. Fong — cautioned that abstinence programs are not an effective long-term solution… A common shortcoming of behavior-change interventions is that efficacy is demonstrated in the short term but disappears at longer-term follow-up,” the report said. “This may particularly be a problem for abstinence interventions. Unlike many risk behaviors (e.g., cigarette smoking, drug use), sexual intercourse is an age-graded behavior; the expectation is that people will eventually have sexual intercourse.”

True enough. This study was measuring people having sex under the age of 15. When they grow up a little into their sexual primes, they will need more to go off: “Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, said that in his opinion, the abstinence program does not go far enough toward helping youths who are sexually active make informed choices about contraception. He would like to see federal funding for programs aimed at abstinence and safe sex… “If you’ve got 24 percent of your class that’s sexually active, what about them?” Wagoner asked. In addition, he said, “OK, you’re 12. You’ve abstained until 14. What about the next five years?””

And this is the point—until an abstinence-only program is 100% effective in delaying sex until maturity, it leaves the remaining adolescents who opt to have sex (in this case, roughly 30% of the students, and who knows how many more over the following two years) in the dark. Kids usually lack the maturity to make responsible decisions with sex, which is why messages urging abstinence should certainly be perfected, taught, and promoted. Hopefully this delays early sexual intercourse. But then what happens when those kids who’ve only benefited from abstinence-only education finally reach this maturity where they’re able to make decisions in their best interest? Who will have given them the accurate knowledge to protect themselves adequately? The answer is likely no one, without the additional support of comprehensive sex education. If this is redundant on my part, it’s because it sooo bears repeating.

Comprehensive sex education teaches students the value of abstinence and then reaches out to the ultra-important goal of any of these programs that are worth their salt—STI protection and the avoidance of unwanted pregnancy. If you only teach them to delay sex for a few years but then deny them accurate information about their sexual health and protection options, when they finally do have sex—and they will—they will be a far greater risk to themselves and anyone with whom they come into sexual contact. Hopefully this study teaches us ways to fine-tune the abstinence promotion part, since pop media—magazines, advertisements, movies, TV, and pretty much anything online—make this abstinence message terribly difficult to nail into the head of an impressionable early adolescent. And hopefully everyone can benefit from how effective comprehensive sex ed can be with possibly some new approaches included in it.

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