Letters to the Editor

Don’t assume your readers have sex | Letters

Concerning Amy Johnson’s column “Gonorrhea Grows in S. King County,” I’m wondering why there was no mention of abstinence or monogamy as ways to prevent STDs.

Is it because, given the name of your column as Sex in the Suburbs, it’s been predetermined that your audience is sexually active beyond the old-fashioned monogamous model and therefore abstinence and monogamy are assumed off the table from the start?

Could be, but curious folk will read your column and not make that connection on the fly, and they’ll wonder, since abstinence and monogamy are the only safe bets, why you don’t even mention them.

Their absence is glaring. Are these words so politicized that they dare not be mentioned? Are those on the front lines of teaching young people so tired of them being ignored that they’ve given up completely?

All this in light of your alerts that STD rates are climbing right here in our county and here it is April, STD Awareness Month. So you’ve offered some expert advice on the subject. But I wonder what’s so expert about ignoring the obvious?

So here I offer a counterbalance, or some contextualizing, for your column:

“Hey kids, sex is heavy stuff. Comes with some big consequences. Not meant for children. So, the best advice is to not do it and here are reasons x, y and z. However, given the wacko nature of our modern enlightened society, you will get the message constantly that you need to be sexually active if you want to be hip and normal, and that sex has no real consequences. You know, like in the movies and such. They make it look great, don’t they? But you must engage the critical thinking you’ve learned in school and remind yourselves that it’s not really that way, and that given our biology and the deceivable nature of our complex psyches, the ‘sex is fun and harmless’ image can be transformed into a pretty powerful message. But you can resist. With help from family and community and the right group of friends, you can learn to live wisely amongst the madness. However, we all realize we’re only human, so if you do find yourselves succumbing to the temptations out there, here’s some expert advice on limiting the negative consequences. (Insert your column here).”

“Also kids, remember that saving your heart and soul from the consequences of sex with other than a committed partner is pretty deep and mysterious stuff. The protections we’ve just talked about are only for your bodies. For the heart and soul stuff, well, you’ll need to find answers for that at home or through some religious or psychological help, but our expert advice on sexual stuff beats getting AIDS etc. or hearing you’re going to be a mom or dad in high school...or facing the pressure to get an abortion... And remember, this advice is not 100 percent safe, but it’s pretty darn safe, physically speaking, which is better than nothing.”

So I think this presents some balance for your column, in which you exhort our young to “be smart” and use an STD help website for recommendations for “what behaviors you can use to be safer.”

Your own recommendations then read like premarital advice (which they should, if that’s what they were), yet they, as you seem to clearly imply early in your column, are for youth as much as for anyone else. Seems crazy to me. And irresponsible.

You close with “Be smart. Be safe. Get yourself tested.” And having been tested one is now safe? With a positive result? You must mean that knowing one’s status after a test, one can then behave more safely. But there’s only one route that’s 100 percent safe in regard to sexual behavior, and that’s abstinence. And kids need to hear it from the experts.

Torger Helgeland, Federal Way


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