Friday, October 12, 2007

Fred Thompson And The Message That Premarital Sex Ruins Your Life

This abstinence PSA (embedded below) that asks parents to tell their children to wait until marriage to have sex might have had a different impact if I hadn't watched ABC News last night. One of the segments was highlights from an interview Charles Gibson did with Fred Thompson where he credited getting married at 17 with turning him from an aimless youth only interested in sports and girls to a man intent on becoming a lawyer.

Out of context that sounds like it reinforces the message of the abstinence PSA. But here is some of the context:

Gibson: "You not only married your high school sweetheart. You married her two weeks after you turned 17. You were young."

Thompson: "Barely Seventeen."

Gibson: "Too young?"

Thompson: "Uh, no, under the circumstances, I [...] It was the best thing [...] It required me to grow up [...]"

Although shotgun wedding wasn't mentioned, the implication of "under the circumstances" is clear. According to Wkipedia this marriage took place in Sept. 1959 and their first son was born in April 1960. Now of course this will cause people to repeat a saying I heard as a child, "First babies often come much earlier than their younger siblings." Of course I was too young to wonder why at birth these first babies I heard about weren't smaller than their siblings.

The message I got from listening to Fred Thompson was that premarital sex (and advice from his new in-laws) made the man. And he's a Republican. Oh, my. Parents, if you want your children to believe that having sex before marriage can only destroy their lives, you'd better not let them watch and listen to this interview with Senator Fred Thompson.

This contrast is one of the reasons that messages like the one in this PSA can leave kids rolling their eyes at those giving them this message and can leave them feeling that there is no substance to the message only prudery. The "wait until you are married" message from parents is often a bad substitute for real, and sometimes uncomfortable, dialogue about sexual ethics, violence, temptations and consequences. It also creates a false binary which adds extra trauma when a child is the victim of sexual abuse or rape.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:28 AM   3 comments links to this post


At October 12, 2007 10:55 AM, Anonymous Jonny said...

You're one twisted individual. What Thompson was implying was that having a child at that age caused him to grow up. He had to learn to take responsibility for his actions. What do you think he'd say? I regret that my child was born? That would make his son feel real good. Thompson is not out there pretending to be something he's not, and i respect that. Among a bunch of republicans that try and have a monopoly on values, that's pretty rare.

He's not out there like Mitt Romney trying to force values on anyone, and I don't see the relevence of taking what he said completely out of context. I won't vote for him, but he's earned my respect. I too had a kid at sixteen, and you know what? He's right, you have to grow up real quick.

At October 12, 2007 11:55 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Jonny, sorry, I'm not twisted and I took nothing out of context.

Having a child at that age may have led him to think about the future, but choosing to have premarital sex did not in any way, shape or form ruin his chances at a bright future -- which is the pat message of that abstinence until marriage PSA.

Without the sex there would have been no baby and no immediate response to having the responsibility of fatherhood.

Getting a girl pregnant doesn't make you grow up, it leads some to decide to grow up and be responsible. If impending fatherhood were a magical life changer then we might have PSAs telling parents of troubled teenage boys to encourage their sons to get a girl pregnant ASAP.

At October 26, 2007 8:09 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

"Thompson is not out there pretending to be something he's not" I believe this is exactly what Thomson is doing. Pretending to be ethical and socially conservative to court the evangelical vote. The sad thing is, they are falling for it.


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