Today's issue begins with one of the women out there protesting Roe v. Wade. When interviewed, not only did she insist that abortion should be illegal, but she argued that birth control options for adolescents be limited, and that only abstinence should be taught.
Obviously, I disagree with her regarding abortion, but she does have a point about teaching teenagers to abstain from sex. The truth is that sex leads to lots of problems for young adults, the least of which is having children. There are sexually transmitted diseases to worry about, and believe me, these days the clap is only a moderate concern. HIV and hepatitis are more serious worries, not to mention genital warts which, judging from TV commercials, are obviously sweeping the nation. These threats are just too serious, life-threatening even, to entrust to the shaking adolescent fingers of a boy trying to use a condom for the first time.
But even though abstinence is clearly the best choice for teenagers, you can't ignore the immense sexual tension endured by teenagers on a daily basis. If the tension isn't released through sex, then they're forced to become violent. Why else are teenage boys so prone to fighting, vandalism and other typical adolescent behavior? Aggression in adolescents is simply the result of pent-up sexual angst. In other words, aggression is often a byproduct of abstinence. Though they may not be at risk of pregnancy or disease, they are at risk of receiving a black eye, getting arrested or being shot.
There is, of course, another possibility besides violence or actual sex to relieve that pent-up sexual energy: masturbation.
Come on. It is simply ridiculous to think that young people can easily suppress the huge doses of hormones flooding their bodies every moment of every day without some kind of release. Masturbation is the perfect solution to the problem. Sexual tension is released and nobody gets hurt. As noted by a friend of mine, a great fan of masturbation himself, Joycelyn Elders is the bravest person in the history of this country. She was willing to risk her job in order to speak a truth that ought to be spoken more often: teenagers should be encouraged to jerk off -- and as often as necessary.
Instead, masturbation is treated as a risque topic that must remain unmentioned. The taboo against talking about masturbation creates the impression among kids that there's something wrong with self-pleasuring; so, since they do it anyway, they feel guilty about it. This should change. Instead of making kids feel guilty about masturbation, they should be empowered. After all, they're performing a major public service by taking the edge off all that energy. They were only going to cause problems if they didn't masturbate. Think of all the graffiti that might not get sprayed, all the houses that might not get egged, all the geese that wouldn't be clubbed to death. In fact, crime in general would probably decline if people were encouraged to think of masturbation as a necessity rather than as something dirty.
I realize that certain cultures and religions view masturbation as sacrilegious or at least inappropriate. From an evolutionary perspective, this is understandable. If ancient homo sapiens had simply handled their own sexual impulses, so to speak, then it's unlikely that human beings would have made it to the year 2003 at all. But here we are today in the midst of a population explosion where continuous reproduction is not only unnecessary but also unwanted. People aren't getting married soon after the onset of puberty any more, but the instinctual need for sex remains. Masturbation answers the need without creating the risk of unwanted reproduction.
We don't need to teach adolescents to masturbate, by the way; I'm sure they can figure it out by themselves. And, let's be honest, it's happening all of the time anyway. But do teenagers really need the guilt? We should make it OK for them to masturbate, ending the pointless taboo on the subject that's existed at least since the early 80s when Whitney Houston tried to tell us that, "learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all." Why, oh why, didn't we listen?