If there is one lesson to learn from the situation Judge Brett Kavanaugh finds himself in today it is that what you do in adolescence may come back to haunt you in later life. That is not to say he did anything terrible back in his high school and college years – only those who were there know what happened.
It’s just an “if”, a warning to today’s young people that what happens at the pool party or the frat party or in the dorm, or anywhere else, does not necessarily stay there, and it may cost you a coveted job, your reputation, or even your freedom if something you did is considered a crime.
The same applies to the youngsters who post sexy pictures and messages on social media — except they don’t have to wait decades for someone to come out of the shadows and expose them to the world; many are learning very quickly that anything you post can be used against you, and it has driven some to take their lives.
So much more necessary is it, then, that children and adolescents are educated, at home and at school, with an eye to the future; that they acquire the virtues that will protect them from vicious behaviour and its social consequences, and, more importantly, preserve their self-respect and ability to form lasting relationships when the time comes. But do parents and teachers understand this?
We read that enlightened sex educators are now teaching teenagers the rules of consent in sexual activity and the difference between pornography and real sex. That may be progress compared with the staples of biology, pills and condoms. But the assumption is, and has been for decades, that most kids are going to become sexually active before they leave their teens – and that there is nothing wrong with that. They (boys, mainly) just have to be taught how to have “good sex” – the kind that won’t, decades later, lead a woman to denounce you publicly for sexual assault.
But this new version of “safe sex” is just as futile as the old. It’s an education in technique rather than virtue, geared to ensuring that everyone “feels good” about the sex they have, but unrelated to weightier matters like marriage and fertility. Having “good sex” with a series of partners might satisfy some emotional needs while finishing one’s education and getting established in the workforce, but it is not a good preparation for marriage and family life, which requires all the prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance that spouses can muster.
People not ready for the commitment of marriage are not ready for sex, and that includes most adolescents. They are never going to get sex right, especially when they mix it with alcohol and/or drugs, and any responsible person would tell them so.
Outside of the marital commitment sex is positively dangerous – emotionally, physically, professionally and politically – as becomes clearer every day. Over the past year it has emerged as a weapon of mass destruction, as countless women have revealed old wounds from unhappy or unwanted sexual experiences and men from virtually every profession have lost their jobs and reputations after being accused of sexual aggression.
The Brett Kavanaugh affair has shown that — in theory, if not in his own case — not even the recklessness of a teenager can be overlooked if the personal or political stakes are high enough. Every teenager in the United States must know that by now. What they need is adults who will foster in them the moral wisdom and strength to treat sex with the respect it demands.
Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.