Once upon a time, I worked on a project that I had some ethical concerns about. I was the analyst who designed five pieces of client-facing software and a sixth that acted as a communications hub, and it was interesting work, but it was software for the purpose of facilitating communications in the drug and alcohol testing industry. It was in many ways a really fascinating project, and I would be proud of the software if it had seen the light of day. The company simply couldn’t get off the ground, and my brilliance was lost forever. But I was concerned about this software, because I don’t believe in drug testing for most employment.
Let me make sure we’re clear, here. The primary customer for this was trucking companies. Anyone trucker who is driving through the Good Ole’ US of A legally has to submit to random drug testing. I can accept the potential for serious problems if a truck driver is stoned or drunk behind the wheel, and there are a great many jobs where safety is a priority and staff are required to agree to not use alcohol and drugs. If you tell your boss you aren’t going to be stoned and then get stoned, you kinda deserve to get in shit for it. End of story.
I knew it was time to walk away, though, when I came in to the office one day to a beaming boss, who gleefully told me that she had great news. The state of California was considering implementing random drug testing in high schools. That’s just creepy and wrong, especially in a state where the War On Drugs is still taking place. These are high school students, they’re going to use drugs. It is the responsibility of the parents to police their children and look out for their best interests. The school’s responsibility is to… y’know… teach kids things. That’s it.
Of course, that’s just one person’s opinion, and, as Ophelia Benson pointed out today on her blog, the fine people in charge of education in a district in Sumatra would like to go one step further, with mandatory virginity tests for the ladies. The idea is to cut down on the out of control promiscuity that’s happening in the area. Because… it’s… bad? or something?
I wish I could talk to this Muhammad Rasyid, the Education chief quoted in the article. I’d walk him through the situation to understand first what is bad about all the sex that’s supposedly taking place. Does he have facts related to problems associated with this particular sex? Is Prabumulih district’s rate of teenaged pregnancy or STIs starkly higher than other school districts? Then we would talk about what can be done about that without actually having strangers stick their fingers into young women to determine their virtue, things like ACTUAL REAL EDUCATION. And if, as Rasyid seems to be implying, this is a question of rampant non-consensual sex, then typically the approach most places would take would involve the police and creating legitimate protections for women.
Let’s pretend for a minute that there is a girl named Jenny in high school at Prabumulih High, the flagship of modern education in southern Sumatra. Jenny has a secret. Jenny has been raped. Jenny is emotionally devastated, and she is going through some fairly normal and fairly awful emotional reactions to the act. This is awful, and she should be helped. But is the best way to help her to tell her that a stranger, without her consent, is now going to shove fingers inside her to determine whether or not she has had sex?
And what about Tina, a classmate of Jenny’s. Tina has been dating Biff for several months, and the two are madly in love, but it’s a secret. Tina’s parents would not approve of Biff. One day, Tina gets called down to the office, and a stranger inspects her and tells her that her hymen is not intact. Knowing as we do that the hymen is made of a magical material that never breaks without a penis, she now has to come clean. But maybe Tina says that she was raped to protect Biff. She obviously doesn’t name Biff, but now an official investigation is going to take place to find a rapist who does not exist, wasting resources that could otherwise be used to protect girls like Jenny.
These are two bullshit examples of how stupid this thinking is out of a literal ocean of possible examples. The facts are that this is not a plan to protect women from men, but to punish women for being women. And that’s what changes it from being stupid to being ugly. I do hope that this doesn’t happen.
Let me make something perfectly clear: Teenagers are going to have sex. Some teenagers are going to have a lot of sex. The best thing we can do is tell them how to have sex safely and make available the things that make sex safer for them, like condoms. To think you can legislate morality is always a mistake, especially when it involves telling teens to not do something their physiology is screaming for them to do.
Shake your head, Muhammad Rasyid. I so hate it when I’m tagging a post with both “sex” and “laws”.