ABC is not giving anyone an accurate picture. As a formal educational initiative, abstinence education is a new phenomenon, not a June Cleaver joke. The videotapes are in color and convey a message incomprehensible to libertine Tinseltown: There are consequences of teen sex, even purportedly "safe sex." They tell kids that teens who get pregnant before they reach 15 have an 85 percent chance of dropping out of school. Condom usage is 85 percent effective in adults but only 70 percent effective in teens. Teenage girls are more susceptible than adult women to contracting sexually transmitted diseases, which are on the rise. There is only a five- to six-day window in which a woman can conceive, but teens can contract a sexually transmitted disease at any time.
But all ABC can do is ridicule these programs, for laughs.
Teens could see Hollywood’s "lesson" in the family hour. Another family-hour sitcom, CBS’ "Still Standing," joined the discussion on Oct. 6. When the son asks Dad for a condom, the father gladly obliges, thinking it’s just for show. Later, Mom and Dad catch the son with his girlfriend in his bedroom. The mom lectures: "You are way too young to be having sex ... If you wait until you’re mature and you’re with someone you love and respect and who loves and respects you back, then it’s special like it’s supposed to be ... It’s just not the right time." After the nice lecture, the show then has a Hollywood ending: The son hands the condom back to Dad, but both parents insist he keep it, just in case.
On Oct. 8, the CBS drama "Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire" featured an obnoxious daughter instructing her parents that teen pregnancy might be less of a problem "if kids could just get some counseling, but too often, parents panic and simply preach abstinence."
When the parents catch the girl with a boy in their own bed, the mother says, "You are not going to convince us with well-thought-out arguments. You are 15 years old, you are a child living in this house, and we get to make rules without reason sometimes." But it quickly blurs into the Hollywood ending, with Mom getting fatalistic: "Your father and I remain strongly opposed to having sex," but "given that we can’t control you ... when the time comes we want you to be protected."
Now imagine if Hollywood applied that logic to other hazardous teen acts. We don’t think you should smoke, but here’s a pack just in case. We don’t think you should drive drunk, but if you must, drive slowly, and here’s a six-pack. Hollywood's decision makers just can’t sound a traditional note about sex. They can’t stand sounding like their parents.