Portland, Maine, found itself in the national spotlight on the morning of Oct. 17. The King Middle School was debating whether to provide birth control to sixth-graders without their parents' consent or knowledge -- not just condoms, but even birth control pills or contraceptive patches.
ABC's "Good Morning America" picked up the story, with anchor Diane Sawyer first professing shock at the young ages involved, but then echoing the proponents' justification: Children "are caught in the changing worlds of early puberty and sexual messages everywhere."
That's the line that rings in the ear. ABC is addressing a social problem: How to deal with middle-schoolers wanting to have sex because they're inundated with sexual messages in ads, in music videos, with sexual themes endlessly discussed and dramatized on television?
Sawyer invited on talk show host Glenn Beck and "sexologist" Logan Levkoff (promoted by fans as the "Get It On Guru") to debate it. Sawyer asked Levkoff: "Would you draw the line anywhere? What if it were grade school?" Amazingly, she replied, "I don't necessarily draw the line, because we're in a world where we get so many sexual messages."
Levkoff lives in a parallel universe. We are talking about little boys and little girls, 11 years old.
The lesson from the anything-goes crowd is so illogical it borders on the obscene. In order to "protect the youth" from unsavory sexual messages, we should provide them will all the technology so they can have "safe sex" -- even at age 11. But who is responsible for this bombardment of sexual messaging in our culture that's fueling this fire?
ABC and all the other networks, along with many of their advertisers, need look no further than the mirror. More than any other element in our society, it is they who are responsible for the deluge, primarily -- though not exclusively -- through their entertainment products.
It's bad enough that they refuse to take any responsibility for their own sleazy product. But what's unconscionable is that TV dramatists are now portraying those who want to keep children free and safe from premature sexual activity as mentally disturbed, even as a social menace.
The swaggering shysters of ABC's "Boston Legal" went to court on Oct. 9 on behalf of a high-school girl who contracted the HIV virus from "unprotected" sex with a boy. The girl in this script sued not the infecting boy, not the boy's parents, but the high school that taught abstinence-only sex education.