Peter Hitchens absolutely wrong about sex education

Peter Hitchens regularly writes some pretty barmy things, as most Mail columnists are paid to do, but occasionally he seems to stray beyond this into madness. Yesterday was one of those days, as he used the title: ‘More sex education means more teenage pregnancies…always‘ for his column arguing that sex education is pretty much the sole reason for teenage pregnancy.

You see Hitchens – rather like the Mail – blames sex education for teenage pregnancy and seems to think that if schools didn’t mention sex at all, then no teenager would engage in it. The whole argument is simplistic and wrong, teenage pregnancies happened before Labour and would continue to happen even if schools never mentioned it again. As ever, the Daily Mail pretend that the terrible liberal Netherlands doesn’t exist, seeing as they teach sex education to five-year-olds and have the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.

But facts aren’t important to Hitchens, as is made clear by the fundamental flaw in his basic argument: if more sex education leads to more teenage pregnancies, and we’re currently delivering more sex eduction year-on-year, then surely the teenage pregnancy rate must have increased year-on-year? The trouble is that they haven’t. Most years rates have dropped, with rates increasing in 2002 and 2007, and this latest report shows a drop of 13%.

So Hitchens’ whole argument is beyond silly, more sex education leads mainly to the year-on-year reduction of teenage pregnancy, the current figures show a reduction of 13% and a truly liberal sex education such as in the Netherlands leads to the lowest teenage pregnancy in Europe.

Hitchens makes his argument worse with the childish prudishness that makes him so employable to the Daily Mail – a paper that claims to have a moral objection to sex whilst plastering its output with half-naked females. Sex education to Hitchens is some evil liberal ‘invasion of school classrooms by supposedly educational smut’. Hitchens makes the classic Mail assumption that sex education is the teaching of various positions and techniques before handing out free condoms and contraceptives and turning the classroom lights out for a quick practical.

The irony of Hitchens is that he complains right at the start of his column that so many people ‘put up with so many separate insults to their intelligence in any given week’, then insists on insulting the intelligence of his readers with childish arguments and constantly referring to ‘smut education’. This idea that New Labour are attempting to breed a generation of Labour voting porn-stars seems to stem from Hitchens research into the history of sex education and his discovery of the invention of sex education:

I didn’t then know about its first invention, during the Hungarian Soviet revolution of 1919, when Education Commissar George Lukacs ordered teachers to instruct children about sex in a deliberate effort to debauch Christian morality.

And it gets worse, Hitchens genuinely believes that:

the people who want it are always militant Leftists who loathe conventional family life; that the pretext for it has always been the same – a supposed effort to reduce teen pregnancy and sexual disease; and that it has always been followed by the exact opposite.

Except that is hasn’t of course, because the figures do not support his argument at all. Furthermore, the simplicity of his argument ignores the reality of the relationship between sex education and sexual promiscuity. It would make equal sense to argue that as teenage pregnancy increases so does the government program of sex education, therefore the relationship between the two is inverse – it is more teenage pregnancies that causes more sex education, not the other way around.

But Hitchens is so certain that he is right that he doesn’t even try to form a coherent argument to support his viewpoint, probably because the evidence doesn’t support him he ignores it and spends his time acting like a paranoid child. He doesn’t even consider the completely different world that children are growing up in, constantly swamped in sexual images by a media obsessed with it – and the Daily Mail is no different. Hitchens would rather ignore the wider social influences on teenage sexual patterns and instead simply blames sex education. The whole argument is utterly without foundation and intellectual honesty, but I imagine that’s exactly why the Daily Mail prints it.

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