Sex in the news: Quanitta Underwood gets tip of the hat, Rick Santorum wag of the finger | Style | all-pages | NewJerseyNewsroom.com -- Your State. Your News.

newjerseynewsroom.com

Tuesday
Sep 30th
  • Login
  • Create an account
    Registration
    *
    *
    *
    *
    *
    REGISTER_REQUIRED
  • Search
  • Local Business Deals

Sex in the news: Quanitta Underwood gets tip of the hat, Rick Santorum wag of the finger

santorumRick021412_optBY SUSIE WILSON
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
SEX MATTERS

Spring isn’t in the air yet, but sex certainly has been for the past few weeks. I can’t quite remember weeks like it. There seems to be a new story about some aspect of sexuality in our 24/7 media cycle every time I turn around.

The stories include inappropriate sexual liaisons, political attacks (and presidential shifts) on contraception, political candidate’s advice on how to have a sex life, sex ed, gay marriage, and a courageous story about overcoming sexual abuse. And last and certainly not the least, the annual issue of a magazine devoted to sex: the 2012 Swimsuit issue. The last will reportedly be read or seen by about 70 million people worldwide.

Feeling swamped, I keep asking myself: What have we learned from this deluge of sexual stories? For one, we’ve come to the correct conclusion that in a secular society, which ours purports to be, most believe strongly that women’s health, including their access to contraception, is a critical issue. So President Obama was right in his decision to have insurance companies guarantee the availability of contraception to employees of religious and faith-based charities. In this election year, the president confirmed the basic concept that women’s health trumps religious doctrine about sexual behavior.

Women who work for Catholic religious and charitable institutions don’t have to choose to use contraception. But if they are among the almost 98 percent of Catholics who use contraception at some point in their lives, they can get it without co-pay through insurance companies as part of the package guaranteed to them under the new “Affordable Care Act.” Had the President bowed to the Catholic bishops and given their institutions a waiver about contraception coverage, he would have elevated their policies about contraception over American women’s health needs.

Speaking of contraception, a tip of my hat goes to Stephen Colbert, who put a condom on a banana during a recent segment on contraception. I never thought I would see a TV personality of his stature do this, even though he bobbled some of steps, a savvy teenager told me. Colbert may have even encouraged parents to show their teenage children how to put a condom on by practicing with a banana, too. (Let me reassure you, showing your kids this will encourage discussions about protection and not sexual activity.

Turning to the more negative stories, I can’t pass over the one about Senator Rick Santorum, who may be the first presidential candidate advising Americans on how they should lead their sex lives. It seems he believes that sex within marriage is basically for procreation and has little to do with pleasure, and therefore contraception is a “danger” to this principle.


In a 2011 interview he said, “[Contraception] is not okay because it is a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. [Sexual relationships] are supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal…but also procreative.”

Colbert often gives “a wag of the finger” to people whose ideas he doesn’t like. I would definitely give Santorum a wag of my finger, because he assumes that his views about sex, contraception, and pleasure are right for everyone.

A story about sexual abuse that will stay with me long after this tidal wave of stories goes out to sea is “A Living Nightmare,” by Barry Bearak. It recounts the life of Olympic boxing hopeful Quanitta Underwood, who was sexually abused along with her sister by her father, Azzad, beginning at age 12. Azzad had been president of the parents’ association at the girls’ school and was among the most active members of a local Church of God in Christ.” (A fact that turns any link between “stranger danger” and child sexual abuse on its head.)

Quanitta, now 27, survived this trauma to become a successful lightweight boxer and possible candidate for a gold medal at next summer’s Olympics. The story shows that the “abuse is still an albatross” around her neck, even as the future she dreamed of comes into focus.

We wouldn’t be captivated, saddened, and enraged by the story if it weren’t for Quanitta’s courage and willingness to share it. “I want to be a symbol of hope to anyone who has ever been abused,” she says.

Her powerful words bring me back to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, which I’ve routinely criticized for presenting women solely as sex objects (and feeding into many women’s insecurities about their bodies). This year, I’m simply going to say that I wish the 70 million people that see the Swimsuit issue would read about Quanitta Underwood’s story of survival instead. And I wish those readers would rally against child sexual abuse, which is rampant in our society.

We can take action through required school sexual health programs in the early grades; the new National Standards for Sexuality Education has a core content area for grades K-5 for ensuring Personal Safety, which could be implemented in every elementary school. If schools would use the content standards in this area, girls like Quanitta would feel more empowered about talking to a trusted adult about sexual abuse should it happen to them.


If Quanitta wins the gold medal—and am I rooting for her—she could perhaps be part of a national campaign against it that we badly need. With the medal dangling from her neck, and her hands cocked in her boxing gloves, she could look out at us from billboards all across the country. Her words, “I am a survivor of child abuse, and I became strong and independent,” would be emblazoned on the billboards.

Overall, this tidal wave of sexual stories has been valuable. On balance, the good, the bad, and the ugly stories have given us reasons to think more wisely about this aspect of our lives.

But I, for one, wouldn’t mind if the number of stories would decline for just a few days. Then we could catch our breath and look more closely at the snowdrops poking their heads up through the earth, signaling the coming of spring.

Susie Wilson, former executive coordinator of the Network for Family Life Education at Rutgers University's Center for Applied and Professional Psychology (now renamed Answer), is a national leader in the fight for effective sexuality and HIV/AIDS education and for prevention of adolescent pregnancy. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

RECENT COLUMNS BY SUSIE WILSON

Caroline Kennedy deserves sympathy in light of JFK intern affair

Top 10 worst sexuality stories of 2011

Top 10 best sexuality stories of 2011

'Who Has What?' by Robie H. Harris: A book on sexuality for children

Moral courage and the Penn State child sexual abuse case

The HPV vaccine and children: A grandmother's perspective

Princeton professor's arguments about NYC sex education are obsolete

Protecting African women from sexual violence

Dr. Ruth visits N.J.: 83 and still a sex educator

Standardized testing sex education: Could N.J. follow in D.C’s footsteps?

Feminist hero Gloria Steinem to appear in Princeton, N.J.

What has Dominique Strauss-Kahn left in his wake?

 

Add your comment

Your name:
Subject:
Comment:
Be one step ahead of financial criminals using fraud protection services.
Easily find affordable life insurance from New York Life to ensure your family is in good hands.

Follow/join us

Twitter: njnewsroom Linked In Group: 2483509