I’m going to get to sex education in Florida’s public schools.
But in a related matter, I first need to say a little something about the ridiculous uproar over the comedian hired to entertain at the annual White House Correspondents’ banquet over the weekend.
The consensus seems to be that Michelle Wolf shouldn’t have said what she said. Her jokes apparently made some people in the room feel uncomfortable.
Putting aside that Wolf’s speech was being questioned at an event that celebrates the freedom of speech, she didn’t storm the stage with an assault rifle and demand the microphone. She’s a professional comedian who was hired by a bunch of journalists to provide 15 minutes of light entertainment.
“You should have done more research before you got me to do this,” she pointedly told her hosts when it was clear some of her blue material was making them squirm.
They are, after all, journalists. Investigating Wolf’s humor — start with that hour-long HBO stand-up special last year — would not take a Pulitzer-worthy level of intrepid reporting.
Wolf’s business on Saturday night was getting cheap laughs, like making a neck circumcision joke about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, comparing White House press spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and imagining that after achieving sexual satisfaction, CNN host Jake Tapper says “OK, that’s all the time we have.”
Some jokes landed. Some didn’t. And in the end, none of it mattered.
That’s because Wolf isn’t an elected representative or the head of a government agency that sets policy. Her power begins and ends with the time she gets to talk in a quiet room.
And so to be fair, any outrage at her words must be calibrated against the actions of other people in that room that have real long-lasting consequences.
For a small example, I’m going to take a bit from Wolf’s routine that was the perhaps the least funny, and most offensive line of all.
“Mike Pence is also very anti-choice,” Wolf said. “He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it until you try it. And when you try it, really knock it. You know, you got to get that baby out of there.”
That’s crude and not funny.
But you know what’s really outrageous? The current state of sex education to teenagers, which has a lot more to do with abortion that Wolf’s attempt at humor.
Despite abstinence-only education being widely trashed in scientific circles for decades as dangerously inadequate and a good way to guarantee more teenage pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases, it is making a comeback in the Trump Administration.
The new tax bill authorizes more spending specifically for abstinence-only sex education for school kids, and it will be administered by Valerie Huber the recently selected acting Secretary for Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Huber was the president of the National Abstinence Education Association, which changed its name to Ascend in an effort to shed the widely discredited “abstinence-only” label. The term of art these days is “sex-risk avoidance education.”
Huber will control $286 million, and unlike the past, when that money was doled out by a committee of three people, she has been given complete control over making grants. Her move coincides with the abandonment of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, a science-based, comprehensive sex education program that was created in 2010 as part of Obamacare.
Florida, under Gov. Rick Scott, has refused to take federal dollars for comprehensive sex-education, while accepting federal grants for abstinence-only education. All at a time when Florida was sixth in the nation in teen pregnancy and first in the HIV infection rate among teenagers.
You want to get outraged? Don’t get outraged at an abortion joke. Get outraged at a real policy that puts religious ideology and narrow political ambitions ahead of the public good, a policy that leads to more abortions brought to you by the very people who burnish their anti-abortion views.
A paper published last year in The Journal of Adolescent Health concluded that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t result in less sex by teens, but it does undermine comprehensive sex education that really works.
“Programs that promote abstinence-only-until-marriage or sexual risk avoidance are scientifically and ethically problematic and as such have been widely rejected by medical and pubic health professionals,” the journal wrote.
So I’m not losing any sleep over whether anybody was offended by a comedian’s words on Saturday night.
Not when the futures of so many young people are being jeopardized by the actions of those clinging to any excuse to promote their own victim-hood.