Decriminalise consensual teen sex…..

I was listening to a discussion on Cape Talk last week by John Maytham and there was a discussion about the decriminalisation of consensual teen sex.

In short (and I am cutting and pasting from the Cape Talk site here) Laws that make consensual sex between teenagers a crime are unconstitutional, the Teddy Bear Clinic, and Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Rapcan) said earlier this week, when they launched a court application to challenge sections of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act.

The case follows the highly publicised Jules High School case, where two boys, aged 16 and 14, had sex with a 15-year-old girl.

The 16-year-old was charged with statutory rape and the others with “consensual sexual penetration” under the act.

The National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to prosecute the teenagers, including the girl, provoked criticism. The charges have since been dropped.  Guest: Samantha Waterhouse – Organisation: Community Law Centre, UWC – Position: Parliamentary Programme Co-ordinator

I must confess that when I first heard about the decriminalization of this law, I got my panties in a bit of a knot.

The do-gooder in me jumped up, found a soap box, put on a shirt that buttons up to my neck and has sleeves that go all the way down to my wrist.

Once on said soap box I started to make speeches about how if society decriminalizes sex between consenting under 16 year olds.  The world will just be rampant with sex, and people will go around having sex younger and younger and blah-blah-blah.

There will be total anarchy and people might start listening to Jason Donovan again.  Basically all hell would break loose.

I did have this discussion in my head, as well as putting on the long sleeve shirt.

But then I was driving and listening to a portion of the show – between fetching kids, getting milk and all the stuff that is fun in the school run.

I did miss parts of the show, but caught the gist of it between traffic, and kids screaming at each other and me saying “shut up, let me listen to this damn show” in my best motherly voice.

I must confess that there were some points that made me stop and go “hmmm you could be right” and it sort of challenged my point of view.

One of them was:  if kids are going to have consensual sex and they are under 16, it should not be a legal issue, it should be a parental issue (Ah-hah moment for me there).

Another was (according to the guest Samantha Waterhouse) that kids who decide not to have sex, other than for the fact that they are under 16, has got nothing to do with the fact that there is a law telling them not to.

But all to do with influences that come from others i.e. often good influences that explain that sex has it’s place, and is part of a relationship, and that the burdens of sex are often better to deal with when you are older and can handle all the ramifications that come with it.

A caller/sms commented that retail stores should be prohibited from selling “not age appropriate clothing” (translated as dress my 12 year old like a hooker, and not a well paid hooker, more of a lady of the night who might only get one paying customer on Somerset Road) clothes to an under 16 year old.

Obviously as this came in as an sms made me realize that the parent in question had to actually have sufficient brain cells to either fill in a cell phone contract or have the sense to go to a retail store and purchase air time.

She had the sense to make that retail decision, but somehow lost her sense when she gave her daughter R250.00 and let her go out to a mall-near-you and purchase a slutty outfit or two.

But because she (the parent) was unable to control/set rules/have any parameters regarding what is appropriate dress for your child she (the parent) feels that retail stores need to put the rules in place.

That did make me wonder: “What the hell is going on here?”

When exactly did we decide to hand over the charge of our children to Pick n Pay/Woolworths/Naartjie and allow them to give, or take permission away from what our children regarding what they wear.

I was pretty sure that responsibility should lie with the parent.

Later in conversation Samantha (who was being interviewed by John Maytham) said – and I am totally paraphrasing here – that the law should be changed, because for a child/person who is under 16 to consent to sex, is not a legal issue.

It is a parental or a societal issue, and should be dealt with as such.

I did not have sex when I was 16, or under 16.

I must also confess that I did not realize there was a law governing such issues. I am not sure that would have acted as a deterrent, or a motivator – I think it would have been a non-issue.

At the time, I was dealing with too many other social issues to even consider that sex was a great idea.

I also had a huge fear that I would repeat the mistakes of “past generations” and girls around me, and be pregnant at 16 or 17 and find myself married to someone who I did not love, who could not support me, and face living in some seedy suburb with a child on each breast and another on it’s way.  All while my (imaginary) husband drank beer out of a can, and wore one of those not-quite-white vests around the house.

But the issue I am trying to raise, is though I totally disagreed with the amending/scrapping of the law, once I had heard the opinion of loosely sane people, I realized that a part of me agreed with the law.

Maybe not totally (as the idea of my children ever having sex, freaks me O U T!).

I personally would prefer kids not to be sexually active while in school – and this is assuming they remain in school.

I  feel a person under 18, with so many other social/peer pressures is just not ready for sex and the emotional consequences.

I think without a doubt their bodies are ready for sex, but emotionally and mentally, not so much.

However if my son (for instance) had sex with his girlfriend (imaginary girl friend as he assures me almost daily that he will never have a girlfriend), who let’s say was 15, 10 months, and he was 15 and 11 months – and it was consensual for both of them, I really would not like to be standing at Wynberg Magistrate’s Court having a discussion about this with an attorney and a judge as to why my child was having sex.

Sure I might handle it by drinking copious amounts of wine and puking into the toilet bowl as I screamed at Kennith that “It is all your fault!”

If that should occur – the sex and under 16 kids,  not the wine and puking, which sounds like a normal Saturday night out – then I would like to use that as a “wake up sign” to reflect on how I was raising my son, and how this situation became “alright, for him to make this decision.”

I am also not naive and think that at 16 we can control what our kids do and watch them every second of the day.

We can try to ensure that they know what they should or should not do, and then ensure that there are rules that are followed i.e. no girls sleeping over in your room for instance, and then sort of hope from there on in, that kids “do the right thing” – what ever each family’s interpretation of that is.

I am not even going to use the example of my daughter being 15, 10 months, and her boyfriend being 15 and 11 months – as Kennith would go and shoot him (literally, not figuratively) and then we would be having an entirely different conversation at Wynberg Magistrate’s Court.

Parenting needs to be a hands-on affair, we need to be aware what our kids watch, who they speak to, how they speak, and constantly keep dialogue channels open so they (hopefully) they feel they can talk to you about the little stuff and the big stuff.

My kids are small and this a rather premature thing to be worried about (in my world) – but I speak to the kids about sex so that it sounds about as thrilling as a cheese and paprika sandwich, and becomes such a ho-hum subject that it is the equivalent to “pass the margarine” in their world.

I want it to be something they know about.

Something they do not feel embarrassed about, and more importantly when Rugby Captain Brad wants to show Georgia what sex is in the backseat of the car, she can answer matter of factly that she is all up to scratch on that subject – and mom said never to have sex in the back seat of a car, any car!!

Towards the end of the conversation on Cape Talk I decided to have a pop quiz and asked if Connor knew what sex was – he said yes without even flinching.

I asked Georgia and she also said yes.

I was suspicious that she was just mimicking Connor so I asked her how babies were made, she answered (without skipping a beat) that “babies are made out of bones with skin on them” – which is true.

Based on what clearly was the rather hazy picture Georgia had formed, I asked Connor if he could tell me what sex was.

So he said: “When a girl lies on top of a boy, and the boy puts his winkie in the girl’s winkie.”

When all is said and done, that really is what it is.

I would like the government and legal fraternity to make recommendations and set out guidelines, but at the end of it all, I would like us as parents to take responsibility for what our children do.

Shape of a Mother ….

I found this great website called the Shape of a Mother.  It’s my private little addiction.  I pop along to this site and read the blog updates and look at the images.

The idea of it is that the author/owner of the blog noticed a mom with a babe, and when the mom’s shirt lifted by accident she realized this very healthy and toned looking mom also was sitting with extra skin hanging around her belly.  Yes, I realise it could also have been me – you probably thought the same thing.

The blog owner had this epiphany that the post-pregnancy body has become one of our society’s greatest secrets.

What we are exposed to is the female form airbrushed perfectly.  I used to work for the company that did the pre-press work on Shape, Fit Pregnancy and Swimsuit Magazine – all those girls were airbrushed to an inch of her life.

I would have loved to nab the pre-air-brushed photos and smuggle them out there for the world to see.  I am not denying that the models are beautiful and can really fill out a swimsuit, but you must know they have pimples, and stretch marks and cellulite and marks under their arms like no one’s business.

If you look at yourself in the mirror and it differs from these images that we are bombarded with all day – you tend to opt to wear a bigger shirt, start layering a little more, and hide your body as much as you can. Well that is what I do at any rate.

We talk openly about our sagging or flattened boobs, our wobbly thighs, our expanses of cellulite, our hanging tums and our stretch marks, but god-forbid anyone sees them.

So this very clever woman created this excellent website where women of all ages, shapes, sizes and nationalities can share images of their bodies so it will no longer be secret.   Almost like a blog, but populated by visitors.

To quote directly from her website: “So we can finally see what women really look like sans airbrushes and plastic surgery.

I think it would be nothing short of amazing if a few of our hearts are healed, or if we begin to cherish our new bodies which have done so much for the human race. What if the next generation grows up knowing how normal our bodies are? How truly awesome would that be?” even has categories marked Belly, Breasts, Cesareans, Child Loss, Infertility, Inspirational, Plus-Sized, Postpartum, Pregnant, Twins, Triplets and VBAC.

It really is a wonderful website and the women are real, and we recognize these bodies as our own.  Women write in honest terms about how their bodies have changed, and the photos are taken sans great lighting and often without good photographic techniques, so it is real flab, butt-cracks and cellulite.

While I celebrate these women, and nod along to all the comments, I can barely look at myself in the bathroom mirror when I get undressed to shower or bath.

When I sit in the bath with Isabelle, I feel ill that my stomach sort of rolls over and rests itself on my upper thigh while I play with her.

Last night I looked down at my c-section scar and got a bit of a fright as it looked big and really red and ugly –  but I was drinking a glass of wine, and there was a candle, so the lighting and my perception was a bit off.  But I had this immediate feeling of revulsion and sat up in a panic to re-examine it.  It was still a scar, still red, yugh, but maybe not totally revolting, okay well maybe just mildly so.

I used to be okay with my body – I was not out there pole dancing or anything, but I would put on a costume when it was hot, and go for a swim.   I would not scream “look at me, look at me” but I could get myself in a swimsuit and a pair or shorts when the weather demanded it.

Now I crinch at the thought of pouring myself into my swimsuit, even when at home just with Kennith and the kids.  It is not about them seeing me, it is about me seeing me.

I hide from myself.  I dress and undress quickly, so I do not have to witness the white blubbery me. I hate the fact that I used to weight 50kg, and used to hate being skinny.  Now I would drink 5 days of gloop a day, and 7 tons of laxatives to get back to 50kg.

My body is different and I really do not like it.

I know I should be thankful that this body has been good to me.  It is seldom sick, it can stand up to quite a bit.  It carried three healthy children through three healthy pregnancies.  It was strong enough to get through three c-sections, it healed well, and did not let me stay in too much pain.

It let me breastfeed without any problems.  When I did not want to breastfeed it made the milk just go away.  It let me get through bouts of depression without totally giving out on me.  My skin has stretched to make room for these children and the growing me, and it has done it with eloquence and grace, and done me the favour of doing it without one stretch mark (I know, I am shocked too).

I should laud it and praise it, instead I despise it.

I am embarrassed.

I am angry.

I am scared that this is now who I am.  What I see in the mirror does not match who I see in my head.

I have contributed to it’s demise.  It did not get here without the help of a several bowls of delicious pasta, bags of divine Woolworths Chuckles and several litres of wonderful wine.  I am the reason this body is the way it is, and that makes me very angry.

I huff and puff my way through boot camp and hate being there.  Every gasp and gag is fueled by anger.  I do not want to be this fat, cellulite, scarred person – I want to be svelt and 20 years old (but I would like to keep my mature mind …)

There I am flicking through these images of women being real on shape of a mother, and still I am hiding behind my baggy black shirt.  Why does this bother me more today than it did yesterday?

Today I am trying on wedding dresses in front of strangers.  That means my body is going to be on display – as you cannot get into these dresses without help.  That means I am going to be trying to corset myself up into a dress that is going to make my fat roll over the top and my hips putting a bit of strain on the stitching.

Another day, in another place, I can post about who I love my body, or even like it – but not today.

Getting pregnant – maybe not so easy.

I had been off birth control for about a year, and though we were not exactly trying hell-bent-for-leather, much to Kennith’s continual disappointment.  I figured if a sixteen year old girl could fall pregnant at her matric dance with one sexual encounter, then what the hell was wrong with me!?

Those who know me, and attest to love me, know that I have an inability to sit and watch something happen or not happen, especially if I have a vested interest in the results.  I tend to start running around trying to find a way to control the situation.  It just makes my Type-A personality feel a bit better when I can draft a list and have something to tick off.  Some people say a prayer and light a candle, me – I start throwing money at the problem.  The only exclusion to this personality trait is when I see anything from the SARS.  I get paralysed into a state of absolute immobility and tend to stare into space with a look of fear about me.

Back to this story.  I recalled years ago that I had seen an Ovulation kit in the back of a magazine.  I started to google to see where one would get an Ovulation kit – as I had no idea where or what it was.  To be honest, I was not sure I really understood what ovulation was either.

After a bit of searching, I stumbled on a site called www.fertilitree.comwhich is a run from offices in Johannesburg by two lovely women, Candice and Linda (I only know them by email and phone and they seem lovely through these mediums).  They have products and all sorts of aids and advice for people battling with infertility.  Much of their product range and advise comes from their own experiences with infertility, so these women know their stuff and are so lovely and empathetic.

Now I realized that I was not infertile and do not for a moment wish to say I know how it feels to battle with this particular demon.

I was frustrated that things were not happening, and I felt could hear a distant biological clock ticking – it was making that loud donging sound that grandfather clocks make on the hour which was becoming more and more alarming.  I did not feel I wanted to wait much longer.  I was already 35 and the 35-cut-off was always an issue for me, so this was really playing Russian roulette and I wanted to just do what I could do maybe stack the cards in my favour if only slightly.

They did have an ovulation kit – yippee for me.  But they had lots of other stuff and the thing that really caught my eye was an OvaCueR Fertility Monitor.  Basically it is an electronic “lick a stick” that you do every morning.

Without getting too technical – you start on day 1 of your cycle (first day of your period) and put it on your tongue first thing in the morning before you have eaten or drunk anything.  The unit takes a reading and saves the data.  You hold it against your tongue for probably a second or so, so it is not like you are sitting there for 45 minutes with a strange metallic object adhered to your tongue while you wait to have a wee in the morning.  The key is that you do it every morning.  The system is meant to calculate the “most fertile day” or in lay-persons terms the day you are most likely to fall pregnant if you have a boink/shtoink or what ever the funky chicken word is for this season.

The data meant nothing to me – probably because I am loathe to read the manual, and just want to get it, take it out the box and start using it.  I could understand “Most Fertile – Day 13.”

By day 3 the little OvaCue decided that Day 13 was my day.  I was a bit suspicious as I thought it was awfully specific, when it really only had 3 days of data and really did not know me, but who am I to argue.

I continue to “lick a stick” each day so that it can store the data, as the more days it has the more data it has and the more accurate the reading is. On Day 13 it told me “MOST FERTILE DAY.”  I am fairly sure they were in uppercase as well.  It did not exactly instruct me to go out and procreate, but the underlying message was clear.

I obeyed the little mechanical device, as one does.  And on Day 14 it showed that my fertility was dropping.  Listen, I had only had this little machine for about three weeks and you can only start using it on your first day of your period.  I really had nothing to go on in terms of believing the read out, but I felt I had been wrong for the last year or so, I was willing to give this little machine a chance.

I had calculated my “most fertile period” based on all those lovely charts you find all over the web.  I am a 28-day person, so have the benefit of stability.  I was told day 11 – 13 were my days by every chart on-line, and had followed the rule more or less correctly for  some time, but not getting the results.  So here was this machine giving me new information, I was happy to just follow along (for now).

Because I was tracking my days I knew when my period was due and on the morning it was due.  I knew I should leave it a few days because ……. well that’s what they tell you to do.  But I figured that all I was going to do was get myself stressed and stare at the ticking hands of the clock all day.  So I left work early – got home and I pee’d on a stick by midday and it showed it was positive.  I am sure I yelped!!

I popped down to Clicks and bought 3 more tests.  I am sure it made a lovely picture, me with the trolley, my two snotty kids on either side of me (neither of which look like each other), no wedding ring, purchasing a half dozen pregnancy tests.  I could all but hear the sales assistant tut-tutting under her breath.  When I got home later in the day pee’d on another one and “whoop” there it was.

I was so very very thrilled – both with the results and also with my little machine whose instructions were so on the money.

Initially I thought I was going to leave it and keep it a secret, but the next day Kennith and I were going with a group of friends to Sabi for a week, and I knew there was no way I could maintain any kind of silence.  My friends are awfully bright, and if I was not polishing off a bottle of lovely Chenin Blanc by 10am they would be on to me in no time.

There is a rare thrill that one experiences when one finds out one is pregnant after trying  I think there is a moment of fear and trepidation, where you think “what have I done!” following by a few moments of feeling faint.  But then one things “Hey, look what I have done – whoop whoop!!” and you get all warm and glowy in side.  It is such an awesome feeling – really a hallmark moment in my life.

Wanting a Third

I am one of three. I am not submitting that as a defense, but possibly a source of explanation.

The key issue to remember is that I never played with dolls as a child. I really do not like children much. The first baby I ever really held was my own, so you can see my exposure on this subject was limited to say the least. “I really want a baby” urge was quite foreign to me.

Connor was a planned baby that I felt I had given in to as a decision to a large degree.

Kennith and I were at a sort of crossroads – an impasse one might even say. I felt that if I did not get on the baby-train at some point, there was a good chance that I was going to be travelling solo. We were heading towards late twenties, Kennith had been wanting a baby for years, and the truth of the matter was I would rather get a puppy!

I did eventually decide to give in to the idea, but it was not because I thought it was a good idea, I just did not think it was as bad an idea as I had initially thought it was. Strange motivation, but there we have it.

I do wish to clarify that at no point did Kennith threaten or cajole me into anything. He patiently waited and I think hoped I would eventually change my mind. I did keep saying “maybe next year” knowing full well that next year was never coming. I think he also was aware of that, but decided to be ever hopeful and ask each year. Kennith – bless him – is such a patient lad and clearly ever optimistic!

With Georgia, my second, I just felt this primal urge to have a second child. It really was beyond any reason that could be described as sane.

My life was in such turmoil and chaos, but something in me – a bit like a light in an oven – just went on – and no matter how much I jiggling the door, that is what I wanted. So Georgia was conceived purely as a need to fulfill a feral urge for a baby. It really was a total abandonment of thought and reason an absolute surrender to “I want!”

Many of our friends have either got married late or have very edgy careers that have put them in a position where kids in their twenties was not on the cards. Most of our friends are in their mid to late thirties and many have decided that they want kids. Socially we are surrounded by people talking about kids and wanting babies.

I am not sure if this added to my frame of mind, and I should blame peer pressure. But at some point I started thinking that maybe I wanted a third child!

Sidebar: Still not really fond of children, barely coping with two.

I think the issue was again, I was not sure if I wanted a third child, I just was not sure if I did not want a third child. Listen even sober, my logic sometimes makes me want to lie down and take a much needed nap.

Our relationship was in good shape (tick that block), we were living in a large enough home, and generally life was looking pretty rosy. We were enjoying the two we had – though we were still exhausted by their endless energy. We were also thankful they could wake up in the morning and make their way down to the tv room and leave old mom and dad to just try and sleep for another hour!!

Kennith and I spoke about it, and he was very clear that he wanted to start doing big person things that did not require a nappy bag. He just did not want to go through it all again and be weighed down by another child. I agreed – slightly disgruntled – and as I did not feel very strongly for or against, I decided that I was going to let the issue slide, and not make it one where I was the absolute driver and he was the reluctant passenger.

I am not sure at which point things began to shift. Kennith had mentioned it a few times, and though he was not exactly running out to take fertility pills, he seemed more open to the idea.

We had purchased a new house, and when we went through the house deciding which room was going to be used for what. Kennith started to refer to the room closest to the main bedroom as the baby room. I really felt that was the beginning of where he had more buy in to it than I did at that stage. I think at that point, we then decided that yes, this is what we were going to do, we were going to try for a third.

So bizarre to think of how much of a 180 degree shift was from where we had been about a year before, when things were so severely bad, and now we were talking about extending our family.

I am not very philosophical about these sort of things – and do not get all Hallmark card about it, but it really was an incredible journey we had been on to find ourselves at this new point in our lives when it so easily could have gone the other way.

We weren’t exactly running out to renew our vows or anything – as we still were not married, but we could have been those bitter people arguing about child support and visitation rights!

No rhyme or reason ….

Kennith was doing his MBA, I was going stark raving mad – it was the perfect environment to decide to have a second child. For reasons that I cannot describe I decided that I wanted a second child. I was not coping with the first. I was not even coping with being able to brush my teeth successfully, but I decided that a second child was what I wanted.

At the time I was seeing a psychiatrist and she really voiced her concern that now was not a good time. Kennith and I were barely talking – partly because of the MBA, partly because we just avoided each other. I really cannot explain it in a sane manner – possibly a good representation of the head space I was in at the time. I just felt this overwhelming feral urge to have another baby. I knew it was not going to make things better, I knew it was not going to save this crumbling relationship, but I just wanted a baby.

Kennith and I had spoken about it, but it might have been a bit like me agreeing to the MBA, he did not say “no” loud enough, so I just went ahead and did it, knowing it was not the best choice I had ever made. I could list the reasons why not to, but on the list of why to, all I got was “because I want to.”

To illustrate how badly the timing was, my psychiatrist had just upped my meds and prescribed a new drug to assist me in coping with normal life, as I was not coping and going off the deep end fast. I am quite bright, so even I could work out, that if I was not coping with normal life, I was not going to be able to cope with a pregnancy and added stress on my life and my floundering relationship.

I had gone to the chemist to fill the script and decided to get a pregnancy test before I started taking the new meds as they were not recommended during pregnancy, and I just got a strange sensation as I walked past the “pee on the stick” tests. I went back to work, went to the bathroom and wee’d on the stick, which turned positive reasonably quickly.

I was immediately elated – like I had achieved something. Then shocked at the ramifications of what I had done, then I panicked – “kill me now, what have I done!!”

I went outside and called my friend Judith and burst into tears – what the hell had I done and what the hell was I going to do now. I cried the entire way home in my car.

I told Kennith in a very unceremonial manner. He got home, and as he collected his dinner from the kitchen I flicked the stick across the table at him. We ate in silence in front of the television. Things really did not get much better from there on in. That might have been a pre-cursor for how things were going to go during this pregnancy.

There was very little euphoria around this pregnancy. Kennith went to work and MBA and I continued to work like a demon. I was quite nauseous and exhausted in the first trimester, and unfortunately Kennith was not available to assist. I recall how cherished and wonderful I felt with the first pregnancy, and how alone and terrified I felt this time around.

I decided to go off all medication immediately – I was scared that these would affect the developing baby. The withdrawal was not great, and made it all the more difficult. I decided to just put my head down and get on with it, what really were my options?

Pee on a Stick why don’t you?

For those who don’t know me, it’s okay, I often wake up at night wondering if I know myself.  I do often wonder how I managed to get myself into this position – the position of being mom to three children.  When the number one issue is that I don’t actually like children (sure I like my own now, but I never played with dolls, and really tend to cringe back in terror when a young snotty happy faced short person runs towards me), and more importantly number two, I was very sure that I never wanted children.

My partner – Kennith – wanted children from the get go, I was very very reluctant and every time we had the conversation would wrap it up by saying “next year” knowing full well that next year was not going to be coming.  Six years into our relationship we had reached a cross-roads/an impasse and I fell pregnant with our first child when I was 28.  It was a totally planned endeavour.  This did not stop me sitting in the bath and crying like a knocked up 15 year old.

I do wish to place some blame on our friends Mike and Anita (names have not been changed to protect the innocent) – as they had exposed us to their child and it all seemed like such a jolly good idea from our vantage point.    I’ve never told them that they are to blame (if only partly), so hopefully they suffer sufficient guilt to bring me something great from the U2 concert that they are travelling overseas to go and see.

So there I was 28, unmarried, pregnant and frightened beyond measure …..