Sunday, May 28, 2006

Obscene exaggerations

Kiwi blogger Lindsay Mitchell has noted that Keith Deltano, one of these American “conservatives” now running around the schools at the expense of taxpayers to promote chastity claims that the average American is exposed to between 240,000 and 480,000 sex acts before reaching the age of 18. Deltano is a fundamentalist Christian who is on the Bush gravy train collecting fees for his "faith based" abstinence lectures. This sort of "business" now gets around $178 million per year from the Bush Administration.

What is this man saying? Let’s put this in perspective. When you have your 18th birthday you will have lived 6570 days in total. This would average 38.5 sex acts per day. I’m not sure what half a sex act would look like. But, that’s how the math works out. Of course, that is just for his low estimate. If you take his high estimate it would be 77 sex acts per day thus ridding us of the necessity to contemplate what half a sex act would be like. Though I am told that many women say they know precisely what half of a sex act is like!

But, can we say at a new-born infant is exposed to such things? I doubt it. I get the impression that Deltano, like most conservatives, is obsessed with the media so he’s probably talking about television and film. New-borns don’t watch much TV and I have actually never seen a new born at the cinema. So .it is probably fair to delete the first two years of life from this analysis, if not more. After all, for the first two years infants are mainly exposed to cribs, diapers and adults going “goo goo” at them. Rarely are they lining up at the porn shop, watching racy late night TV, or sneaking a peek at the Playboy Channel.

So, it is fair to delete the first two years at least. That brings the number of days in which they are exposed to such things to 5,840. That comes to 41.09 sex acts per day. If that half sex act was messy consider what one-tenth of a sex act would be like. I think it’s called shaking hands. So Deltano is saying that children are exposed to between 41 and 82 sex acts per day.

I don’t have any idea what he calls a sex act. If Bill Clinton’s definition of sex was way too narrow the typical conservative’s definition is way too broad. Some fundamentalists think dancing is a sex act.

I watch quite a bit of TV. Even when I’m not “watching” TV I often have it on just because I like having sound around me and prefer voices to music. I see some kissing on TV fairly regularly. It is fair to say that I see it daily. But I’m not sure that counts as a sex act. I really would have to say that a sex act is anything that includes the genitals. Sure you run across “depictions” of that. But I wouldn’t say I that happens in every show I watch and it is more suggested than shown.

How many hours of television do kids watch per day? Let’s assume that most days they sleep 8 hours per day. They probably spend at lest 3 hours per day eating, bathing, dressing, going to the toilet. That’s 11 hours. They spend time in school. Let us assume that over the whole period in question it average 4 hours per day, which could be low, I ‘m too lazy to figure it out precisely. We are now at 15 hours that are occupied. I wouldn’t be surprised if a typical kid spends 2 hours per day playing games, hanging out with friends, etc. That’s 17 hours. And I'm sure they do all sorts of other things as well. Various groups contend that the average child spends 3 to 4 hours per day watching TV.

That sounds reasonable to me. And, for argument's sake, lets assume it is the 4 hour figure. So that is 4 hours per day from the age of two to 18, or 16 years. That is 23,360 hours of TV, video and film before they turn 18. But, even that is not quite accurate. Typically during one hour of television there is about 15 minutes of commercials. So that means while they watch 4 hours per day they get only 3 hours of television. And last I heard the typical commercial very, very, very rarely shows “sexual acts.” That brings the total hours down to 17,520. That means 13.69 sex acts per hour. (And that .69 sex act we all know about!) This would amount to one sex act approximately every 4 minutes.

Not even porn videos can match that record. And that is still being “conservative” (as in being low as opposed to being “conservative” in the modern political sense, where you exaggerate everything you dislike to prove the world is falling apart.) Most shows have few, or no sex acts, inthem. And this is particularly true of the shows that kids like to watch especially when they are young. I know Jerry Falwell, in one of his senior moments, said Tinky Winky was gay, but even he didn’t say that there were orgies on Teletubbies.

At the very least much of what kids watch has no sex at all in it. I’m not sure how we quantify this. But, if we just say that a third of the time they see nothing that is sexual that would mean the number of sex acts they do see during the “hot” times would have to be around 20.5 per hour to 41 per hour to come anywhere near the figures this conservative activist claims.

That is one sex act every 3 minutes on the low estimate and one every 90 seconds on his high estimate. This is getting absurd. I have to wonder what shows these children are supposedly watching. I have enjoyed some rather adult dramas, not typically watched by children, and none of them have approached the frequency that this author seems to be saying exists.

So are kids getting exposed to this much “sex” every day. No. I don’t think so. What is going on? Ask a homeless advocate how many people are homeless and the numbers he will spout will indicate a crisis that needs addressing. What is factual is not important; he is pushing an agenda. Ditto for virtually any issue you want to think about.

Right-wing religionists are not exempt from the tendency to exaggerate the issues that bother them. The fact is that in many cases they just make up the numbers. Or they use estimates that are intentionally skewed to make the “problem” look much bigger than it is. And if I, as an adult who has watched considerable television in his lifetime, haven’t seen the frequency of sex acts that Deltano claims exists I doubt the kids have seen it. I’m no prude and I wouldn’t turn off a show just because it shows sexual situations. I haven’t seen that much sex on television. I don’t think the children see it either. I’m not saying they never see anything sexual. And I’m not convinced that if they did it would be a disaster if the parents have already dealt well with such information. But I’m fairly confident that these estimates are obscenely exaggerated.

PS: Yes, the photo is Deltano. I'm not making it up.

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