Monday, May 29, 2006

Doing the Math

Great Britain's online newspaper, The Times, had a story yesterday about sex education, with a quote way down near the bottom:
... the effect of all that “sex ed”, argued Keith Deltano, a former teacher who tours schools advocating abstinence, is that the average American is exposed to between 240,000 and 480,000 sex acts before reaching the age of 18. Pure fiction? Figures cast doubt on virginity drive

I'm not going into the article itself, it just tears apart a certain argument that the anti-safe-sex groups try to make.

But what got me to that story was a blog post that looked at Keith Deltano's numbers and said, hey, wait a minute...
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 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 a sex act is!

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 or 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 5840. 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. Obscene exaggerations

And you know, it might seem like they do, but kids actually don't watch TV 24 hours a day.
Now how many hours of television do kids watch per day? Let’s assume that most of the time 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. Now we are 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 watchint TV.

That sounds reasonable to me. And for arguments 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”. So 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 another sex act approximately every 4 minutes.

Now 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 in a show. And this 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.

You do get the feeling that this particular piece of anti-sex-ed "infoganda" is not really surviving a closer look.
So 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 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.
Right-wing religionists are not exempt from this 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.

Sometimes you have to stop and look at what the nuts are saying. They make stuff up, we've caught them a bunch of times. Thanks to blogger "CLS" at Classically Liberal for doing the math for us on this one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given that these bizarre estimates are supposed to be the result of "all this Sex Ed," do you suppose that he means that every time sex is mentioned in class it counts as exposure to a sex act? Like when the fifth graders get their first class on plumbing (the organ recital, as it were) they are exposed to a sex act when they are taught about the vagina, another when taught about the penis, another sex act lurks in the diagram of the ovaries, and so forth? Telling them that drinking alcohol (6th grade health classes have a pretty strong anti-drug component) lowers inhibitions and might make them do things they might not otherwise do, is that also exposure to a sex act? You know, in polite 19th century society it was obscene to say the word "pregnant." Women "in the family way" didn't go out in public after they were showing. So maybe every time a pregnant teacher stands up in front of a class, or every time a pregnant mommy comes to pick up a child, that counts as another exposure to another heinous act of S-E-X.

May 30, 2006 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so you think our entertainment industry has a good and healthy approach to sexuality?


May 30, 2006 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
OK, so you think our entertainment industry has a good and healthy approach to sexuality?

Not particularly. Our free enterprise system tries to sell too much by sexualizing everything. Which is one reason why it is essential that we have comprehensive, accurate sexuality education in the schools. So much of what kids pick up on television, in the movies, on the street, and in the locker room is incorrect and often destructive, that we need to provide accurate information to counter it. By focussing on recommendations from the representatives of the American Academy of Pediatrics, MCPS is on the right track here.

May 30, 2006 2:40 PM  
Blogger blog owner said...

You said in reply to a comment: "Our free enterprise system tries to sell too much by sexualizing everything. Which is one reason why it is essential that we have comprehensive, accurate sexuality education in the schools."

To be precise the market system sells only what people buy. If sexualized ads resulted in less sales they would be dropped. To blame the market for this is like blaming the mirror that you don't look good in the morning.

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