David Quinn: Teen website SpunOut needs to grow up when it comes to advice about sex
Published 29/03/2013 | 05:00
ATLANTIC Philanthropies has done fantastic work in Ireland, pumping hundreds of millions of euro into many worthy causes, especially in the field of education. But it has never found a politically correct cause it didn't like.
Hence millions of euro have also been pumped into groups advocating for gay marriage, transsexual rights and even a Swedish-style universal childcare system paid for by the State.
Basically, Atlantic Philanthropies is lavishly funding a leftist social agenda without a peep from our media or our politicians.
If a similar organisation was funding, say, the pro-life movement, to the tune of millions of euro, we would know all about it.
Politicians and media would be raising the matter and wondering why a US-based foundation was seeking to influence Irish law and social policy so strongly in a particular direction.
Atlantic Philanthropies has also, along with the State, been funding SpunOut.ie, the youth website that is helpfully giving teenagers advice about threesomes.
The fact the State funds SpunOut is now well known. But the fact that Atlantic Philanthropies is also funding SpunOut is worth a mention as well, because parents ought to know that the foundation, in addition to funding many entirely worthwhile causes, also funds some contentious ones.
The controversial articles on SpunOut don't stop with the one on threesomes. The website, for example, gives some extremely pro-choice advice on abortion in which the possibility that the unborn child has rights is given not a mention. There is also an article providing the pros and cons of open relationships.
The news that SpunOut is providing state-funded advice to teenagers on threesomes was broken by the 'Sunday Independent', which quoted Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin to the effect that she would raise the matter with Health Minister James Reilly. Dr Reilly has since ordered a review of that aspect of the site. I hope it will be a thorough-going review.
For its part, SpunOut has been wholly unrepentant. A statement earlier in the week and an article in yesterday's Irish Independent by the site's founder, Ruairi McKiernan, pulled the old "we're only facing the facts of life" defence.
The statement said: "Young people are having sex whether the 'Sunday Independent' or Deputy Michelle Mulherin like it or not. Some of them are having sex with more than one person, and sometimes with more than one person at the one time."
Yes, we know that. And young people also smoke, but the website doesn't take a non-directive, "whatever you're having yourself" approach towards smoking. Instead, they're given strong, directive advice on its health effects and given strong, directive advice on how to quit.
Why the difference in tone? There are two possible explanations. One is that the website is against smoking but is neutral on threesomes and simply wants people to know more about them.
Another is that it doesn't really believe in threesomes but feels it can do nothing to discourage them and therefore might as well give people good advice about them.
From the point of view of the parents whose teenagers this website is partly aimed at, both of these explanations are appalling. If the first one is true, it means a state-funded website subscribes to a view of sexual relations that is about as casual and as meaningless as can be.
The other possible explanation, that there's basically nothing we can do about today's sexual free-for-all, is utterly defeatist. Only a few years ago, it would have seemed to many people just as impossible to discourage smoking, but we did it, and are doing it, with a lot of success.
There's another HSE-funded website called B4Udecide.ie which takes a completely different, less defeatist attitude towards teenage sexual behaviour than SpunOut.
B4Udecide gives teenagers a list of reasons why they should wait until they're older before having sex for the first time. This is much more in line with what most parents would want for their children.
What the people at SpunOut need to be asked is why they don't follow the lead of B4Udecide, a website that can't be dismissed as the work of a bunch of anti-sex prudes.
In the final analysis, SpunOut's attitude to sex is the same as that of 'Cosmopolitan' or 'Playboy'. Essentially, it thinks anything goes so long as you're comfortable with your choices and you use a condom. It therefore advises teenagers on how to be "comfortable" with their choices and leaves it there.
However, most parents won't be comfortable with that at all. Most parents will want their children to have sex within committed relationships and to wait until they are out of their teens before having sex for the first time.
This is what SpunOut should be encouraging, and not a cent more should be given to it either by the State or by Atlantic Philanthropies until it starts to do so.
Basically, SpunOut needs to grow up.