Letters to the Editor

Are 13-year-olds ready for "hand jobs and heavy petting"? Plus: "Weird Weekends" host talks back; it's time for minorities to rethink party loyalties.

Published October 29, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Freudian fear and cooked statistics

Karen Houppert's ridiculous assertions
concerning "tween" sex include this: "But the teens who call themselves 'active' often have
never had sexual intercourse and have no intention of doing so anytime
soon. Sex, to them, is about blow jobs, hand jobs and heavy petting." I'm glad that she has decided there is no cause for alarm and that the media has blown this whole issue out of
proportion: Does she think that young teens -- 13-year-olds -- are
ready for "blow jobs and hand jobs and heavy petting"?

Houppert's scornful tone regarding the empty homes that so many kids
come home to told me nothing except her own agenda. These so-called
tweeners -- at an extremely vulnerable age -- spend too much time
unsupervised and alone. It's so easy to ignore their sense of pain and
abandonment by turning it into an attack on working women that needs to
be shrugged off. The real issue is about parents -- both moms and
dads -- needing to spend more time with their children, guiding them,
protecting them, and talking with them.

Houppert's strident tone and glib recitation of studies disputing
earlier studies and so on, serve as a smoke screen to the real issue. I
am the mother of an 8-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. They are
exposed to a disturbing amount of sexually oriented material from
many different venues -- the explosion of "girl power" catalogs and Web sites; TV shows
aimed at young adults in which the characters speak of sex with a
casualness and a coarseness I find degrading; magazines aimed at
the young adult market which pretend to be aiming at 18- to 34-year-olds
but are clearly aiming much younger. I am a mother who is exhausted from constantly
screening magazines, turning off the TV when the vulgarity requires a
discussion and an explanation, and wincing when -- at 4 in the
afternoon, on a top 40 rock station -- my children hear commercial after
commercial for erectile dysfunction tonics. I see this as a problem.

I am trying to teach my children that sex is part of a committed, loving
relationship between two mature people. Everything else they see says
it has the same importance as a good game of Mario Kart, and if they
don't get with it they will be outcasts for the rest of their lives.

-- Frances Pelzman Liscio

As a 14-year-old girl, I was surprised by the content of the
Newsweek article on "Tweens." I hadn't realized that, as a "tween," I must
automatically be subject to early sexuality and frivolous
emulation of maturity! It's sort of a shock to be told that you've missed
that entire side of yourself and your peers.

I completely disagree with just about
everything "The Truth About Tweens" had to say. I am fairly typical for my age. I go to school, fail a test every now and then, go out with my girlfriends, have a boyfriend, have not had sex,
often disobey my parents, like to party and have an older brother in
drug rehab. I do not know one girl who hasn't faced the prospect of sex --
and I don't know one girl who hasn't turned it down. The few girls I know
that have had sex were raped, which I think is a much greater problem than growing up too fast.

But who's to judge what speed is appropriate? Even those girls that have grown up too fast aren't bad
people. I'm glad that your writers could look beyond the hype and laugh at it all.

-- Abigail Bader

What a provincial world America is; we will find any statistics we can to show the danger of sexuality. Is it that these "tweens" are just a bit too tempting? Maybe if we could accept the eroticism of the young, we wouldn't be so afraid of it.

-- Stefanie Paul

It's a familiar story. A 14-year-old girl, precocious beyond her years,
falls for a 25-year-old man. Even worse, he was a cousin living with the
family because of economic hardship. Both parents worked long hours, coming
home after dark and leaving before sunrise the next morning. The illicit
pair ran away together. She was found and dragged home, but not before
conceiving a child. Familiar story; surely girls are becoming sexually
active way too young. The only twist is this: The girl was my grandmother, born in
1890. The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

-- Sunny Hemphill

Wenatchee, Wash.

Beyond the fringe

A big thank-you for bothering to cover me and my show, "Weird Weekends." However, at the risk of appearing ungracious, I should point out that my statement about the work of Michael Moore ("if you think there's something bogus about his political analysis") came in response to
a sustained critique of Michael's ethics by the journalist who was interviewing me. It was not a reply to the innocent question under which it appeared.

-- Louis Theroux

Goodnight, Irene


What minority group in the United States isn't doing a similar sort of soul-searching?
Most of my Mexican-American relatives have been voting
Democratic for years; there's still a strong tendency among us to refer
to the Democrats as "our party" the way we did during the Kennedy and
Johnson years. However, most of the political positions my relatives take on
issues like welfare and gun control aren't exactly liberal positions, and
not all of their stands can be blamed on pro-white wannabe-ism. (After all,
many people in my family faced discrimination from white non-Hispanics
when they were growing up.)

Working-class blacks and Hispanics have been in more of a position to
observe the shortcomings of the American welfare state than the white
middle-class liberals who live miles away from any welfare-class
neighborhood. Indeed, because we have had to live with the consequences of a
liberal drug policy, a liberal crime policy, a liberal education policy,
etc., we tend to be very conservative indeed. Not because we necessarily
believe that the party of Giuliani and Bush is on the side of the angels but
because the party that is supposedly on our side just doesn't seem to give a damn.

In any event, it's about time we start encouraging all Americans to think
for themselves and make up their own minds what party suits their own best
interests. If the Democratic Party wants to keep our allegiance, it might
try actually attempting to solve a problem or two rather than relying on the
same old clichis. I'm not interested in hearing why such-and-such problem
can't be solved due to the actions of a great white Republican bogeyman;
I'm interested in hearing workable plans of action.

-- Roy Mendoza Jr.

I am sick of black folks whining about being taken for granted.
Apparently, having Democrats place us in Cabinet positions and judgeships
and protect Head Start, the minimum wage and low-income
mortgages from elimination by the Republicans isn't good enough. We are
told we should split our vote and support a GOP that wants to keep
Pat Buchanan but kill the Community Reinvestment Act! If anyone has been
taken for granted, it is the Democratic Party by blacks.

-- Natalie Hogue

Glassboro, N.J.

Body count


Charles Taylor criticizes Pat Buchanan for urging a "consolidation of (American) might ... divorced from morality and responsibility" and "not using our status as a world power to stand up against abuses that are abhorrent to our ideals." I'll leave it to Pat to fight his own battles but I'd like to point out why his ideas about this appeal to me.

The slaughter of Eastern European Jews, Chileans, South Africans, Nicaraguans and Kosovars was indeed monstrous. So was the slaughter of American troops sent to put things right. And did we put things right? Have we fought the "war to end all wars"? Obviously not. The slaughter continues with no sign of letup.

The problem with using American might to curb foreign bloodshed is that it also entails American bloodshed -- and in my view, American bloodshed can only be justified on the basis of protecting America's direct national interest. Otherwise, abstract notions like morality and responsibility will not resonate with the people or with the troops on the firing line. Remember Vietnam?

Taylor calls Buchanan isolationist for not supporting "international obligations to defend democracy." What obligations? It is easy to justify American bloodshed from a lofty perch of morality and responsibility, but it is a harder sell down in the foxholes.

-- Bill Hart

Although Pat Buchanan feels little sympathy for most foreigners, he still
feels great outrage that some Germans found themselves living outside of
Germany when the European borders were redrawn after World War I. The Versailles treaty "split a defeated Germany in two and left millions of German-speaking peoples cut off from their homelands, isolated in France, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia ... [and] denied German-speaking
peoples all over Europe the right of self-determination they had been promised if Germany
and Austria laid down their arms."

Buchanan thinks the Western allies
should have refrained from interfering with Germany's occupation of Eastern Europe.
He summarized his attitude about the relative moral merits of the
Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in his column of Aug. 10, 1994, which claimed Lazar
Kaganovich (a Jewish member of the Politburo) "starved more Ukrainian
Christians than [SS Chief Heinrich] Himmler killed Jews."
Buchanan regrets that the Soviet Union ultimately defeated Germany with
American help. In his Feb. 25, 1994, column he complained that America
"smashed Germany; then we permitted Moscow to rip off her eastern provinces, then we
rubbed her nose for half a century in the sins of the Third Reich, then we
told herself to lose herself inside a united Europe." In fact, though, those "eastern
provinces" we supposedly "permitted" Moscow to "rip off" rightfully belonged
to Poland and Czechoslovakia, according to the Fourteen Points and the Versailles treaty.

-- Mike Sylwester

Now for some real money



Another Dole bites the dust


Monte Paulsen raises some valid concerns about Elizabeth Dole's speaking
engagements -- particularly with respect to speeches given to groups which
had business pending before the Senate at a time when her husband was
still on Capitol Hill. Most of the article, however, is a small-minded and mean-spirited attack on a woman who, whatever you think of her politics, has donated a tremendous amount of her income to charity and has spent most of the '90s heading up one of the nation's foremost
charitable organizations. One of Paulsen's main complaints is that Dole
promised to contribute all of her income to charity but actually only
contributed about half. I dare say that Dole's broken promises reflect
far more giving than the pledges that most of us keep.

Paulsen's misguided attack reaches its nadir when he questions Dole's
pattern of giving as suspect because she contributes to groups with which
she has had a personal association. I find this level of questioning insulting to all of us. Of course people give to their own alma maters, their own churches and the charitable
organizations which they personally consider worthy. I applaud Elizabeth
Dole's generosity of spirit, and question the author's lack of it.

-- Robert Anderson


Good piece on Liddy Dole cashing in. However, when the Clintons cash in --
and they surely will -- I hope you also deem it newsworthy.

-- John Darten

While I never would have voted for Elizabeth Dole, I find it a
discouraging reflection on American politics that $5 million
in raised funds, with $860,000 in cash on hand, is considered not enough money
to run a presidential campaign. If money is the be-all and end-all
qualification, why don't the Republicans save time and money on state and
national conventions by just nominating George W. right now?

-- Susan Maricle


Class dismissed!


What are we to make of Alford's temper tantrum? Are we supposed to think more highly of him and disparage his students, or agree that today's crop of students is less inclined or able to learn from his wisdom? Instead, what we see is a professor who continually abdicates his responsibility and then blames his students. If their reactions in class discussion show they have learned nothing from the class, what does his abrupt and irresponsible cancellation of class and his inability to cope with his students show? A grasp of philosophy? I don't think so.

-- Joanne Huybensz

David Alford's article made me consider my own position here in Salt Lake City. As a native Californian and Taoist living among the faithful in the Mormon Mecca, I have gotten quite used to being referred to as a "Gentile," although the description is rather improbable given my Irish/Episcopal heritage. But I would rather be around Mormons than born-again fundamentalists any day. When debates of any kind reach the boiling point here, the Mormons are the first to suggest that we sweep the unpleasantness under the rug, and settle our differences over a round of Sprite and sherbet floats or a couple of Kit Kats. The fundies, on the other hand, go right for the gun rack.

-- Robert Barth

Salt Lake City



I read the "poison pen e-mail" mentioned in its entirety -- it was
absolutely nothing of the kind. Linda Muller was saddened by her position,
not angry.

As for Bay letting her go, that was probably an editorial mistake, because
the new guys are nowhere near as talented as Linda was -- however, everyone sees art differently. Bay wanted a slick new presentation, so she hired someone else.

Are you people on the attack with Pat Buchanan because you genuinely dislike
him, or because you're on the GOP payroll? We find it highly suspicious
that liberals and journalists at least tolerated Pat for over15 years, and
suddenly decided he's a threat to the American way at the
exact moment he became a third-party political threat to a Republican
candidate swimming in piles of money.

-- Kevin Tuma

By Letters to the Editor

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