Readers respond to Damien Cave's "Dying for God" and Drs. Lynn Ponton and Lawrence H. Diller's "Second Opinions."

By Salon Staff

Published October 25, 2002 10:34PM (EDT)

[Read "Dying for God," by Damien Cave.]

The author of "The Martyrs of Columbine" states in your interview: "In fact, if you get rid of religion, you get rid of an important resource for questioning all forms of extremism -- a resource that helps society put in a larger, wider perspective."

He never explains how. This statement isn't supported by anything else in the article and should have been pursued in a follow-up question. In fact, much of the rest of the article links religion to extremism, as it should. Without supporting reasoning, the rest of his statements are also called into question.

Religion is the main reason for martyrs in the world today. Making excuses for it serves no good purpose.

-- Stefan Krzywicki

Good comment about Falwell not being the spokesman for Christianity. On your attempt to compare "intuition" with "faith" -- there is none. Faith is accepting without having any proof. Intuition is to have cognition, insight and knowledge without evident rational thought and inference, which turns out to be true. You're on the fence.

-- John Anderson

[Read "Dont Bluff!" by Dr. Lawrence H. Diller.]

Dr. Diller is a wimp: "I like to see a take-charge mother from time to time." I fear my mother is from the last generation who automatically took this for granted.

KMR asks: "How can parents effectively use a warning system without delivering false threats?"

Simple. Never deliver a false threat. If you tell the child, "If you do X, I will do Y," then you must be prepared to follow through, with a smile.

Remember, your (small) child is not as savvy as your husband; he is not trying to push your buttons. Your child is merely trying to satisfy his present urge. As his parent, your duty is to train him to suppress his urge, with consistency and love. If you must, drag him through the store: him red-faced and screaming, you with the serenity of Buddha. Or take him from the party early; there will be other parties. He will quickly learn that his behavior cannot 1) persuade you to cave in to his urge, or 2) change your loving attitude toward him. Come to think of it, this attitude will serve you well into the teen years.

Good luck.

-- Scot Billman

[Read "Sex Talk," by Dr. Lynn Ponton.]

The 12-year-old asked her mother a straightforward question. Her mother asked Dr. Ponton a straightforward question. Dr. Ponton yammers about the obvious for two pages, reviews some books, and never answers the question. Let's hope the mother does a better job.

-- Nancy Johnson

Yes, but what should she tell her daughter now?

1. Oral sex is when one person touches another person's genitals with the mouth.

2. Oral sex is sex, and it carries many of the risks of sexually transmitted infections that penile-vaginal sex carries.

3. As such, when oral sex happens, safer sex needs to happen, too.

Keep it directed away from her personally, but really, make it relevant. I'd suggest Scarleteen as a site to look through together and, for a page specific to oral sex, Mouthing Off on Oral Sex.

-- Laurel Martinez

Dr. Ponton's rather long answer to a short question highlights much of what is wrong with sex education these days, especially the brand of sex education children receive in their homes. I was actually shocked that a 12-year-old didn't know what a blow job was, much in the same way I was appalled one summer at camp when a 14-year-old bunkmate confessed she didn't know what an orgasm was. By the time a girl is 12 she's probably giving blow jobs, which means parents missed the boat by several years if they're just getting around to explaining the birds and bees to their preteens and teenagers.

The earlier, the better.

The idea that there's something wrong with oral sex and that it can't be spoken about until a certain age is exactly why so many young teens participate in it way before they are ready.

By the time a child goes to school, someone in his or her class will know how babies are made, and in most schools, long before junior high, the blow job question will be trotted out. So my advice to parents would be the advice it seemed my own parents followed: Wait until you're asked, but not too long. If you have an inquisitive child, terrific; perhaps you can deal with how two men have sex before the kid can do long division. If you have a shy child, think about the worst-case scenario for the age of his or her sexual maturity, subtract four years, and vow to have the Big Talk then.

Talking to an 8-year-old about sex is much less daunting than talking to a 13-year-old who already assumes he or she knows it all. And showing your child that you're not intimidated by the subject will make you seem open and available in ways you never thought possible. That child will remember the frankness you showed him or her at 8 and come to you at 13 or 14 when the stakes are higher.

And to answer the mother's last question, "Does she need to know this now?" I'd like to ask, what's wrong with knowing? The fact that she doesn't know already is cause for concern, because it makes the act all the more appealing as taboo, at an age where every boy she meets is going to want to take her for a test drive. That you would debate not answering her is downright scary. Knowledge never hurt anyone, and likening the knowledge of something to the propensity to doing it is the retarded logic that keeps condoms out of school nurses' offices.

-- Yelena Malcolm

Salon Staff

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