Like I Keep Telling You…

1. Nothing makes people behave better. At least not religion, yoga, or even reading books. At least not necessarily. Andrew Santella writes at The Atlantic about the “realization that loving a great book doesn’t make you a great person.” He starts:

I was raised to believe that reading was a healthy and wholesome pursuit, like drinking whole milk or doing sit-ups. The hallways of my high school were papered with the American Library Association’s “Read” posters, featuring pop stars posing cheerfully with their favorite books. Next to the lunchroom, there was Phil Collins grinning in a coonskin cap, a biography of Davy Crockett open before him. Could the man who sang “Sussudio” really be wrong?

But reading fiction doesn’t always make us better people. Ted Kaczynski was not improved by his obsession with Conrad’s The Secret Agent, nor Timothy McVeigh by his fascination with The Turner Diaries. Mark David Chapman was not healed by his love of The Catcher in the Rye. The disturbed reader—or, in my case, the merely immature reader—won’t always be ennobled simply by cracking open a great book.

But that doesn’t take the value away from doing those things. The article is Santella’s ode to his “childish, unhealthy, joyous” obsession with Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, an obsession I totally share.

2. On the other hand, nothing makes people behave worse. At least not birth control. At least, not if “behaving worse” means having more sexual partners. Kim Painter reports:

Women and teen girls participating in a study that provided free birth control did not take up riskier sexual practices as a result, contrary to fears among some social conservatives, a new report says.

The participants were less likely to have sex with more than one man after the program began. And though they did have sex a bit more often, they were no more likely to be diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases, according to results published online Thursday in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The article also reminds us that the same study, “involving 9,256 girls and women in the St. Louis area, previously showed the free birth control program dramatically reduced abortions and unintended pregnancies.” Previous LttCR on that finding here.

I love Maya Dusenbery’s take on the report at Feministing:

Frankly, I’m getting more than a little tired of writing about painfully unsurprising studies about birth control that are really only necessary to dispel right-wing myths.

  Unfortunately, Emily Bazelon reports at Slate that many of the briefs filed on behalf of Hobby Lobby in their upcoming Supreme Court case treat birth control as “the original sin of modernity,” whose “widespread availability changed everything, for the worse.”

Sorry, Maya. The dispelling never ends.  

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