Premarital Sex

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Premarital Sex (PMS) and Moral Panic

Discussion paper presented at a meeting, "Family Planning New Worlds  organized by

the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health of the John

Hopkins Center for Communication Programs. December 10, 2002.

I thank Dr. Laurie Zabin for presenting alternative frameworks to analyze adolescent

sexuality and drawing away from the usual perspective that casts the adolescent as the

problem, spurred by his (and increasingly, her) raging hormones. Her paper shows how

important it is to problematize the way societies interpret the sexualities of young people,

and to seek new ways of understanding these sexualities in the context of history and

I wanted to elaborate on Dr. Zabin's points, using examples from Asia (mainly the

Philippines) to talk about the dilemmas and pitfalls that come with social conservatism,

often expressed through an invocation of a mythical past when adolescents were asexual,

obedient, compliant. In doing so, I want to show that conservatism is not limited to the

moralizing of religious fundamentalists; in fact, the more dangerous forms of social

conservatism are the ones we carry unconsciously, part of all too pervasive social

ideologies that we pick up through our families and educational institutions.

Specifically, I wanted to talk about "PMS , a term which I first heard from Filipino

demographers. It was a term which initially puzzled me since I came in from work on

reproductive health and thought of PMS as premenstrual syndrome. As things turned out,

PMS was "premarital sex , said with much dread and loathing almost as if they were

Tomorrow, in fact, there will be a press conference back home where the latest figures

from the latest national youth survey will be released. I was supposed to be part of the

press conference

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