While we may throw up our arms in horror at stories of young girls prostituting themselves in exchange for drugs and alcohol (your report, 20 February), such behaviour does not transgress the value system that adult society promotes to them. Children are taught that the heart of sexual ethics is “only have sex if you really feel like it, and use a condom”. With regard to alcohol, the message is “don’t get too drunk too often, because it’s bad for you”. With drugs, the message is “weigh up the risks for yourself and make your own decision”.
The only supplement offered to this diet of destructive permissiveness is, of course, that universal panacea of child-rearing problems, enhanced self- esteem. Might it not be the case that poor self-image is partly the result of such degrading behaviour, not merely its cause?
I could now commend the Christian ethic of reserving sex for marriage, refraining from drunkenness and abstaining from illegal drugs, but I would be accused of trying to “impose my views”, being “unrealistic” and infringing the “right” of children to make their own decisions.
Of course, such Christian teaching will never be the official line in a secularised country such as ours, but could we at least let young people hear the evidence-based rational case for a more demanding and protecting moral stance on these issues?
Or does the amoral and misnamed “harm reduction” approach brook no rivals?