I just spent ten minutes reading this article and watching the video attached. I highly suggest you do as well.
The video is full of misguided information, scare tactics, and absolute bullshit. The fact that any high school would think that this woman would be the best option to bring in to speak to teenagers about sex is one thing but beyond that – this woman believes in what she’s saying. Have these people not yet caught on to the fact that abstinence-only education does the exact opposite of its intent?
She seems to be mocking the young girls who come into her office and say, “I didn’t know” and I feel instantly sorry for them. For one, is Pam Stenzel was their counsellor then they probably didn’t know – she has no other opinion on sexual education beyond “just don’t do it”. On top of that, the last thing any teenager needs to hear when they go to a doctor or a counsellor about possibly pregnancy or disease is condescension or lecturing. They need support.
And they need support long before they are sitting in an office waiting for results. They need support when their bodies start changing, their hormones start raging, and their minds are becoming muddled with the opposite, or same, sex. They need support from people they can trust and this includes parents, teachers, and counsellors.
I know that many people will struggle with the issue of “how young is too young?”. It’s a legitimate thing to wonder and not being a parent myself I don’t know how you would ever decide on that. What I can say as someone who was once a child, not long ago a teenager, and now in my twenties that honesty is key to any discussion, about anything. If I asked a question I expected an honest answer. And for awhile if I had asked a question about sex and got an answer along the lines of, “Well, you’ll probably get syphilis so don’t do it” I would have believed whoever told me that because I didn’t know better. But what people fail to realize is that other kids will hear other stories, be taught things that don’t involve diseases or death, and see that their friends can have sex and still be alive when it’s done. That would be the moment that I would have figured out that I had been lied to and probably the moment that I would have decided to see what all the fuss is about.
The problem with this is that by the time I’ve made the decision because I see that it’s safe, I have not been given proper guidance, education, or support to make an informed decision. I can only infer between what I’ve been told from all sides that at one point I was lied to about syphilis and that my friends think it’s fun. But I don’t know the whole story, right? I don’t know that syphilis is possible, or chlamydia, HPV, gonorrhea, what have you. I’m assuming they’re not possible at all now. I don’t know the rate of pregnancy, possibly if I’m really sheltered I don’t really know how it happens at all. Due to all of this, I don’t know about condoms, birth control, and, ultimately, what having sex really does to my body.
We need to give our children proper education. When Pam Stenzel preaches about birth control, pills or otherwise, and basically tells those children that because it doesn’t prevent diseases and because it can cause death (seriously, if you haven’t watched the video, watch it) it is of no use to you. Wrong. So wrong. We need to teach our girls that if they want to go on birth control they need to be able to have an adult, mature conversation with their doctor about it. They need to be honest about their intentions, their periods, their mood swings, their blood flow, their cramps, and their headaches. They need to discuss everything that goes along with being on birth control to ensure the proper method is prescribed. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone on a birth control pill and lost my fucking mind in a mood swing because it was completely wrong for me. The difference is, I knew it was wrong and I went back to my doctor and we tried something else. I knew to do this because I was brought up in an open environment.
On top of this we need to teach everyone that the pill is not fail-safe. Yes, there is no method of birth control that is 100% effective other than abstinence and we need to tell teenagers that. But we also need to tell them, boys and girls, that the pill is not enough and condoms must be used too. Because unfortunately for anyone who is sexually active pregnancy is not the only risk, something that Stenzel got right, and there are other things they need to worry about. But we shouldn’t be using scare tactics to get this point across, we shouldn’t be terrifying them with images of disease and death, we should be honest about the prevalence of these things, the symptoms, and how testing is done.
Beyond all of this, beyond the simple education of our bodies and what can happen to them, I think we all need to stop being so afraid to honestly speak about sex to teenagers. They know what it is. They know how it works. They know their bodies are working and that they’re able to do it. What they don’t know is that it can affect much more than your physical health – it can affect self-esteem, mental health, and emotions. It can, and likely will, change your relationship with someone and that is something that doesn’t change as you get older. When you hear people talking about dating a lot of the time it’s divided into two portions: before we had sex and after we had sex. Often, there are differences between the two sides of the relationship but most of the time they aren’t bad.
Having sex can be fantastic. I don’t think there would be a person alive who has had consensual sex who would disagree with that statement. And telling a teenager that sex can be fantastic isn’t going to make them promiscuous. What is going to make them promiscuous is not giving them the tools beforehand so that they aren’t figuring it out through physical practise.
We need to stop being afraid. We need to stop trying to hide kids from it. They’ll find out anyways. But we need to get to them before the Pam Stenzels of the world do because then we’ll have a real problem on our hands.