I was brought up in a household with a fairly positive outlook on sex. From a fairly early age, I remember having conversations with my parents about bodies and body parts, reading books about puberty, and above all, the acknowledgement that sex exists. This attitude mainly stems from my mother, who has worked as a nurse for the past 22 years; the past seven of which were as a Professor of Nursing at Goshen College, including teaching a course titled “Human Sexuality.”This was juxtaposed with the sex education I received at my high school. I attended a private, Christian high school and in my freshman health class I was provided with abstinence-only sex education that was not only entirely useless, but also demeaning and flat-out nasty.
Preparing high schoolers for sex by telling them “don’t do it” isn’t preparation at all. High schoolers have sex. When school administrations pretend like sex doesn’t exist, they only hurt their own students. Students go into sex not knowing about things like risks, consent, birth control and other forms of safe sex, or even how to talk openly about sex with their partner. Education in this manner doesn’t prepare people for the real world.
But the worst part of it for me wasn’t the abstinence-only message—it was Pam Stenzel. Stenzel is a widely acclaimed promoter of abstinence. A highly enthusiastic speaker whose talks tread the line between unhinged stand-up routines and evangelical preaching, her mission seems to be tearing down the youth of America, specifically young women.
I had conversations with several of my high school friends about this subject. We watched hour long videos of her talks, several times. Stenzel talks about women who have had pre-marital sex as being “used up.” Stenzel has also been accused of slut-shaming by many people, and I don’t think there is a better way to describe her preaching, crude as the term may be.
The other thing that came up were her claims about what happens when you use birth control. Stenzel, from her YouTube videos, claims that birth control will make a woman “ten times more likely to contract a disease . . . or end up sterile or dead.” This is misinformation. And any school, such as my high school, who allows these statements to have a platform is being extremely irresponsible and doing a disservice to their students.
Unfortunately, incomplete sex education is a problem in schools across America. A large reason for this is the laws that are in place on a state level about what can and cannot be taught in schools. In my home state of Indiana, for example, schools are not required to teach sex education at all. However, if they do, they must stress abstinence as the expectation. Indiana schools are also not required to teach students about gender identity or sexual orientation, something that the state could really use, in my opinion.
Schools and communities across America need to transition away from abstinence-only sex education, and educational institutions need to take on the responsibility of educating their students properly about sex with comprehensive sex education. This change needs to be made on a school by school basis, but also a broader basis with the passing of new, 21st-century laws. Pam Stenzel and her backwards teachings should not be shared anymore. I would love it if nobody ever heard her message ever again.
I’m glad that I went to the high school I did. But there are certain aspects of it that I can’t believe that I ever went along with. Abstinence only sex-ed with occasional “input” from Pam Stenzel is certainly one of those things.