Day Promotes Mixed Message About Sex
Special Report - May 7, 2008
“Sex has consequences” is supposed to be the message of the 2008 “National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy” scheduled for today. But a closer look at the initiative and the groups behind it reveals that the event’s implicit message is “how to avoid the consequences of sexual activity.” The annual event is organized by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which says that its purpose is to “focus the attention of teens on the importance of avoiding too-early pregnancy and parenthood.” This year, the event’s promoters are encouraging teens age 13 and up to visit their new website, stayteen.org, and take an online quiz that presents them with a variety of real-life sexual situations and gives them the opportunity to consider what they would do. The quiz begins by asking some provocative questions: “Thought about sex? Of course you have... who hasn’t? Know what you’ll do when the moment arrives? How much do you really know about sex, relationships, and teen pregnancy? How will you avoid getting pregnant or getting someone else pregnant?” Teens receive points as they answer each question, with higher points for answers involving waiting to have sex, using contraception, or getting information about contraception.
On the positive side, the “National Day” quiz provides teens a chance to consider some tough questions and gives them the option of choosing sexual abstinence. However, parents should be wary of the initiative and the website for a number of reasons. First, the “National Day” is sponsored by over 160 national organizations, including many that promote condom-based sex education, such as Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth. In addition, the event’s organizer, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, advocates an “abstinence-plus/based” approach to sex education, which combines the abstinence message with information about how to use contraception. For example, under the “About US: What We Do” section of the National Campaign’s website, it states that one of its goals is to: “Provide more education to teens, parents, and young adults in their 20s that encourages them to take sex and pregnancy seriously, stresses personal responsibility and respectful relationships, and includes extensive information about contraception.”
The event’s website also provides teens with links to some websites that most parents would find offensive and inappropriate. For example, under the “Get Informed” section of the site, teens are given two choices for further information, one titled, “Abstinence” and the other “Contraception.” The “Abstinence” section provides some good points on avoiding sexual activity and includes links to abstinence groups such as the Abstinence Clearinghouse. But the “Contraception” section includes links to Planned Parenthood; an emergency contraception website; and “Go Ask Alice,” a controversial website from Columbia University that offers visitors information on subjects ranging from sex toys to homosexuality.
Another problematic section of the “National Day” website asks teens to choose their “relationship reality.” Teens are given a number of options, including “waiting” and “sex.” Teens who select “waiting” are provided with several reasons to postpone sex. But at the bottom of the page, they are encouraged to get more information through the “Relationship Reality Resources” page, which includes suggested resources where teens can get answers to their questions about a variety of issues, including contraception, “protection,” and STDs, through groups such as Planned Parenthood and MTV/It’s Your Sex Life.
“Prevention efforts should be aimed at helping teens think about and avoid the myriad of negative consequences associated with early sexual activity, such as sexually transmitted disease, unwed pregnancy, and emotional, mental and spiritual damage,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “Condoms and birth control pills are not the answer to these problems. The ‘National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’ should focus on the only 100 percent sure way to avoid all the consequences of early sexual activityabstinence until marriage and fidelity within marriage. That’s the message teens need to hear, and anything less only puts them at risk for lifelong harm.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.