Pam Stenzel Should Be Classified as a Public Health Threat Not a Public Speaker

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And not only would a majority of the American public agree with that statement, one teenager in particular probably would too after hearing her sex ed. lecture at George Washington High School in West Virginia and taking both aversion and action against the obviously religious, derogatory tone of content presented during school hours in what the student later described as a place you should feel safe, context implied as opposed to demeaned, which is what many felt after hearing this imported speaker present her views on sexuality, sexual diseases and purity. Unfortunately things only got worse for the vocal student, who after contacting the ACLU for support, was summoned to the principal’s office where he furiously threatened to contact the college she had been awarded a scholarship to attend informing them of her lack of character after claiming she was a sneaky little backstabber. The student body too appeared to turn on her saying she was probably abstinent, but not by choice. No worries, the teen quickly turned activist, 4.8 GPA, student body vice president was undaunted taking the principal to court suing for an injunction to protect her college scholarship on the merit of which it was awarded; though she lost the case, poetic justice was served when Wellesley College took to twitter welcoming her aboard. While that solves the uncomfortable conundrum for students in that school, at least for now, policy change from here on out mandating any speaker on sex, religion and politics be approved by the superintendent, it signals again an alarm bell going off about the abysmal state of education in this country thanks to the conservative mindset removing comprehensive sex ed., limiting anatomy and biology, federal cuts to entities like the National Science Foundation, impacting us as a nation, as a people.  

Aside from the SNAFU on the separation of church and state since Stenzel was paid, what most would consider an obscene fee, by a Christian group to give the talk she gave to roughly 1,000 students in a public school, forgoing the amount of opinion and morality thrown into something that should have been informational, statistics thrown out so fast adults listening couldn’t keep track of them, forgetting the dubiousness of the source of said facts given, no named source in numerous cases as to the purported facts hurled at students, there is the tone of the speech she gave. Repeatedly she yelled and barked at students not to get over the din of a restless, board, rowdy or uncomfortable crowd, though they became more and more so as she continually made references to stereotypes, irrelevant correlations to things she thought were a current part of pop culture, but for what can only be assumed was supposed to be dramatic, shock value. Apart from whether her facts truly are indicative of the chances of various STD/STI infection rates among teens, college kids, actual attitudes, perceptions and thought processes of her audience, there is the out of touch nature of the examples, scenarios and opinions offered up as reasons to approach, address sexuality the way she believes they should, by abstaining, nothing more, nothing less than remaining a virgin, and if you’re not, oh well, pardon the pun your screwed.  It is the utter insensitivity with which she gave and structured her lecture not just to a bunch of teenagers in a hyper sexualized culture and society that are having sex who probably shouldn’t, perceived irresponsible teenagers who are neither emotionally, physically or financially prepared for the consequences of their sexual activities, but to the circumstances effecting teenagers today; saying that if you are on birth control your mother probably hates you is going to completely confuse the one guy in the audience taking it for his acne, the girls taking it for their medical condition, who may have already been diagnosed with endometriosis or PCOS. Saying the single most determining factor of poverty in America is not race, where you live, but rather single and teenage parenthood is more than just ignorant; it is insulting to the teen sitting in the audience whose mother is a single parent, was from their early years because the other parent was killed in an accident, died of a terminal illness, was killed in Iraq. It is insulting and emotionally charging when their mother is a single parent because she walked away from an abusive relationship, where she did “save herself,” tried to do it “right” married the man only for him to beat her, was a teen mom as a result of rape. Stenzel should know something about that seeing as she too was the product of such a horrible conception.

Bringing us to another point she addresses the students, where she can get away with it, saying you are impure if you have ever had sex, as if anyone in her audience who has had sex has done so willingly, of their own volition and ignorant to the possible dangers. Willfully oblivious apparently to the fact a significant number of the teens within the sound of her voice, according to national statistics, since she seems to love statistics so much, have or will be victims of some kind of sexual abuse, sexual assault in their lifetime. Now imagine you’re the kid in the audience who’s been raped by your father, uncle cousin, and as if the shame, dirtiness you feel weren’t bad enough, here is a sex ed. speaker piling it on. Maybe you didn’t tell anyone, maybe it’s still going on; maybe the reason you will be infertile throughout the rest of your life is because you got pregnant at 11 by him and it damaged your body. Put yourself in the shoes of the guy who was molested or raped by the guest pastor at youth camp, his priest, his babysitter, not that he doesn’t feel like a queer, homo, fag already he has to have his self-worth further pummeled by a speaker who was supposed to be giving a speech on sexual education, making it his fault. She’s talking to a group of kids from freshman to seniors in high school, the older of whom are old enough to date, even by her rigid standards who could be pregnant in that gym, during her presentation owing to rape. Perhaps they did put a boundary up; perhaps they did say no and were forced anyway by a boyfriend. Much less common but hardly out of the realm of possibility is stranger rape, but are any of those facts reflected in the tone, approach, strategy of her speech, results scream a resounding no, despite the Ohio women just free from their sexual torture prison, cases like Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard.  Identically left out of the speech are responsible sexual practices for when you become an adult, how those principles still apply to her preferred lifestyle, use of condoms when you are married but can’t afford kids yet, because you don’t get thousands of dollars per speaking engagement proselytizing your brand of sexual chastity, use of condoms, birth control when you can’t afford any more kids financially or mentally because the ones you have are already running you ragged, how condoms can still allow you to have sex with your husband or wife after  one of you have been a victim of rape, potentially contracting an incurable STD/STI.          

While the statistics seem to be in the neighborhood of accurate; those are the only thing remotely truthful.  Remaining portions of Stenzel’s speech are nothing but jaded, poorly expressed opinion and downright inaccuracy; adding to the ineffective nature of her presentation, what little fact there is, is sandwiched in between everything else. Even when she is using accepted statistics and information she’s still cherry picking those statistics, not providing a complete picture, definitely not telling kids how to be sexually responsible and safe as they can possibly be. Telling teens present their mothers hate them if they put them on birth control only confuses the 20 or so born to progressive parents who put them on it for their own protection; shouting to a room full of kids that parents who put their kids on birth control are likely to have outcomes resulting in their child becoming either sterile or dead is false, particularly when you do not explain what type of birth control you are talking about. Because yes it has happened with certain specific brands of birth control Yaz, Yasmin, Ocella, and some IUD’s, teens and their parents likely are aware of thanks to the countless law firm commercials announcing if you took this you could be entitled to damages, it is completely atypical of the standard pill, what people think of when you say birth control, what is dispensed in nearly every women’s clinic nationwide. And not something they are slated to be given by doctors, well versed in the controversy, in new warnings. Yes there are 100 strains of HPV; however 80% of said infections are resolved by a person’s own immune system, so for the sake of making things simpler and correct why not talk about 40 that are even capable of A- causing cervical, other genital cancers, B- being sexually transmitted and are the most common. Similarly yes chlamydia can lead to infertility, PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) is caused by STD’s, usually untreated ones, also leading to infertility, yet additional causes for infertility include, but are not limited to, autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes and age, i.e. waiting too late to have children and more are completely unknown. According to the 2011 CDC study of STDs in America released in December 2012, reported rises in chlamydia were traced to increased and better testing, not rampant sexual activity as she leads you to believe. Completely unexplained is how, if STD’s lead to all this infertility, West Virginia is ranked 9 in both STD’s and pregnancy, how shows like 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom are possible?    

Gonorrhea has gone down in women but up in men likely due to homosexual encounters; still left out of her speech was anything about gay sex, STD rates among homosexual or bisexual people, how they differ from heterosexual statistics, providing instead a one dimensional view of sex as between girls and guys alone. Her ostentatious claim we have never cured a virus is a bit misleading since a lot of the drug regiments for HIV reduce viral loads to undetectable, thus virtually preventing infection of current sexual partner who did not have the disease. The fact that AIDS went from a death sentence in the 1980’s to teens seen on talk shows who were born with the disease A- still alive well into their teen years and B- well on their way to happy, productive adulthoods in the mid to late 90’s sure as hell looks like a cure to a room full of pubescent teens. To say nothing of the medications given to mothers so they do not transmit HIV/AIDS to their child. But we have never cured a virus; better to say that HIV management drugs are not a cure and the medications they give you for herpes sores doesn’t mean you can’t spread it, independent of if you have sores present on your body, which she did cover toward the end of her spiel after ruining her credibility with anyone in earshot.  Equally hard to verify is her claim the CDC stated that today you can’t have sex if you are under 24 with a person who is not a virgin without getting a disease or the supposed 2010 statistic, also from the CDC, stating there are fewer high school students having sex than there have been in 15 years. Other one-liners containing partial fact or none at all “STD testing can’t tell you what you don’t have,‘I have never had unprotected sex.’ What in the heck does that mean, condoms are not safe, the only safe sex is, a safe partner,” i.e., a virgin. Never mind her phrasing makes her look like she’s never heard of safe sex; forget they haven’t simply called it safe sex for years switching to the term safer sex to convey a more accurate portrayal that sex can never be entirely risk proof. In the first comment she very well could have been referring to when/how often you must be tested to get an accurate result of are you infected or not, and she did exclaim it takes 5 years for things like HPV to show up; good luck piecing that together based on her style of lecturing and delivery of information, particularly if you are a high school student clouded by anger, shock at her perceived lying to you with her claims up to that point. Regarding condom effectiveness, she might have been referring to their limited protection against HPV owing to its skin to skin transmission; however readable on the CDC’s website is a recommendation to use condoms in order to reduce the spread of it. Once more unexplained is why condoms are such poor protection against HPV, strains that cause herpes, genital warts or cancer, is because a condom does not cover all of the genital region and is not applicable to types of sex such as oral, those involving hand, finger to genital contact. To say nothing of that piece of latex, as she refers to it, has prevented the spread of HIV along with antibiotic curable bacterial STD’s for years, not to mention prevented a host of unwanted pregnancies. Sex with a condom is a whole lot safer than without, not the message these kids walked away with.  No, sex can never be 100% safe, the only 100% safe sex is with a virgin and the only way to 100% guarantee you do not get pregnant or contract an STD is not to have sex; too bad she wasn’t that concise in distilling her message.                 

Hypocrisy plays a huge role in Stenzel’s what can only be called, this far in, stage drama; for example, she readily blast and blames culture for teen risky sexual behaviors describing a girl who will engage in sex with anything that walks because she has bought into the cultural myth that her only worth is her body, but she had no problem telling kids she can look into their eyes and tell who will be promiscuous;  conveying the message you are worthless, and worth less if you have already had sex thanks to her impurity comment, ignorant of the profound correlation between promiscuity and abuse.  She has no problem projecting her conservative views disseminating the horror of finding the girl or guy you want to marry and telling him/her you have an incurable STD, like every person in the audience’s eventual goal is to get married and have children, as if their life is over if they do not end up getting married and having children, skewing perceptions that there are no other options open to young people than to get married and have children, not career, not service to community, not a thousand other things that do not include reproduction and a marriage license. Implying a virgin and a non-virgin can’t make a relationship work; two non-virgin individuals can’t live together, get married and be faithful to one another. She brags about her 3 children, 2 boys 1 girl, being good that she has “demands of her kids and rules in her house,” one of which being her sons are not allowed to ask a girl on a date without obtaining permission from her father, reinforcing this girl he’s about to take to a dance is someone’s daughter, not something to be used and cast aside; not mentioned is when there is no father to ask, the result of the boy sticking his foot in his mouth when the father died of cancer, ALS or in Afghanistan.  Actually what she has done is teach her sons to fear women not respect them, then kept every girl she just looked at and deemed unworthy away from her son translating into her son having no social skills with women and no ability to determine those who are interested in a committed, long term relationship from those who want his money, who want a one night stand, who have severe emotional, psychological issues that are too untreated, too far gone for a relationship to be healthy and functional, at least at the current time; good thing her daughter is now married and can give her grandchildren. She touts the expectations she has for her children; next she reveals she’s away from those children 18 days out of every month, so how can she really know what her son is doing, leaving the lion’s share of the parenting to their father who should really get credit for who they are. Maybe that’s also why her marriage is still intact, they don’t fight about raising their kids, laundry, cooking cleaning; he has a system that works for him, the kids are ok and what mommy doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Continuing, she freely admits to the same controlling tactics with her daughter saying she was not allowed to date anyone her brother didn’t approve of leading her to the same problem as the son above. But what kept the daughter a virgin until her wedding night was not all her mother’s militant talks on sex, all her mother’s rules but looking around her college dorm, seeing what was going on and saying I don’t want this in my life.         

Ms. Stenzel above all is an appalling public speaker, independent of whether you agree with her religious slant, her brash, abrasive manner, whether you find her a breath of fresh air to teens who need some fear put into them concerning sexuality, first she alienated her audience by making drastic assumptions she can tell who is promiscuous, saying if you’re having sex I bet I know about you; immediately producing a defensive reaction of no you can’t and no you don’t. Who the hell do you think you are? Once she further decimates her credibility by referencing Desperate Housewives and in the background you can hear a young man say that show’s off the air, obscuring the relevance/truth she gave next; at another point as she’s rattling off STD statistics or thoughts on marriage you hear a young man say yeah and the divorce rate…  she has no earthly clue how to relate to her audience; her only way to convince teens not to have sex is to use fear, fear of god, again, where she can get away with it, or fear of disease. Her comments on monogamy, stating if you have had sex outside one single relationship throughout your lifetime you will pay, lit up comment boards displaying commenters thoughts responding to various resulting news stories talking about their grandmothers, husband 1 died and they found love with another man whom they loved for the rest of their life, asking if that made their grandmother a hussy. Again showing her complete disconnection to even the culture she grew up in, in the 1970’s; hasn’t she at least seen The Brady Bunch, doesn’t she know about step families, divorce? Ironically one of the complaints of students being so vocal in their protests against the speech is that people were Googling her, her statistics during the assembly, via their smart phones and discovering they could find her You Tube videos but not her facts, none of her statics were correct. Assuming they were absolutely and unequivocally, totally truthful it spotlights the fact that’s meaningless unless people can verify it for themselves, hints why you bring the PowerPoint; cite every source, because it makes you credible and professional to a group of naturally skeptic teenagers. Oh but wait, according to SIECUS ( the sexuality information education council of the United States), yes they have a place that studies that and only that, only 40% of untreated chlamydia result in infertility and 10% of acute PID, not all PID becomes acute, leads to infertility. SIECUS found the biggest issue with infertility was when women began trying to have a family. She waited until almost the very end to tell students basic facts like oral sex is sex, it was drowned out by her follow up roar not to dare say you are a virgin if you have had any type of oral sex, talked to students about honor, respect and integrity in the same gravely, barking tone as the rest of her points, dido with her thoughts that sex involved the heart not just genitals touching, body fluids exchanged, but does not really elaborate seeing as her time is now up. Hardly mentioning the emotional, mental toll treating sex too casually can have on particularly young people, a much more compelling argument for waiting coupled with facts, how some, especially girls, felt about their first times when they happened as teens, as college students, without waiting for the right time whether that was before marriage or not.                

Worse is what the students got out of what passes for this school’s version of a sex ed. seminar; they walked away with the concept you are not a pure person if you have had sex, you are trash, useless if you have had sex, a concept that outraged at least one other student who told 20/20 things like how dare you? Not the statistics on the prevalence of STD’s, not the correlation between STD’s and infertility, instead that you are less of a person if you have had sex, an idea, a thought process that has serious social and societal implications if a student listening to her dares take it to heart, which is likely to lead them to more risky sexual behavior, if they are already sexually active, because she obliterated their self-esteem, made them think since they are no longer virgins they have nothing to lose. Their grades are likely to fall, they are less likely to go to college, be prepared to get a job, support themselves, never mind have a healthy romantic, intimate, sexual relationship in the future, as an adult, if they walk around replaying the message you are filth if you have had sex. Not the message go get tested if you are sexually active, to choose your partners carefully, know when their last sexual encounter was and the last time they were tested, only that sex leads to an STD and you are promiscuous if you have ever had sex, regardless of the number of partners or the circumstances surrounding said sexual encounter. The line from anyone reading this, hearing her drivel should be, call me when one of these kids commits suicide; see how many speaking engagements Ms. Stenzel gets then. Unconscionably left out of this lecture on sexual purity is a challenge to perhaps freshman to take science intensive courses with a goal toward creating better tests, a goal toward finding a cure for the gambit of sexually transmitted viruses, not as a green light for young teens to have more sex, as a license to have sex free of consequences, as permission to have no inhabitations and have sex indiscriminately, but so that if you make a mistake, you’re not burdened for the rest of your life with a disease, with infertility. There is no challenge to students across the classes to be interested in social studies, government, major in Poli-Sci in college intent on changing the laws, adjusting guidelines meaning boys get tested for HPV too, mandating insurance cover standard portions of the cost for said test. There is no call to action demanding we remove the stigma, shame around normal sexual curiosity, common sexual behavior, so that more people get tested; contrastingly it was the exact opposite, falling just short of calling these kids four letter words and nasty names if they had ever had sex or dared to do so after hearing her lecture.

Telling too is what the student who began the uproar wanted besides the removal of the unwarranted threat to her college scholarship; she wanted a scientific based approach to sex ed., as opposed to a school where the nurse is barred from talking to students about birth control, telling them where they can obtain it should they need it or simply want to know, forget talking about any other safer sex practice. Reproductive health knowledge suppression than began under the tenure of this principal. Placing a huge spotlight on who should have been giving the talk and raising a bigger question as to why the nurse was prevented from disclosing reproductive information, but they contracted out for a religious based speaker to come into the school and do so? Adding to the list of questions surrounding what the heck is going on in West Virginia, no one on the administration side seems to know who exactly approved Stenzel’s visit; officials don’t even know. Neither apparently did parents, sparking almost as much outrage as the separation of church and state argument, but students do know who paid for her visit and that coupled with the innuendo points them to local Christian religion of the Baptist variety, not facts about reproduction, anatomy, sexual health, sexual responsibility, totally disregarding the study proven truth the more facts you give kids about sex, reproduction, STD’s/STI’s, risks, the more likely they are to wait.  Bottom line you could have put Ben Stein in this high school gym, reprising his role in Farris Beuller, to spout nothing more than statistics, speak about a basic anatomy diagram and students would have walked away with more fact, made more valuable use of their time and had a better understanding of their own bodies, the consequences of sex than listening to a supposedly renowned public speaker, once pregnancy crisis counselor, who “got sick of hearing no one told me!”          

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About Natasha Sapp

Proclaiming an edgy voice of reason to America,while bringing back the common sense to social issues.

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