Pam Stenzel, an abstinence-only speaker, sparked controversy after giving a talk to an assembly of West Virginia high school students this week. Stenzel, whose website describes her as someone who "talks about the consequences -- both physical and emotional -- of sex outside of marriage," reportedly made extreme (and false) comments such as, "If you take birth control, your mother probably hates you," and, "I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you're going to be promiscuous," reported the Charleston Gazette.
After the Tuesday assembly, high school student Katelyn Campbell began speaking out against Stenzel's message, telling the Charleston Gazette that Stenzel called sexually active students "impure" and condemned any individuals who had engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage. "Stenzel's overall attitude was that any type of sex will guarantee the contraction of an STD or an unwanted pregnancy," Campbell said. However, school administrators have said that they were "not offended," despite the fact that Stenzel's talk allegedly made female students in the audience cry.
Stenzel, who reportedly gets paid between $4,000 and $6,000 for each talk she gives, is well known for her aggressive rhetoric. (According to her website, she's appeared on "The Dr. Laura Show," "The 700 Club" and "Politically Correct with Bill Maher," as well as being included in President George W. Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives meeting in 2001.) In a YouTube video of one of her presentations, she tells the crowd of students that "no one has ever had more than one [sexual] partner and not paid" and that a girl taking birth control "could end up sterile or dead."
Holy misinformation! Stenzel's speeches sounds a little too reminiscent of that scene in "Mean Girls" where the gym teacher tells students "if you do touch each other, you will get chlamydia -- and die." It's a wonder that she gets paid so much to give these talks seeing as though there is a growing body of evidence that abstinence-only education is far less effective than comprehensive sexual education at preventing young people from engaging in risky sexual behaviors.
This Stenzel craziness got us talking about the misinformation -- or non-information -- we received in sex ed. We asked other female editors in the newsroom and discovered they had their fair share, too.
Here are five stories of backwards sex ed from HuffPost editors. It's a miracle we ever figured it out:
Emma Gray, 25, Associate Editor, HuffPost Women:
I attended a public school in a very progressive area in Maryland. When I was in 10th grade, we had a speaker come into our one-semester health class -- which was being taught by the football coach who could not bring himself to say the word "vagina." The female speaker told a room of 15-year-olds (many of whom had already engaged at least some form of sexual activity) that we were impure if we had and would probably contract a disease. She proceeded to use a cup of water and put food coloring into it, telling us that we were "dirty water" if we had sex, but by abstaining and becoming "born-again virgins" we could make ourselves less dirty. I remember everyone walking out of the room thinking that the whole thing was completely ridiculous and simultaneously feeling horrible. Pretty positive it didn't prevent anyone from having sex though.
Ellie Krupnick, 24, Senior Editor, HuffPost Style:
Our female principal, who took it upon herself to teach our junior year sex-ed class, told us: "Safe sex is knowing your partner's last name." I think she was kidding? Hopefully?
Margaret Wheeler Johnson, 30, Editor, HuffPost Women:
I went to a private Catholic girls school where the main goal of sex ed, which we had from 4th grade on, was to provide accurate but minimal information. We learned mostly about our periods through 9th grade. Thus my most vivid memory is of an outside health educator coming to my P.E. class sophomore year, taking out a banana and beginning to show us how to put on a condom. Our teacher interrupted her to say, half-laughing awkwardly, "This is a Catholic school," and showed the woman out. Then it was back to periods.
Lisa Belkin, 53, Senior Columnist:
Our health teacher taught that technically it was possible to become pregnant from toilet seats. It was unlikely, he said, but girls should always cover the seat just in case, and boys should, umm, be careful not to engage in certain activities while on the toilet. He was a very odd man.
Stephanie Hallett, 26, Editor, HuffPost Weddings:
I'm Canadian so I don't think this will even come close to any American horror stories... but when I was in grade 7 I went to a very small school with only three teachers (all men). When we had sex ed, they had to bring in a female teacher for the day to teach the girls. We were sequestered in a room with this woman and she brought out cards with different "relationship stages" on them (e.g. holding hands, kissing, intercourse, oral sex etc.) and we had to put them in the "correct order" of a "respectable relationship." I'll never forget the controversy over whether or not oral sex came before or after intercourse.
Brie Dyas, 28, Senior Editor, HuffPost Style and HuffPost Home:
In eighth grade, I once witnessed a very surreal presentation that most likely warped a few of my classmates. A traveling theatre troupe --- there's your first red flag -- came by to "rap" with us modern teenagers (why this always involves the presenter straddling a backwards chair is beyond me) and talk about the dangers of engaging in premarital sex. They weren't allowed to say "sex," and instead used the vague term of "relations." Somehow, they connected the behavior with being more likely to drive while drunk and then crash to a fiery death. Though I was about as sophisticated as a bottle of Snapple back then, even I could tell that this was ridiculous. I also thought it was a comedy performance, laughed at an inopportune time and got a talking-to by my teacher.
They also ended the presentation by giving our school a flag featuring a photo of Earth, which still might be hanging to this day. I don't think they were invited back.
Do you have a story about receiving misinformation during your middle school or high school sexual education? If so, email firstname.lastname@example.org!