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"Purity Bear" Video Is Strange And Frightening

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You may be familiar with purity rings and balls, but have you met the Purity Bear?

This is not a joke or a parody. The bear appears in a student-made PSA created for the Annual Day of Purity, also known as Valentine's Day. On February 14 every year, young people sign a Purity Pledge promising that they will stay sexually abstinent until marriage.

Though the decision to save sex until marriage is a completely valid and personal one, the video's message is less than valid. It depicts a teen boy and girl, presumably on the girl's doorstep after a date. After exchanging innocent pleasantries and confessing that they "like-like" each other, the young woman raises her eyebrows seductively and says, "You know, my parents aren't home right now, if you wanna come inside for a little bit." This "scandalous" proposition (because obviously if you go inside someone's house you are obligated to have sex with her) is where the -- extremely creepy -- Purity Bear floats in behind the teen boy. Acting as the angel on the young man's shoulder, PB reminds him that though the girlfriend and PB himself are cuddly, the boy should just say no because "this decision could define you for the rest of your life." Cut to the couple, seemingly in the future (though they don't seem to have aged at all), standing in a chapel dressed in a Twilight-esque wedding gown and a suit. "Now this feels right," says the young man.

I understand that traditional abstinence education has been shown to have (many) flaws, but I'm not sure a YouTube video that plays like a terribly-acted after school special, starring a talking, floating teddy bear is an effective alternative. Not only does it tell all young adults that they have absolutely no control over their own sexual impulses -- the sexual energy is literally bursting from the couple's hands in the PSA -- it also depicts young women as conniving temptresses, trying to convince chaste dudes to "give it up" and abandon their morals. They might as well have named her "Eve."

The whole idea of "purity" as it's defined through these pledges, balls and PSAs is problematic for women. In a recent appearance on "Anderson Cooper," Jessica Valenti, author of "The Purity Myth" said:

[The purity trend] is ... putting an emphasis on women's sexuality as the basis of who they are and how good they are, rather than their compassion, their kindness, their courage, their integrity.
...
I think that if we wanna teach our daughters to be good people, let's teach them to be good people -- their sexuality has nothing to do with that.

So thanks, Purity Bear, but no thanks. Some comprehensive sex ed, a continued emphasis on young women's worth as entirely separate from their virginity, and a little trust in young people's decision-making skills has a much better chance of helping young adults make good choices about sex. No frightening, plush floating warnings necessary.