What do you get when you combine the country's most visible proponent of abstinence, the most in-your-face seeker of casual sex, a pack of gold condoms and a whole lot of rhinestones? Millions of people talking about teen pregnancy prevention.
The Candie's Foundation enlisted Bristol Palin and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, who met on this season of Dancing with the Stars, to join forces for our latest teen pregnancy prevention campaign precisely because they are known largely for their sex lives. Bristol became a teen mother as a result of unprotected sex. Mike has become famous for his tireless quest to have casual sex. Their real-life follies are a safe sex satirist's dream come true.
What has both amused and bothered me about the coverage of this campaign is the intense and often nasty criticism of The Candie's Foundation. We are not promoting Jersey Shore or the Tea Party. We did not choose Bristol and Mike for their acting skills. This is not an "abstinence PSA" nor are we an "abstinence organization". We believe that teenagers are smart. We believe that if we give them the facts in their own style and language, they are more likely to make responsible choices and avoid facing a teen pregnancy. Teens need to know about abstinence and safe sex, and we have been telling them about both for nearly ten years.
Whether you like it or not, Bristol and Mike are current pop culture phenoms, and teens pay attention to them. While teens may or may not emulate them, in today's hyper-digitized media world, their ability to cut through the clutter and capture teens' attention is unique.
Last week was incredible for the cause of teen pregnancy prevention and the work of The Candie's Foundation. In just three days, the video was viewed nearly 1,000,000 times on YouTube and other websites. Clips have been seen by millions of TV viewers on every major cable and broadcast network. The video has been shared thousands of times by people on Facebook and Twitter. Millions of people have heard a frank conversation about how to prevent teen pregnancy.
The simple truth is this: the only two reliable ways to prevent pregnancy (and STDs) are to avoid sex altogether or have safe sex every time. Neither of these is represented often or entertainingly in the media. Any effort on the part of pop culture and celebrities to promote sexual responsibility should be applauded. Even if just one teen pregnancy or STD case is prevented, it is worth it.
As with all of The Candie's Foundation's work, this video is not about politics, religion or abstinence versus safe sex. Instead, the point is to move beyond the "abstinence versus safe sex" debate and educate teens about all of the tools they have to avoid pregnancy.