Meet Pam Stenzel. Pam Stenzel is a highly-paid* lecturer who speaks about the virtues of abstinence. Stenzel spoke on Monday at George Washington High School in Charleston, WV and created quite a stir when she allegedly made comments like, "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." Man, this woman makes me wish I had another virginity to lose.
Under the guise of fun and funky sex education, Stenzel has been speaking, often in public schools, about the glory of virginity for quite awhile. In a casual poll of twenty women (OK, I emailed twenty friends), four wrote back saying they remembered either seeing Stenzel speak live at school, or being forced to watch her videos in class. In a Jezebel post from 2010 about the harm of abstinence-only sex ed, several different commenters write about being subjected to Stenzel — and some of them thought she was pretty great.
She's a convincing speaker — a cross between manic stand-up and evangelist preacher. An absolute master of the specious argument, she orates with such fervor and humor that it's easy to get caught up in her bullshit.
And it is bullshit. Behind her facade of empowering girls to make "good decisions" and "having the integrity to wait" — she's really just packaging lies as truth, and doing it mighty powerfully. She expertly plays young audiences, saying things like "God created sex, He is not the cosmic kill-joy," to show that she GETS IT, GUYS! Sex is great! But there's a catch — it's only great if you're doing it with the person you
were sold to for marriage married because "He did create sex with boundaries, to protect us and our future marriage."
So sorry, kids, most of God's sex boundaries aren't super fun things like "In a threesome, thou shalt not fence cocks." Instead, they're an even more arbitrary set of rules about who you can and can't fuck and when you can and can't fuck them — which is very odd because sex between any two consenting adults is often a religious experience.
The Charleston Gazette has some more choice Stenzel quotes:
In her YouTube videos, Stenzel says birth control makes a woman "10 times more likely to contract a disease . . . or end up sterile or dead." Many of the videos warn of sexually transmitted diseaes and also say, "Sex could damage you for the rest of your life." Sex also could lead to "scarred fallopian tubes and cancer . . . and you need to ask Jesus for forgiveness."
In addition, Stenzel points to anorexia, bulimia and "cutting" as after-effects of abortion.
Again, that is a woman who is regularly paid money to speak at schools — many of them public. And, oh boy, are religious fundamentalist communities happy to have her spreading the Word. Here's how the website Believes in West Virginia** previewed her talks earlier this week:
In a captivating and inspiring talk, Pam tackles the tough issues of sex with candor, insight, and humor while challenging young people to embrace God’s plan for sexual purity.
Whoomp! (There it is.) God's plan. Sexual purity. Stenzel's game plan, clear as a commandment. And although she didn't mention religion in her talk at the public George Washington High School — she's far too smart for that — it's clear where her passion is.
At least it was obvious to many students at George Washington High School on Monday — including Katelyn Campbell, who called Stenzel's presentation "slut-shaming" and is filing a complaint with the ACLU.
"Many students felt uncomfortable with her outright condemnation of any and everyone who has ever had premarital sexual contact," Campbell said. "Stenzel's overall attitude was that any type of sex will guarantee the contraction of an STD or an unwanted pregnancy."
Campbell and a male student, who wished to remain anonymous, said Stenzel often screamed into the microphone and used an unsettlingly loud tone throughout the presentation.
"While her intentions may have been good, her tone was very loud, like she was shaming everyone in the audience. She was making girls cry. There were pregnant girls in the audience and she was implying, if you had sex, you're not an OK person," the male student said. "The only reason I am standing up against it is so other schools in West Virginia don't have to hear this."
Fuck Yeah, Katelyn Campbell and unnamed male student! Some pissed-off parents got into the mix, too. In a post to Facebook, parent Cheri Callaghan wrote that she heard a rumor the assembly was on safe sex and STDS. Knowing that the school nurse isn't even allowed to discuss specifics of birth control in a class setting with students, she was surprised. "I thought, 'Wow, now we're getting somewhere.' Come to find out it's 'a motivational speaker' on abstinence," she wrote.
Campbell's dedication to calling out the scary, damaging, unhealthy, lie-filled garbage fest that Stenzel is regularly puking into the ears of American teenagers is admirable. She gives me hope for the future — and the fact that, according to the Charleston Gazette, many students were recording Stenzel's talk — if you have a copy, please email me! — makes me think the more this stuff is leaked, the more conversation there will be, and antiquated, ineffective abstinence-only education will be forced to go the way of the dinosaur (no offense, T. rex).
*Although County Superintendent Ron Duerring wouldn't reveal the cost of the talks and only said they were sponsored by private donations, according to Speaker Mix, a database of public speakers, Stenzel charges between $4,000 and $6,000 per appearance. I'm sure whoever donated the money probably just didn't want to spend it on things the students actually needed.
**UPDATE: The group Believes in West Virginia funded the talk.