Pam Stenzel and her abstinence assembly at George Washington is popular conversation amongst my high school friends. I graduated from GW and I've been told a lot of people were upset by her speech.
From videos I watched, her tone was aggressive. Young adults should not be yelled at into making certain sexual decisions, but need calm, accurate information about the benefits of abstinence, about options for birth control and STD testing, and need the empowerment to make whatever choices they deem best.
A lot of girls want to remain abstinent, not necessarily until marriage but for longer than most are remaining so. The culture around sex in America makes this difficult. A common stereotype is that most girls who abstain are religious. How should an atheist woman express to her partner a wish to remain abstinent? The chances she'll be taken seriously go down, because when the concept of abstinence becomes continually tied to saving oneself for marriage it makes it strange for a non-religious person to refuse sex.
People tell girls to wait for sex, but how often do people tell young men the same message? When this message is addressed only to girls, it's no wonder so many are still pressured into having sex before they're prepared. If a woman truly wants to wait, it's harder when a double standard exists that sex for young women is shameful whereas sex for young men is a good time as long as no one gets pregnant.
Young men sometimes even feel entitled to sex in certain situations. It's because society has taught them that. So many girls think they need to have sex to successfully maintain a relationship longer than a few months and that often ends up true. This is not OK.
I saw a blog post the other day titled "Un-memorizing the Silence is Sexy Script." It's about how it's common for guys to initiate all romantic encounters silently and that girls are supposed to say no when they think something is too far. The problem with this approach is that it inevitably pushes the time it takes for the girl to consent to certain advances sooner than they would have otherwise been comfortable with. Even in the most perfect scenarios a guy advancing on a girl without saying anything is quite invasive and is part of the reason girls have trouble expressing what they want physically.
I refuse to let all the responsibility and blame lie on girls in sexual situations. They tell young ladies to keep their legs closed but forget and ignore the pressures girls my age are up against just to make and uphold our own choices about what we want to and are willing to do in romantic encounters.
One's sexual experience or lack thereof should not make a person considered more or less pure. These are very personal and important decisions and shouldn't be clouded by aggressive pressures from other parties or stereotypes about what kind of person you are once you engage in sex or if you decide to abstain.
In the words of a very wise hitchhiker and fellow West Virginian named Kai, "... I want to say no matter what you've done, you deserve respect, even if you make mistakes. You're lovable and it doesn't matter your looks, skills, or age, or size or anything. You're worthwhile -- no one can take that away from you."
Duarte, a graduate of George Washington High School, is studying sociology at Rice University.