Just a few years ago in Lubbock, Texas, Shelby Knox was beginning her early years of activism, fighting for sex-positive education and women’s rights. Knox’s documentary follows her as she struggles with the ultra-religious community around her preaching abstinence in the face of high teen-pregnancy rates and STD’s. Most of her resistance, in fact, came from a Baptist preacher who continually reminds Knox of her tolerance….like it’s a bad thing. He compares liberalism and Christianity like oil and water and even considers handing out condoms the same thing as handing out guns. Overall, he feels that Christianity has been built on IN-tolerance and seems to be quite satisfied and proud of that.
Knox, like the bell-ringer she is, points out that while abstinence may be the only 100% guarantee for not getting pregnant or sex-related diseases, it’s far from the reality of the teenage lives around her. So for those teens whose parents and community choose to remain in the dark about the reality of teens having sex, education will have to come more directly…through experimenting.
On the flip-side, the internet has provided a safe place for a number of communities to focus on shared struggles and provide support, one of them being teens with questions regarding sex. With websites like Scarleteen, Teen Talk and Sex Etc., teens now have a more private and accessible source to look into when it comes to answering questions that seem too stupid, too embarrassing or just plain awkward in front of anyone, even our best friends. Just as Knox advocates, these websites promote an inclusive, sex-positive message that reflects reality rather than the half-baked conservative ideals of a church or community. Rather than ignoring the truth, we can instead focus on encouraging teens to seek advice by providing resources, for those who live in communities who still believe in preaching abstinence-only sex education as well as for those who live in a less conservative community but have no one they feel comfortable talking about these issues with.
With an increasing amount of sexual content in a majority of the media teenagers are absorbing on a regular basis, the only realistic option is to warn adolescents of the consequences and provide them with the education to make smart choices. If parents aren’t who adolescents choose to turn to when it comes to questions about sex, providing positive sex education – both in our schools and on the internet – gives us an opportunity to compete with convincing mass-media messages and at present, seems to be the best alternative we have.