Brad Seng, an anti-abortion activist who teaches abstinence-only education in Colorado public schools, has an interesting way of engaging his students: backwash. He asks them to chew a mouthful of food, spit it into a cup of water, and offer it to other students. When students predictably refuse to sip each others’ backwash, he explains that having sex with someone who’s had premarital sex. But he says that he’s in not being judgemental…or pushing a sexist agenda.
As Slate’s Amanda Marcotte points out, Seng’s demonstration is a pretty thinly-veiled symbol for a dirty vagina, but the group he works forâ€”Real ChoicesÂ Pregnancy Care Centerâ€”isn’t all that bashful about directing their shame towards women, specifically. Under a litany of warnings about various Sexually Trasmitted Infections, their website includes a special warning for girls:
A review of these infections shows that women frequently have more to lose when engaging in casual sex than men do. The consequences of being infected with a sexually transmitted infection are oftentimes greater for women than men. Though certainly not an infection, unexpected pregnancy also demands more physically from a woman than from a man.
So it’s not entirely surprising that parents aren’t stoked on their kids learning about sex from these people at school.
But Seng denies that he’s sending negative messages about sex. He told Boulder’s Daily Camera:
One of the first things I say is that it’s not that sex is bad or is a dirty activity to be engaging in. That’s not it at all. It’s about encouraging young people to make healthy lifestyle decisions. Our method is grounded in truth and non-judgmental.
And, he says, he isn’t trying to tell girls that they’re dirty:
It’s a way to show them that, if they decide to be sexually active outside of a long-term committed relationship, they’re putting themselves at risk.
Real Choices is one of 33 organizations approved to teach sex-ed in Boulder’s public schools to supplement the curriculum, which takes a comprehensive approachâ€”i.e. one that includes information about contraception and abstinence.
Parents worry that groups like Real Choices are violating the separation of church and stateâ€”because while they’ve stripped their curriculum of religious language, their primary messages are rooted in Christian morals (not factâ€”in fact, a 2004 report details several scientific inaccuracies of many abstinence-only programs, demonstrating the lack of critical information they provide). But parents should also worry about how these programs specifically target young girls.