Sunday, February 10, 2008

“Safe sex or no sex” message results in suspension for two girls

Cheyenne Byrd and Tori Shoemaker, eighth graders at Louis & Clark Jr. High School in St. Louis, were suspended for two days from school for wearing shirts reading “Safe Sex or No Sex” with condoms attached to them. The girls were protesting their school’s abstinence-only sex (mis)education program. (See the CNN video clip of the story here plus commentary from Elizabeth at Sex in the Public Square, Peter Rothberg at Act Now, and Jessica Valenti at Feministing.)

The superintendent said the shirts were inappropriate and a distraction at the school. It is certainly a shame that the message of “safe sex or no sex” is considered inappropriate and distracting, especially for teenagers, while discredited “abstinence-only” sex (mis)education curriculum is used to promote ignorance. The abstinence-only sex (mis)education program emphasizes complete abstinence from sex until marriage. Discussion of contraceptives is restricted to their failure rate leaving students in complete ignorance of their availability, appropriateness and how they are used.

Philosophically, the bottom line of the abstinence-only (mis)education approach is that knowledge is bad and ignorance is necessary for the preservation of innocence. This line of thinking simply runs counter to the Enlightenment concept that knowledge is power.

Abstinence-only (mis)education is not education; it is indoctrination…that doesn’t work. The reality is significant numbers of teens are sexually active and need to know how to protect themselves and their partners if not now then certainly in the future. Abstinence can certainly be promoted but not by misinforming and withholding information. Common decency demands comprehensive sex education for our kids.

These girls shouldn’t have been suspended. They should have been commended.


Larry Gambone said...

Authoritarians have always feared sexuality. Repressing it makes it easier to control and dominate people. Repressed sexuality can also be sublimated in an unhealthy but useful manner for the authorities such as religious and nationalist fervour.

Val said...

Perhaps the distraction was necessary. And how does their suspension not violate their freedom of speech?

Anonymous said...

That would be because schools are allowed to dictate what clothing can be worn while in school. This is most often seen in regard to tobacco or alcohol related T-Shirt messages.