‘Sex Lady’ Pam Stenzel speaks to Cathedral’s student body

'Sex Lady' Pam Stenzel speaks to Cathedral's student body

“Sex Lady” Pam Stenzel

Sarah Miller, Opinions Editor

Last Wednesday, the students of Cathedral Catholic viewed a presentation titled “$ex Has a Price Tag” by Pam Stenzel. Her talk primarily focused on sexually transmitted diseases, but also emphasized the spiritual and emotional consequences of premarital sex.

After listening to the presentation with the rest of the student body, the editors and staff of El Cid believe that Mrs. Stenzel took the wrong approach to a very touchy and personal subject.

Stenzel has been in the speaker circuit for over 15 years, speaking to 500,000 high school and college students worldwide and giving the same presentation time and time again. In a movie produced in 1996, she shared stories of teenagers she had met that were dealing with the consequences of premarital sex. Fifteen years later, the stories have not changed – the story about Sean who impregnated a girl while drunk and was working at Burger King to pay child support, the story about the girl who had to have an emergency hysterectomy three weeks before her high school graduation because she got cervical cancer after contracting HPV, and the story about a twelve-year old girl she met who just had a baby —  all were told in the 1996 movie.

However, last week, she told each story as if she had met these people recently, possibly for a more dramatic effect. She has been giving the same presentation for fifteen years with the same stories and statistics for at least this long. In addition to failing to update her presentation, she failed to give any reliable statistics about sexually transmitted diseases. Below are some of the incorrect statistics she shared during her presentation.

Faulty Facts and Statistics given during the presentation:

  • Women on birth control are ten times more likely to contract an STD than those who are not taking contraceptives.
  • There are 100 strains of HPV, and since the vaccine Gardasil only protects against 4 strains, it in no way prevents the spread of HPV.
  • Condoms in no way protect against STD’s.
  • After contracting chlamydia, women have a 25% chance of becoming infertile, and each time they contract the disease, their chances of being sterile rise by 25%.
  • There are 30 major sexually transmitted diseases, 26 of which primarily affect women.

The Truth:

  • Even though some studies have suggested birth control can potentially increase one’s chances of contracting an STD, no conclusive link has been found between oral contraceptives and the probability of getting a sexually transmitted disease. However, if used properly, birth control can only prevent unplanned pregnancies and does not protect against STD’s. Of course, the Catholic Church teaches that all forms of artificial birth control are wrong.
  • There are 49 known strains of HPV, and the Gardasil vaccination protects against the 4 major strains that are known to cause cervical cancer in women. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) highly recommends that all girls between the ages of 9-26 be vaccinated before they become sexually active. According to the Gardasil website, 2 of the strains the vaccine protects against cause about 75% of cervical cancer cases, and the other 2 strains the vaccine helps prevent cause about 90% of genital warts cases. The vaccine can also protect against 70% cases of vaginal cancer and 50% of vulvar cancers.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), condoms, when used properly, can reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. They can potentially protect against all bacterial sexually transmitted diseases and most viral STD’s with the exception of HPV and herpes. Condoms cannot fully protect against HPV and herpes because both can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact, not just through the exchange of bodily fluids. In addition, the use of condoms is not condoned by the Catholic Church.
  • If left untreated for a long period of time, chlamydia can damage a woman’s reproductive organs and cause infertility, but simply contracting the disease does not cause a woman’s chances of becoming sterile to skyrocket. In fact, once detected, chlamydia can be easily treated with a round of antibiotics.
  • The CDC and the American Social Health Association recognize 8 major sexually transmitted diseases, which are: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, HPV, Herpes, Trichomoniasis, Bacterial Vaginosis, and HIV. However, there are more that 50 pathogenic organisms that are known to cause these sexually transmitted diseases, and each disease has multiple strains, some more aggressive than others. Individual fact sheets with statistics published by the CDC on each of these diseases can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/general/default.htm.

Since a number of organizations, both private and government-based, publish annual statistics for various motivations, it is easy for someone like Stenzel to distort statistics for the purpose of scaring teenagers about sex. She worked as a counselor in pregnancy crisis centers; she is not a doctor, and she never revealed the sources of her statistics. Therefore, we believe she lacks credibility and should not be considered an expert on sexually transmitted diseases, even though she prides herself on being known as the “sex lady.”

However, not all of her statistics were totally false. The CDC estimates that 1 in 2 Americans will contract a sexually transmitted disease in their lifetime and that those between the ages of 15-24 are those who are at most risk for getting sexually transmitted diseases. Despite these startling facts, one must be aware that these statistics cover a wide demographic, specifically, the whole United States population. As part of her scare tactic, Stenzel tried to apply these statistics and others specifically to the Cathedral Catholic student population. For example, she argued that 1 in 4 sexually active students at CCHS have herpes; however, that particular number is a national statistic that covers people between the ages of 14-49.

After running through a plethora of unreliable statistics, Stenzel spent the remainder of her presentation discussing the moral repercussions of premarital sex. She gave the impression that anyone who has had premarital sex is beyond redemption, lacks moral character, and will be unable to have a healthy and pure marriage. In our opinion, her condemnation addressed to those students was unnerving and totally inappropriate. Sex is a personal decision, and young people today should be able to make their own choices, relying on the guidance of Church teachings, without fear of condemnation or scrutiny from the likes of Stenzel.

Another bizarre point she made when sardonically mocking the young girls who come into her clinic was that sex is not about love, but marriage. One must also keep in perspective that Stenzel reflects extreme views; even though she was raised as a devout Catholic, she left the Church and converted to Evangelicalism.

The Catholic Church recognizes sexual intercourse as the most loving and selfless act between a married couple because it represents each person’s total giving of herself or himself to another.

Overall, her presentation was a disappointment because she failed to give the CCHS student body a realistic view of sex, which was the original purpose of the presentation. Instead of being left in disbelief, fear, and irritation, the student body should have felt that they were accurately informed so they can make responsible choices about sexual activity.

Cathedral Cares and its student-led counterpart, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) were originally founded with the purpose of raising awareness about the dangers of underage drinking and drug use. However, presentations from both Stenzel this year and Jason Everet last year demonstrate a shift in the focus of the organization. Now, it appears that CC Cares is interested in forcing chastity onto the student body by any means possible, even if it means inviting subpar fanatical speakers like Stenzel.

We believe that CC Cares should return to its original intent of creating a sense of responsibility among the student body, not scaring them. With that being said, past presentations from paramedic Ennis Jackson and Sergeant David Ross proved to be more effective and were generally well-received by the CCHS student body because these presentations were truly relevant and factual.