I had the opportunity to attend ISIS's terrific Annual Youth, Technology & Sexual Health (aka. Sex::Tech) Conference for the first time this year. It was a great opportunity for me to continue my edification in the field of reproductive health, but not just as an attendee; The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy was a sponsor of this year's conference and I was asked to participate in a panel entitled "National Prevention Programs: Effective Tools for Local Communities."
During my presentation I spoke about our work on the SexReally.com website and showed a video that became a hot topic of conversation during and after the conference. The video shows guys hanging out "in their natural environment" talking about sex. Later in the video, we cut to one of their girlfriends who says that it might not be so bad if she got pregnant and that her boyfriend would make a good father. Cut back to him and he's talking about ogling some unknown woman (not his girlfriend) and we can conclude that he might not be as ready as she thinks. The point? Be careful, have a plan, make sure your partner's plan is compatible with yours, and use contraception until you are both really ready.
The video was criticized for perpetuating stereotypes of men and women. Shelby Knox on her This is Misogyny blog said, “If you teach sex education on the ground for any amount of time you know one of the biggest challenges is getting young people to unlearn gender stereotypes around sex.”
I think that our audience understands that the depictions of men and women in the video are caricatures in which there are fragments of truth in order to be funny and provoke reflection. Do all guys talk like that? Of course not. Do some? I’m sure they do and often it’s meaningless, relatively harmless posturing. The point is to think about the decision of having a child, and your relationship, carefully.
This video is one of many that we’ve created and will create. We are trying to use a wide range of techniques to engage a broad spectrum of people in this messy, personal issue. Some things won’t work, or won’t work for some audiences. We can’t let that deter us.
I often say that after 18 months in this field the one thing I have learned is that it is a whole lot easier to have sex than to talk about it. The goal of SexReally.com is to make it easier to talk about sex, love, and relationships--from a variety of viewpoints. And that will put us in the firing line.
We were criticized for the video at the conference and at the same time by the Abstinence Clearinghouse for sponsoring Sex::Tech. If we set out to please everyone, we will fail. We are not plugged into any ideology; we are committed to a mission to help men and women make better reproductive health decisions to lower the rate of unplanned pregnancies. We are trying to engage a vast number of people between the coasts, those who don’t know basic information about sex, and those who are very much at risk. We need to try an assortment of approaches to gain the attention of our audience.
I invite our readers, critics, and fans to work with us in this process. Do you have a great feminist comedian to recommend? Do you have an idea about another take on the “guys” video? We are all ears. Work with us.
[Please check out the SexReally podcast on the week of March 15 for a report from the conference.]