What every teenager should know about casual sex

Pam Stenzel says more women are dying in the US each year of cancer caused by HPV than of AIDS - and condoms don't protect against HPV. If this is true, then current 'safe-sex' campaigns are placing women's lives at risk.

Over Christmas I listened to the CD of Pam Stenzel's talk in Dublin, "Why didn't someone tell me?" The powers that shape public opinion tell us that by using a condom, one can have "safe sex". But how safe is "safe sex"?

If Pam has her facts correct, then it is not safe at all - in fact by creating the impression that casual sex can be safe, it is placing at risk not just women's chances of being able to bear children, but even their very lives.

Condoms don't protect against chlamydia. Hundreds of thousands of women in the Western World are discovering that they cannot have children due to pelvic inflammatory disease caused by chlamydia. Pelvic inflammatory disease is in fact one of the causes of the declining birth rate.

Condoms don't protect against HPV of which there are about 100 strains. Pam says that more women die in the US each year of cervical cancer caused by HPV (human papilloma virus) than from AIDS. There is no cure for HPV. Once one has it, one has it for life - and so will one's spouse! (Plus anyone else one has sexual contact with!) Often it leads to warts on one's genitals that need to be burned off. Sometimes these warts can spread to one's hands, and then it can be passed to any babies that one is caring for. But the greatest risk is to women - cervical cancer.

Condoms don't protect against herpes. There is no cure for herpes. Once one has it, one has it for life - and so will one's spouse! (Plus anyone else that one has sexual contact with.) For the adults, this leads to embarrassing and painful sores. If a baby is delivered naturally during the mother's first bout of herpes, the baby will be infected leading in many cases to either the babies death or brain damage.

Apart from the diseases where condoms offer no protection, there is the natural failure rate of condoms. A UN study published in 2003 put the failure rate at 10% re AIDS. Sounds a bit like Russian Roulette! We regularly see the adverts promoting 'safe sex' on TV. There wasn't even the slightest mention of the above facts. If a bank was to promote its products using similar faulty adverts, think of how quickly they would be before the financial regulator. If this was the tobacco industry, packets of condoms would be forced to carry health warnings re both their limitations and the dangers of casual sex.

I am not familiar with school sex education programmes, but if they fail to warn young people of the dangers arising from casual sex even when using condoms, then there is culpable negligence.

Likewise there is the question of whether such programmes focus on teaching respect.

Peer pressure is a major factor for young people. A good education programme will have the aim of educating people in how to stand up to peer pressure. This is about having respect for oneself.

Then there is respect for other people. We do not respect people when we seek to use them for our momentary pleasure. We do not respect people when we expect them to engage in acts which may be harmful for them. We do not respect people if our intention is to use them. In Christian education, it needs to be clearly stated, that to be a follower of Jesus, our calling is at all times to seek what is best for the other person.

Given the problems now faced by our youth, the prevalence of peer pressure, and problems arising from the abuse of drink, drugs and sex, teaching respect should be at the very centre of all life education programmes.

Then there are the spiritual implications of casual sex (and indeed of other forms of destructive behaviour like abusing drink or drugs.)

Engaging in casual sex or premarital sex always has a spiritual impact - a negative one.

1) Some mistake what feels good for what is morally right. Engaging in premarital sex feels good, so many conclude that it is morally good. They mistake feelings for objective facts. This in turn leads to them living in a way that is outside God's anointing and they lose their sensitivity to spiritual things.

2) Others deep down know that what they are doing is wrong. This leads them to a sense of alienation from the Church - since they no longer feel worthy to go to Church. Their attempts to rationalise this and to justify to themselves what they are doing, sometimes leads them to reject or even attack spiritual things.

3) Others blunt their conscience where sexuality is concerned. They convince themselves that what they are doing is okay and continue to receive the sacraments. In the process, they often become quite selfish and even shameless. Theirs is possibly the worst response of all.

Whichever of these three attitudes one adopts, there are inevitably further spiritual consequences if one is engaging in sex outside marriage. One is operating outside God's anointing. One will often miss out on His plan for one's life. One may miss out on the partner who could bring one greatest fulfilment in life, and while Jesus loves sinners and will give a person every chance, one risks missing out on the personal relationship with Jesus which alone can satisfy the emptiness in the human heart. And that's just in this life.


Pam Stenzel - She Was Conceived Through Rape

Now she challenges the safe sex myth

One November evening in 1964 a fifteen-year-old girl was raped and became pregnant. She could have had an abortion, but she decided to give her unborn child the chance to live. She kept her baby girl, Pam, for five months, but then, realising that she couldn't properly provide for her herself, she gave her up for adoption. What a painful choice that must have been, yet it was also an act of real love, putting what was best for her baby over her own feelings. That little baby was Pam Stenzel. Today Pam speaks to over 500,000 young people each year. Last year she spoke in Dublin.

When she worked for nine years in a crisis pregnancy agency, Pam was meeting girls daily who had contracted sexually transmitted diseases; girls who thought they had been practising 'safe sex'. So often they said, "Pam, I didn't know. If someone had told me that this would happen to me, I'd have made a different choice."

Pam Said In Dublin

I began to ask these girls, "What could someone have said to you that would have helped you to have made a better choice?" After 9 years of talking to these girls, I realised that there were a lot of people out there making choices about sex with no idea what the consequences of that choice would be.

I did not come to Dublin today to decide for you what you are going to do about sex. I can't make this choice for you. I would love to protect my own kids, the oldest is 20, from the pain I have to look at everyday. But I cannot. All I can do is love them, tell them the truth and pray that they make good choices. My goal is that no one would leave this room tonight and have to say to a counsellor, to a physician or to their future spouse, "Nobody told me. ... I didn't know."

God created sex, and He is the one who understands it best. It was His idea not yours. God is not into wrecking your life or ruining your weekend. Sometimes we think that God is the fun spoiler; that one day when He had nothing better to do, He drew up a book of rules to ruin everybody's life.

When I was young, I thought that all God did was sit up there and watch me. And that if I blew it, He had this lightning rod ready to fry me. But now I know that God loves me. He isn't in the business of making silly rules to spoil my fun. God desires to give us the best. The rules He gives us are to help us find the best, the very best.

God took a colossal risk at the beginning to time. He gave us choice, knowing that at some time, all of us would shake our fists in His face and tell Him that we don't need Him. He knew too that sin, heartbreak, disease and even death would follow, yet He gave us the power to choose because love, to be love, needs to be free.

God created sex, but He created it with a boundary.

When sex happens within the boundary for which it was created, it is awesome. When it happens outside that boundary, it often is horribly, horribly destructive. It's like fire. Fire in my fireplace is a good and beautiful thing. Fire in the middle of my livingroom floor would be destructive. It requires a boundary. So too with sex. God created sex for the expression of love in a permanent lifetime commitment:- marriage. If you have sex outside of marriage, you will pay. There is a cost. No one has ever had more than one partner and not paid - physically, emotionally or spiritually.

Pregnancy is the biggest fear of teens having sex today. But pregnancy is not a disease. You can live through it. I have lived through it three times now. I have had girls in my office for pregnancy tests, scared out of their minds waiting for the results. When I tell her, "Your test is negative. You are not pregnant," you should see the look of relief come over her face. But then I ask, "Have you been tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?" She replies, "No! I wouldn't need to be tested for that."

How often have I had a girl in my office thinking that she could be pregnant but not thinking that she could have a disease. Astounding!

You have a four times greater risk of contracting a disease today than you ever have of being pregnant. Pregnant teenage girls in Ireland today are carrying on average 2.3 sexually transmitted diseases. But they were not worried abut getting a disease!
Girls encouraged to take the pill, sometimes by their parents, end up ten times more likely to catch a disease than if they were not taking that drug. They risk ending up sterile, or even dead. We have made pregnancy the disease. "Do whatever you want, just don't be so stupid as to get pregnant."

Yes, I had to tell a lot of girls that they are pregnant, and to tell them too that their options at this stage are bad, terrible and even worse. "You had a good choice. But that was before you choose to have sex. Now all the choices you have got are going to carry consequences."

Abortion hurts women. I have counselled hundreds of women five, ten, fifteen years after their having an abortion, and they are still hurting.

Sometimes things go horribly wrong. My uncle is a trauma specialist. On one occasion, he asked me to visit a young lady in hospital. She had just had an abortion. During the abortion, her uterus had been perforated, and part of her bowel pulled out. She was rushed to hospital where she had both a radical hysterectomy and a colostomy. This twenty year old will not merely never be able to have children, but for the rest of her life she will have to carry a bag on the outside of her body.

Parenting is also a very challenging choice for the lone parent. The number one indicator for poverty in the US today is single parent households, and even more so, the age of that young girl when she started parenting alone. You could wipe out much of the poverty in my nation by taking care of teens parenting children.

Another option is adoption. It is the ability of a young mother to take the child she has carried for nine months and say, "I want what is best for that child." Having been an adopted child myself, I know I'm biased, but I honestly believe that most often, adoption is the best choice. Saying, "I'm willing to go through this pain to give my child a family" takes a lot of courage, a lot of maturity and a lot of love. It is not an easy choice. In the US, two million requests for adoption will go unanswered this year.

Forty two years ago in Michigan a young fifteen year old became pregnant. She had been raped.

She had a lot of difficult choices to make. Abortion was then freely available for those who had been raped. This fifteen year old choose to give her child life and then to place that child with an adoptive family. That child was me.

My biological father is a rapist. I don't even know my ethnicity. But I am still a human being. I still have value. My life isn't worth any less than yours just because of the way I was conceived.

I did not deserve the death penalty because of the crime of my father.

I have listened to the rhetoric my whole life. I have listened to people say, "Well, every child should be wanted and planned." I have heard this said in Church. I have heard 'good' Christians saying, "I don't approve of abortion but if it were rape....." In effect they are saying, "Pam, you are a mistake. You should have been aborted."

I don't believe that. I believe that every child is wanted by someone. And I believe that God in His Mercy had a plan for me. I learned a verse from the psalms when I was young:- "Before I formed you in your mother's womb, I knew you." Did that mean me? Or does it just mean you? Did God look down that night in November 1964 and say, "Oops, what am I going to do with that mistake?"

The God I have come to know is so awesome and so amazing that He is capable of taking your worst pain, whether it is something you choose or whether it is something that was done to you, and make something very beautiful come from that. That is the power of God's amazing grace, the power of redemption.

I have not met my birth Mam. Some day I hope to and would love to. If I do not meet her on this earth, then I will meet her in Heaven. I have been praying for her since I was four years old, and when we meet, I'm going to wrap my arms around her, and I'm going to tell her I love her, because she loved me. She loved me enough to give me my life, and then she loved me enough to give me the next most special gift I was ever given - my family.

I am the oldest of eight children, seven of them adopted. There is every colour of the rainbow in my family. We are the United Nations. My brother just younger than me, my favourite brother, he is the only bio child. My parents tried to get pregnant for seven years but couldn't. They adopted me and six months later, my Mam became pregnant and had my brother. They later adopted six more children. So he is the only bio child. I once came across a birthday card and could hardly wait for his birthday to send it to him. Inside it said, "I was planned. You were an accident."

This amazing family I was given was a gift from a scared fifteen year old girl. I will forever be grateful to her for that. I wear on my wrist this black band. It is rather ugly but it never comes off. I was given to me by that famous priest from the Bronx, Fr. Stan Fortuna. I wear it in honour of my birth mother who showed what love is. We all talk of God as love, yet we live in a society and a culture that has no idea what love is. So Fr. Stan created these wristbands.

My wristband says, "FAMILY stands for 'Forget About Me. I Love You'."

Real love is never selfish. Real love will always do what is best for the other person regardless of the pain it costs themselves. Isn't that what Jesus did on the cross. On the cross He said, "Forget About Me. I Love You."

The problem is we live in a culture that says exactly the opposite, "Me, me, me, I, I, I", "I want" and "my needs"! Real love says exactly the opposite. It says, "Forget About Me. I Love You." My birth mother did that for me and I will forever be grateful to her.

I spend 15 days a month away from the teenagers I love the most, my own, because I wouldn't want any teenager to have to make a choice like this, having spent nine years working with girls who had this choice to face.

The best choice is before you have sex. That is when there is still a good choice to make. After that it can get really tough. But if someone here tonight finds herself pregnant and didn't intend to be, get help. There is a better answer than abortion. No matter what short term problems you face, life is always a better answer than abortion. Pregnancy is not the worst thing that could happen if you decide to have sex. There are far worse things than that.

This very day in the US, 14,000 teenagers will contract a sexually transmitted disease.

When we include up to 22 year olds, the figure goes up to 39,000 a day contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Our university campuses are now big giant STD laboratories!

I have seen the statistics for Ireland, and I have news for you:- they are worse than those in the US per capita. Western Europe now has the highest STD rates for anywhere in the world. In the 1950's there were five sexually transmitted diseases that we knew about. Back then if someone did get an STD, like syphilis or gonorrhoea, a course of penicillin solved the problem.

We now have over 30 sexually transmitted diseases and over 30% of them are absolutely incurable. Get one of these diseases and you have got it for life. Think of that, boys, when you are getting ready to get married. "Take this ring and marry me. By the way, I've got genital warts. You will get it too and we will both need treatment for the rest of our lives. In fact you could even end up with cervical cancer or needing a radical hysterectomy, but do marry me."

Aids is not the only disease out there and it is certainly not the only disease killing people. Yet we still have students in Ireland who think "If I don't get pregnant and don't get Aids, then I don't have anything to worry about."

Chlamydia, one of the most common diseases, is a bacteria and not a virus and so is easily treated and cured. There is just one problem. You most likely will not know you have it, so you won't seek treatment until it is too late.

There are two types of STD's - bacterial and viral.
A bacterial disease is curable. A virus is not. Get a virus and you have it for life. There is no cure. We have never in the history of the world cured a virus. Chlamydia is a bacteria. Ten days treatment will clear it up. But 90% of those with Chlamydia have no symptoms. You can't treat a disease you don't know you have.

Young people often say to me, "Pam, I have had sex several times, but I don't have a disease." I ask them how they know they haven't a disease, and they say, "Because I have no symptoms." They think, "If I can't see, feel or touch it, I don't have it." The truth is the only way to know is to get a full viral test.
The American Medical Bulletin recently stated that every teenage girl who has had sex, needs to be tested for Chlamydia every six months for five years. Why are only girls tested? Boys get it too. How otherwise would it be passed on? But boys are not screened. The reason girls are screened is, if they get chlamydia even once, there is a 25% chance that they will be sterile for the rest of their lives. Get it twice and the chances that you will never have children jumps to 50%. Get it three times and the odds jump close to 100%.

Hundreds of thousands of women in the US, when they seek to start a family, discover that it is no longer possible.

When they go to their doctors, they discover that their Fallopian tubes and ovaries are full of scar tissue; that they have pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), as a result of chlamydia. The boy who gave her the chlamydia may have moved on and married someone else. He is able to have children. But the girl is scarred for life. Girls have more to lose. Where STD's are concerned, life is not fair. Girls will always pay a higher price physically.

Of the 30 sexually transmitted diseases, 26 damage women, the other 4 damage both.

It annoys me when I hear people say, "Boys will be boys"; that they are incapable of showing respect. I have two teenage sons, the eldest is now nineteen. I have made it my aim to teach my sons to respect women. If they do not, I will kill them! Those are their options. I know I'm not the only mother in this nation who has taught her sons to respect women.

I have met some amazing young men who truly do respect women and who desire to meet ladies who have waited. I am tired of hearing girls say "Nobody wants me if I am not prepared to have sex." Girls, if you want to make sure you will not be wanted, screw around, for the young man of integrity will settle for nothing less than a young lady of integrity. You will get what you are.

Recently after one of my talks in an American College, a young man, aged 22, came up to me, and said, "I watched your video when I was 13, and I want you to know it changed my life. Watching that video, I wanted to become a young man who treats women with respect. ... Every girl I date is told from the very first date that my sexuality is for my wife and that if they can't deal with that, they can date someone else."

Everywhere I go, I meet young men with integrity, boys with character, boys who do wish to respect girls, boys who would say, "While I might be able to walk away from sex with you without permanent damage, you might not and because I love you, I would never ask you to put your life on the line, your ability to have children, your future or your self-respect on the line to meet my momentary need." There are boys with that kind of integrity.

Real love respects. Real love does not pressure. Real love does not say, "If you love me, show it by having sex."

Love would never ask you to do something that could damage you for the rest of your life. Girls, there is only one way you will ever know if a boy loves you. Put a boundary down. Watch for respect. If there is no respect, then there is no love. Love would never damage you for it's own needs. Love will always want the best for you even if it is difficult.

This applies to girls as well. It isn't just boys who are selfish or who lack respect. Often girls do too. Boys, instead of asking yourself who would you like to take to the prom, ask yourself, "Who would you like to be the mother of your children?"

There has always been and always will be women who will throw themselves at you. This is not just a teenage problem. It is a fact of life, something that one has to be prepared to face if one is to be a person of integrity, and to be faithful to your wife in marriage. If you stay over regularly in hotels, the chances are that some woman will throw herself at you. Does that mean you are to have sex with her? Are you to tell your wife afterwards, "Oh she started it. What was I to do?"

Boys if there is a girl encouraging you to have sex with her, or a girl dressing in such a way that she is saying "Take me now!" run from this girl. This girl has bought the lie of a culture that tells her that what makes her valuable is her body. In order to feel good about herself, she needs to turn your head, and when she is finished turning yours, she will need to turn his, and then his and then his. And it won't end when she is 25 or even when she is 40. Boys you don't want to marry a girl like that.

Herpes has increased in Ireland by 579% since 1992. Herpes is a virus. Get it and you have it for life. And you will give it to your spouse.

It won't kill you, but you will have sores or boils on your genital area periodically for the rest of your life. There is medication for the sores. It may have side effects like diarrhoea or vomiting but it will clear up the sores for the time being. 20% of the Irish population over the age of twelve are now infected with herpes. But it is still not the most common STD.

The most common STD is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Again there is no cure and once you have it, you will give it to everyone with whom you have sexual contact.

It is the most contagious of all STD's. It is not transmitted the same way as HIV. The street name is genital warts; warts on your genital area that need to be burned off periodically. But you can have the virus and be passing it on without ever having warts. The most cancerous strains, and there are over 100 strains, don't produce warts at all. The vaccination only protects one against 2 out of the over 100 strains.

Again men are not tested for it normally, for the simple reason that the test costs around £1,000. Yet we have boys who will say to girls, "Oh I'm clean. I don't have anything. I got tested."

If a boy says that to you, ask him, "Tested for what?" and "Is it five years since you last had sex?"

Girls who have had sex, need to be tested at least annually for HPV - a smear test. A negative smear test doesn't mean that one doesn't have the virus. It means that you don't have cervical cancer. For boys HPV's are merely annoying - having to have warts burned off one's genitals by chemicals or laser treatment. But when it comes to marrying, what are you bringing your wife? Her risk of infection has nothing to do with whether you used a condom or got tested. Her risk of infection has everything to do with you having been sexually active.

HPV is the number one causal agent of cervical cancer.

We now have girls as young as 18 undergoing radical hysterectomies. They will never be able to have children. Last year an 18 year old came up to me all brave and said, "I had cervical cancer at 14. Now I'm going to have a hysterectomy. But I don't care. Kids are noisy, smelly and cost a lot of money, and I don't want one." But later she broke down and said, "I'm just trying to deal with the fact that no one will ever want to marry me."

Last year more women died in the US of cancer caused by HPV than died of Aids. It is killing more women than Aids. Yet we are not telling our girls this.

They now estimate that 57% of young people who have had sex outside marriage are infected with HPV. That is more than one out of every two. So if you have sex with someone who is not virgin then expect to get HPV.

There is not a condom in the world which will protect you from HPV. It is not transmitted the same way as HIV. HIV requires the exchange of body fluids - blood, semen or vaginal fluid exchange. Herpes and HPV are skin contracted viruses. All it takes is skin contact anywhere in the genital area and you are infected for life, and you will then infect everyone you have genital contact with thereafter. It doesn't even require intercourse - just genital contact.

By the way every single form of STD can be transmitted by oral sex, yet kids think it doesn't count, while herpes, HPV and chlamydia can be transmitted by any form of genital contact.

The bottom line is if you want to avoid these diseases, then keep your pants on! We still have kids saying to each other, "I'm clean. I have never had unprotected sex." Condoms aren't safe. They never have been and never will be. Unless they develop one that will cover the entire body! Complete body armour!

The only safe sex is a safe partner:- someone who has never had sex, or if they had sex, it has been a full five years since the last occasion and they recently had a complete viral test. It may cost £1,000 but if you have had sex in the past, you owe it to your future spouse to abstain for five years and then have the full viral test.

Remember too that sex doesn't just involve your genitals. It also involves your heart and there is not a condom in the world that will ever protect your heart. Our culture has taken a beautiful gift that was meant to be an expression of intimacy and self-giving love and turned it into a game for self-gratification.

But don't let anyone tell you that because you have had sex in the past that you have to keep doing it.

If you have had sex, girls especially, get tested, then get tested in six months, and then annually for five years. But you can start afresh. You don't have to keep putting the gun to your head. I am tired of hearing adults, including school principals say, "We are not going to talk to our children about sex, because they have all done it and they just can't stop it."

Today I'm meeting young people who realise that they can stop. They call themselves "recycled virgins". Young people who decide, "I'm not going to have sex again until I'm married."

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not about saying to God on Monday night, "I'm sorry", so that you can turn around and do it again on Friday. Confession and repentance are meant to be 180% turn from sin to true righteousness. As Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, "Get up and sin no more."

To get the CD of Pam's talk
The above article doesn't do justice to the powerful talk Pam Stenzel gave in Dublin last June. Clearly our youth are being sold a pup with the modern 'safe sex' messages. They deserve to hear the truth.

Pam's talk is one that every teenager and young adult, and indeed every not so young adult, needs to hear.

The good news is that it is available on CD from Pure in Heart, 3 Pembroke Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. (01 660 7654) The CD is 5 euro or 5 CDs for 15 euro. Post is included if you live in Ireland. Also available from Pure in Heart is Pam's book, "Sex has a price tag", just 12 euro including post. (If you are a young adult who wishes to live Christian teaching on sexuality and to meet others who are living it, why not join Pure in Heart, address above.)

Pam's CD is also now available from ourselves, and will be on sale after all my speaking engagements.