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Abstinence is the New Feminism

In response to The New York Times' story on Harvard's abstinence club (which we wrote about here) Shelby Knox has this to say about club president Janie Fredell's assertion that abstinence is good feminism:

The decision to remain abstinent is no less valid, or feminist, than the decision to have responsible, consensual sex - and abstinence in itself is an effective method of prevention against sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.

What confounds is that although Janie rails against the stereotypes and sexual double standards imposed upon women, she aligns herself with a movement that not only accepts but also relies upon those stereotypes to convince young people to join up. In doing so, she is refusing to challenge the social constructs that plague relations between and among the genders and is instead attacking the act of sex itself - a time-tested tactic that has proven both impractical and ineffective, to say the least.

You may know Shelby from "The Education of Shelby Knox," the fantastic documentary about her efforts to bring comprehensive sex ed to her Lubbock, Texas high school. She's continued advocating for sex ed through her college years and ends her post with what TAV thinks is the essential issue:

It seems far more proactive to challenge outdated and harmful notions about each gender's relationship to sex, not necessarily with sexual activity, but by educating both men and women toward positive, healthy expressions of sexuality that neither subjugate nor deny the humanity of either partner.

The last thing anyone, male or female, needs on a college campus is a rancorous and harmful debate about the merits of sex or no sex. Instead, someone needs to start an open and honest discussion about sexual health and responsibility that encompasses everything from abstinence to contraception and personal fulfillment and pleasure.

Shelby rocks our world. And thanks to Carole for passing this story along.