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Statement by Shelby Knox on the Introduction of the REAL Act

WASHINGTON, March 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Shelby Knox of Advocates for Youth:

The introduction of the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act is a first, bold step to ridding the country of the shame-based misinformation that marked by sex education classes in Lubbock, Texas.

I was born and raised in a Southern Baptist family in Lubbock, Texas -- a city with some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in the nation. At 15, in accordance with my faith, I took a virginity pledge as part of a ceremony at my church. The pastor reiterated throughout the virginity pledge discussion how disappointed our parents, church, and future spouse would be if we relinquished our virginity before marriage. Some of my friends who were already having sex took the pledge, not because they believed in it, but to appease their suspicious parents or to inoculate themselves against the slurs reserved for those whose refusal to pledge was seen as a de facto admission of sexual sin.

My minister, who also taught abstinence-only in our local high school, loved using students to demonstrate the horrible consequences of sex outside marriage.

In one demonstration, he would pull an often squirming and always reluctant female student from the class, take out a toothbrush that looked like it had been used to scrub toilets and ask if she would brush her teeth with it. When she predictably said "no," he would pull out another toothbrush, this one pristine in its original box, and ask if she would brush her teeth with that one. When she answered in the affirmative, he turned to the assembly and said, "If you have sex before marriage, you are the dirty toothbrush."

These federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs commonly use messages of fear and shame, present gender stereotypes as scientific fact, and impart confusing, incomplete, or plainly inaccurate information about condoms and other forms of contraception.

After 10 long years of shame and fear, isn't it time for REAL, honest sex education?

I've spent a third of my life fighting for comprehensive sex education because my generation has been lost to abstinence-only programs and I don't want that to happen to the next generation.

Ten years and more than $1.5 billion dollars wasted on bad sex education is more than enough. It's time we stopped censoring sexual health information and provide young people with what they need -- medically accurate, effective sexual health programs in our schools and local communities.

The REAL Act will do just that. I want to thank Senator Lautenberg and Representative Lee for their leadership and urge the swift passage of the REAL Act. Young people have waited long enough.

SOURCE Advocates for Youth
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