Chastity talk coverage biased

I am writing in response to Meredith Sanger-Katz’s Record article covering the “Chastity 101” talk held on Sept. 17 (“Chastity 101 Lecture introduces two theses encouraging abstinence until marraige,” Sept. 24, 2002). 

For the reputations of the offices and groups which sponsored the talk, and especially for the student body to be fully informed and able to draw their own opinions, I feel it necessary to point out some misunderstandings and omissions from Meredith’s article.

First, the popularity of the talk was misrepresented in that the only student opinions in the article were negative ones. Meredith didn’t mention that Goodrich was packed and that the audience was captivated for much of the talk. Moreover, the insertion of Andra Hibbert’s opinion, “I’m sure that there is a. . .silent minority” of Williams students “with whom the talk resonated,” belies the fact that many students remained afterwards for about two hours and fifteen minutes (until around midnight for a 7:30 p.m. talk) asking questions and chatting with one another and the speakers. Jason and Crystallina tell me that they are now corresponding with around 10-15 students who requested their contact information during this time.

Secondly, a reader may have gotten the impression from Meredith’s article that Jason and Chrystallina’s talk continually appealed to faith for validity, or even as a rhetorical tool. Yet despite Meredith’s mention that “the speakers brought up their religious and political views” and that “their arguments were so intertwined with religion and marriage” that students felt uneasy, Chrystallina referred to “God” only once, Jason never said “sacred in the eyes of God,” and acknowledged his faith only when offering his e-mail address, which happens to contain the word “catholic.” Save such seemingly “loaded” speech, the two-hour presentation was couched entirely in secular terms and appealed to reason, not religious belief.

Also, the general tenor of the article barely conveys the central message Jason and Chrystallina gracefully developed over the course of evening: A chaste lifestyle serves as a foundation for relationships that are both physically and emotionally healthy. They encouraged students to reflect on what pre-marital sex really says about one’s relationship and one’s partner in terms of the dignity of the person. In this sense, “chastity frees a couple from the selfish attitude of using each other as objects.” Responses to any questions or concerns from the audience, controversial or otherwise, always appealed to this primary message.

I regret also that Melissa Umezaki ’04, Peer Health student coordinator, was the only person interviewed regarding the speakers’ comments on reproductive health issues and STDs. Had others been sought out for an interview, the Williams community would be more conscious of the humor with which fashionable false impressions of “sexual liberation” were contrasted with deadly-serious statistics about the widespread reality of STDs, the relation between cervical and breast cancer to birth control use, divorce and cohabitation and the physiological dangers of pornography—none of which have brought the “real love” we all yearn for.

Just a few examples from the talk not mentioned in Meredith’s article: Jason discussed the proven detriment pornography is to healthy relationships because guys (typically) will become accustomed to “the ideal woman” whose images they then project onto their partner in real life. When their sexual fantasies aren’t met, they find little reason to remain in committed relationships. He also noted that eight out of every ten couples who cohabitate before marriage end up in divorce. In America today, one of every two marriages ends in divorce. You can even rent wedding rings too.

When the talk came to what Umezaki refers to as “more exotic diseases,” the speakers cited a report issued July 20, 2001 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Entitled, “Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention,” the report was referenced in response to a question no one in the audience could answer: “What is the most common STD?” The correct answer is Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the most common STD in America, which has a “yearly incidence of 5.5 million cases” and “currently plagues 20 million Americans.” The study declares condoms have “no clinical proof of effectiveness” in preventing its transmission.

Groups representing over 10,000 doctors have accused the Centers for Disease Control of covering up the government’s own research that shows that condoms do not protect individuals from seven of the eight main STDs. Furthermore, according to Dr. Richard Klausner, Director of the National Cancer Institute, HPV causes over 90 percent of all cases of cervical cancer. Every year, more than 200,000 women, including 5,000 American women, die of cervical cancer (http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/).

At the talk’s conclusion, Jason invited people to take away from the talk whatever resonated with them. The presentation of previously-undisseminated data and the witness to a different worldview empowers students to make critical choices. On a campus that prides itself on diversity of thought, the “Chastity 101” talk was far from a crime, but a welcome and fresh engagement of serious issues.