Thursday, September 30, 2010

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Leah Darrow was one of the final contestants chosen to become America’s next top model. She had an epiphany about the objective nature of the fashion industry and quit the show. Leah talks to True Feminism about her journey.

SD: How did you make it to America’s Top Model?

LD: I auditioned in St. Louis, and made each cut until I was one of the final 14 girls on the Show, Cycle 3. While on ANTM, everything moved so fast, you didn’t have time to think, you just did what they asked of you, because if you didn’t, you were scared of being a target at the judges panel and being eliminated. I remember being scared, lonely and, at times, sad. I was very aware that we all were being watched and video taped, and I had a sense that who I was, was not good enough.

SD: Why did you quit the modeling industry?

LD: I remember my Catholic faith being called into question while on the Show. Tyra Banks, asked me at the judges panel, “Are you Catholic?” This question hit my heart like a pound of bricks, I felt suffocated because by this point in my life, my Catholic faith took a back seat role; I was not authentically Catholic. I lied to Tyra. I told her I was Catholic. Since then, I have realized that we lie sometimes when we wish we were the lie, that the lie would be true. We lie about our status, who we know, our bank accounts, our families; I lied about being Catholic because I truly wanted to be Catholic...and wasn’t.

I was asked to model for an international magazine. The shoot started out like most photo shoots, hair, make-up, and wardrobe. When the stylists brought out the rack of clothes for me to choose from, they were all itty-bitty. I knew that the goal of the shoot was ‘sexy’. I felt uncomfortable thumbing through the clothes and didn’t have the courage at that time to walk away. I thought to myself, “This is a job, be a professional - just do it.”

In the middle of the photo shoot, I had an experience in which my entire life was finally made clear - and the reality was that it was completely chaotic and not in sync with my faith, that I held dearly. I wanted to be loved, I wanted attention but I also wanted to be pure, faithful and authentic. The clarity that happened in front of my eyes, during the shoot, was like a huge hit to my ego but also to my heart. It was so clear to me at that point, that I was the furthest thing from an authentic person. I had to change my life (I wanted to change my life) because I hated living the lie. My life surrounded itself with making sure I always looked good, I desperately cared about what others thought, I based my self worth on the next Vogue magazine or what my boyfriend said about me. It was a terribly wretched way to live and I just couldn’t bare it anymore.

Before I knew it, the shoot was concluding and I ran to my wardrobe room, took off their clothes, put on mine and ran out. I cried, mascara running down my face, while walking down 5th Avenue. Sadly, a sight many New Yorkers seemed to be familiar with, as no one approached me or looked in my direction.

When I reached home, and after many days of crying, I did the only thing a girl can do ... I called my Dad. I told him over the phone that if he did not come and pick me up, I was going to lose my soul. There was an eerie silence on the phone and my Dad then said, “Ok baby, I’m coming to get you.” My father drove literally halfway across the country to come pick me up. He showed up on my doorstep with the largest smile I have ever seen. I was clearly upset, distraught, and depressed but my Dad was happy and joyful. He said, “I am so happy to see you! I can’t wait to see Central Park and go to Carnegie Deli. But first... We’re going to confession!” My Dad told me that if I just wanted a ride home, I should have called Southwest Airlines; but if I wanted help, he was there to take me home - and Church is home.

SD: Who are your role models?

LD: Jesus Christ and His Mother, Mary.

SD: What is your definition of an ideal man?

LD: Someone who knows the definition of a real man in light of Catholic scared tradition and teachings.

SD: Why do you think it is difficult for girls to live modestly in our culture?

LD: I think it is difficult to live modestly when you are surrounded by such things like Lady Gaga, Abercrombie & Fitch, MTV and People Magazine. These influences do not care about your soul or if you are loved or not. They want you to believe that fantasy is reality. The music, fashion and entertainment industries all promote a lifestyle consisting of empty promises. All that glitters is not gold.

SD: Do you have to sacrifice fashion for modesty?

LD: A true fashionista is someone who wears fashion; not someone who wears her body as fashion. Clothing makes a statement about ourselves - it can tell us what we believe, where we are going, etc... Fashion is a powerful and quiet communicator. You only sacrifice fashion when you use your body to make a statement instead of your own personal style. Anybody can show their legs, cleavage, or wear an outfit 2 sizes too small ... It takes someone who respects her body enough to acknowledge its sacredness and dresses it accordingly without losing style - now that’s a true fashionista.

SD: What advice do you have for parents whose children may be interested in modeling or may have trouble accepting the call to modesty?

LD: It is true that not all modeling is bad but I would severely warn parents against putting time, effort and sacrifice into their children’s modeling before they put the time, effort and sacrifice into their faith. Modesty is not just about covering up. Modesty is about revealing the beauty of the soul through faith. When our youth are becoming more and more naked in their fashions, we must look to see how they are understanding themselves through the scope of faith. There is obviously a disconnect.

One of the ultimate ways to humiliate a person in front of others is to strip them naked. By doing this, you strip the person of their dignity. Today’s fashion is doing just that - striping our youth of their dignity by these barely-there fashions. This is beyond immodesty. Immodesty used to describe (in fashion) mini skirts, super tight and low cut tops. Today’s fashion trend starters just have less and less clothes on, period. Have you seen Lady Gaga? All she is is a leotard and clown make-up. [Pop culture] Fashion has become a circus.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Eclipse of Dating

A campus psychologist and head of the Sexual Assault Prevention & Response at a major university had seen an influx of mostly women in her office with serious complaints: physical, emotional, and mental, in response to their involvement with the hook up culture. Her friend Filmmaker Denice Ann Evans was inspired to make a documentary about this.

When the university involved pulled the funding from the project in the final hour, Denice went on to make the film herself over the course of three years. The feature length was screened at film festivals and a 35-minute educational version was made for classrooms.

Denice talks to True Feminism about Spitting Game: The College Hook Up Culture

SD: What is a Spitting Game?

DE: Spitting Game is a term used by, mostly college age men, referring to the lines they use to pick up girls. At the beginning of my film I have the Urban Dictionary definition, which is: To use charm, wit, humor, or other means to verbally let a female know that you are interested in her. Often includes compliments and other forms of flattery that will hopefully end in a phone number which leads to a date, which leads to hot sex.

SD: How common are hook-ups in Colleges?

DE: I can’t give you an empirical percentage on just how many students are hooking up, but I can tell you that hooking up has eclipsed traditional dating. Having sex without commitment or even the notion of having a committed relationship is the normative social standard on all types of college and university campuses across the United States.

SD: Can hook-ups lead to serious relationships, as indicated by a study conducted at the University of Iowa?

DE: Anything is possible. It is possible that I might win the lottery if I keep buying lottery tickets. But, it is not very probable, nor should I plan my financial future on winning the lottery. So with that being said, I think that most students who are hooking up are not seeking serious relationships, so in that respect I agree with the findings of the Iowa study. However, I also believe that a good majority of students who would prefer a serious relationship will not admit it and are influenced by the enormous amount of peer pressure to accept the “straight to sex, no strings attached” model that is so pervasive on campuses.

Additionally, I think the ability to get in touch with one’s deepest desires is complicated by the emotionally numbing effects of alcohol. The truth is that most hook ups are done under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Why do students need to be drunk to hook up? That is a whole study in itself. Basically, the college women or men who are just hoping a serious relationship will result from a hook up are setting themselves up for failure.

As far as the Iowa study goes, it was based on a “survey” of only 642 adults, hardly enough people to claim any significant findings in my opinion. How many college students are having their first experience and continued experiences with drunken hook ups? A lot more than 642. There is no way to quantitatively determine the future success of long term relationships based on delayed sex or hook up sex. Quite frankly, we have not even begun to see the social aftermath of the hook up culture. Give it another ten years, then do a thorough comprehensive study.

It is funny to me that people write about the hook up culture and use the term “casual sex” as if students are all just experimenting with their sexuality and enjoying the benefits of having great sex without the emotional or time demands of a committed relationship. That is a huge misnomer in my opinion. There is a big difference between casual sex and “hook up sex.” Most students, from the hundreds I have actually talked to tell me that their hook ups are usually drunken romps that they may or may not remember the next morning and that most of the “casual sex” that takes place during the hook up is male-centric, meaning it is focused on the guy’s pleasure, not the woman’s. So, for those reading this that will challenge this status quo, let me say that I believe there are some students who can have hook up sex without commitment and enjoy their liberation and go on to have fulfilling long term relationships (if that is what they choose,) because like I said at the beginning of this…anything is possible.

SD: How can parents/teachers be more vigilant about what goes on in the lives of their children/students?

DE: This is a great question. First and foremost parents and teachers need to open up the lines of communication. Parents need to educate themselves on up to date sexual standards. They need to understand the social world their children are entering into. It is not the same socio-sexual environment they had when they were growing up. The media is more hyper-sexualized than ever and the availability of sexually explicit material on the internet is staggering. Parents need to start educating their children with age appropriate levels of sex education from the time they are able to understand it. I started speaking to my sons about sex and relationships when they started asking me questions and that was around age 7. Too many parents shy away from talking about the subject of sex and sexuality. This is a huge mistake. Many high school students are going into college with a lack of accurate information about sex and relationships because they are told having sex period is wrong.

The reality is that the majority of high school and college age students are going to experiment with sex. It is a natural part of human relationships to want to have sex. Instead of making it taboo, parents need to establish open lines of communication and back it up with real world real applications that are current and relatable. Even if some parents believe in abstinence only, they can and should back that belief up with clear, concise, current sex education. Sending your son or daughter into a hot bed of hook ups and alcohol fueled parties on college campuses without the proper sex education is dangerous. If parents really want to protect their children they need to educate them. If a student has a trusted parent they can rely on, then they are more apt to share their experiences in high school or college with that parent.

One of my sons is now in college and I told him that no matter what he hears from his peers or the media, that I am in fact, the person he can absolutely trust to tell him the truth above everyone else. I encouraged him to come to me first if he was ever confused about something or just needed more information. I know my son listened to me, because one day when we were just chatting about relationships and about a particular girl that he liked, he told me point blank that he wanted to know more about HPV. He said he wanted to know everything about it and so I told him everything I knew and that was a lot! I also guided him to certain websites that I knew to have factual and accessible information. I felt very honored that my son came to me first instead of getting his knowledge second hand.

As far as the schools & teachers are concerned, they need to become more progressive in providing prevention materials and trainings for their administration and students. They especially need to focus on engaging their male athletic departments and fraternities. Most schools are based on a risk reduction model and have turned the problem of sexual assault into a “woman’s issue.” It is not exclusively up to women to reduce their risk of sexual assault while they are attending college. Men need to be made accountable as well. The notion that women just need to “watch where they go at night” and “be careful not to drink too much” or “wear skimpy clothing” is just antiquated advice that takes the burden off men and shifts it to the women. Colleges and universities also need to start disclosing the fact that sexual assault DOES happen on their campuses and then show prospective students and their parents what their school is actively doing to prevent it. Parents need to put the colleges on alert by questioning schools about their sexual assault policies before they send their children there.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Prostitution Alternatives Part 1

This is a series on the different approaches taken to helping women in prostitution.

Kerry Port is the executive director of P.A.C.E (Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education) and a former survival sex worker. Kerry talks to True Feminism about what she does.

SD: What options do you offer survival sex workers?

KP: P.A.C.E operates within a continuum of services to sex workers. We work with sex workers while they are still in transition in trade and in drug use too. We take a harm reduction approach, so there’s no requirement that they pledge to get off drugs or stop doing sex work to receive services. People need to remember that nobody starts out their career using drugs or in sex work, they end up many years later here in the downtown east side. Average age of members is 38 so making positive changes in their life and their lifestyle is something that can take years. We help them recognize their own assets, help to raise their self-esteem to a point that they are ready to start looking at other options

SD: What percentage of the people you help are women? How many are men?

KP: 99 per cent female, 40 per cent are transgendered, and at the moment we have 2 male clients. The chair of our board operates an outreach program for males so if we come across male clients we refer them to a different program.

SD: Why you support the decriminalization of prostitution?

KP: We are absolutely in favour of the full decimalization of sex work, as the necessary first step for ending the abuses that go on within sex work. The moment you prohibit any activity, that people actually want to do like have sex and do drugs, a criminal underworld will grow up around it, to facilitate it. A lot of abuses in sex work have to with the criminal nature of it. You take away the criminality and a lot of those abuses are exposed to the cold light of day. It will not have an immediate impact on survival sex work driven by desperation, in addition to decriminalization we are calling for an increase in services that are helpful to survival sex workers such as female only detox centers and treatment centers. They need better housing, we need to raise the welfare rates, the minimum wage, there needs to be appropriate treatment for individuals with mental health issues also.

SD: How do you measure the success of your efforts/objectives?

KP: The ongoing program we have has a one to one relationship with a support worker that pays and she helps individuals with housing issues, health issues, eating disorders, and other health issues. Our violence prevention workshop offers programs that deal with confrontational management such as physical violence. We do a lot of public education. Success for us in an improvement in the self-esteem of one of our members, and helping them to accomplish goals so their lives are more stable, success for us doesn’t necessarily mean that the indivdual leave the sex trade.

SD: Melissa Farley, founder of Prostitution Research and education, says that decriminalization, does not help prostitutes, but only pimps. Do you agree with this?

KP: No. Melissa Farley along with a couple of other researchers, are what we call prohibitionists, they like to call themselves abolitionists. They are trying, to conflate different types of sex work, different types of circumstances, and want one story of sex workers that they are all victims, they exercise no agency in their lives. Most of Farley’s research is not scientific, and its not peer reviewed and comes with a bias, towards finding stories that support her theories that all sex workers get raped. I am a former sex worker, I was a survival sex worker, and a heroine addict. It was my choice made as an adult and I exercise choices on a daily basis. I am pretty offended by Melissa Farley’s views.

SD: How did you get into survival sex work?

KP: I entered the trade at 34. I have an undergraduate degree. I worked for 15 years in university administration. I developed issues due to abuse as a child, un-resolved issues caused me to experiment with drugs and my drug addiction ultimately caused me to lose my job. At that point, I went into sex work hoping only to be in it for a short period of time, pay off some bills, until I get a little more stable, what I didn’t understand was the insidious connection between sex work and drug use, my drug use escalated, during my work as a sex worker for four years.

SD: What ethical stance does P.A.C.E take on prostitution?

KP: We don’t see this as a moral issue, what two consenting adults do sexually together whether it’s for money or not is between the two of them, and we consider any abuse involved in the sex trade to be sexually exploitative, we deplore the conditions where individuals are trafficked in the sex trade, but then again if you decriminalize all aspects of sex work, they can be exposed, and we do have a criminal code to deal with abuses like that, but it’s not enforced right now.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Triumph of the Human Spirit

Monika Moreno is a screenwriter and the director of the Angelus Student Film Festival, in Hollywood. Monika talks to True Feminism about the mission of Angelus.

SD: What does Angelus do?

MM: Angelus student film festival honors student filmmakers on an international level, at film schools, and universities. We honour the filmmaker as they create films that respect, the dignity of the human person, for example films shorts such as animation or documentary must have a theme such as redemption, tolerance, dignity, forgiveness, or spirituality. It could be a comedy, a tragedy, a hard-hitting documentary or a hilarious animation.

SD: How are Festival entries selected?

MM: We receive anywhere from 400 to 700 films a year and they go through three sets of jurors. Three people see the film in the first round, our judging is the heart of Angelus, because we take such great care and laborious detail, making sure each film, gets a fair shot, so it’s not just based on one person’s opinion, we might have a group watch a film, then a different group. We select a few members and those are our semi-finalists, and we have a top group of industry professionals choose the winners.

SD: How does Angelus differ from other Student film festivals?

MM: The difference between the Angelus student festivals and others for one is our theme, that the films must engage the heart, we do require production excellence, but stories are paramount and the central mission of Angelus.

SD: How does someone enter an Angelus film festival?

MM: It doesn’t matter what country they are from, they just go to our website or to without a, fill out the application online and send it to us. We keep prices down, we are a non-profit film festival. This year we have a new award called "Wake up to justice" and the winner of that must be around live action or documentary, must centre on social issues in a global way. The grand prizewinner gets $10,000 and then we have a $5,000 winner for a film that wins the triumph of the spirit award and then we have outstanding documentary and outstanding animation, so it’s quite gratifying to see Hollywood back our little festival. We offer tickets free in Hollywood, our goal, is to bring visibility to talented young filmmakers, who should have a career, in Hollywood or internationally.

After the festival is over we have tours, we go to Sundance and we are fortunate to be able to go to one international venue each year. We go to few other universities around the country, we believe film is universal language and the themes cross every culture, religion, every background: forgiveness, redemption, triumph of the spirit, so we believe what we are doing is to be able to take these young filmmakers around the world at times.

SD: What’s your favourite Angelus film?

MM: Its like crops of vine, it’s different every year you don’t know what you’re going to get. "I am always excited to see smaller films rise to the top, comedies have difficulty in general, even with the Academy awards, for some reasons, judges don’t always take comedy as seriously as the dramatic fair." We certainly have some great hard-hitting, dramas, this year and I am excited about them. " I am excited about a comedy, and for the world to see this comedy called "God of love." win the 10,000 grand prize." It will be interesting to see how that crosses over internationally.

SD: What advice would you offer someone who’s interested in the world of Alternate or independent filmmaking?

MM: Everybody always says persist and preserver and that’s certainly essential, but I would say “ study your craft first and by that I mean watch as many films as you can and I am always impressed when a young filmmaker, knows films from the 40s, 60s, 70s and knows international filmmakers." If they do they are going to go far. It’s like a lawyer studying cases and a doctor studying medicine. You just don’t jump in with your scalpel, because you have a great concept or any idea that happened to you or your buddy. They study and study for years. Not just film, but literature and music, and life and the arts and the more this is under their belt it certainty comes out. You can tell which filmmaker is going to make it because they take it so seriously that they eat, sleep, and drink it. Take your craft seriously.

SD: Where do the Winners go?

MM: The winners generally use their short film as a calling card, there are so many people flooding, Hollywood or saturating offices here, wanting to get a break or to be heard. You just have a screenplay or an idea you are not going to get heard quickly. With a film, a judge can see pretty quickly if you have talent or not. You can use that to get into festivals and to get noticed so many of our past winners have taken jobs, a few have made features, others have taken editing jobs, if they are animators they are getting story board artist jobs. We took one guy to Sundance last year, he was very enterprising, met somebody from MTV, who got him distribution and his feature will be at Toronto Film Festival this year.

SD: How did Angelus come up with its theme “the Triumph of the Human Spirit”?

MM: Angelus is 15 years old. 15 years ago the films that were coming out of Hollywood, were violent and were exploiting various negative elements in society, there are few good themes coming out too. A few people here got together, and thought "wouldn’t it be wonderful if we actually had a festival, if we have a venue for filmmakers to pursue these themes and award them." At the time they weren’t being awarded for that. We didn’t know if that would take off. It was very small, we only opened it to Southern California to see if there was interest, and the interest was overwhelming and it went on to a domestic, national and international level and it just took off.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The C Word

Christina Condit, is a young chastity speaker, who talks to teenagers about why waiting to have sex is worth it. Christina shares her insights with True Feminism.

SD: What is Chastity?

CC: Chastity is a word that can make most of us cringe. When I am dating a guy I never say to him.. “I am practicing chastity…” Who under the age of 20 understands what that means anyway? However, there IS beautiful meaning behind this word we run from. Simply stated it is waiting until marriage to have sex. It is recognizing that the most valuable gift you can give someone is yourself. Its recognizing that not everyone deserves you because for instance.. “Where do you find diamonds? On every street corner, available to everyone? No, they are hidden, buried. Where do we find pearls? In our back yard? No, at the bottom of the ocean. Anything that is sacred or valuable is covered and hard work to find.”~Anonymous

Your body is a treasure, so let someone work to deserve it.

In more concrete ways: it is setting boundaries or standards on where he can place his hands when you are dancing, or asking him or her if you can not always hang out in the basement because it leads to trouble, etc., By setting these standards there is a clear line and also you will discover if the person is there to spend time with YOU or your body.

By making the decision to wait until marriage it gives you clarity! When you begin to go farther than kissing there is a chemical called, Oxytocin, that is released to your brain that attaches you to that person forever. So if you go home with someone, like our music tells us too, and end up attached to that person, you might ignore if they are selfish, lazy, etc., and that’s why relationships end up a mess. That’s the point of sexual things.. to bond you to each other and this is perfect in marriage! Taking sex out of marriage is like taking fire out of a fireplace. A beautiful gift can quickly become destructive.

SD: How did you become a chastity speaker?

CC: For many reasons,

1) I thought many adults didn’t know how to connect to our high school world, STD slide shows didn’t scare us, or help us, we wanted to know why to wait. The only person who was effective was Jason Evert, so I started educating myself on this topic during my breaks because we definitely didn’t learn it in school. I wanted to be an example and do something to help my friends who needed guidance.

2) God allowed me to suffer the pain of being neglected and being apart of a family that did not love one another. Being neglected as a child resulted to searching for love in all the wrong places such as alcohol. But those painful years of my childhood are a blessing in disguise. It has giving me the conviction to help others understand how important it is to truly love each other so we can stop inflicting pain on our babies.

At 18, I decided to volunteer in the high schools of my hometown, Cincinnati Ohio. I had a passion in my heart that I knew didn’t come from me. I had found my purpose, I wanted to make the world a better place by helping others discover what it means to love. At 20 I signed onto (Catholic Media Group). I didn’t plan on this happening but when I was a waitress at 18 years old I’d go to the chapel after my shift and tell God my dreams and that I wanted to speak in every high school in America! Well, He listens to us.

SD: Why do you think we should change our attitudes toward our bodies?

CC: It depends on what your attitude is in the first place. It might not need to change. But when I am speaking in High schools I always ask them if they have ever heard of the word Lust? They all say “yes!” Then I ask them, “Can you define it for me?” Dead silence. I begin to explain the many ways we use the word love. I can say, “I love my dog.” “I love my mom.” “I love my boyfriend.” And” I love pizza.” (Mary Beth Bonnocci speaks of pizza love) The word “love” meant something different in every sentence

When I say I love pizza… do I trust pizza? Am I going to cherish pizza and do special things for it? No. I love pizza because it gives me pleasure, it makes me happy, and when I’m done with it I through it away. Sadly, sometimes we do this with each other and that is called pizza love or lust. Lust is in it for the taking, love is in it for the giving. So ask yourself… do I constantly try to take? Or am I trying to give?

I’d like to share an embarrassing story. When I was in college I was at a party and I was talking to this guy that I didn’t know very well. When we were saying our goodbyes’ I gave him a hug. He had big muscles, so I for some reason decided to tell him “Wow, you have big muscles.” He became proud, and I again said something else very brilliant, “Oh, well I have a six pack.” The point of the story is this: He said “Oh ya, you have a six pack? Lift up your shirt, let me see it.” I just brushed it off saying it was really not that big of deal because in all honesty it was lie. He became annoyed that I did not lift up my shirt to show him this “six pack” and he said, “Christina, it’s just a body, we all have bodies.”

I just stood there and it hit me, that his attitude about looking at someone else’s body as no big deal is really sad. And THIS is what needs to change about our generation. We went our separate ways and I wish I would have said to him, “You know, I don’t view the body as just a body, to me it is a treasure and I don’t share it with every guy that I meet.” The reason that we cover ourselves is not because our bodies are bad, it is because they are so good!! But we are being lied to from the TV and the media to take our clothes off, while finding ourselves empty the next morning. I talk to them about realizing the true worth of their body and what a difference we could make if we stopped treating each other as no big deal.

SD: What is your definition womanhood as you see it?

CC: The most beautiful thing about a girl is her mystery. But we have become so available by the way we dress and dance. A guy will be as much of a gentleman as we require them to be. Girls have the power to turn a guys head but we also have the power to change their heart. Fashions have changed since the 60s but guys minds haven’t. I have a friend, Julie, who used to be a cheerleader for the Rams and she has an incredible story of how she got picked. She is a brunette so she knew she couldn’t compete with the blonde bombshells so she decided to be creative. She showed up for the tryouts and 1200 girls were trying out. They were all wearing bikinis, push up this… and showing that.

There were five judges, which were only men. As she approached the runway she wasn’t wearing a bikini. She wore a classy black dress to her knees, big sunglasses, and tucked all her hair up into a large hat. She carried herself with confidence and when she reached the end of the runway, near the judges, she whipped that hat off and let her beautiful hair fall out and then removed her sunglasses and walked away. The judges all stared and said, “Wow!” and she was chosen. She is an example that you do not have to be beautiful to show skin. And men are attracted to the mystery of a woman who knows this.

SD: Haven’t studies proven that all these chastity programs don’t work or are unrealistic?

CC: I’d be careful and look into what study you are talking about. Some are not reliable studies. I only know this because I studied Education in college and spent years researching what was going on in the education system and what exactly is being taught. Many heath classes teach abstinence for maybe a week and it consists of slide shows of STDs and then learning about body parts. It focuses on the negative consequences instead of the positives. Many people are uncomfortable talking about love and this is why our students are left confused about what it means to really love and who is telling them they are valuable? Also, the Government is sending mixed messages, for every $1 spent on abstinence programs, $12 is spent on condoms and safe sex programs.

As far as reliable studies: The National institute of Health (NIH) did a thirteen-month study on safe sex and I suggest you look into their findings. They have stated that the piece of plastic we offer teens is a joke and does not protect them emotionally, spiritually, socially, and even physically. They don’t call it “safe sex” or use the word “protection” because it would be a lie. We are just not being told these things.

Programs that work: W.A.I.T. Training is a program that is very effective that many teachers might want to incorporate. It is very positive and creative and can be taught in public schools. Best Friends is another program that has been very effective in the D.C. area with amazing results of more than half their students choosing to wait until marriage. Visit to find the statistics.

SD: What kind of reactions do you get from teenagers at your talks?

CC: Visit www.ursoworthit .org and click on the videos and see for yourself! It is the reactions that kept me going in the beginning. I had my own plans and a chastity speaker was not part of them at first. But after so many cards and emails from teens, I cried, because I saw how much they were screaming for someone to be real with them and give them hope. I left my “dreams” to help others achieve theirs. And it’s ironically very rewarding and I am very happy to do this for Christ.

SD: Wouldn’t restricting teenagers make them more curious or more likely to experiment, since the forbidden fruit is always sweeter?

CC: This is an interesting question because, in my opinion, there’s no way to restrict a teenager. If a teenager wants to do something, they probably will. My purpose is not to restrict them but to educate them. They are just as free to choose after my speech as they were before. And when I hit them with truth, many no longer desire what is empty or coated as “the forbidden fruit”. They are ready for what’s real and I make it very clear that it takes hard work and patience. Do you think they want to be empty? I don’t think they do. We are all searching for love and for what is real. Learning to love the way we were meant too, is freeing. Saying NO to sex is actually saying YES to your dreams, to your future, your future husband or wife!

SD: What advice would you offer to men or women trying to leave chaste lives?

CC: It is sooooo worth it!! Don’t settle! Wait for someone who challenges you to be a better person. And don’t quit if you mess up, no one is perfect. I speak not because I’ve lived a perfect life.. but because I haven’t given up and I still believe! I found that when I wasn’t praying I fell for the wrong guys and my standards fell because I just wanted to feel loved. Today, I pray the rosary every day and I stay close to Our lady. I have given my heart to Jesus for safe keeping and no one is going to get it until he says so. I write letters to my future husband and I pray for him every day now.

In more concrete ways: Before you and your boyfriend hang out or go away for the weekend, have a plan and be clear on where you will and will not hang out. The basement is never a good idea. Nothing good happens after midnight, and late night texts are trouble. And watch how God blesses it and you will experience a love you never knew existed!