I searched for videos dealing with sex education for the nation’s youth. The issue is devise in the United States because the federal government uses taxpayer dollars on abstinence-only education. Supporters say this approach is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and disease, and that it preserves family values. Detractors cite studies that show that teens who have had abstinence-only education aren’t any less likely to wait until marriage. They support education that includes information on birth control methods.

Video 1: “Comprehensive sex ed vs. abstinence only” posted April 6, 2007 by Sex, Ect., a non-profit dedicated to providing comprehensive sex education. In the video, two college-aged representatives of Sex, Ect., talk to U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angelos, about the sex education in public schools. The video concludes with the Sex, Ect., representatives using a PowerPoint-like slideshow to present information in support of comprehensive sex education. 16 comments.

Video 2: “Abstinence Video.” Posted Feb. 20, 2008. The video ends with the logo of Jordan Community Development Corporation, a not-for-profit in Texas. In the video, a teen boy and teen girl separately think over their problems in voice overs. When the couple finally meets at the end, the girl reveals she is pregnant and the boy reveals he has AIDS. The ad concludes that abstinence is the only way to prevent these results. 92 comments.

 The comments do stick to the subject, and many come out in favor of comprehensive education. Several insist that abstinence is the best policy. Like the comments Hess examined, the language used in the comments section is in-line with the vernacular of online users. It is immature in its sentence construction and in its tone. But, I didn’t find people taking on a systematic approach to dismantling the message, as Hess did. In the comments to the videos, birth control methods were discussed, but not a context that brings in established science or new research. The comments in support of abstinence don’t provide anecdotal or research evidence to support that stance, either. I found, as Hess said, “serious discussion is juxtaposed with crude humor.”

While Hess found parodies of the specific public service announcements he examined, I did not. There are certainly some sarcastic videos in YouTube’s search-able database about sex education, but none I found referred back to these videos.

Neither of these videos were produced by the federal government, as Hess’s examples were. However, the Jordan CDC does have a partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That connection, nor the question of who financed either of these productions, never entered the conversation.

Also, I could not find the five-star rating feature that Hess talked about on either of these videos. Each simply had a “like” and “dislike” selectors. The pro-abstinence video had slightly more “dislikes” than likes. The video in support of comprehensive education was “liked” by an overwhelming majority of viewers who rated the video.

  1. #1 by luckymaggie on September 7, 2010 - 2:27 pm

    I didn’t found parodies or pastiche in my case too. And I like your writings about your understanding on vernacular discourses, which is used as the theoretical framework by Hess. The comments to the second video, Abstinence Video are kind of intensive and polarized, as the viewers mainly argue against what the video said. Here I find an interesting comment, which compares sexual activity as driving a car: “I just see it like driving a car. If you don’t know how to drive you’ll most likely die if you try. But plenty of people do drive and don’t get harmed because they’re careful and responsible.” I think this tone sounds appropriate and it is much more acceptable because I feel that if I was the one who upload the video, I would feel uncomfortable, even get hurt by those drastic responses. However, just as you mentioned, it is not “serious discussion” but “crude humor”, which leads me to thinking about the nature of YouTube–whether it is purely entertainment oriented.

  2. #2 by Mindy McAdams on September 8, 2010 - 1:38 pm

    YouTube had a major redesign of its site in March 2010, and the “star” rating system disappeared. It was replaced by the simple Like/Dislike system we see now.

    The New York Times wrote about the redesign in its “Bits” blog:

  3. #4 by joneelauriel on September 9, 2010 - 2:56 pm

    This is a very interesting issue especially in light of the fact that STD rates are at an all-time high, the age teens are losing their virginity is getting lower and lower and with recent movies such as “The Pregnancy Pact” it really calls into question the topics of abstinence and the school’s role in teaching this. Personally, I feel this is something that should be left to the family to take care of and instill in their children but in reading the comments to the videos you posted its surprising the nonchalant attitude and joking manner many people have about the issue of teenage pregnancy as well as contracting AIDS/HIV. In fact many people generalize the contraction of these diseases to homosexual individuals. I would have to agree with you that the comments represent “serious discussion is juxtaposed with crude humor.” This opens the gateway to where can a serious forum be held about this issue?

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