“I’m sure you have something to say about Pendarvis’ new What. Don’t be shy. Get it all out by e-mailing us”
And oh, oh boy, how the responses flooded discussion boards and blogs across the web.
The segment, which features Youth Radio’s Pendarvis Harshaw, discusses how some youth who find themselves in committed, monogamous relationships are intentionally having sex without condoms after being clinically screened for sexually transmitted diseases and infections (including HIV)and receiving a negative from both partners.
NPR Listeners did NOT want to hear this. They threatened to revoke their NPR contributions and even their listenership, and commented:
“I am absolutely disgusted by your program”
“Pendarvis Harshaw’s essay should be on the WTF program.”
Some argue that these youth are acting irresponsibly by intentionally engaging in unprotected sex while others argue that actually having conversations about sex and behavior and even taking the step to be tested is responsible behavior.
RH Reality check picked up and reports on the controversy (the segment on What’s the New What begins at 16:15–I apologize for not editing) and discusses the piece’s significance with its creator. Amanda Marcotte points out that this piece brings into question HOW we address youth and how we interact with youth.
Apparently, youths’ choices are overshadowed with how every and anyone else thinks youth should be behaving. Well, if we are unwilling to even hear the reality of the experience of youth, how can we expect to connect with them or teach them about anything, including safer sex?
Additionally, if listeners are so opposed to youth sharing their stories (about sex) and realities (about sex) with other youth, going as far to say that NPR should not tolerate stories such as Harshaw’s and should not broadcast it, what forms of censorship are they imposing?
The controversy does not stop here, however. Oh, no. The author’s style, speech patterns and music choices are all brought into question. I wonder how the piece would have been received if any one of these factors were altered, even slightly. Many of these factors, including thoughts on race, class, gender and sexuality are all addressed through blogs such as feministing.com (where I originally found the piece), jezebel and boinboing.
Ellen at Duvall