"Abstinence Comes to Albuquerque" is the name of this fascinating documentary about a sex battle royale in New Mexico's urban public schools. Wait 'til you hear about the covert "purity" war room!
(I have to insert a note here that I was once an absolute FIEND in Albuquerque myself).
The feature is about how the religious right, under the cover of "education," got millions to install one of their wacky abstinence programs into New Mexico high schools, with no one making a peep until one parent blew a whistle.
When I say wacky, I mean, it's not only unscientific, Biblically-bizarre, and physically unsound— it's also inflammatory paranoia that would make any rational person's head spin.
The film is captivating for all of its 30 minutes. There are rivetting interviews with people like Leslee Unruh, the charismatic spokesperson for "The Abstinence Clearinghouse." You look at her polished blonde face glowing with talk about purity, and then you see the largely working class, Hispanic, and Black high school students/parents talking soberly about their take on it all. It is such a dramatic culture clash.
There was one aspect I was disappointed in, although not surprised. The filmmakers are not confident enough to show high school students saying, "Yes, I have sex and I like it, I know what I'm doing, I'm protected, and it means a lot to me. I'm not coerced, I'm pro-active!"
Those students exist, but there's a media blackout on them. You aren't allowed to be a powerful 16-year-old who has her own sexual self-confidence. You apparently can't even say, "Hey, I love my boyfriend," or "I'm bi!" or "I'd like to have a lover!" You can't even say you masturbate, if you're under 18. Everyone is afraid of being busted, for the crime of being a sex-positive teenager, even though we know it's part of the reality, and these young activists are the hope of the future.
They show the feminist students who are into doing peer education, and they are indeed motivated by their political ideals of sisterhood and empowerment for young women.
BUT! Some of those young women are also taking the sex education they've received and using it personally to actually enjoy their own private love lives. It's not about their "virginity"— it's about their self-knowledge. Their ability to discriminate in a positive way, to know what they want and don't want, what they like and don't like, is a huge break with their Catholic submissive lay-down-and-close-your-eyes upbringing.
They're the ones to watch, not the poor babes running around with their chastity rings ready to break in two.
Another thing I love about this movie is that you can get a free VHS or DVD copy of it from the director, Charles Stuart.