The Words of the Panzer Family

Going Beyond Culture Wars re: Love and Sex

by Richard A. Panzer

Those of us with strong convictions often tend to view the world through "ideological lenses." It is easy to become angry at those who promote antithetical (secular) values, particularly when it involves the education of our children. Because of this, religious conservatives often talk of a "culture war." While there may be quite a bit of truth to this analogy, how successful is one likely to be if you are viewing many in your potential audience as your "enemy"? Not very. How do you effectively promote your values in a way that can be received by many, if not all?

Several years ago, my thinking went through a profound change. I began to ask myself, "Where are people at now? How can I relate to where they are at in a meaningful way and move them even one inch in a good direction?" Sometimes we become rigid and think people should accept everything we believe, but I think half a loaf is better than no loaf, and if someone has bought your half-loaf, then at least they're talking to you!

I have some background in documentary film making in which one is forced to ask (if one wants to make an effective documentary) what kind of statements are credible because they come from a person's own experience versus statements by a narrator that reflect a bias or a belief that has many unquestioned assumptions. The more you base the documentary in real events as reported through people's personal experiences in their own words, the more believable and effective the documentary is likely to be.

The other question I ask myself is: Richard, what are your strengths? What do you know? (Like many brothers and sisters, I am used to reflecting on my personal failures and lack of perfection, but I have come to the conclusion that wallowing in guilt and regret doesn't help anyone, much less yourself.) While I may never be able to achieve perfection in all areas, if I can practice even one microscopic "postage stamp" of truth and pursue it with as much fervor as a dog fighting for a favorite bone, I will probably be a very successful person and have a lot of impact.

I have found this approach to be very fruitful in my efforts at communicating about the tragic consequences of the misuse of love through several educational programs. Surviving the Sexual Revolution is a program aimed at a wide audience and at college students which discusses the assumptions of what is often called the "Sexual Revolution" that took place in the '60s and '70s in the U.S. and around the world. The results of this shift in attitudes and behaviors are examined not just in terms of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, but also in reference to the trend towards breakdown of the two-parent family because of out-of-wedlock births and divorce.

When the media reports on the problems of crime, poverty and declining educational standards, they often imply that these problems exist because of a lack of social spending by government, and that more spending would solve these problems. The media seldom reports that social science research shows that almost every major social problem- violence, crime, poverty, declining academic performance, declining physical and mental health-is strongly and clearly linked to the lack of parental involvement (usually, absence of the father) in the life of a child. Government programs are unlikely to be successful unless they take this into account. Since 28% of all U.S. births are out of wedlock (and increasing), whether we can reestablish the connection between sex and love and commitment is a life-and-death issue for our country. Cross-cultural studies by John and Beatrice Whiting show that boys who grow up without a father often become involved in violence as a way to "prove" their masculinity. Boys who do grow up with a father who is involved in their lives don't have to "prove" their masculinity in antisocial ways (sex, drugs and/or violence). They grow up seeking a living example of nonviolent, responsible manhood and don't have to gravitate towards the extreme, hate-filled models in the movies and music videos.

Girls who grow up with both parents are much less likely to become sexually involved. Instead of looking for the missing love they never received from a father in the arms of a boyfriend, they can approach life with confidence, knowing they are loved and have value as more than just a sex object.

Unfortunately, much of AIDS and "Family Life" (sex) education completely fails to honestly discuss these deeper issues as if sex were just an issue of preventing disease or pregnancy. Some programs even teach that teens have a "right" to have sex and teach teens various sexual practices.

An overview of the different (sometimes shocking) approaches to AIDS and Sex ("Family Life") Education is given in a booklet and slide presentation I developed called "Love, Sex and AIDS: Teaching Our Children in the Age of AIDS." Their underlying assumptions are discussed, as are the track records of effectiveness in reducing teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS.

People are often surprised to hear how effective abstinence-based programs have been, whereas programs which try to persuade teens to use condoms or contraceptives have had little success in bringing about the desired behavior change and zero impact in reducing teen pregnancies (or, for that matter, the spread of AIDS). At the end of this presentation, suggestions are given on what parents can do to guide their teens.

The key theme in both presentations is the importance of vertical love relationships, personally and for society. Unless we can rediscover our capacity to give and receive unselfish parental love, our country can never be healed. Ironically, as discussed in Surviving the Sexual Revolution, monogamous married men and especially women are more sexually fulfilled than those who are promiscuous, something you would never know if you based your understanding of reality on the movies!

It is my hope to correct many of these misunderstandings, particularly among college students and parents, who might otherwise make poor decisions based on faulty information from the popular culture. Anyone interested in ordering either presentation (Surviving the Sexual Revolution or Love, Sex and AIDS: Teaching Our Children in the Age of AIDS), or just desiring more information, can call the Center for Educational Media at (201)358-9013, or write to C.E.M., P.O. Box 37, Emerson, NJ 07630.

Richard A. Panzer is the president of the Center for Educational Media

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