Teen sex conference draws protest

Around 80 protesters gathered in Seaside April 7 to voice their opposition to the Adolescent Sexuality Conference.

“We’re satisfied with the turnout,” said Jim Welsh, a retired Manzanita grocery store owner who helped organize the protest.

Welsh and the protesters were relatively quiet: Some chatted with each other, others prayed quietly to themselves and many stayed silent.

“There’s no yelling or screaming,” he said. “We let our signs do the work.”

The protesters gathered at 8 a.m. to protest the conference, which was held April 7 and 8 at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center.

Between 250 and 300 attendees  — approximately 25 percent of whom were high school or college students — attended the conference, according to Brad Victor. He is a recently retired sex education specialist with the Oregon Department of Education, which is affiliated with the event.

Nikki Manasco and Marisa Housen, high school students from Pleasant Hill, were two of the students attending the conference. They staged their own mini-protest, making a point to hold hands as they walked down the sidewalk in front of those gathered.

Housen said that one of the protesters told the pair, “Christ can save you,” as they walked by, which made Housen visibly upset.

Manasco said that she and Housen are both active in their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and Manasco hoped that the information they learned at the conference could give them ideas for their student group.

“We came so we could spread knowledge,” Manasco said.

Many of the protestors’ signs argued against precisely this “students teaching students” aspect of the conference, advocating instead for parents to inform their own children about the birds and the bees.

Monica Moulin, a mother from Astoria, was one of the protesters who felt that the sexuality conference covered information that was inappropriate for teens.

“It’s good for adult people, who can make decisions,” Moulin said, “(but) it’s killing the innocence of kids.”

The protesters objected specifically to a few handouts that had been distributed in years past: one that touted phone sex as a “fluid-free” alternative to sexual intercourse and another that depicted cartoon contraceptive devices like IUDs and the Nuva Ring in a series of Valentines that organizers thought encouraged sexual promiscuity.

Department of Education

Many of the signs also centered on the state of Oregon’s involvement with the event, which is sponsored or supported by the state Department of Education, the Oregon Health Authority, the Department of Human Services and the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force.

Forrest Conyers, of Gresham, first heard about the protest from a flier he received at a Right-to-Life rally in Portland.

Conyers said he believes that events like the sexuality conference are a sign of the degradation of teens’ values.

“I’m so concerned about the values of the next generation,” Conyers said. “I just want to send a signal and raise a red flag to the youth coming today.”

Brandy Plummer, a mother and educator from Creswell, was one parent who embraced the opportunity to educate herself and her child: Plummer brought her son, Achen, a high school freshman, to the event.

Plummer believes that an open, frank discussion about sexuality can only help, especially with acceptance of LGBTQ youth.

“My oldest daughter is actually gay, and I think the more open people are, the less issue there is,” Plummer said.

By speaking openly about sex and sexuality with her children, Plummer believes she can help them avoid the mountains of misinformation about sex that teens can stumble upon.

“I’d rather have them learn it from me rather than somebody else,” she said. “For me, I think it’s better to be open than to have those gray areas.”

The protesters brought a few interested onlookers outside the convention center. Some of them, like Elise Krumholz, of Denver, snapped photographs of the protesters and their signs.

Krumholz, who was visiting Seaside with friends who are sexual health educators in town for the conference, works with “high-risk” youth and believes that events like the Adolescent Sexuality Conference are vital to that demographic, in particular.

“They don’t have all those supports,” Krumholz said, “(and) part of that is they don’t have sexual health info.”

Krumholz feels that frank discussions of sex and sexuality help teenagers when they’re put in fraught sexual situations.

“It’s about being able to make difficult decisions under pressure,” she said.

The Daily Astorian, 4.8.14. Link: http://goo.gl/QqVj52

 

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