Sex among teens is always fraught topic. Take the recent announcement by Philadelphia’s Department of Health that they would be mailing free condoms to anyone who asked and was between the ages of 11 and 19. Outraged parents came forward saying that 11 was far too young to be having sex, and how dare the Department of Health promote that behavior with their free condoms! On the other side of things, we have a “fashion line” called “What Would Your Mother Do?” dedicated to selling underwear and tees that will helpfully remind teens not to have sex, via messages on waistbands like “Zip It,” “Not Tonight,” “Dream on,” and even, yes, “What Would Your Mother Do?”
The website explains,
We know you’ll make wise choices (after all, you were raised by wonderful moms!). We just want to provide you with cute reminders to help you make an impression – somewhat discreetly. So, go ahead – make a statement. Because it’s always the right time to be a little more nice, a bit less naughty and a whole lot playful!
Yet, besides the fact that your mother — and, by the way, is it the mother of the wearer or the mother of the person the wearer might be tempted to have sex with that these slogans are addressing? — is probably having sex, or at least did at one point in order to give birth to you, it’s hard to see how abstinence underwear would be very helpful in promoting abstinence to anyone except people who would already be wearing abstinence underwear. That is to say, these may be a hard sell to the target market. But they’re great for pushy, creepily misguided moms (one says, “What a great idea! I want my girls to keep me in mind when they go to college!”) and girls who want to wear things with anti-sex slogans on them for whatever reason.
And then there’s this confusing messaging:
What better way to reinforce family morals than by wearing underwear that doubles as a conversation starter, right? If the junior prom after-party starts to get dull, just take off your pants and encourage a dialogue! Awkward first date? Lift up your dress and ask for some feedback!
Ms. Magazine thinks the campaign is both dumb and dangerous, both muddying the notion of consent and fetishizing virginity. Over at The Frisky the concern is over practical matters, with a sarcastic “At last someone has realized that the first thing teen boys do after taking off a girl’s pants is read the slogan on her underwear.” (Good point.)
Historical evidence would seem to indicate that the best underwear to keep a person from having sex is your tried and true laundry day staple, the ugliest pair you own, more than a “clever” message on a waistband or an invocation of your mother. But at the end of the day, isn’t knowledge — including the knowledge of how to protect yourself with condoms that are, yes, available, even if you’re only 11 — more valuable, and reliable, than any kind of underwear-shaming as sex prevention?
New Line of Tween Panties Promotes … Abstinence? [Ms.]
Abstinence Panties Will Be Very Effective At Stopping Horny Teenagers [The Frisky]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 15, 2011