It's steamy, hip, and edgy-cool. It's condoms, foreplay, and frank talk about sex. But while Planned Parenthood's new Web-based e-zine may look to sex-centric teens like a hormonal oasis, it's actually a cultural mirage. "Young people want the truth-and that's nowhere to be found" on the new site, said pro-life activist Bryan Kemper of Rock for Life.
Launched last week by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, TeenWire (www.teenwire.org) claims to offer teens "uncensored, unbiased" information about sexual issues. While the e-zine is indeed uncensored-laced with language normally reserved for pornographers-it is not unbiased. Deploying a slick blend of PC left-speak and MTV youth-speak, TeenWire promotes abortion, undermines parental authority, treats teen sex as inevitable and-somewhat weirdly-pushes homosexual propaganda.
Kim Jack Riley, TeenWire's editor-in-chief, told WORLD the site was "designed to please teens, educators, health professionals, and parents." The e-zine is apolitical, said Ms. Riley, and doesn't seek to advance a particular agenda.
Perhaps it's best to let TeenWire speak for itself.
On parental authority: "Frankly, a Web page can't decide for you if you're ready (for sex) or not. Neither can your best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, brother, teacher, minister, counselor, rabbi-well, you get the idea. The only person who can know when the time's right is you."
On abstinence: "To make it simple, let's say that there are two kinds of abstinence. In the first kind, partners have only very limited sex play-maybe you kiss, but there's no nakedness, no groping, no orgasms, nothing. This is the type encouraged by your parents, probably, and it's the right choice for most kids for a long time.... The second kind includes lots of sex play and is more open to possibilities ... how about a little mutual masturbation that ends with orgasm?"
On homosexuality: "The truth is this: If you're lesbian, gay, straight, or bisexual that's what you are, and it's a fine thing. Don't sweat it, accept it, because no amount of denial is going to change what makes you hot."
TeenWire is already making parents hot. "It makes me angry," said San Diegan Tami Aspeitia, whose son Chip is at the lower end of the e-zine's 13- to 18-year-old target audience, "that Planned Parenthood would put this information out for children and say that their parents are not the authority in their lives."
In fact, in all matters sexual, the only authority TeenWire points kids to is kids themselves-with Planned Parenthood along, of course, as a friendly, condom-toting tour guide. Included on TeenWire's sexual site-seeing tour are articles on condom usage (in which semen is referred to using graphic three-letter slang); sexual orientations (all are "perfectly normal"); and something called "outercourse," in which teens are encouraged to engage in every type of sexual contact except penetration.
Andrew Daub of Why Life?, a division of American Life League, said, "The page has nothing to do with education or talking to parents about sex. It's about soliciting approval for a life of immorality." And, Mr. Daub adds, "As if the tragically hip, extreme sexual content isn't enough, Planned Parenthood ... does its best to portray parents as uncommunicative, old-fashioned, and ignorant."
Case in point: TeenWire's pages on abortion. In Step Three of a "primer" on what girls should do if they choose abortion, the magazine encourages them to tell their parents "if they can." But Step Four is a 180: It shows teens how to circumvent parental consent laws. A state-by-state listing details which states allow a judge to excuse parental consent requirements. Another page suggests an end-around: If you can't get an abortion in your own state, consider a road trip.
And the page covering abortion-related medical advice reveals an anti-Christian bias: "Be aware that hundreds of so-called 'crisis pregnancy centers' have been established across the country to frighten women away from choosing abortion," intones TeenWire darkly. But never fear, it continues, "your local Planned Parenthood will be able to direct you to a reputable clinic that will not try to influence your decision one way or another."
Kim Jack Riley insists the goal of TeenWire is to "respect all viewpoints." She told WORLD that the current site is a "prototype," and that she intends to ensure that more conservative content-abstinence, for example-is stressed in future issues.
But the underlying problem with TeenWire isn't the magazine's content, it's the worldview: "[TeenWire] takes almost a surrogate parent role," Ms. Riley admitted. "It's the whole concept of 'it takes a village' ... let us share that [parenting] responsibility with you."
Seriously. She said that.