These are some seriously strange times we’re living in, people. America’s kids are not getting the comprehensive sex ed of previous generations, teen pregnancy rates are up for the first time in over a decade, one of the two major presidential candidates wants to completely strip women of their reproductive freedom, and STDs among teens and adults are rising at alarming rates. Not only do experts estimate that 1 in 4 New Yorkers have Herpes, but that figure works out nationally to 19% of the population- that’s a lot of genital sores, y’all. Oh, and have you heard about that nasty drug resistant gonorrhea? Yeah, it’s the same gonorrhea that can cause infertility in both women and men. The same gonorrhea that increases your risk of contracting HIV and AIDS (which still exists, and folks are still dying from it, BTW). And then there’s syphilis, a disease that was going the way of Polio, which is now enjoying a bigger comeback than Travolta’s career revival in the 90s. In case anyone forgot, syphilis can cause brain damage, infertility, and even death, so this “trend” is not as innocuous as the return of leggings and acid wash. In short, if you’re not worried, you should be. There are those who in the media who think STDs and unsafe sex are “no big deal”, or maybe it’s that they think irresponsible sex practices are hilarious to joke about -as if no one could possibly take it seriously-, I don’t actually know. Whatever the case, no amount of not wanting to be a role model or claiming to not be a role model will actually stop people from listening to your message. That’s the unfortunate side-effect of having a public voice. Sorry Jamie Lynn Spears, sorry Derek Jeter, sorry Amy Winehouse, but when you’re in the public eye and writing your story through your words and actions in the gossip pages and blogs, your private matters are not yours and yours alone. Whether you want to be a role model or not is immaterial once you take your first step up onto that stage, that soapbox, whatever. Tag, motherfucker, you’re it. I believe that people in the public eye have a responsibility to others. Maybe it’s just how I grew up, but my role models knew the position they were in, and did their best to live up to it. Take, for example, TLC and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.

When I was a teenager in the 90s, TLC was huuuuuge. Anything they sang about became an instant fixture in pop culture. Girls avoided “scrubs” like the plague and bought all the makeup that MAC could make. The song ‘Waterfalls’ basically became synonymous with practicing safe sex. If you found out that one of your friends was “chasing waterfalls” (having risky sex), cheesey as it sounds, there would likely be an intervention. Thanks to TLC and other pop stimuli like MTVs ‘Sex in the 90s’ programs, it was considered extremely uncool to gamble with your sexual health. Now, I don’t know if any record company image wranglers sat T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chili down and told them they had to be the poster children for safe sex, I don’t know if they actually practiced what they were preaching in their own private lives, but what I do know is that I first learned what a condom was from their videos back in ’94, and that’s all that matters. Left Eye may have been a little crazy, she may have had an unfortunate drinking problem, and she may have burned her boyfriend’s house down, but she still used her fame to spread a positive message about safe sex to young people. I can’t say the same for people in the public eye these days and that’s sad. These kids today are kind of lost. They’re not learning about sex from their parents, they’re not learning it at school, MTV has dropped the safe sex torch they carried in the 90s, teen stars are too busy growing their “brand” to care about the messages they send, and kids can’t even get the unadulterated facts from their favorite blogs or news sources anymore. To tell the truth, I’m kind of fed up with watching people who should be setting a good example play hot potato with that responsibility. Someone should be telling people that STDs are a big deal, unwanted pregnancy isn’t some funny thing that “just happens” and you can laugh it off over cocktails with your friends, and that sex without condoms is irresponsible and stupid. Where have all the Left Eyes gone?

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