She tried to keep them laughing.
Sometimes she yelled. Once or twice, she got a little weepy.
Pam Stenzel, the controversial abstinence speaker who visited Warwick High School on Wednesday, avoided the scathing remarks and scare tactics that have drawn attention to her message.
“The best choice is before you have sex,” she warned. “After that, it gets tough.”
Some 450 to 500 students and parents attended a 75-minute lecture Wednesday evening.
But, despite the uproar that surrounded the announcement of Stenzel’s visit to Lititz, the crowd in the auditorium was solidly in Stenzel’s court.
They chuckled at her jokes, applauded her conclusions and gave her a rousing standing ovation at the end.
Nothing frustrates her more, Stenzel said, then a teenager faced with serious consequences who says, “Nobody told me. I didn’t know.”
Stenzel was originally scheduled to talk during school hours, but the district canceled those appearances because of the possibility of disruptions, after some parents questioned her facts and complained about her "harsh and abrasive" speaking style.
Parents of 110 students signed papers excusing their children from the assemblies before the district canceled them last week, according to information obtained from the school after LNP filed an open records request.
“Pam Stenzel didn’t lose today,” she told parents Wednesday. “Your kids did. And that’s too bad.”
Stenzel has been criticized for making comments such as, "If you take birth control, your mother probably hates you," which the Charleston Gazette reported in West Virginia last year.
During a press conference preceding her talk, Stenzel said she “never said that in a million years.”
And she balks at the “scare tactics” label given her presentations.
“Any time you’re talking about at-risk behavior with students, we’re talking about consequences,” she said.
She compared it to showing teens photos of accidents during a discussion on texting while driving.
Telling a 4-year-old that there’s an alligator under the bed to keep him from getting up at night, she said, is a scare tactic.
“That’s my standard,” she said. “Are you speaking what is true ... or are you making something up?”
On Wednesday, Stenzel — herself the product of rape and adoption — stressed abstinence as a sign of respect, love and prevention of pregnancies and infections.
Stenzel’s presentation was theatrical, speaking sometimes with auctioneer-like rapidity, at other times adopting mocking tones to show her disdain for foolish “oops” statements made by youngsters.
It’s a foolish person who believes they are immune to sexually transmitted infections, she said.
“Me? I live in Lititz. I don’t live in York,” she said in a little girl’s voice.
Teens are scared of getting pregnant but are seemingly unconcerned about diseases, Stenzel said.
They’ve got it backwards, she said. Pregnancy is survivable, but some diseases are not. Even those that are mild and curable can have a lifelong impact, she said.
“Girls you might very well forget what you did on prom night,” Stenzel said. “Your body will never forget.”
Boys, she warned, have no legal rights to get involved in the decision if they get a girl pregnant. But, she said, they still have a legal and financial responsibility if she has the baby.
“Keep your pants on. And zipped, boys,” she said. “If you’ve done that, you’re fine. If not, you have to get tested. It’s that simple.”
Already sexually active? Be a recycled virgin, Stenzel said.
“Girls, you have forgotten who you are,” she said.
At the end of a date, she said, tell the boy that “You had the privilege of being with me for 5 hours. You don’t need anything else, I am a princess!”
There are risks even with condoms, she added, and with any form of sexual contact.
“I could have sex a million times if my husband has only been with me and never use a condom, and I will never get an STI,” Stenzel said. “I could have sex one time with a guy I meet in Philly tonight, use a condom, and still be infected for the rest of my life.”
Monogamy, she stressed, “does not mean one at a time.”
And there’s a cost to making a decision to have sex before marriage, she said.
“I can’t make that choice for you. I don’t intend to. I can’t go on dates with you,” Stenzel said.
“All we can do is love you, tell you the truth and hope you make good choices.”