Keith Deltano is an abstinence-only-until-marriage speaker and Christian comedian who has given talks around the country in middle schools and high schools. Mr. Deltano’s most popular presentation is titled “The New Sexual Revolution or Abstinence is Cool,” but he also presents on topics including bullying, racism, and drug and alcohol use. Deltano offers both faith-based and secular versions of his presentations to accommodate public schools, church groups, and other audiences. He also offers parent workshops.
On his website Deltano offers a brief bio sharing that he has worked as a military police officer, a 6th grade public school teacher, youth leader, private counselor, and educational comedian.; He has also created a parent workbook to help parents promote abstinence with their children and was the keynote speaker at the 2006 meeting of the Abstinence Clearinghouse.
Deltano does not directly receive federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funds, but groups receiving federal funds have used those funds to bring his presentations to public schools.; His website assures viewers that all of his performances adhere to the federal Title V guidelines surrounding abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Among other things, the Title V guidelines hold that programs must teach:
SIECUS speaker reviews are based on the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, K-12, which were developed by a task force of professionals from the fields of education, medicine, youth services, and sexuality education. The Guidelines are a framework for comprehensive sexuality education programs and represent a consensus about the necessary components of such programs. The Guidelines include 39 topics important to sexual health; abstinence is one of these topics. The Guidelines include a number of age-appropriate messages about abstinence for students such as: “Young teenagers are not mature enough for a sexual relationship that includes intercourse”; and “Abstinence from intercourse has benefits for teenagers.”
Overall, Deltano includes some important topics suggested by The Guidelines, such as body image and sexuality and the media. Despite these strengths, his presentations rely on messages of fear and shame, discourage contraceptive use, and promote biased views of gender and marriage.
Relying on Negative Messages
Abstinence is an integral part of any comprehensive sexuality education program. SIECUS’ Guidelines suggest that students be told that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the most effective method of preventing pregnancy and STDs, including HIV. Mr. Deltano’s presentation, however, relies on more extreme messages about both the benefits of abstinence and the dangers of sexual activity. The result is that students are instilled with fear and shame about sexual activity, an unrealistic expectation of abstinence, and a belief that they are not smart enough to make good decisions.
Discounting Young People’s Intelligence—Assuming the worst from youth
Like many abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that claim “mixed messages”— encouraging abstinence and providing information about contraception for sexually active students— confuse teens, Deltano tells his audience that they cannot be expected to make responsible decisions about sex. “Talking about safe sex is like telling a 5-year-old not to eat any cookies,” he declares, adding “here’s a jar, have a napkin.”
Mr. Deltano uses the phrase “risk-taking propensity” to describe why teens take risks. In his rapid-fire presentation style, he explains to his audience that “risk-taking propensity” is just a complicated way of saying “teenagers do stupid stuff.” Mr. Deltano punctuates this point with an embarrassing racial stereotype; a poor imitation of a Japanese young person on a snowboard flying down a dangerous mountain and yelling in Japanese, which sounds mostly like high-pitched screeches.
Mr. Deltano’s presentation also reveals that he is not looking for critical thinking or a discussion with his teen audience. Instead it’s clear that students are supposed to agree with him on every point. During one segment, Deltano approaches a young male student and stands next to him with his hand on the young man’s shoulder while he talks about his responsibilities as a parent and the difficulties of bringing up a three-year-old. In the presentation SIECUS attended, Deltano spent a significant amount of time talking about the horrors of diaper changing. When he was done, he turned to the young man and asked him if he was ready to change diapers and have a family. The young man replied “no.” Mr. Deltano then asked him if he thought he was ready to have sex. With a bit of a smirk, the student replied “inconclusive.” The audience laughed and Mr. Deltano recovered saying that “it was cool” and that he didn’t expect to convert everyone right away. But he did try again. He walked back to the same student and stood for another five minutes with his hand on the young man’s shoulder ranting once again about diaper changing, getting into some of the more nauseating details. And again he asked the student the same two questions. When Mr. Deltano asked if he was ready for sex, the teen hesitated, rolled his eyes, and finally agreed with Deltano saying “no.”
It is important for young people to understand the consequences of sexual activity—including the possible burden of child care—but putting a student on the spot in front of his peers and refusing to back down until he gives the desired answer does not teach useful decision making skills.
Messages of Fear and Shame—Trying to scare students and make them feel guilty
Mr. Deltano focuses on the negative repercussions of sexual activity and consistently makes use of fear as a motivator. The highlight of his performance includes an activity designed to illustrate the ineffectiveness of condoms against HIV in which he dangles a cinderblock over the genitals of an unsuspecting male student.
Mr. Deltano begins this stunt by misrepresenting statistics on condom failure. He claims that condoms fail 10–30 percent of the time against HIV. Mr. Deltano then asks for a dating couple to volunteer and come up on stage with him. Not surprisingly, no students actually volunteer. Instead groups of young people point to their friends who are dating and Deltano drags up one of these unlucky couples. In the presentation SIECUS attended both members of the couple were freshmen in high school. Mr. Deltano stood the young woman off to the side and hardly interacted with her except to forget her name. He sat the young man on a table, throwing his arm around the boy’s shoulders and proceeded to tease him about his haircut and clothes. Mr. Deltano then entered into a series of questions and scenarios with the young man, who looked particularly uncomfortable at this point.
He asked the young man what his hardest class was and whether he would be satisfied with a 90 percent on a test in that class. The young man said he would be. Mr. Deltano then imagined a scenario far in the future when the young man was married and rich and had an expensive truck and boat. He asked him whether he would go boating if there was a 10 percent chance of rain. Again the student answered that he would. Mr. Deltano explained to the audience that these sounded like reasonable responses, but that he was going to test the young man’s commitment to his answers. With the young man’s girlfriend still watching from the side, Deltano laid him on his back and strapped him to the table. He then climbed on top of the table with a cinderblock and stood over the young man hanging the block over his genitals while yelling “is 10 percent good enough for you? Is it good enough?”
After the uncomfortable laughter subsided Deltano reinforced his lesson by telling students that a 10 percent failure rate was much more significant when their body was at risk. He concluded by telling them “you should want 100 percent. Virginity never fails. Virginity rocks!”
Mr. Deltano’s crude comparison of contracting an STD with having one’s genitals crushed is yet another example of his insulting teaching style. He does not expect young people to think critically about the risks involved in sexual activity so he resorts to exaggerated analogies that are clearly designed to instill fear rather than to educate students.
Messages of shame are also a part of Deltano’s ad-lib style of interacting with his young audience. While talking about the benefits of marriage, he makes the claim that the earlier a person has sex, the less sex they will have overall. When he said this in the presentation SIECUS attended, Deltano saw a young man in the audience who seemed to be paying attention for the first time because the statistic surprised him. Mr. Deltano singled him out to the crowd and made fun of him, joking that it was the first time the young man had looked up during the entire performance. Mr. Deltano’s implication seemed to be that the young man was startled by the statistic because he had already had sex and wasn’t expecting to hear that this would decrease the amount of sex he would have throughout his whole life. Mr. Deltano then told the embarrassed teen “It’s not too late, just get tested.”
One might guess that Mr. Deltano’s casual style is meant to build trust with his audience, but his use of public humiliation such as this certainly undermines it. In addition, singling out students and making assumptions about their sexual behavior in front of the entire school is wholly inappropriate.
Withholding and Distorting Information
While Deltano claims to cite only government and peer-reviewed sources for his statistics, he consistently misrepresents the information. His inaccurate and exaggerated statements about such topics as STDs, condoms, and birth control serve to underscore the negative messages throughout the rest of his performance.
Condoms— Emphasizing failure rates and discouraging use
Mr. Deltano launches into an attack on “safe sex” methods early in his performance. He sets the stage by indignantly asking, “Who put the word ‘safe’ with the word ‘sex?’” and yelling “They don’t go together!” Throughout this attack, he provides his audience with a great deal of misinformation, the bulk of which is focused on condom failure rates. He tells students that condoms fail 10–30 percent of the time against HIV and cites the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as his sources. What Mr. Deltano doesn’t explain, however, is that these numbers refer to all failures, most of which are caused by incorrect use, not condom malfunction. To fully understand condom effectiveness, students must understand the difference between method failure and user failure. Method failurerefers to failure which results from a defect in the product. Method failure of the male condom is very rare and is estimated to occur in only three percent of couples using condoms consistently and correctly during the first year of use. In truth, condom failure is usually caused by errors in use, most often the failure of couples to use a condom during every act of sexual intercourse. Students watching a performance by Deltano hear none of this complexity, however, perhaps because he has already judged them too dumb to understand how to correctly use condoms or contraception.
He gives students similarly exaggerated messages about human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes. Mr. Deltano tells them that condoms provide “no protection” against STDs transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and jokes that “You’d have to wear a parachute to protect yourself” from HPV and herpes. Mr. Deltano’s statements are directly contradicted by research published in mainstream medical journals that show that condom use offers significant protection against herpes and can reduce the risk of HPV infection by 70 percent. He appears to withhold this information because it doesn’t fit with his fear-based message.
Mr. Deltano brings the same dismissive attitude to his discussion of birth control. He regularly refers to oral contraceptives as “the wheel thingy” and suggests that they are confusing and that young women cannot be trusted to remember to take birth control pills. Mr. Deltano either does not realize or refuses to admit that young people are, in fact, perfectly capable of using contraception consistently and correctly and that it is possible that the higher failure rates sometimes seen among teenagers can perhaps be attributed to educators like him who fail to provide them with all the information they need to correctly use the devices.
In addition to relying on inaccurate information, Deltano bases his presentation on a number of underlying biases and assumptions about gender and marriage. Presenting these biases as universal truths does little to inform students and instead fosters myths and misunderstandings.
Treatment of Gender—Fostering myths and stereotypes
Although Deltano’s messages about media stereotypes of “real men” and “real women” seem to be trying to help young people move past some generic stereotypes, he ultimately reinforces them with his own characterizations. He does denounce the media for valuing women only for their bodies and men for their sexual prowess, however, he replaces these stereotypes with his own: of young men as dumb and hormone driven and of young women as lacking any sexual desire and interested only in love and marriage.
Early in the performance Deltano addresses the crowd saying, “I’m not asking you to not think about sex…That would be like asking some of you high school guys – don’t breathe.” A moment later he tells the young women, “Girls, you want a ring on your finger.” After the cinderblock activity, Deltano often walks over to the table and bangs the cinderblock on the table for emphasis whenever he is making the point that adolescent boys are “dumb.” In one role-play with a female student he pretends to be a drunk and aggressive young man and asks the young woman to refuse his advances. The lesson for the young women in the audience is that young men are aggressive and sex-crazed and that the burden of refusal will always fall to them. Students are not asked to challenge these stereotypes; Mr. Deltano presents them as the inalterable truth.
Additionally, in his search for a partner in this role-play, Deltano calls for a young woman “with an attitude” who was willing to “get violent.” (In the presentation SIECUS attended, Deltano deemed the first two volunteers who came to the stage not violent enough and ultimately called up a third young woman.) During the exchange he cajoles the young woman into physically pushing him and beating him up as he stays in character as the drunken male aggressor. While it’s certainly worthwhile to empower young women with the message that it’s okay to say no, suggesting that they physically challenge large, aggressive, intoxicated young men is irresponsible.
In the second half of the performance, Deltano again returns to the “real man” stereotype. He agrees that real men are not defined by how many women they have slept with. Instead he defines real men as “the ones that are protecting girls from their [the men’s] sexual desires.” This view continues to highlight the idea that all men desire casual sexual activity from any and all women, while women only agree to sexual activity to get love and protection. Mr. Deltano also tells the young men “if you’re a man you don’t meet any of your own needs until you meet your family’s needs.” This statement also positions men as the natural protectors and sole breadwinners, a notion that has been outdated for decades.
Throughout Deltano’s presentation students are not challenged to question the nature, validity, or origin of these gender stereotypes, or to explore how stereotypes affect communication within friendships or sexual relationships. Such a presentation is detrimental to all young people by limiting their options, influencing their behavior, and coloring their expectations for future relationships. Instead, students need to learn that both men and women are sexual beings and are equally responsible for making decisions regarding sexual activity.
Marriage Promotion—Mandating future relationships
Mr. Deltano’s presentation is predicated on the belief that sexual activity is only appropriate in marriage. To convince young people to adhere to this standard, he spends a great deal of time discussing the importance of marriage. Students are told that they all want to get married and the majority of marriages are monogamous and loyal. Families in which the parents are never married or divorced are never mentioned. Nor are any other types of families such as those with step-parents, adoptive parents, grandparents raising children, or gay and lesbian partnerships. Despite never mentioning them, or because of it, Deltano is sending a subtle message to young people that these families are less than those with married, heterosexual parents; they are incomplete.
To convince students about the importance of marriage, Deltano focuses on research that suggests that married people have better sex. Without giving a citation, he tells students that married people have the best sex and have sex more often. He also suggests that the earlier a person has sex in their life, the less sex they will have overall. He explains this by saying that the earlier a person has sex, the more likely they are to acquire an STD implying that that the STD will prevent them from having sex later in life.
Mr. Deltano’s presentation on marriage is clearly biased and designed to promote one limited point of view rather than educate students and help them explore what they want for their future based on their own values.
In order to convince adolescents to remain abstinent until marriage, Deltano relies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage and gender. In addition, the format and underlying biases of his presentation do not allow for community and individual values, and discourage critical thinking and discussions of alternative points of view in the classroom.
Ultimately, Deltano’s presentation falls far short of helping young people develop the skills and knowledge they need to become sexually healthy adults.
 This review is based an hour long version of “The New Sexual Revolution” which SIECUS staff attended at a public high school in Loudoun County, Virginia in February 2007 as well as information from Deltano’s website and newspaper articles about his other appearances.
 What Others Say! Keith Deltano (2005), accessed 20 February 2007, <www.virginityrocks.com/content/view/2/30/>.
 Title V Guidelines, Keith Deltano (2005), accessed 20 February 2007, <www.virginityrocks.com/content/view/5/33/>.
 National Guidelines Task Force, Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Kindergarten—12th grade, 3rd edition (New York: SIECUS, 2004), accessed 19 September 2005, <www.siecus.org/pubs/guidelines/guidelines.pdf>.
 R. A. Hatcher, et al., Contraceptive Technology, 17th revised Edition (New York: Ardent Media, Inc., 1998), p.326; Workshop Summary: Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention (Herndon,VA: National Institutes of Health, 12-13 June 2000), p.12, accessed 6 March 2007, <http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/research/topics/STI/pdf/condomreport.pdf>.
 Anna Wald, et al., “Effect of Condoms on Reducing the Transmission of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 From Men to Women,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 285.24 (June 27, 2001): 3100–3106.
 Rachel L. Winer, et al., “Condom Use and the Risk of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in Young Women,” New England Journal of Medicine, 354.25 (June 22, 2006): 2645–2654.
 Charlie Jackson, “Deltano Returns Over Objections to Promote Abstinence,” Leesburg Today, 11 February 2007, accessed 12 February 2007,