Innovative Thinking In The Fight Against Gendered Violence

Back from the break, with an interview with a co-editor of a new anti-rape anthology, evidence that virginity pledges are bad for kids, and concerns about the economic downturn and women’s safety.


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Links in this episode:

Doubt on virginity pledges

Pledges really don’t work

Yes Means Yes

Linda Hirshman on including women

Rachel Maddow calls out Rick Warren


Welcome back from the break, Reality Cast fans!  I’ll be starting off the new year right with an interview with Jaclyn Friedman, the co-editor of a new anti-rape anthology called “Yes Means Yes”.  Also, there’s a new study showing that virginity pledges are bad for kids, and a segment on my concern that the economic crisis might leave more women stranded in abusive marriages.

I’m not doing a whole segment on Rick Warren, but I’ll bookend the podcast with some clips about the pastor that’s been invited to pray at the inauguration, even though he’s a misogynist and a homophobe.  Here’s Katha Pollitt on the subject:

•    katha pollitt *

One of the less-examined but needs to be examined issues in the religious right is their tolerance of wife-battering.  Not that they approve, but they think that it’s not something that women should really stand up to.  There’s also a strong victim-blaming streak in religious right literature about this, suggesting that wife-beating is the natural response of men whose god-given authority has been questioned.


New year, new study, and it’s more evidence that abstinence-only and virginity pledges don’t work on any of their stated goals.  Of course, the stated goal is to keep kids from having sex until marriage, and that doesn’t work at all.  Nor should it—nothing sets you up for an unhappy marriage better than going in with no experience at having and maintaining a long term sexual relationship.  But knowing that the wait until marriage thing won’t fly with the public, abstinence-only educators and virginity pledge pushers claim that these methods will reduce the STD and unplanned pregnancy rate by delaying the age that kids do have sex.  And it’s this claim that is the source of much research, and none of it is good for abstinence-only types. 

•    virginity 1 *

I’m not sure why the ABC reporter said that about birth control, because it didn’t quite make sense.  On December 29th, Health Day Reporter published a longer treatment of the study, and reported what you would expect—kids who take pledges are less likely to use contraception or condoms to prevent disease.  Quote:

"Virginity pledgers and similar non-pledgers don’t differ in the rates of vaginal, oral or anal sex or any other sexual behavior," Rosenbaum said. "Strikingly, pledgers are less likely than similar non-pledgers to use condoms and also less likely to use any form of birth control."

End quote.  What made this study different was that previous studies showed that there was a small delay with virginity pledgers in the onset of sexual activity, but this Johns Hopkins study shows that pledgers and non-pledgers have sex at roughly the same time, but that pledgers were less likely to protect themselves. 

There was also a comical finding.

•    virginity 2 *

I’m not for certain, but I think what that means is that 84% of pledgers denied making the pledge to researchers who knew for a fact that they had made the pledge.  That’s a lot of desperate lying.  Or, more likely, the sort of historical revisionism that we all perform on ourselves.  But if they kids can’t admit that they took the virginity pledges to researchers, what are they telling their peers?

I feel for these kids.  Adolescence is constructed in our society as a time when you shrug off adult authority and start defining yourself for yourself.  But it’s a long, drawn-out process, and there’s a lot of things that adults tell you that are wrong that you buy at the time.  And then when you get a little older and find out they were lying to you, or trying to mislead you, it’s embarrassing to admit you fell for it in the first place.  So the easiest thing to do is believe that from puberty on, you were wise to their lies.  And so if you took a virginity pledge, the natural urge is to deny it.

Of course, it’s my pet theory that abstinence-only pushers don’t really want to reduce the STD or unplanned pregnancy rate.  I think their main goal is to discourage contraception use, so that kids who do have sex are punished with an STD or a shotgun wedding.  After all, here’s the country’s leading abstinence-only proponent Leslee Unruh coming unhinged and revealing her true motivations.

•    more babies *

Of course, the Bristol Palin incident exposed the anti-contraception, pro-shotgun wedding intentions of the abstinence-only movement.  To the Palins and their fundamentalist community, shoveling a couple of teenagers directly into a shotgun wedding was the most natural thing in the world.  If the hard right was that sincere about delaying the onset of sexual activity, there would have been more hesitation.  But in reality, the expectation is virginity pledge, early sex, unplanned pregnancy, early marriage.  What comprehensive sex education does that alienates the hard right is allows kids to marry later, and allows women especially to have an education and career before they get married.


•    interview with Jaclyn friedman *


Sign of the economic times that really has me worried.  We all know that hard times are especially hard on couples who end up fighting about money more, or even if they’re not fighting about money, the stress of worrying about it degrades their ability to get along.  So that should mean a spike in the divorce rate, right?  Not this time around.

•    divorce 1 *

I doubt this trend will continue.  People might be buckling down and waiting for hard times to pass before they file for divorce, and if things don’t better, I’m guessing unhappy couples will suck it up and divorce anyway.  But for right now we’re seeing a disturbing trend.

They had on Jeff Gardere on CNN to discuss the issue.

•    divorce 2 *

I’m imagining that the family values crowd would applaud anything that reduces the divorce rate, but as you can imagine, I’m a dissenter.  Being a good liberal, I’m pro-happiness, and all about root causes.  Divorce isn’t the problem.  Bad marriages are the problem, and a high divorce rate is unfortunate only because that indicates a high bad marriage rate.  It’s the same thing as abortion.  A high abortion rate isn’t the bad thing so much as it’s an indicator of a bad thing, which is a high unintended pregnancy rate.  If we set out to cure the symptoms and not the disease, we’re not necessarily fixing the problem.  I find it more troubling if people stay in bad marriages than if they get divorced.

•    divorce 3 *

What’s especially troubling is that a large number of unhappy marriages are unhappy because of abuse.  And it’s well-established that one reason that victims stay with their abusers is because they can’t afford to leave.  If economic stress is keeping people in unhappy marriages, I fear a disproportionate number of those unhappy marriages are situations where women are sticking by abusers because they don’t feel they have a way out in an recession. 

This issue is completely ignored on CNN.  The rest of the segment is how to get by when you feel it’s over but you can’t divorce yet.  And the separate rooms situation is fine in non-abusive marriage, but what about an abusive one?

This brings me back to Linda Hirshman’s argument about how stimulus packages need to be mindful of women’s economic concerns. 

•    hirshman *

Only when women have economic security will we really see the culture that supports domestic violence begin to really beat a retreat.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts.  I’m guessing you’ve heard a little about the controversy involving Obama picking sexist, homophobic gasbag Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration.  It’s obvious that Obama made the choice to symbolically show that he intends to be the President for everyone, not just for liberals.  But it sent the message instead that he’s willing to pander to wingnuts at the expense of the women and gay men that got him elected.

Anyway, Warren’s been grabbing for mainstream acceptance, and part of his strategy is to deny that he’s as giant a homophobe as he is.  He denied, for instance, that he compared gay marriage to incest or pedophilia.  Rachel Maddow caught him in the lie. 

•    rick warren *

So, he’s a liar as well as a bigot.  No surprise there, of course, unless you’re foolish enough to think these high and mighty right wing preachers are something like genuine Christians who obey certain basic moral laws.  You know, like not hating and not lying.