Abstinence-Only Weirdness, Online Misogyny, And Health Care Battles

Samhita Mukhopadhyay on combating online sexism, abstinence-only gets meaner and more bizarre, and conservative wind up to battle improved health care access.



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Abstinence-only is for clowns

Abstinence-only rape apologists

Bristol Palin not supporting the abstinence-only thing

Tom Coburn lies

Glenn Beck and John Fleming lie

The real story

How Helen Thomas ended up the uber-villain

On this episode of Reality Cast, Samhita from Feministing is back to talk up a South by Southwest panel we’re doing about fighting back against online misogyny.  Also, reports from the scary world of abstinence-only education, and a sneak preview of how ugly the debate over health care will be.

Hey, I’m the first to bag on soap operas for being slow-moving and ridiculous.  But they do reach a big audience, and so I want to congratulate the show "All My Children" for a forward-thinking move.

  • insert lesbian wedding *

Naturally, they had to interview some Focus On Family homobigot, which just shows how far we have to go until gays are respected enough that anti-gay hate groups are treated like white supremacists as they should be.  And of course, the wedding on TV doesn’t make it legal in real life.  But still, it’s a step in the right direction.

Abstinence-only is still getting funding, even under a more pro-choice Congress, but the criticism and antagonism against it is just increasing by the day.  And really, it’s no wonder. Remember when they would drag all the kids to the gym in high school to torture you with some guy spewing pointless motivational clichés and/or scaring you about drugs?  Remember how all you wanted to do afterwards was some drugs and perhaps some slacking, just on principle?  Well, abstinence teachers are like that, but on drugs.  Drugs like steroids.

Take Derek the Abstinence Clown. He goes in and impresses you with his clownness and tells you that all you need to be like him is not have sex.  

  • abstinence 1 *

That’s supposed to be an anti-sex message.  I’m sure it works great.  I’m sure every kid thinks, "Damn, I do want to do magic tricks more than get laid.  Now that I know they’re mutually exclusive, I guess sex is out!"

And there’s cool music!

  • abstinence 2 *

Guess what it is!  Well, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, but mainly sex. Which means of course that if a kid actually fell for the treacly music and the unfunny scary clown stuff, then the first time they smoke a cigarette or take a drink or make out with someone and don’t wake up in a gutter covered with sores as promised, they’re going to realize you lied to them.  And they’re going to have sex without protection, because no one taught them safety.  And that might actually have real consequences.  

But stupid clowns are just a minor part of a major problem.  Abstinence-only isn’t just wasting kids’ time and setting them up to have unhealthy sexualities.  Oh no.  Amplify also found that the conservatives who put together abstinence-only materials are rape apologists who treat date rape as a realistic if not wholly legitimate way to punish young women for breaking the rules.  Take this interactive part of the Miss The Mess abstinence website.

  • music under talking *

With this music on, they tell this story of a young man who is a typical frat daddy covered with male entitlement.  He rapes one girl and figures that it’s okay because she’s got a reputation for  having sex.  He bullies another into oral sex.  The moral of the story for any reasonable person is that our culture coddles rapists and they should be treated harshly for their behavior so they don’t do this.  But that’s not what the Miss The Mess website says.  Nope, all the blame is on girls for not being virgins.

  • record scratch *

Quote: "We don’t really know if Rochelle consented to have sex with Jason or if he forced her. We only know that both kids made risky choices and have to go through the legal system to sort things out."  End quote.

Wrong!  Rape is not what happens when women make so-called risky decisions.  Rape is what happens when a rapist chooses to rape.  Full stop.  The hedging language that implies that both are equal in responsibility for the rape and both are equally deserving of punishment is just a rape apology. It constructs a rapist as someone who is a freelance police officer, using rape to punish women for being alone, going to parties, or having prior sexual experience.  Stuff like this is why juries don’t convict rapists.  They see them as enforcers, not law-breakers.

Luckily, under a deluge of blogs shaming them, the state took the site down.

The poster child for the failures of abstinence-only education has finally come out to talk about it, now that she’s stuck with being a mother at 18 and supposedly going to get married, though I remain skeptical on that front.  Yep, Bristol Palin has finally been interviewed, and what she said was interesting.  

  • abstinence 3 *

That’s the abstinence problem in a nutshell.  Let’s not talk about contraception, you should abstain, and failure is built into the system.  Is abstinence-only realistic?  Define "realistic".  If you think it should work by reducing STD and unintended pregnancy rates, then no, it doesn’t work.  But if you think it should work by punishing kids who have sex and forcing youthful marriages and preventing young women from finishing their education, it works great.

insert interview


Barack Obama signed the economic stimulus bill into law last week, marking the end of a disturbing political battle that’s just a sign of things to come, I fear.  Conservatives who have no problem whatsoever pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the Iraq War fought like tooth and nail against any attempt to spend money in ways that actually would relieve people’s economic woes.  It’s pathological, seriously.  

But for those of us who know what the next step in both economic recovery and moving our nation forward has to be got a taste of what to expect.  Yep, when it comes to pushing for universal health care, we got a sneak preview of the fight.  

First, you got your sex phobia.  The original version of the stimulus bill had, as I’m sure you know, family planning bundled into it, and mainstream media took right wing bait about how terrible it is to give people help when they aren’t virgins.  Chris Matthews was most notorious in his bait-taking bad reporting.

  • health care 1 *

Of course, the program was voluntary, unlike China. No need to belabor the point, but to say that we can expect that many arguments against universal health care will be, in sum, "Someone else is getting laid more than you and the government won’t punish them for it."  With the current maturity levels in our mainstream media averaging around 6th grade, we can expect this nonsense to get traction, even though contraception is not controversial and proven preventive health care.  

Another angle of the debate showed up, as conservatives warm up with lies about whether or not more government involvement with your health care access means that your doctor will not be allowed to treat you.  If there’s any confusion, the point of health care access is so that your doctor will treat you.  But in typical right wing ju-jitsu, they’re claiming up is down, and that getting to see a doctor means a doctor can’t help.  Here’s some examples culled from Media Matters.  

  • health care 2 *

That’s Tom Coburn lying his head off.

  • health care 3 *

That’s Glenn Beck and John Fleming lying their heads off.  So, what’s the real story?  NPR is on it.

  • health care 4 *

Yep, that’s it.  It’s money to make sure that drug effectiveness is tested alongside safety.  Why is this so offensive to conservatives?  Probably because a lot of drugs will be shown to be less effective than their cheaper counterparts, and that will mean that drug companies will make more money.  That and there’s probably just a knee-jerk hostility to people getting more information and better health care.

But now you’ve been warned. Once health care is on the agenda, the sex panics and dishonesty are going to get completely out of control.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, the who let women learn to write and report edition.  Short version of the controvery: Barack Obama is nice to long-standing press corps member Helen Thomas.  Helen Thomas is elderly, persnickety, and liberal, so the wingnut punditry can’t believe she’s allowed to live, much less work and get respect.  

  • Helen Thomas *

I can’t wait until they start saying that women should just be exposed in the wilderness and left to die at 45.  You know what the Bernie Goldberg definition of humor is, right?  It’s when a woman condescends to laugh at his non-jokes as if they were funny.  In other words, if you coddle bullies, you have a sense of humor.  Odd definition, but whatever gets him through the night, I guess.