‘The Silent Sex,’ Parents Against Sex Ed, and Anti-Choice Tactics

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Sleazy protester tactics

Rachel Maddow on sleazy protester tactics

Fremont sex education controversy

Men have all sorts of rights, but women apparently have not even the most basic ones


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be speaking with a researcher on the problem with women not getting heard, even when it really counts. New recordings show how sleazy anti-choice protesters are and even the Bay Area has parents against decent sex education.

BuzzFeed had a hilarious video called “What Men Are Really Saying When Catcalling Women,” where men say what’s actually going on with them, but you know, in the same idiot tones they use when cat-calling women.

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I’d add to that, “I’d never do this to a woman who is accompanied by a man, because I think that women are male property!”


Thanks to Andrea Grimes at Rewire for bringing this story to my attention. Progress Texas and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas got some audio of anti-choice protesters holding trainings on how to use intimidation, under the guise of protest, to try to force women to have babies they don’t want to have. While anti-choicers like to portray themselves to the public as kind-hearted Christians who just want to talk to women and hopefully persuade them with their arguments, what NARAL discovered was that anti-choice protesters, in actuality, prefer to use intimidation, shaming, and force.

Karen Garnett, the director of an anti-choice Catholic group in North Texas, explained how to use stalking as a helpful intimidation tactic in order to try to scare women out of abortion and to scare providers, as well as to perhaps dig up information for legal harassment.

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With this, you really get a good idea of how legislators are working in conjunction with anti-choice harassment and intimidation crews in order to run women off of safe, legal abortion and push them either toward forced childbirth or, in many cases, toward less safe black market abortions. The legislators pass a mandatory waiting period law, requiring a woman to come to the clinic twice. The first time she comes, the antis make a big fuss out of recording her license plate to let her know she is being watched by people who believe that they are the rightful owners of her body and not her. Then she knows that if she returns for the abortion, they are stalking her. That’s got to be incredibly scary. But if there was any doubt at all that the purpose of this exercise is not persuasion but intimidation, Garnett made it clear that scaring women and using fear as a weapon to control them is the point.

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They’re stalking you because they want to “help” you choose life! Yeah, that’s the ticket. By the same logic, your possessive ex-boyfriend is stalking you because he just wants to help you choose to have a relationship with him, even though you know, you already told him no. Using fear and intimidation to control people is not about helping them, full stop. Antis are just so used to making the bad faith argument equating attacks with help and force with kindness that words like “help” don’t mean anything to them. The actual help is on the inside of the clinic. You can tell, because inside the clinic they ask you what you need and do what they can to meet your needs. They don’t try to scare you into doing what they want you to do. There’s a huge difference.

But lest there be any doubt that these people know they aren’t helping and know they are there to hurt, the next speaker, Eileen Romano, explained how to exploit poor women’s poverty to bully them into having children they don’t want.

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“God is good.” That is the conclusion of someone who wants to exploit women’s poverty to hurt them. I’m not a Christian, but I have read the Bible and I don’t remember the part where Jesus said that his followers should target poor people for abuse and exploitation because they’re poor and they don’t have any alternatives. Jesus said you should help poor people. He was very clear on this. But anti-choicers are explaining to each other how great poverty is, because it makes it so much easier to force women to do what you want them to do. Damn.

The cruelty and viciousness that undergirds the anti-choice movement was also evident during protests in New Orleans recently, which I covered in an interview with Teddy Wilson here at Reality Cast. But Rachel Maddow also did a segment on it for her show.

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Here’s the thing I try to remind people of, over and over: If your arguments are good, persuade people with your arguments. Use logic. Use rhetoric. But if you find yourself resorting to force and bullying, it’s because your arguments aren’t any good. You know you can’t persuade people, so you try to use force instead. So you have to ask yourself, how sure are you really of your arguments if you know in your heart you can’t persuade people, so you resort to threats and force instead? I have to say you clearly aren’t sure at all.




There’s a widespread myth that everyone in the Bay Area is super liberal and even downright radical when it comes to sex positivity. And while that’s definitely a big part of the culture out there, for which I tip my hat, the fact of the matter is that people who get completely unbent at the idea that sex is supposed to be fun are found in every corner of this country. And now the Fremont school district is having a battle over these new textbooks that are taught in ninth grade health because the sex education information in there does not hide the fact that sex is supposed to be fun and playful.

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There’s two basic categories of people who throw a fit over sex education. You have your religious conservatives who really do think that sex is naughty and evil and who attack sex education because they want to make it so hard to teach anything useful in school that schools either give up or institute programs telling kids they’re going to hell unless they wait until marriage. But you also have people who may not be anti-sex exactly, but they are confused. They assume that because they don’t feel ready to have kids that are interested in sex, then the kids themselves must not be ready. First of all, it’s important for parents to learn to separate their desire for their kids to be kids a little longer from the factual evidence that kids learn a lot more about this stuff than you’d think, and a lot faster.

But let’s also be clear that it’s absolutely true that most 14-year-olds are not ready to have sex yet, much less engage in sexting or bondage. To which I have to point out that this is true of, well, basically everything else you teach kids in school. We aren’t teaching kids writing skills so that their Facebook posts are more lucid. We aren’t teaching them math skills so they can, damn, I don’t even know what a teenager could use, say, calculus for in everyday life. The point of education is not to teach someone about something after they have already started to do it or use that knowledge. We teach them things so that, as they become adults and start to have more need for these skills, they are already prepared. That’s why it’s important to talk, in depth, with kids about sex before they start to have sex. So that when they start to explore, they have the tools to be safe.

And let’s be clear, this book is incredibly dry.

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I am not even remotely surprised that some parents looked at the book and thought, what’s the big deal? The critics of the book are using alarmist, overblown language, such as calling it “pornography” or arguing that it “introduces” high schoolers to bondage. It does no such thing. It acknowledges that bondage is a thing that exists, which is not news to roughly any teenager who is permitted to leave the house or see the ads for Fifty Shades of Grey. Also, I think “bondage” is one of those words that people just feel primed to react negatively to, but the book simply describes it, accurately, as a game where you get tied up or blindfolded, which are games that nearly all sexually active people try at some point. Same thing with oral sex and masturbation. On the very slight chance that there’s a 14-year-old alive who hasn’t heard of these things, the fact of the matter is that they will hear about these things in high school. It’s far better for a kid to first encounter these concepts by having them drily and professionally explained rather than try to figure it out from jokes and bragging and other forms of peer-speak that might distort the realities or make them feel that these behaviors require being unsafe or disrespectful to partners.

Unfortunately, the school district didn’t or didn’t feel able to take this hard line and tell parents that it’s better for kids to know before they try rather than vice versa. Instead,there was minimizing of the impact of the text, which was only about 20 pages of the whole book.

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That may be so, but it’s neither here nor there. Kids can be counted on to flip to the sex part and read it, being, you know, human. But that’s a good thing. Kids are curious about sex and will, whether you like it or not, seek out information. Better for that info to be accurate and safety-oriented than the fantasies offered in porn or the playground bragging that can distort perceptions. The school didn’t make a more full-throated defense of the books, so no big surprise, they eventually gave in and yanked the book, for review right now. Hopefully they’ll just wait for this temper tantrum to die out and put the books back in classrooms. Kids need this info, whether their parents like it or not, after all.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, watch someone just simply ignore the possibility that women are human beings with rights at all edition. This is David Barton, right wing “historian” who mostly just lies about history, argue that being for abortion rights means being against liberty.

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The fact that they don’t see women as really human couldn’t have been more distilled. A man’s right to own property, to have guns, to make money, all that is inalienable. But a woman’s right to determine something so basic as to whether or not to be pregnant, not a right. Because this is a worldview that doesn’t see women as rights-bearing people.