The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Caution: side effects ahead

Feministing has the buzz on the 11th Annual Abstinence Leadership Conference. This year they have the snazzy theme:

Abstinence: It's a Black and White Issue -Purity vs Promiscuity

They even kind of have a blog, and there's a post up there where the writer responds to a feminist criticism of Purity Balls and the like. The Abstainer includes this gem in their brief critique:

...a person might choose sexual abstinence because of its obvious benefits, including freedom from STDs, unwed pregnancy, emotional scarring, suicidal ideation (especially in teens), and so on.

So all of these negative side effects are likely to befall you if you have sex. Oh, before marriage, I always forget that bit. After marriage you can bring sexy back, no probs. Except you gays. You can't get married, which means no sex for you FOREVER, 'cos sex without marriage could result in unwed pregnancy.

But I digress.

All of the possible Bad Things Sex Causes listed in the post are actually preventable by other measures too, not just abstinence. In fact I argue that they are better prevented by sex education that focuses on liking your body, not hating and denying it's sexual nature, because then you can continue making healthy choices once you start having sex, rather than having no clue because everything was focused on stopping you from having your first orgasm.

  • Freedom from STDs: I know what you're thinking - haven't these people heard of condoms? Yes they have but they think they are Evil and have some faux-science that says they don't work. (Sadly they are still unaware that STIs are the new STDs.)

  • Unwed pregnancy*: How about we educate people about how you get pregnant, and what the birth control options are to stop that process? I'm thinking maybe we could also make birth control widely and freely available, along with abortion, and stop attaching a stigma to these measures.

  • Emotional scarring: Let's encourage teh kids to have sex when they want to, rather than when they feel pressured to. We could even chuck in a little bit of respect, for yourself and others, and add a culture that doesn't tolerate rape and sexual abuse. Our churches and other institutions could stop hiding rapists and abusers, and we could give people options to get out of abusive situations without high social and economic repercussions.

  • Suicidal ideation: See above, and consider ditching the heavy judgement and coming down on the side of loving support.
Funny how the post doesn't mention the positive outcomes of sex; intimacy, pleasure, fun, and getting your rocks off, to name a few. It's as if sex is only a Bad Thing That No Good Comes Of. Do these people know where babies come from?

I've ranted before (and not just here) about how this agenda seems to me to be fundamentally anti-woman. It tells girls, and their older sisters, that their sexual desires and experiences are wrong and dirty. It sends the clear message that their intact hymen is synonymous with their worth as a person - and that they must remain an unsullied china doll until their father hands them over to their husband. Any sex with someone other than your hubby is promiscuous, and promiscuous equals Evil.

Yes there are times when sex is not a good idea. But telling people, persistently and from a position of power, that sex is Never Good unless it is with only one person, ever, and then only after you have a mystical magic ring on your finger, is just wrong. It doesn't encourage women to feel ownership of their bodies, it doesn't encourage them to say no when they aren't into it (and yes when they are) and it certainly doesn't encourage men to view hetero sex as something that must be consensual.

* Actually I don't see the problem with "unwed" pregnancy. The issue is actually unwanted pregnancy, marital status has nothing to do with it.


Anonymous said...

I agree the "absence of a wedding" has nothing to do with quality of raising children.

We have been over 20 years "un-wed" and have four bastard children, but they are good high achieving bastard children.

Heather said...

I also noted the reference to "unwed" pregnancy, although I'm looking at it from the point of view of someone that doesn't want children, ever.

Bear in mind that this crowd heavily correlates with the anti-abortion lobby, and I've seen plenty of them use the "children are a blessing" motif when arguing against abortion, morning after, in some cases all contraception. Pregnancy must be at worst a happy accident; if a woman makes an informed decision to restrict her reproductive capabilities, then that's a sin. The only option is abstinence, and if you're married there is no option.

Granted, these ideas don't seem to be overly prevalent in NZ, at least not with regard to contraception.

Apathy Jack said...

But abstinence feels good. I know because the internet told me so...

Also, I feel we need the Mean Girls' school of sex education: All children are told clearly: "If you have sex, you WILL get pregnant. And you will die!"

Span said...

Thanks for your comments, folks.

What I find interesting about a lot of this stuff is how clearly it is aimed at only one gender.

I really dislike "education" that is actually about creating irrational fear for the purposes of maintaining out-dated and misogynistic social ideals (that have never been universally conformed with anyway).

Fearing sex, and your own body, has all sorts of negative consequences, and not just for the individual involved.

I just find it so frustrating that many religious people who ostensibly believe in "love thy neighbour" seem to be so determined to make us hate ourselves.


Apathy Jack said...

Well, actually, I also want the boys to be told that if they have sex they'll get pregnant and die.

I think all children need to be told...

-k. said...

Ooh, those people at Abstinence Clearinghouse make me mad. There's no room for anyone to comment on their posts (perhaps because they're aware of the outraged response they'd receive?) and most of their posts leave me wanting to hit someone.

Case in point: an article on Indian sex workers being given condoms. I quote:

"Condoms, shown to ineffective in combatting AIDS, are being distributed to sex workers in India in order to reduce AIDS rate."

Ineffective? Please.

Sofiya said...

Yup, those abstinence-promoting folks don't care that they're lying to the people they're supposed to be educating. I sincerely hope NZ never gets this crap to the extent that the US has it, but I don't hold out much hope, given that the "purity ball" movement seems to have arrived here.

Dark Daughta said...

It's funny,
This seems like a really simple issue: They're confused and out to lunch zealots. But really, I've encountered a feminist who linked my defining as polyamorous to promiscuity and then began to trumpet about the benefits of monogamy including safty from stds :). The writing was picked up by a prominent blog carnival and when I cried foul about the climate of unsafty a post about monogamy being cleaner and more stable as perpetuating sexual oppression, I got the sharp end of the stick. So, sweet. Protest abstinence as a valid ideology, sure. But I need to remember that sometimes the lines between my allies and the other "side" aren't always that "black and white" :).