Monday, May 25, 2009
Bristol Palin's People Cover
"If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex," says Bristol. "Trust me. Nobody."
There's so much wrong with this! Let's start with the image itself, which doesn't match the words below. What consequences is she talking about? A cute baby and getting to graduate? Most teen mothers don't get to graduate, so I'm happy that she was able to, but this picture doesn't help her status as an Abstinence-Only advocate. There are no consequences to be seen.
I imagine inside the magazine (which I did not buy) she goes on to explain what she means by consequences. And she's said on television that taking care of her baby is hard work. So let's focus on her words in the quote.
"If girls knew the consequences..." Why only girls? This is a huge issue I have with the Abstinence-Only movement. The focus is on getting girls to keep their virginity, not boys. I'm going to be very honest in this post, which no one will ever read anyway, when I was young, I was all for abstinence myself. And a part of me still believes that it is in the interest of high schoolers to wait. But when I realized that no one would ever expect the same from my future husband, it made it a lot harder to take seriously. Why pressure girls to be virgins with Purity Balls and Promise Rings, while not encouraging boys to do the same?
"...the consequences of sex..." There is a real problem with founding Abstinence-Only on the fear of consequences. Some people are working very hard to keep birth control and the HPV vaccine inaccessible to teens because, well, if we can't scare teens with the threat of pregnancy and STDs, what reasons can you give? Why is it that teens shouldn't have sex? The problem with using pregnancy and STDs to the advantage of abstinence programs is that it stigmatizes teens and sex and actually hinders public health efforts, like the HPV vaccine. The HIV community has worked so hard to take away the stigma of HIV/AIDS, but it seems certain sectors of our society want HIV to remain a threat so they can use it to convince us all that sex is bad.
"Nobody would be having sex. Trust me, nobody." And why should we trust Bristol Palin? In my own opinion, it really would be better for teenagers to wait, for their own emotional maturity to catch up with their bodies. But just try telling a teen they aren't mature enough for something. I don't really think they will listen to Bristol either. The teens I've met while teaching have a very low tolerance for hypocrisy. And on the cover of People, holding up her adorable child, she is the ultimate hypocrite.
"...nobody." She doesn't say teens or high schoolers or unmarried people wouldn't have sex. She says, if they listen to her, nobody would have sex. That may not be exactly what she meant, but I get a very sad feeling from that statement. She probably had very little time to explore her sexuality before she became pregnant. In public, her sexuality is completely defined by her motherhood and her guilt for not having waited (or for having gotten pregnant ( or both)). But in her private life, what does she really feel about the sex she had? Was it a good experience? Was it her decision? Was it painful for her? If she wants nobody to be having sex, I get the impression that it was not all that great for her. And that's a shame too.