The World According to Abstinence-Only Education.

sex and driving
If I ever have a child, and they come home with an Abstinence-Only textbook, I’m taking them out of school. Period. No questions asked.

Of course, since I don’t have a child, I can still laugh at this garbage:

25 Ways to Say No

Originally posted here. Be sure to look at the rest of Anna’s art too — she’s brilliant, and brilliantly funny!


On second thought, I’m not laughing all that much, but I can analyze them. ‘Cause that’s what I do.

#25: Prove you love ME by waiting.
I don’t actually have a problem with this one — if someone isn’t ready, they’re not ready. Of course, saying “I’m not ready” is #1 in MY book — this one turns waiting into a Test of Love, not necessarily Proof of Respect.

#24: I’m too busy working on my reputation.
Plays right into sex == shameful. This was a big one in my experience, and definitely has negative affects. So no. Not good. Also assumes that someone will ‘kiss and tell’, or rather, that one person’s sexuality (at least) is public property. See also: Madonna/Whore dichotomy, Cult of Virginity.

#23: I’d rather take a cold shower, it’s safer.
Because sex is Teh Dangerous!OMGWTFBBQ!!!!11eleven. I mean, IF YOU’RE NOT PREPARED FOR IT, you might be at risk for disease! And the woman will, of course, have a baby, because sex causes babies.

#22: I look much better with my clothes on.
As if we weren’t taught to hate our bodies enough, it’s now an excuse to not get naked with a Member of the Opposite Sex. (Despite my mother’s sage advice re: body tolerance: ‘Don’t worry, when you’re naked with a man, you’re the most beautiful woman in the world.”) We have to hide the Horrible Ugliness that is our sexual selves. ‘Cause only pure is beautiful.

#21: Sex is not a game. I might lose.
Besides the obvious lack-of-logic, it’s setting up sex as a battle competition scenario (but != a game!) in which someone WILL HARM the other.

#20: I want to make sure you like me for me.0
Again, the same as #25. If the respect is there, then pressuring doesn’t happen. Punkt. If “I’m not ready” isn’t good enough, neither are they.

#19: That’s the same line people have been using throughout history. It’s not going to work on this modern, progressive person!
Because fear of sex and sexuality isn’t old, or traditional. And having sex before you’re married, even if you’re using your best judgment, contraception and protection against disease, isn’t modern or progressive.

#18: If you think I’m going to fall for that, you obviously don’t know who you’re talking to.

Comment withheld, mainly because I’m trying to even think of a situation where it would be needed, besides someone wheedling for sex. So, See #25, #22.

#17: I’d hate to lose my virginity; I hear it’s hard to find.
OK, I’ll admit that one gave me a giggle, until I saw the cult of virginity inherent in it. Virginity != a woman’s worth! See also: Madonna/Whore dichotomy, Women as Property.

#16: I’d rather dance, alone.
*doubletake* Was that a MASTURBATION reference? In an Abstinence Only textbook? I thought whacking off was second only to abortion on the top ten list of What Kills Babies?

#15: I wish you cared enough to keep your hands to yourself.
A wish is rather impotent, don’t you think? How about: “Yo, I said no, get out my house!” Or “Keep yo hands to yoself, foo!” Or something.**

#14: “Real men or women don’t even ask.”
That’s right, because they know their rights, and just go ahead without a by-your-leave. Because asking isn’t respectful, says the Home Office of Respect International. *gag*

#13: If I ever go out with you again, please bring your self control.
A little dose of hope in a pound of condescension. How’s that for Holier-Than-Thou?

#12: Of course you can wait, you’re not a rabbit.
Ditto #13 in attitude. Love the allusion to ‘fucking like bunnies’.

#11: I’d rather break up than break out with herpes.
Because all sex leads to STDs. Especially if you don’t know about condoms or other barrier methods.

#10: Maybe they do on TV, but this is real life, not fiction, no commercials.
Did that make any sense to anyone? Anyone?

#9: I’ve got to stand for something, so I don’t fall for anything.
Classic sex == amoral argumentation. Be stronger in your faith and you won’t have to worry about the dangers of Teh Sex ™!!

#8: I may be a loser today, but at least I’ll be around tomorrow.
WTF??? Sex == death now. The ‘little death’ isn’t so little anymore? Scare tactics extraordinaire.

#7: Of course it’s part of our nature; so are germs.
But aren’t ‘germs’ the type of stuff that makes you sick, i.e., not natural? Ah, but sex before marriage == deviant == sick. Gotcha. See also: #13.

#6: I love you too, and that’s why I’m saying no.
Not much more to say on this type. See also: #25, #22.

#5: Curiosity killed the cat.
Yet another non sequitur. Sex isn’t just dangerous for ME, it’s dangerous for YOU. My reasons aren’t good enough! You have to protect yourself from my sexay! See also: Vagina Dentata.

#4: We’ll each have to look at ourselves in the mirror tomorrow.
Because sex is so LIFE CHANGING that we’ll not recognize ourselves. But everyone else will know we’ve had Teh Sex. With each other. Just by looking at us. Or maybe we won’t be able to look at ourselves because of all the Guilt ™ because we’ve made a decision as consenting adults.

#3: All of my zippers are locked anyway.
That’s right, the clothes I’ve chosen (or that were chosen for me) are specifically designed to impede (un)wanted advances. My entire wardrobe is a chastity belt! See also: Purity balls, Women as Property.

#2: No, I won’t change my mind next week, either.
Expect to be harassed for sex: it’s normal. See also: #25, #22, #6.

AND, the kicker:

#1: I spent all week deciding what to wear and three hours getting ready. If you think you are going to mess this up, you are sadly mistaken!

Because all these clothes were For You ™, I can’t possibly take them off! It took Too Much Time and Energy ™ for me to just ruin for you! Again, this ignores the crucial “I don’t want to” message that we’re not allowed to give, that’s not enough of an answer without an accompanying excuse or justification.

Bonus! This is playing right into the “but she asked for it” rape apologist garbage. Tell me someone somewhere won’t read this and hear: “I Wanted to Look Good For You But No Ding-Ding Without A Ring!” and translate it into “S/He’s being a tease”.


The more I read and think about this, the more I see where my own feelings of Guilt ™, Shame ™ and Insecurity ™ came from. Most of this stuff was taught to me (in a church setting, admittedly), and looking at it in print, all collected together, I start to see some of the patterns.

Which leaves me with the question of the moment: What do you see?

*NOTE: This is, every bit, written from my perspective. What I see here is a way of subjugating girls/women, and I don’t really see much of this applying to boys/men. If you have a different perspective than my het female one, please share in the comments. Trollishness, however, will be dealt with as always.

**Apparently tough == Mr. T. I need some feminist heroes, STAT!

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6 thoughts on “The World According to Abstinence-Only Education.

  1. Hee. I had tons of fun reading that one.
    I do NOW, actually, have trouble with the Sex = Teh Germs… because of HPV, sneaky bastard, condoms don’t prevent, etc. etc. I now have to undo that mental chain AGAIN.

    I think you pretty much nailed it, but I’ve got an addition problem with the structure… the most important is at the bottom, the least is #1! I see the whole humor strategy, haha, the clothes is is #1 cause it’s funny how women prepare themselves to be looked at by men!

    I just finished writing a huge long endcomment to a student who attempted to use “it doesn’t mean anything, it’s funny!” as an argument. Funny HAS to mean, otherwise it isn’t funny.

  2. Truth is: it’s funny now!! But it is never funny when you catch the bug coz the thingy was 20% safe or because “i thought the guy was safe, he looked safe”. I have buried too many FRIENDS into that grave to even think of opening my zippers up to anyone – imagine, open your zippers for 5 minutes tops and have a lifetime of destruction. I WILL WAIT.

    And besides I am not even ready yet to bring my junior into this world. What will I feed him, Mummy’s frozen chicken? No, I WILL WAIT. No rush.

    Oh and if you are wondering: I am a MALE 24 year old virgin Ugandan. A normal red-and-hot-blooded young Ugandan.

    Be cool.

  3. @tanglethis: I wasn’t aware of condoms != HPV preventative. This is exactly the sort of thing that bothers me: everyone should know this. I blame the shame-stigma about sex for making these subjects hard to cover with children, friends, students, etc.

    It’s the lack of sex education that leaves young people in the dark about sex, STDs, even their own bodies. (I didn’t know really much about my menstrual cycle until I bought Our Bodies Ourselves about two years ago). The catchy (or not so catchy) one-liners and fear tactics typical of abstinence-only education do more harm than good, in my experience.

    @Tovi Ellesse: Thanks for commenting! I think it’s great that you want to wait, and from what you say, it seems to be the right decision for you. Having lost someone (or multiple people) in your life to disease thanks to unsafe sex, I can certainly understand your reasons.

    I’m not sure what birth control/STD preventative you mean with “thingy”, but I can say that if I knew anything had only a 20% effective rate, that is, I only had a 1 in 5 chance of NOT being infected with an STD, I would not choose that method. If I had no other alternatives, I’d wait too (or rather, I would have waited until I had alternatives).

    Also, someone ‘looking safe’ or ‘seeming safe’, or even claiming to be a virgin is not good enough information for me. Assuming someone’s sexual past based on looks is never wise; getting the info from that potential partner and building trust with a potential partner are better criteria than superficial “I thought he was safe, he looked safe”.

    As for bringing a child into the world, I’m not ready for that either, which is why my husband and I use birth control. The teens I grew up with were so sheltered from the workings of their bodies and the realities of sex that many got pregnant accidentally or got some sort of STD. It’s the lack of available choices + the shaming of premarital sex that leads to so much teenage pregnancy where I’m from.

  4. @tanglethis: Oh, and I meant to write something about “How about that, the MOST IMPORTANT reason you can give your date as to why you don’t want to have sex is: “I spent too much time dressing up!”

    I’m not really surprised that their #1 reason is the most clearly aimed at women/girls AND the most clearly sexist one. If the folks responsible for this Top 25 are anything like the churchy folks I grew up around, the most important things are the ones that reinforce women’s subjugation the most.

  5. Spot on. It is sort of a funny list, but mostly it just makes me sad. These people seem determined to make sure everyone shares their sex-neuroses, and keeps them forever.

  6. Thanks for the comment, kristi. ^^ I’m going to slightly disagree with your statement that the determination is to make sure everyone shares their sex-neuroses ™ — I think that most many of the people who believe this claptrap belive it is Right and Proper and It Was Good Enough For Me/Grandpa, It’s Good Enough For You.

    The women I know who tout this stuff really and truly believe it’s for your own protection — I suspect because Teh Sex ™ was a horrifying/disappointing experience for them, and it only ended up in pregnancy and/or disease. Sex is not good for women, if women are uneducated about sex and not in control of their sexuality.

    For the men, I believe (although none would ever admit it to my face, I am a mere woman, after all), it is the exercise of control: whoever knows about sex gets to control their sexuality. If women do not know about sex, they cannot control their sexuality — so men are enabled to step in and control women’s sexuality for them.

    So, in short, I think what these people are actually determined to do is to make sure women share women’s sex-neuroses forever, leaving men to make the decisions about where, when and how.

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