Amanda reviews the fallout from the instant urban legend about pregnancy pacts. Also, a plea for moderation, an interview with author Daniel Radosh, and an inquiry into whether or not the homosexual mafia exists yet.
Links in this episode:
George Carlin on abortion
CBS covers pregnancy pacts
Associate Press covers pregnancy pacts
MSNBC covers pregnancy pacts
Conservatives go nuts over pregnancy pacts
There was no pregnancy pact
The original offense
Ted Haggard gives up
Ted Haggard brags
Michael Savage gets weirder
This week on Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Daniel
Radosh about Jesus junk. Also, why the Massachusetts pregnancy
pact was a myth, a plea for moderation, and paranoia about the non-existent
As you no doubt know, George Carlin passed away
recently. Which means, of course,
tribute time. Carlin had an opinion on
about pretty much everything, which includes reproductive rights.
His influences on smartasses the nationwide is impossible to
A few weeks ago, I reported on a controversy in Gloucester, Massachusetts,
where the health officials at a school were hitting resistance from the
hospital and community over their desire to move from just providing pregnancy
tests to providing contraception. At the
time, the news that the school’s pregnancy rate had quadrupled in a year was
alarming but not to the point where there needed to be a special explanation
for it. The number of known pregnant
girls jumped from 4 to 17 out of a school of 1200 students. Consider that 1 in 3 girls nationwide will be
pregnant before the age of 20.If Gloucester
hews to national averages, then 200 of their students will be pregnant before
they turn 20. The real rate is well
hidden, and these fluctuations are just evidence of that.
In the weeks since the story hit, though, well, maybe you
heard some more about it. Once the
principle uttered the phrase "pregnancy pact", then an urban legend with a big
assist from a gullible media was on its way.
I was immediately skeptical. The
idea of a pregnancy pact fits into misogynist and classist narratives just a
little too easily, like the myths about Cadillac-driving welfare queens in the
80s that people continue to believe in though they didn’t exist.
Here’s the superintendent on CBS:
And they just take him at his word! These are the cream of the crop journalists
supposedly. And they couldn’t recognize
blatant ass-covering. I reported on this
weeks ago and then it was clear that the narrative was about how the school
needed to take more responsibility for education and contraception, but that
story is lost in the midst of sensationalism about a pregnancy pact.
The story grew like a typical urban legend. The original statements seem to be that a few
girls came in seeking pregnancy tests and seemed disappointed when they weren’t
pregnant. From there, the story
grew. Here’s the AP video reporting:
Sex researchers who focus on teenage pregnancy have long understood
that many girls get pregnant on purpose, often because they’re unaware of the
ramifications or because they think it’s going to make that high school
sweetheart romance last forever or because they really want a baby to love
them. But it’s ridiculous to think that
means we should just throw up our hands and give up on preventing accidental
pregnancies, which are also really common.
So, some people want the girls to behave like good girls who
don’t plan on using contraception, without facing up to the fact that this will
lead to more teenage pregnancy. So they
make up wild stories about pregnancy pacts that shift all the blame onto the
The shameful legend-spreading moved to MSNBC.
Given permission to go on a misogynist spree, conservatives
took the bait. Roy Edroso detailed
various right wingers declaring that they would like to brand single teenage
mothers with scarlet letters to shame them, have them sterilized against their
will, and otherwise punish them, with hints that prison for sexually active
girls isn’t out of the question. Hollywood was
blamed. Hands were wrung. TV reporters waxed sorrowful over the poor
boys tricked into this procreative sex.
It was all nonsense.
One thing really stands out when you’re watching the news
reports, which is not a single member of this supposed pact steps forward to
confirm the story. It’s all hearsay and
based around a single blame-shifting comment from Principal Joseph Sullivan. The Boston Herald reports that the mayor and
other school officials are now stepping forward and denying that there’s any
Meanwhile, the reporter Kathleen Kingsbury who first wrote
the pregnancy pact story for Time doesn’t really hide in the initial story her
beliefs about how girls should be punished for sexuality. The original story criticized the school for
allowing the girls to continue education after giving birth, and hinted that
depriving them of child care, which is tantamount to explusion, would be a
proper punishment. I think that she had
an anti-teenage mother agenda that made her gullible to claims about pregnancy
pacts. She also pushes the incorrect story that no girls would take the
contraception if it were offered, even though she admits that currently kids in
a hard time accessing birth control pills.
* insert interview*
So, Ted Haggard has quit the restoration program that was
supposed to get the gay out of him. He
won’t ever be going back to the Colorado
megachurch he founded. Let’s hope that
the damage done to the fundamentalist movement is somewhat permanent this time
I’ll admit, every time I think of Ted Haggard, I think of
the creepy segment in the documentary Friends Of God that was made before
Haggard was found out to be huffing meth with gay prostitutes. In the segment, he tries to intimidate the
less godly by putting on a show about how much sex you get if you’re a fundie
Uh-huh. But it does
tell you something about the weird tendency of Americans, particularly of the
Bible-thumping variety, to just make too big a deal out of everything. Complete celibacy before marriage, doing it
all the time after. Or at least say
that, because god forbid you admit that Jesus has made you less than
I briefly mentioned a few weeks ago that a couple of books
are coming out—memoirs by people who decided that their marriages would be
improved by treating sex like an endurance sport instead of a pleasure. One is "365 Nights" and one is "Just Do It",
a memoir about the more modest goal of doing it for 101 days. These books have turned into a minor
sensation, probably because most people are baffled at why you have to make sex
a duty of endurance. The couple that
went for the year long extreme is a religious couple, which is unsurprising if
you think about that Haggard video and the pressure it represents.
Naturally, the Today show was all over this story.
In case you didn’t guess, the more dutiful couple was the
one that uses words like "beget" and are the religious ones. Not that it’s a bad idea to revise
expectations about sex like this. It’s
not going to be a 4 hour romantic getaway every time. But I suspect a sex therapist would caution
that if you’re sacrificing quality for a dutiful quantity, then that’s a
Of course, the best part is they admit that they didn’t
actually even keep the vow, but took plenty of days off. Once again, I reflect on the Haggard video
and how there’s a lot of talk but the action isn’t what people make it out to
I don’t know why, but this comment cracked me up:
That’s like a euphemism for a euphemism, came together. I don’t think he meant it how it sounded.
There’s a point to all this.
Mandatory sex is part of the larger tendency of our culture to see sex
as something that needs to be tightly regulated. Not that it’s bad for couples to make sex a
priority. In fact, that seems smart to
me. But why does everything have to be
about measurements and controls?
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts. Michael Savage is, if anything, getting
weirder and sicker all the time. The
latest rant about gay marriage from him is notable for being pathetic,
paranoid, and a bit desperate.
Or my two female cats that lay around licking each other or
the gay penguins at the zoo. But no
matter. He’s clearly not someone you
argue with. He’s someone you back away
from slowly. Of course, all too often,
that kind of nuttiness gets you a radio program.