An interview with Corinne Carey of the NYCLU about women in prison and health care. Also, is it okay to have sex without condoms in some circumstances and why can’t abstinence-only people get the story straight?
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This week on Reality Cast, we’ll have an interview with Corinne Carey of the New York ACLU on women’s health care in the New York state jail system. Also, a segment on mixed messages from the abstinence-only movement, and an author who doesn’t understand what the word "abortion" means, but doesn’t let that stop him from being very much against it. And is it always wrong to talk about sex without condoms?
If you haven’t seen some of Sarah Haskins’ videos for the show infoMania, drop what you’re doing and check them out. She is incredibly funny.
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Haskins should reconsider this comedy gig. If she got into marketing and pitched this "Want sex but not babies?" idea to a client, they’d be falling all over her praising her brilliance for such an innovative campaign.
There are many reasons for hostility against the abstinence-only movement, with the number one being the obvious one, which is that odds are they’re against you personally getting laid. Then there’s the lying, and the maudlin religious piety. And of course, there’s the sexist views that insult both men and women, by insinuating that men are nothing but sex-crazed beasts who need women to rein them in, and that women are nothing but marriage-minded simpletons who need to treat their bodies like currency to get the ring.
But this week, let’s pick on them for being so freaking confusing. They’re constantly sending out mixed messages. Of course, some of them are less mixed if you apply some analysis and assume that abstinence-only is more about pushing sexism than health care. Let’s look at some examples. This first one is a video from the National Women’s Law Center about a baffling abstinence-only product.
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Talk about a mixed message! Be a virgin but wear underwear that was pretty much designed for sex. Are they kidding? But if you look at it from the perspective of a sexist, it actually makes perfect sense. Sexist culture is all about giving women damned-if-you-damned-if-you-don’t standards, so that you’re always wrong, no matter what you’re doing. You’re supposed to both be virginal so that your sexuality doesn’t threaten the scaredy-cat men, but you’re also supposed to be sexy so that they like to look at you. At all points in time, you should be doing something wrong, either being too slutty or too prudish. There’s no such thing as doing the right thing while being a woman. Being a woman, at the end of the day, is where you screwed up.
But I’ll admit, this next example made me laugh even harder, but mostly because Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council is such a baby that’s scared of his own shadow. Planned Parenthood has some new videos out, and this is how Perkins describes the experience of watching them: Quote "the group posts a series of videos so revolting that members of my staff were visibly shaken." End quote.
What’s in these videos? Animals being slaughtered? Sweat shops employing child labor? Some religious conservative leader relaxing in his afterhours by spending time with gay prostitutes? No, of course not. That’s ordinary stuff. This, however, is grueling.
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Yep, the idea of women masturbating is enough to make the Family Research Council folks shake from fear. As Ann at Feministing notes, the irony is that this video is actually made in support of the choice to abstain from sex.
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Perkins is probably mad that Planned Parenthood won’t play the role assigned by anti-cboicers. Anti-choicers are forever claiming that pro-choice organizations are telling you that you have to have sex whether you want to or not, and here’s Planned Parenthood not only not doing that, but arguing that for some people, abstinence is indeed the right choice and that you should support that. Of course, they’re realistic about what abstinence looks like, which is a whole lot of masturbation.
But really, if you reframe this and realize that Perkins is, above all else, a raging sexist, then his fear and anger makes sense. I mean, right there is the scariest message of all—a genuine female person saying that she likes herself without immediately falling on her sword in shame. How can she like herself? She’s a woman! Didn’t anyone tell her that women aren’t likeable? Add to it her belief that as a decent person worth being liked, it’s okay for her to feel pleasure, and you’re crossing all sorts of lines. Next you’ll be saying a woman is as good as a man.
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Oh boy, there’s nothing like talking about sex and young people to stir up an ugly controversy. NPR’s Day to Day learned that when they had a short segment on for their "What’s the new what?" series. Pendarvis Harshaw of Youth Radio was the host and he crossed the first line by not condemning the idea that a new generation might be creating its own sexual mores. But alas, he gave his critics something to grab onto by invoking fears of disease.
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I thought the segment was cute. Harshaw wasn’t promoting irresponsible behavior. The behavior he describes is actually right out of the healthy sexual behavior manual. Use condoms until you’re in a committed relationship. If you do decide to forgo, only do so if you’re in a monogamous relationship with someone you trust, and you are both tested for disease. I thought it was refreshing and funny, and a way to promote healthy behavior without scolding or creating standards that are so high that people despair.
The segment revealed the high numbers of stuck-up old people with unabashedly racist attitudes that listen to NPR who are willing to complain. Harshaw’s accent was mocked, as was the use of hip-hop music in the segment. People grabbed at the disease excuse to rationalize their ignorant opinions. Finally, NPR had to do a response segment.
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Excuses, excuses. People think the only tone you should address young people in is one that young people will immediately tune out—preaching at them, scolding them, and basically punishing them because they’re young and you’re not anymore. That approach doesn’t do half as much in promoting responsible behavior as Harshaw’s, but it makes a bunch of cranky people feel superior, which is apparently more important than the public health. The thing is that sex is fun, and if you don’t concede that it’s supposed to be fun and make it all seriousness all the time, people won’t listen to you.
NPR went back and interviewed Harshaw about the whole dust-up, and here’s what he had to say.
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The whole situation makes me very uncomfortable. Whenever I see someone complaining about the language or tone or sense of humor of a piece, I’ve learned enough at this point to realize that what they’re almost certainly objecting to is the content, but they’re too cowardly to say outright that’s what it is. So instead of dealing with the argument, they try to discredit the speaker. So what did Harshaw say that upset people so much? I think it was the implicit message of his piece, which is that there’s nothing wrong with sex, whether inside or outside of a committed relationship, but what’s important is taking care of your health. And a lot of people don’t want to hear that. They think that you should be ashamed of your sex life and suffer consequences if you have the sort of sex they don’t approve of.
That, or all the complainers were plants from the diamond industry. If sex without condoms does replace the engagement ring as a sign of commitment, they do stand to lose a lot of money.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, with this one being the what the hey edition. And seriously, this is a what the hey. Sean Hannity has been extensively interviewing some crazy right wing crank named Jerome Corsi, who belongs to the just-make-stuff-up school of research. And this guy makes the strangest claim about Barack Obama’s position on, um, "abortion" rights.
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Yes, ladies and gentleman. He just claimed that Obama voted to allow women to abort a pregnancy when they aren’t even pregnant because they gave birth. I don’t know how that would work. I mean, I’m sure there’s some convoluted anti-choice nonsense behind this that’s not even worth addressing, because really he’s making a definitional error. You can’t terminate a pregnancy if you aren’t pregnant, full stop. I’m not entirely sure how you can even engage with people in a debate with such a poor grasp on reality.