99% Octuplets-Free!

Masturbation is good for you, but romantic comedies not so much. Also, an interview with Helena Silverstein about how the judicial system fails teenage girls seeking abortion.


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Links in this episode:

Anti-masturbation zealots

More dangers of anti-masturbation zealotry

Romantic comedies are bad for you

10 classic romantic comedies

Chris Matthews avoids responsibility

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking about the commodification of romance and protests against romancing yourself.  Also, an interview with author Helena Silverstein about how the judicial bypass process for minors seeking abortion is failing our teenage girls.

I promised the folks on Twitter that this podcast would be octuplets-free. But give me 45 seconds. I do have to play this small clip that makes me think that the mother of these children and her mother are locked in one of those intense family rivalries that just happens to be playing itself out in public.

  • octuplets *

As weird as this situation is, I have to point out that what the doctors did in implanting all of the leftover embryos instead of throwing them away is what some anti-choice legislators want to make the law by mandating that all embryos created for IVF are implanted.  Hopefully this situation will help shine light on how crazy such laws really would be.  


I’m sure by now you’ve seen these pictures of teenaged kids hanging out on steps with T-shirts that say "ex-masturbator" on them.  You don’t really need to know the particulars to fill in the story for yourself—yep, another anti-choice ministry with an unhealthy obsession with punishing and controlling teenagers because teenagers have the gall to have young bodies and high libidos and we’re all a little jealous.  Though we shouldn’t be.  I remember being a teenager and it was actually mostly hard.  The anti-masturbation movement was the natural next step for religious nuts who went after abortion, and then contraception, and then sex education.  

So you probably didn’t even have to read the posts about these t-shirts to know what’s going on.  But if you dive in deeper, as you can imagine, it gets even weirder and hairier.  For instance, the Passion For Christ Movement that made these t-shirts also has videos of kids testifying about their post-masturbation lives of tension and lack of sleep.  Just kidding!  They can’t tell the truth.  We’re talking anti-sex nuttery, where lying is king.

The website for the group has all the markers of the increasingly sophisticated anti-feminist, anti-sex Christian right.  First of all, they take a message that is in actuality aimed almost solely at young women and pretend that it’s bi-gendered by putting a bunch of men in the marketing materials.  And they try to make it hip.

  • ex masturbator 1 *

But when it comes to the specific ex-masturbator shirt, somehow only women seem to be eligible for interviewing.

  • ex masturbator 2 *

My co-blogger at Pandagon Pam noted that these videos are aimed mainly at young people of color, and this especially concerns her, because, quote, "the sad truth is that, with the unprecedented spread of HIV/AIDS in minority communities, a pious drumbeat to demonize a form of sexual expression that represents safe sex, doesn’t involve the possibility of an unintended pregnancy, and no one gives a rip about if done in private is the last thing young POC need to hear." End quote.  

Pushing this especially at women creates another set of problems.

  • ex masturbator 3 *

I’ve been reading Gloria Feldt’s book from a few years back called "Behind Every Choice Is A Story", and the one thing that jumps out at you about the abortion stories is how many of the women who suffered an unintended pregnancy did so because of a sexual encounter they didn’t want.  And over and over again, it was in part because they couldn’t even tell you what they wanted.  For many women, sex is not about pleasure.  Instead, it’s something you do to shut a man up, or because you somehow belong to him.  This makes it harder for women to protest men who are raping them or demanding sex without protection, and therefore it leads directly towards increasing the unintended pregnancy rate.  

Discouraging masturbation encourages these toxic attitudes.  It’s about telling women that our bodies don’t belong to ourselves, but really belong to some man out there and that even our orgasms aren’t about feeling good, but about making some dude who owns you happy. Masturbation is about fun and pleasure, but it’s also a neat way to remind yourself that you own yourself and your body belongs to you and not anyone else.  

Like pretty much all of these groups, Passion is unable to put up a convincing front about not being wildly sexist.  They also make Ex-Diva shirts, and since "diva" is the trendy word to replace "bitch", which is a word to shame women who are outspoken and not submissive, they’re obviously encouraging young women to brag about embracing submission.


  • insert interview *


Now that we’re definitely deep into an economic crisis that’s likely to be a genuine depression, you’re seeing a major panic in some sectors of the economy that know that they’re the first on the chopping block to go when people are looking for ways to cut back.  And in the sex-and-romance industry, the panic is at a fever pitch.  After all, Valentine’s Day was Saturday!  That’s the national holiday of spending money to get laid and/or show someone you really do love them even if you don’t exactly show it the other 364 days of the year.

In case it’s not obvious, I’m a conscientious objector to Valentine’s Day.  I’m disturbed by the commodification of erotic love, and I have my suspicions that said commodification actually hurts people’s abilities to make responsible and fulfilling sexual health choices.  Consider that romantic comedies have been demonstrated scientifically to hurt people. Warning: this segment is horribly sexist.

  • valentines 1 *

This bundle of false beliefs, like in soul mates or love at first sight, also comes with another one that troubles me, which is the belief that love is easy and there is never any need for communication.  Which in turn is one reason that we have such high rates of contraception non-use.  People want to get swept away in the moment, and don’t talk about condom use, and the result is high STD and unintended pregnancy rates.  Which are definitely not romantic.

I’m a curmudgeon, so when I see lists of top ten romantic comedies as I have seen this past week, I go pfft.  When people ask what romantic comedies I love, I mention the two classics in the subgenre boy gets girl, boy acts like an entitled, sexist choad, and boy loses girl permanently.  Talk about sending a positive message! These movies are "Chasing Amy"

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And "Annie Hall".  

* valentines 3 *

In both cases, the lesson is that men who don’t respect women’s intelligence or sexual experience should be alone until they grow up.  I can get behind that.  Better than the grand gesture fixes everything cliché of other romantic comedies.

Since we’re in a recession, I saw a bunch of Valentine’s stories about romance on a dime. I love it, because romance is so commodified that we can’t even suggest love is free.  But maybe love is cheap?  Here’s a typical example:

  • valentines 4 *

I won’t torture you by playing any more.  Be grateful, since she recommends skipping the booze and drinking tea instead, a piece of advice I feel absolutely no one will take. But well-meaning as advice like this is, it still bothers me, because it reinforces this cookie-cutter image of romance.  And when people are striving for an ideal instead of just being themselves, they’re less likely to cultivate the communication skills necessary for safe sex and healthy relationships.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Chris Matthews really is a major wingnut edition.  Matthews just can’t get over his childish glee over the idea of conservative Republicans who want to use sex panics to squelch bills that are about economic relief for working Americans.

* matthews *

He’s not wrong, actually.  I think he’s right that sex panic will be used to fight against universal health care.  But the blame for this situation sits on his shoulders mightily because he just gives these politicians license to make outrageous claims and he never questions them about it.  Matthews wants to mainstream the idea that contraception is controversial, and for that I have to say FAIL.


Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • http://unefemmepluscourageuse.blogspot.com invalid-0

    While I loved the podcast and agree with you on almost everything, I must respectfully disagree with you on the issue of tea. Tea has many health benefits and can actually be quite a nice beverage to drink for relaxation or invigoration purposes. And it won’t give you a hangover.

    Eh, I’m a hippie, what can I say?

  • http://www.scarleteen.com/blog invalid-0


    I liked the use of monosyllabic exclamations this week!
    “BARF”, “FAIL!”

    I just watched “Knocked Up” the other week and I must say it’s a pretty good romantic comedy…

    Boy meets girl has 1-night-of-fun-sex which is not depicted as seedy, he’s immature and they’re incompatible, so they break contact until she becomes pregnant and he puts work in work to become a good father and falls in “love”/relationshipishness in the process…

    I found his character really interesting because of how brilliant his behaviour was sometimes and how much of an idiot he was at others, which I found very realistic.

    I liked that for much of the film they were already in a relationship and that it was about negotiation and learning to listen to each other.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qpL-5d5_ok invalid-0

    The commodification of romance? Hmmm?

  • http://www.snickers-clothing.co.uk invalid-0

    Here’s a thought. In so many societies masterbation is frowned upon and even looked down on, but could this guilt factor that is laid down on people actually be causing a more sexually repressed society? Even leading to more sex crimes? Isn’t it about time that the world pulled it’s head out and accepted that sex is what makes the world go round?

  • http://healthandwellnessmagazine.blogspot.com invalid-0

    Amanda, I really want to commend you for such an insightful post! Although this topic is controversial, you’ve put it in a way that’s so realistically true. Thank you so much!

  • http://www.tshirtinsight.com/ invalid-0

    What’s next?

    This is a great site an another very interesting article. My children are currently 5 and under so these issues aren’t directly affecting my family yet. However I am already concerned about the way (some) religion tries to demonize certain perfectly natural activities. As for abortion, I just read another article on this site about a 9 year old girl in Brazil who is going to be forced to have twins that she conceived as a result of incest. How can this possibly be justified? Staggering.

  • http://www.compare-ink-cartridge-retailers.com invalid-0

    I completely agree with Martin. This site is great as it is one of the few available sites that address the actual issues such as abortion, contraception .etc., that actually need to be addressed. Keep the good work going…

  • http://hannaowen.com invalid-0

    Abortion and masturbation in the same article. This site truly gives a great opinions on the matters that are hard to deal with. Online is a great place to talk about these hard issues that you would not talk with parents or even friends.