Here I come, out of the closet. Confession: I’m a Bristol-watcher. Palin, that is. Ever since hockey-mom Sarah was nominated for the Vice Presidency, this family has been my window into the abstinence-only world of reproduction (that shouldn’t be happening in the same sentence, should it?). First things first: I think Bristol did a terrific job on Dancing With the Stars. I have no critique of her performance, despite the more than 1,400 comments generated by the Washington Post piece thereon, which quickly deteriorated into a bash-the-other-sideFest of which the commentors of both parties should be ashamed — not for bashing each other; that’s natural — but rather for failing to distinguish between fluff entertainment and politics.
My critique of Bristol is twofold. First of all, if, as she says, parenting is a 24-hour job, then why is she engaging in endeavors (dance competitions, speaking engagements, PSAs) that take her thousands of miles away from her not-yet-two-year-old?
Secondly, if she advocates sexual abstinence, what is she doing dancing provocatively in revealing costumes before millions of viewers? I know, I know: Sexy does not equal sexual, and being sexy does not equal engaging in sex. Still, I have a hard time ignoring the link between overtly seductive behavior — even if it’s pretend — and actual sex. Is there not a mixed message here?
I don’t know about others, but for me the mixed message here is about as hard to miss as the broad side of a barn, as is the illogic of abstinence-only education. My problem with AOE goes beyond the fact that it doesn’t work, ditto for its advocacy. My problem lies in this niggling sense I have that in their zeal to eradicate abortion, AOE advocates have lost sight of these starting-with-a-handicap girls and their babies.
Because I’ll give the AOE advocates credit for reading the stats, they have to
know that AOE doesn’t work: AOE-educated teens are still having sex (albeit delayed by an average of 18 months behind their non-AOE-educated peers — great, so 17-year-olds are doing it instead of 16-year-olds…only the former are 66% less likely than the latter to use protection) and still getting pregnant. So the AOE advocates know that babies “slip through” their net, and at the same rate as non-AOE babies. So where’s the Christian right’s zeal about young women’s futures? I suspect it’s trampled over by the ultimate goal of maintaining patriarchy.
Besides that, though, what’s going on here? Why are the AOE advocates willing to let babies “slip through”? I have a theory: We, all of us, pro- and anti-abortion, are secretly titillated by the image of a teen mom, and I have a hunch that it stems from the iconology of the Madonna. Why, then, is Europe so much more liberal about reproductive education and abortion than the US? I believe it has to do with our Puritan roots, which is why I don’t foresee any rapprochement on this issue: The Christian right simply sees terminating a pregnancy as a more grievous abomination unto the Lord than compelling a teenager, who has the most pessimistic profile for parenting, to give birth. Because after all, there’s life after having a baby at age 17: Just look at Bristol Palin.