Monday, December 6, 2010

Bristol and Abstinence בריסטול והמנעות

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.


  1. Glad to hear adults my age -- cough, cough -- think like I do. The only thing I don't agree with is: How can you possibly think her "dancing" was ANYWHERE close to the grace 'n' charm of Jennifer Grey! Shaking your shoulders 'n' tush is NOT dance!

  2. Well, whether it is or isn't, I doubt Bristol has thought ahead to when Trip finds her shaking her booty all over YouTube (or whatever 12-year-olds'll be watching a decade hence).