Why I Agree with Sarah Palin on Abstinence Education

Sarah Palin on contraception and sex education: “I’m pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues. So I am not anti-contraception. But, yeah, abstinence is another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don’t have a problem with that. That doesn’t scare me, so it’s something I would support also.”

From Palin on Feminist Issues, Dr. Violet Socks, September 15.

My own experience with sex education was pretty weird. One day in the 5th grade the boys and girls were segregated, rooms were darkened, and films where shown about adolescent development. This is what a woman is and these are the characteristics typical to her. I assume it was similar for boys. I don’t know that any of us girls ever asked any boys what they experienced. It was a pretty disconnected experience and at 10 years old, it didn’t occur to me that my status as a girl would naturally result in the evolution to a status as a woman. I was about 14 before I made that connection. By then, I’d already had sex.

I’ve shared with readers my experiencing living in one of the toughest slums in Louisville, KY. I’m pretty open about the fact that I was dirt poor growing up, lower than working class really. Before we landed in that housing project, we’d called various patches of dirt in and around Houston, TX home. The most stability I ever knew growing up was when my father managed to keep it together long enough to qualify for a loan as a result of his Vietnam veteran status. We lived in the house for almost 3 years. People don’t really like to think about what it means to be a woman in this murky underworld, and an honest account of a girl coming of age in that world is an even less welcome topic of conversation.

I don’t know if what happens to a girl in that murky underworld-the world of the financially desperate, the world of alcoholics and drug addicts, of sex workers and waitresses, unskilled laborers, welfare recipients, and a disproportionate amount of handicapped people-happens in other classes of folks growing up. I can only speak to my own experience, and my experience was half in that murky underworld and half in a system of protection, even from myself.

When I was 14 years old I was declared a ward of the state (KY) and, thank goodness, got shuffled into what was one of the finest juvenile justice systems in the world, the system of the 1980s, which had its roots in bipartisan legislation of the 1970s. It was a system focused on therapy and character development, on building relationships and trust in the individual, showing them ways of being that where utterly foreign to them. This is what it means to be a human being. This is how a human being makes a bed. You are worthy of being a human being. Please make your bed. For two and half solid years lessons as simple as these, along with lessons about the value of stability, and the worth of my relentlessly resilient spirit were drilled into me. You tell me if that was money well spent.

That juvenile justice system is long gone now, dismantled in the negotiating between the war of the sides, where Democrats appeased until they bled while Republicans kept up an unyielding assault.  But, of course, that isn’t what I came here to talk about. I’ve gone on a rather long-winded digression, though not really. I suppose it’s all necessary, because all of these experiences inform my opinions, which are changing as I shift from an objective of defending my rights and freedoms as a young women to my 14 year old daughter as she herself evolves into womanhood, and defending her from the kind of scary, abusive, sexist experiences I had as a girl. Much as I’d rather not, I suppose it’s time to tell the truth.

Let me preface this by saying that this is a particularly difficult topic to discuss because women’s complaints about mating rituals and sexual treatment are often seen as castrating feminine bitching, and thus automatically invalid and worth dismissing. The woman who complains about unfairness and sexism in the dating world is called a man-hater. But that world is unfair, and that fact doesn’t get talked about enough. There is still the double standard that men who are promiscuous are robust and healthy while women who are promiscuous are whores, of course, but that isn’t even the worst of it. There’s also the fact that some males play a sort of sex sport. Like predators they target the weakest of the herd, the very young, single mothers, fat girls, crazy girls, drunk girls. You get the idea. This is not something girls are usually informed of either. They usually have to figure it out via multiple mistakes of naïve judgment, subjecting themselves to plenty of shame-based criticism both externally and internally. All for just being too stupid to know how the world works and not having honest adults who will tell them.

(Not that I’m blaming men entirely. Boys and young men don’t have it any easier. Girls are told throughout their lives that they should dress to suggest sexual availability, and then deny him until he is ready to commit. Is it any wonder a male today would grow weary of that kind of deceit and deceive back? Meanwhile, he’s told that he should get as much gratuitous sex as possible before he has to give up the lifestyle upon marriage. But I digress.)

In addition, the girl who is poor has to deal with all manner of inappropriate sexual advances and line-crossing with males. I’ve heard this is a universal problem on NYC subways as well, in terms of unwelcome and sometimes unidentifiable groping. My own experience was that from the time I was 12 years old on, I could expect random men as old as 50 to grab a breast or my butt, or to innocently offer a ride home, at the end of which they would intrude upon my mouth with their tongues. Disgusting, confusing, arbitrary, made-you-feel-dirty shit. One evening as I walked the well-lit path to the bus station, a couple of guys, one black, one white, “kindly” offered their services to walk with me, and along the way tried to talk me into a three-way on a slope of unlit grass beside a factory. It took some real cunning to shake those two, but shake ‘em I did, even though I was only 13 years old.

I don’t know if girls in higher classes have had to deal with that. I do know that I didn’t have to deal with it as long as I was in the confines of the very upscale neighborhood in which my group home had been built. But each weekend I would trudge home to the shitty apartment complex in the south end of Louisville (we’d finally escaped the housing projects when my mother got her nursing degree), and it would be as different as night and day. I could find myself at a mall in the good neighborhood and move about unmolested, but as soon as I returned home, boys would be at my door and men would say the most inappropriate things to me as I walked around in public places. For instance, walking down the street, I once came across a 20-something male slouched against his car. As I walked by, he said to me sneeringly: I bet you’re so young your nipples won’t even stay hard without someone playing with them. I was all of 14.

This is the world that poor girls and working class girl have to deal with. They are sexualized from a very young age, before they have the mental acuity to know what’s happening to them, before they have a voice to protest. They are shuffled around their isolated neighborhoods, whole worlds of Lolitas pushed about and duped by neighborhood Humberts. Then they are blamed when they aren’t quick enough to figure things like birth control out after they failed to successfully navigate another “no” when another pushy male arbitrarily molested them, so they end up single mothers at 16.

But, as bad as these experiences were, they aren’t anything like what my daughter is bound to face today, in the world of 24-hour triple penetration gang-bangs, free to anybody of any age who has access to a computer. They aren’t anything like blow-job bracelets and anal sex as a means to preserve virginity. Hell yes I want abstinence to be a big part of the sex education that I agree is a good idea for schools. I teach my own daughter sexual abstinence in our home by sharing with her some of my experiences, by letting her know what I think is going on in this increasingly sexualized, perverted world, and by giving her information on the limits of her own body, which is unlikely to provide her with much pleasure from the sex act for some time. She knows about condoms and can’t wait to get on Yaz (4 periods a year, mom!), but she is not sexually active or interested. I consider it a job well done so far. Why wouldn’t I want that lesson reinforced in a school setting? Go ahead, teach her about birth control and STDs and venereal diseases, teach her about the kinds of relationships that are open to her, absolutely teach her about conception and pregnancy, but go ahead and talk about the value of waiting too. I know I wish I’d had someone even mention the idea to me while I was being educated in the real world about proper sexual availability and futility. I wish I’d been told I could say no.

23 comments on “Why I Agree with Sarah Palin on Abstinence Education

  1. Steven Mather says:


    I visit your site regularly, but I rarely comment. Your work is so viscerally stark, personal, true, and enlightening that I prefer not to dilute its effect by commenting. I am posting today because I want you to know that I find your reflections to be deeply meaningful.


  2. annabellep says:

    Thank you so much for that comment, Steven. This post was very difficult to write, but it really needed to be told. We will never get anywhere as long as we are engaged in covering the truth, or worse, making a lifestyle of forgetting it (which I have been guilty of myself at times). It means a great deal to me to know that my confessions are meaningful to readers. It keeps me going.

  3. bluelyon says:

    Annabelle, thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I’ve been wanting to tear my hair out these past few weeks regarding Sarah Palin. All manner of eeeevil intent has been impugned to her, but it’s really as simple as she says. Teach it all. I so agree with you!

    Like you, I taught my daugher about birth control, but I also stressed constantly that waiting is good too. I told her, even as an adult, sex complicates everything, so don’t be afraid to hold off. But, she was prepared and protected when the time finally came. I am proud as hell of that part of my parenting.

  4. kenoshaMarge says:

    This is OT I know AnnaBelle but I am so outraged that I am taking time to spread this crap to as many fighting fems as possible.

    If you ever wondered why so many conservatives hate liberals take a look at the following. Warning, it’s disgusting and degrading and it turned my stomach. I am still shaking with outrage and revulsion. I don’t want to be on the same side ever again with people that act like this.


  5. […] tells a searing tale of her life in Why I Agree with Sarah Palin on Abstinence Education Let me preface this by saying that this is a particularly difficult topic to discuss because […]

  6. Valhalla says:

    Annabelle — this is an amazing post. Thanks so much for sharing what must be really difficult to talk about in a public space.

    I have to say, I never really thought about abstinence education from this point of view before, so I learned something new today (a welcome addition to my usual anger-driven criticism of Democrats).

    It also made me wonder — the past few years have been replete with studies showing abstinence-only education doesn’t work , debunking the need for all those federal funds to go to abstinence only programs. But where are those studies being conducted? Among kids in the circumstance you were in growing up? Or among middle-class schools in mostly conservative communities that have the programs?

    You weren’t arguing abstinence-only, it just made me wonder.

  7. bluelyon says:

    You weren’t arguing abstinence-only, it just made me wonder.

    No, Annabelle wasn’t arguing abstinence-only. And neither has Sarah Palin. But that’s the line the “progressives” keep spouting.

  8. Chevalier says:

    I have tears in my eyes as I type this comment. That *that* 14 year old became *this*woman who owns this blog, is proof of truly immense courage and spirit.

    Kudos, and please keep writing.

  9. bluelyon says:

    kenosha – I shouldn’t have clicked. Disgusting.

  10. kenoshaMarge says:

    An acquaintance of mine also emailed me with the link. She and I both do a lot of crafting and sewing and once sold our products on ebay.

    When I emailed back my disgust she replied, “but don’t liberals think all us conservatives are barefooted, pregnant, trailer trash too stupid to think for ourselves or to stand up to a man? Aren’t we Stepford Wives? Isn’t that what liberals think of us and say about us?”

    When I replied that I couldn’t speak for anyone but myself but that I certainly did not think that way, she responded, “I know you don’t. But a whole lot do”.

    Sometimes, I just want to cry for the things we do and say to hurt each other out of ignorance and arrogance. And at times I am as guilty as anyone. But never of such filth as is at the end of the link I posted above.

    Night. I need to go wash out my mind and see if I can find some peace with all this.

  11. annabellep says:

    Wow, that is shocking, Kenosha. I don’t blame you for rallying mutual fems to fight that.

    Thanks to everyone who commented here about this post. It was very difficult to write, but it’s a subject that doesn’t get discussed enough. Sometimes when you put something like this up and it only gets a couple-three comments, especially when the last thread got so many more, a writer can worry that maybe they’ve crossed a line, and maybe they wrote about something that nobody really wanted to talk about. I was hoping I wouldn’t wake up tomorrow to find the same 3 comments, as it would have reinforced that fear. Knowing that such confessions have an impact makes me want to keep writing that kind of stuff. Thank you so much for validating me today. As raw as I am after writing that, I really needed it.

  12. roofingbird says:

    Sf Francisco cable cars too. So difficult, and far to come, daily fear stuffed down deep. You are amazing. Open the door and thread the way out.

  13. chay says:

    One of the most touching piece of writing that I have read on the internet. You were able to tell this story in a way that touched my heart. I have had some of the thoughts that you describe. Mainly, how a young girl can be humiliated without having the years of experience that takes some people to be able to speak up for themselves, not knowing how to deal with the outrageous positions that a young girl can be placed in by unwanted advances. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Palomino says:

    Bless you, Annabelle. Just bless you. For who you are, for what you’ve come through.

  15. kenoshaMarge says:

    I am sorry Annabelle that I didn’t stop to comment on the heartfelt and beautiful essay you posted. It explains a lot about the woman we see in your writings.

    It explains the fighting spirit that not only tells these Bozos no, but “hell No”.

    I think of you as one of the “Fighting Fems for Democracy”. Note: for Democracy, not Democrats.

    Keep up the good work.

  16. HT says:

    Annabelle, I lurk here almost daily, but never comment. Your story brought back too many memories, and tears for the young girls who have to put up with this type of debasing treatment. And don’t think it only happens in the projects. I was born into a middle class family, lived in a small home in a nice neighborhood. Molested at 5, molested at 14, raped at 20, and that doesn’t include all the groping and nasty comments during those years. I raised my daughter, much as you are raising yours, and she’s just fine. At 21, she’s in university, has a stable long term relationship, and is moving back home to save money for a house.
    I on the other hand divorced at 33, entered a disasterous 3 year relationship (with the exception that it resulted in my daughter, and a wonderful son who I raised singlehandedly), ended that and swore off relationships thereafter. If only people realized the long term affects of this type of behavior, or perhaps they do and just do not care?

  17. madamab says:

    Annabelle – Thank you for sharing your experiences with such profound courage and touching insight. I think there is not a woman alive who could not sympathize with what you went through, and find some echo in her own experiences. I know that I do, although I was fortunate enough to be raised lower-middle-class and to have two parents who were capable of being parents.

    It was almost credible – ALMOST – that the fauxgressives were attacking Hillary because she was a Clinton and because she voted for the AUMF. But then, they did the very same thing to Sarah Palin, in the very same way, and with even more virulence. There is no excuse any more for what they are doing. It is blatant misogyny, and it is unacceptable.

    The term “rude awakening” has never been so applicable to clueless liberals like me, who always thought the Democratic Party and the fauxgressive blogosphere was on my side. Now I know that only the Clinton wing of the Party cares about the things that are important to me.

    And I shall vote accordingly.

  18. annabellep says:

    Morning, folks. I hope you don’t mind if I leave this little gem up for the rest of the day. Thank you all for your comments on this one.

    We got power restored last night (HOORAY!), so I will be busy the rest of the day getting caught up on some things and getting our apartment ready for my mom, who is still without power. I will check in from time to time.

    PS: RB, I did not know that about SF trolleys. Interesting connection point! I wish I knew what we could do about it. Hasn’t someone come up with a plan yet for how to train boys in school in ways that disrupt the internalization of sexism and misogyny within them? Am I gonna have to do it myself? F***! I’m already so busy! Heh.

  19. roofingbird says:

    The plight of the oppressed makes all vulnerable. I was thinking that even had you had the choice to be abstinent at 14, it might have been a tool used against you. I say this because sometimes when we do say no it becomes like a red cape to a bull. I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t use or not us the word “No”; only that your 14 year old self did the very best she knew how and survived. What always sucks is that oppression truly means we have no choice, no matter what we do. It is an illusion perpetrated by those bastards around us that add it to the game. Either we have to get out of it, blow it up, or drain the swamp and kill the alligators at the same time.

  20. Violet Socks says:

    This is a beautiful post.

  21. annabellep says:

    Good point, RB. I have, in fact, gotten myself into “female trouble” over my assertive, sometimes aggressive personality.

    Thanks, Dr. Socks. Nice to see you here.

    All that said, Kenosha, I had to respond to let you know what my husband said upon seeing the t-shirt in the link you provided. It’s bawdy and just as cruel but terribly funny, I think, though I also think I have a warped sense of humor.

    He said the obvious response to that t-shirt was a picture of Obama kneeling before Biden’s unzipped pants with a caption that read: Choke, baby, choke!

    Given Obama’s penchant for basketball, and the fact that he may very well lose the easiest election for a Democrat to ever win, I find it hilarious. Mean, but hilarious.

  22. Prema says:

    Thank you, Annabelle, for such a candid post about your life growing up and all the ordeals you had to go through. As a spiritual counselor, I have worked with many women from different economic stratas. I do know that sexual aggression does not know any economic class distinction–it just may be more hidden away in the so-called “upper” economic classes, and perhaps does not appear as frequently around those neighborhoods.

    I grew up in a mid to lower “middle” class family who taught, but not hammered in the value of respect for others and most, not all, of my neighbors shared that somewhat “Christian” morality of treating everyone fairly. We only had one neighbor’s son who was from another state and would visit during the summers. He was always trying to get “alone” time with my sister and he finally did get his hands on her in places that were in violation of her privacy. Luckily, that was the extent of it, but I know it has had its effect on her emotionally and psychologically.

    I didn’t specifically teach my 2 sons “abstinence only,” but did teach them that sex and sexual involvements are powerful and they need to be aware of the consequences of their actions. I shared what those consequences could be and the responsibilities that would be inherited if acted irresponsibly. I did try to emphasize that there is beauty and joy in sharing a sexual experience with someone they loved, but that if that experience is just for gratuitous selfish satisfaction, it could be damaging emotionally to both individuals involved.

    I do think sex education, along with teaching about abstinence as an alternative, should be taught in schools. Sexuality, when brought out into the light, is something that we as a society, need to learn about at all levels, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

  23. votermom says:

    What a powerful post. I’ve got two daughters — I agree with you completely.

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