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May 29, 2009

Why Is Bristol Palin's Sex Life My Business?

I know everyone is sick of reading about Bristol Palin and frankly so am I. (Especially when the latest news is over whether Todd Palin offered Bristol a new car in exchange for dumping Levi). But yet, here I am, writing about her yet again. Honestly, the ESC kind of loves Bristol - or at least, we love the Bristol that we think is in there somewhere, behind the PR-clutches of Sarah Palin and Co.



We love the Bristol who said that abstinence is "not realistic at all" much more than the Bristol who claimed the quote about abstinence being unrealistic was taken out of context. Because really, what other context can you take it in? She was quoted referring to abstinence as "the harder choice, but it's the safest choice". Yeah and it's totally realistic to expect teenagers to go for the harder choice.

No one is suggesting that abstinence doesn't work to prevent teen pregnancy. If you don't have sex - you won't get pregnant. It works pretty damn well. What doesn't always work is the getting teenagers to practice abstinence part. It is unrealistic for most teenagers and that is why abstinence-only education is such a
huge failure. Not because using contraception is somehow safer than not having sex, but because it is way safer than having unprotected sex.

And take it from Bristol, because she knows. I want to know if Tripp was conceived because her birth control method failed (broken condom?) or if Tripp was conceived because she wasn't using any form of birth control. Not my business? But it is. If Bristol is going to stand up there and tell the kiddies not to have sex, then she has to be honest about whether it was just sex that resulted in her unplanned pregnancy - or if it was unprotected sex. Most likely, she got pregnant not just because she didn't practice abstinence... but because she didn't practice abstinence or safe sex.
Although Bristol refuses to get into the specifics of exactly how she got pregnant, baby-daddy Levi Johnston has revealed in interviews that they used condoms "most of the time" but not always.

You can argue that Bristol Palin's sex life (past, present and future) is not our business and normally you'd be right... except... she is making it our business. When Sarah Palin was running for Vice President everyone was told to leave poor Bristol alone and I agree that Bristol Palin's private life should've been exactly that - private. But now that she is repackaging herself as the poster girl for abstinence and asking teenagers to learn from her experience, it is becoming our business. No matter how many times she says "I'm not here to talk about my personal life," she's wrong. That is exactly the reason she is there. Do you think anyone would care what she has to say about abstinence or teen pregnancy if it wasn't for her personal life?


The entire basis of her "ambassadorship" for the Candies Foundation is what happened in her personal life. And her entire spiel for the foundation is based on her experiences in her personal life. Seriously. She's got that whole 'trust me, teen parenting is super hard, I know, I'm doing it' shtick and also the 'do as I say, not as a I did' angle... all the while with her personal life sleeping in her lap.

Pretty much, Bristol Palin is evidence that abstinence-only education doesn't work. It just doesn't. In fact, you could argue that abstinence-only education causes teen pregnancy, because if/when those teens inevitably do have sex they will be less likely to protect themselves from pregnancy. For some reason it has to be all or nothing with the GOP, who often act like comprehensive sex education is "pre-abortion training". Even Meghan McCain will tell you that birth control isn't abortion... it prevents abortion by preventing teen pregnancy.

Todd Palin has admitted that he never talked to Bristol about sex or birth control because she "had enough information out there." Apparently not, Todd. Yet for some reason he keeps referring to the "mistake" that Bristol made. Yeah, you and high-profile Sarah Palin had nothing to do with it. (Also, Bristol has made it clear that although being a mother is "hard work" she considers her son a blessing, "not a mistake").

My daughter is only 9 and she already knows where babies come from. (Well, she knows the basics and I will continue to build on that over time). It reminds me of a discussion I had with an acquaintance back when Jamie Lynn Spears had just given birth... Her daughter saw a magazine cover in the supermarket and asked "how did Zoey 101 get a baby?" Unsure how to answer, she told her that she "borrowed it from her sister Britney Spears". When I heard that story, of course, I knew that the only thing she taught her daughter that day was that her mom is a liar. If you ask my daughter how Jamie Lynn Spears got a baby she will tell you "because she had unsafe sex".

And that's how Bristol Palin got a baby too... no matter how much she wants to pretend that the details don't matter.

Cross-posted at SexGenderBody.com

6 comments:

Not Hannah said...

I feel the same way. Part of me wants to smack Bristol for her smug teenagey "believe me, I've been there" mess and part of me wants to smack her parents for their abysmal lack of parenting.

Pretty much all of me wants this family to retire to their personal Yukon hunting lodge for the rest of their lives. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on most of what you said, and am fully supportive of well-rounded sex ed as a birth control/unplanned pregnancy counselor. However, I think it's problematic to teach anyone - your daughter or anyone else's - that pregnancy is always a result of unsafe sex, because tons of people out there do everything they can... and still end up pregnant. They also often choose to continue those pregnancies, and we should be just as supportive of that as we are of the choice to terminate.

Lilith said...

Well, okay. Those would be two really good points... IF I had actually suggested either of those things.

I didn't teach my daughter that pregnancy only comes from unsafe sex, but she knows that if you DO have sex, unsafe sex is way more likely to result in pregnancy than safe sex. The problem is in pretending that abstinence is the only option. It is the most effective option, but it's not realistic for everyone. The point of comprehensive sex ed is that it teaches you all the options, including the effectiveness and failure rates of each.

It's disingenuous for Bristol Palin to say "I didn't practice abstinence and look what happened." The truth is "I didn't practice abstinence AND I DIDN'T USE A CONDOM EITHER".

My daughter knows that even safe sex can result in pregnancy (that is how she was conceived by the way) but I'm not stupid enough to think that "Just say no" is going to protect her.

As for being supportive of those who choose to continue their unplanned pregnancies... what would ever have given you the impression that we are not? As an "unplanned pregnancy counselor" I'm sure you know that being pro-choice means the choice to choose abortion OR NOT.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lilith,

I agree with you again, and I understand that you don't teach your daughter that way and don't believe it yourself. And, of course, I understand what 'pro-choice' means.

BUT, again, I have to argue with the assumption you make about Bristol Palin and others like her. You stated yourself in the post that you wish she would be open about whether or not she used some form of birth control. But in your response here, you assume no condom (or other protection) and you have no way of knowing that. She might have been protected, just like you were, and still become pregnant.

Nevertheless, I agree that she should be disclosing whether or not she was using some form of BC.

Lilith said...

Obviously I can't know for sure when Tripp was conceived, which is why I'd like Bristol to discuss it.

However, I think it's legitimate to acknowledge that they only used protection some of the time. Latex condoms have a 2% failure rate when used properly and consistently. Only using them "sometimes" increases the failure rate to 15%.

Yes, it's true that abstinence is 100% effective but 98% are pretty good odds. It's misleading for Bristol to say she got pregnant because she had sex... and not acknowledge that most likely she got pregnant because she did not use contraception consistently or correctly.

I think the claim that it doesn't matter isn't valid, because it almost implies that safe sex and unsafe sex are equally risky... when obviously they are not.

RMJ said...

Thoughtful post ! I'm going to link to it over at my blog (I also discussed the Candie's campaign, though in less detail.)

A couple of thoughts:

I think she's not telling us because it's something that could only send the message that ignorance is a greater contributor to teen pregnancy that abstinence - improper condom use, some myth about unprotected sex. If it were a broken condom or something, it would be trumpeted as "SEE, BIRTH CONTROL ISN'T 100%!!!"

"Did you have unsafe sex" is a very reasonable question to ask for the reasons you outlined above: she's made parts of her sexual experience public knowledge, and that is the platform from which she speaks. It's a logical and natural question, because she has brought parts of her personal life into the public eye.

However, I think she still has a right to decide what of her sexual history she does and does not release. It's a very personal detail, and we don't have a right to know - just a right to ask.