UPDATE: (Apparently, in response to the internet firestorm that this blog post has created, Abstinence ‘Till Marriage has dramatically changed the text of their "Party Room". A commenter at Feministing saved the original flash here. While this is to be commended, they still need to tell visitors to the site why they changed their original, highly offensive text, and offer an apology, if you ask me.)
I recently attended a book reading by some of the contributors of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape. The book (which is wonderful and you should go buy) deals with many subjects around “rape culture”, particularly the common practice of blaming the victim of rape if she has a “loose” or “slutty” reputation. Our society far too often holds up a pure and virginal ideal for women, and once this “seal” is broken or they display "unnaceptable" behaviors, they become “dirty” and “get what is coming to them”.
A few days after the reading, I came across an abstinence-only until marriage program in Ohio (yes, the same Ohio with Derek the Abstinence Clown) that pretty much reinforced every crazy aspect of a rape culture that blames the victims of rape if they do not pass the “purity” test. It’s bad enough that abstinence-only programs like these withhold and distort vital information that young people need to protect their own sexual health, but adding this acceptance of rape culture is the icing on the Shit Cake.
The Ohio program is Abstinence ‘Till Marriage, which started receiving annual CBAE grants of $600,000 in 2006 (set to run until 2011). On their “Miss the Mess” website, you can enter the “Party Room”, where you learn the story of Rochelle, Jason, Monica and Tanner. Each person tells their perspective about what happens during and after a party one night.
Rochelle tells how she drove her drunken friend Jason home after the party, and then is raped by him. Jason denies that the rape happened, saying their sex was consensual. Monica and Tanner observe that Jason was being a drunken idiot the entire night, with Monica (Jason’s ex) adding her opinion that Rochelle has a reputation for “putting out” and being a “slut”.
The site then asks the question: “Based on all accounts, whose story sounds the least credible?”
Guess who is the “correct” answer? Rochelle.
Why, you ask? Because she “made several questionable decisions”, “she had a motive to lie” and, lest we forget, “she’s been pinned reputation (sic) for being ‘loose’”
It’s hard not to overemphasize the sickness in this “correct” answer. Rochelle is not be believed. After all, she drove in a car with a boy. And she’s actually had sex before, or at least people say that she has, which is apparently the same thing and equally worthy of disbelief after you’ve been raped.
The site then asks if we know that a rape occurred. The “correct” answer says that we don’t know, emphasizing again that Rochelle has a "motive to lie", and that:
“Unfortunately, we are left judging (Rochelle’s) honesty by her character and her actions"… “Monica implied Rochelle had a promiscuous reputation and the whole school seemed to know it.”
Ah, yes. Her “character”. They once again remind us that “sluts” aren’t to be trusted. Why should we listen or care about them, right?
The site then goes a step further, adding a degree of sympathy for the actions of the rapist:
“Also, alcohol makes people less inhibitive. Jason was extremely vulnerable to his circumstances”.
Vulnerable? Less inhibitive? What exactly are they saying here, that rape is a “less inhibitive” behavior? That alcohol made poor Jason “vulnerable” to being a sick rapist asshole? Seriously, I’d like to know what the hell their point is on this one.
Perhaps the sickest aspect of this organization and their website is the fact that our tax dollars are funding it. To date, they have received $1.8 million dollars, and are set to receive another $1.8 million in the next three years. Yes, we are subsidizing rape culture. And this is just one example of the many ridiculous abstinence-only until marriage sex education programs that we have wasted $1.5 billion in federal money on in the last decade.
But we now have a great chance to end funding for abstinence-only until marriage initiatives. President Obama is currently drafting his budget for the 2010 fiscal year, and it is vital that he ZERO OUT ab-only funding in this budget. If he doesn’t’ zero it out, it will be extremely difficult to get Congress to pull the money out. Likewise, if Obama does zero out the funding, it will be a more difficult process for Congress to sneak the funding back in through appropriations.
So please, with all due haste, send Obama this message today: ZERO OUT ABSTINENCE-ONLY SEX EDUCATION FUNDING.
Send out the abstinence clowns, and strike one small blow against rape culture.