Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
May 4th, Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest brought Seattle-native Cassie Jaye and her film Daddy, I Do to the University of Washington for a screening. Daddy, I Do has won multiple awards, including Best Documentary at Cannes and an audience award at a religious film festival, which otherwise snubbed it. The film looks at the culture of Purity Balls and Abstinence Only education. The audience skewed heavily female, but there were several men present. Being on a college campus I was not surprised to see mostly young people in the audience, but there were several older folks in attendance as well. The audience did also skew white, however there were several POC in attendance
The film maker, Cassie Jaye, came from a background of Abstinence Only education, and began the project sympathetic to the Abstinence Only cause. But as she further investigated, what she found disturbed her.
The film begins with a voiceover, a girl and her father reciting a Purity Pledge, while the daughter, probably around 10 or 11 years old, gets ready for a Purity Ball. She puts on make up, and a fancy dress and high heels, does her hair and has a tiara. The Purity Pledge talks about how she pledges her virginity to her father, and he pledges to protect that virginity until he (essentially) gives it to her husband. Ok, I admit to being highly biased, because the thought of either parent being at all involved in my sexuality, icks me right the hell out.
Jaye interviews a family who have three daughters. The older two have both attended Purity Balls with their father, and taken Purity Pledges. They are both under ten. When asked if he and his wife were virgins until they got married, the father has to admit that no, they were not, and that maybe he made some mistakes in his youth, but he wants to raise his daughters to be better than that. And that when they are 13, in order to discourage them from drinking, he intends to show them how drunk people behave by taking them by the frat house of which he had been a member in college. I find it really creepy to ask young girls, who don’t really know anything about sexuality or their sexual preferences, to pledge not to explore that. It’s just icky.
Jaye then interviews the Frat Boys, as she refers to them. They almost all admit to multiple partners, and at least they all say they use condoms all the time, because they don’t want to catch anything. Which is a relief. And I was kind of surprised that while they occasionally refer to the women they’ve slept with as whores, they also refer to themselves that way, and as sluts for having multiple partners. Which, while still not healthy, is a far cry from the “He’s a stud, she’s a slut” days of my youth. While no one would admit to being a virgin on camera, one young man did admit to Jaye later on privately, which demonstrates that the peer pressure on men to be “studly” is still alive and well.
Next door to the Frat Boys is a Pregnancy Care Center. Two parts of the movie made me really, really angry, ok, three. All right, a lot of parts of the movie made me angry. The pregnancy care center part was one. I hate Pregnancy Care Centers. I really do. They lie to women, to desperate, scared, vulnerable women, in order to push an agenda. They lie about how developed the fetus is at any given stage of development. They lie about links to breast cancer. They lie about the inevitability of depression if you abort, and I have a minor bone to pick with this movie on that subject as well. Many Pregnancy Care Centers now have ultrasound equipment, which they use on women who seem more determined to abort, donated by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family fame. No links to that scumbag, he can generate his own hits.
Jaye also interviews the found of the Silver Ring Thing, an abstinence only, purity pledge business which offers school free “sex ed” assemblies. Founded by Denny Pattyn, (also no links, they can find their own hits), the Silver Ring Thing goes from school to school teaching biblical concepts of purity and abstinence. At one time the Silver Ring Thing was heavily funded by the government, but a lawsuit by the ACLU that pointed out the fact that they have an explicitly Christian message (Jesus figures largely in the skits and stage shows), made them exempt from government funding. They have enough private backers that they didn’t really suffer, not to mention the profits from Silver Ring Thing merchandise, and the fact that they don’t pay the kids who do the actual work of performing the skits, doing the lighting, sound and selling the schwag.
In between these interviews she talks to Matthew Paul Turner, a progressive Christian author, who is as appalled by the abstinence only and purity movements as I am. He talks about how a hellfire and brimstone upbringing really damaged his ability to enjoy sex and be intimate once he married, the excruciating guilt when he “transgressed” in any way. I like this guy and I think I may need to find one of his books to check them out.
The second half of the movie focuses on comprehensive sex ed advocates, and the young women who have been hurt by abstinence only education. When they talk to Penny, who had an abortion, this is where I got a little exasperated. Yes, I get it. Young tearful women who didn’t want to abort, but saw it as their best option and who state they regret it are great for pointing out that it’s a hard decision for a lot of people. But I get really tired of the concept bandied about even in liberal media of women living a lifetime of regret, always wondering what that baby would look like, etc… For an awful lot of women, abortion is a practical decision (as it was for Penny) that they do not regret. See I’mNotSorry.net for start. Sorry, that’s just a pet peeve of mine. And yeah, the sight of Penny trying not to cry, while tears slide down her face as she admits she made the decision to abort FOR THE BABY she knew she couldn’t support, admitting that if she’d only been thinking of herself, she probably wouldn’t have aborted, since she really wanted to have that child was exceptionally powerful.
Ok, hobbyhorse over.
The interviews with the young women are powerful and poignant, but apart from Penny who talks a lot about the education she received, don’t really seem to focus on the failures of Abstinence Only education so much as young women growing up in a cycle of single motherhood and poverty, who then perpetuate it by becoming single mothers and not having much money themselves. I think perhaps there could have been an effort to tie their narratives more completely to what they were or were not taught about sex and safer sex in school, but it wasn’t well explored. Amanda Marcotte brings up the idea of class as affecting how and if young women protect themselves. She points out that when you defund groups like Planned Parenthood or if you make abortion difficult to attain, the only people you’re really hurting are the poor. Because the Ann Coulters of the world will always be able to fly somewhere it’s legal or bribe someone to help them out safely.
On the whole, I really enjoyed the movie. And you can watch the film-maker’s opinion shift, as she starts out somewhat sympathetic to this abstinence only/purity ideal, then the deeper she gets into it, the more she realizes how harmful it is. From the parents admitting that staying abstinent didn’t work for them, to the Silver Ring Thing guy saying he’d tell his daughter not to bother using a condom, to the single mother of five saying she’d teach her kids abstinence over comprehensive sex ed.
I enjoyed it. It does have some areas that could have been improved, but for a freshman effort at film-making, I think it’s a good one. If you get a chance, see it. It should be coming out on DVD soon, and also on Netflix within the next year.
Ugh. Not only are the “purity pledges” to daddy creepefyin’ as all hell, I think that lumping “marriage” and “first sexual experience” is one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas.
Now, I do think that waiting until you’re out of your teen years at least is a good idea. But getting some acquaintance with what sex feels like, and getting it out of your system rather than marrying someone because you confuse the need for sex with a relationship that you hope will last a lifetime, are good ideas.
Exactly. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with waiting until you’re sure YOU are ready. But I think this whole equating marriage with sex thing is ridiculous as well.
I think that you need to make sure you’re sexually compatible, I think you need to make sure you KNOW who you are sexually BEFORE you commit to someone until “Death do us part.”
While I didn’t have abstinence only education – I did get a lot of other messages from my mother that, frankly, continue to harm my relationships and my sexuality. It would be nice to not feel shame because I did something that feels good.
I got married at 19 to the only man I’d ever had sex with and having only dated once or twice (I’m not sure the first time really counted and the experiences were years apart). My sexual experiences were not that great and it was only as we were nearing our 11 anniversary that I experienced my first honest to goodness screaming orgasm. My husband was not pleased because he had not gotten off yet. Thing is – I was fine to continue but once he was done – he was done so one has to wonder about his thinking there. It’s one of many reasons he’s my ex.
I have told my nieces & nephews not to do what I did – to experiment safely with sex & not marry until they feel they are ready and want to – rather than doing it out of some misplaced sense of obligation.