Middle Ground: Finding Agreement in Between the Virgin/Whore Dichotomy

Crossposted at Amplify!

This evening I listened to Jessica Valenti talking on the Laura Ingram show about her new book, The Purity Myth (which I have finished and fully recommend – but that’s another post!)

Jessica, again, did an amazing job of defending her book and the point of view of people who advocate for comprehensive sex education, but I was still just incredibly frustrated by the things that the radio show host Laura, and her callers were being allowed to say. Jessica did her best to challenge it, but a few times Laura simply jumped ahead to another caller (specifically after one man referred to women who’ve had sex as “candy on the street” which is, essentially, trash) or brought up another comment to keep Jessica from responding (like asking her if she was “a fan” of Plan B when Jessica was preparing to respond to a man who made a very judgemental and factually incorrect comment.)

The most offensive comment, in my opinion, is when one of Ingram’s callers (a teacher no less!) called in and told Ingram and Valenti that he lived by a particular piece of “advice” that his father gave him as a child, and again as an adult: to avoid “candy” he found in the street. As a child, his father meant for him to take this literally, as a young man the “candy” was, of course, a metaphor for sexually active women. The man went on to say he ignored that advice “to his own demise” and then to complain about pregnancy rates at the school he works for – as if the abstinence only movement was a solution to that issue. (If he truly cared about decreasing pregnancy, he’d want girls to know about contraception!)

Jessica, thankfully, got to address this one saying:

“This is a high school teacher who is comparing young women who have sex to trash in the street? [...] Thats certainly not [the kind of education] I want for my kids.”*

Ingram’s retort?

“Well, I think his father said that. [...] His father was probably concerned with, well, be concerned with your heath and you know, STDs…”

That’s the best Ingram could come up with: his father said it. I have news for her, that doesn’t make it any less offensive. There are ways of protecting against STDs (having up to date tests, communicating with your partner, condoms) other than abstinence. If anything this metaphor just further proves Valenti’s point, because, even of this man’s father was ‘only’ referring to women with STDs (rather than all sexually active young women) as “used candy,” he is still making a value judgement about these women based solely on their sexuality… thus reducing whole and complex individuals to sex alone.

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