Musings arguments and gig reports from your favourite Goth lesbian transsexual vegan recovering alcoholic and drug addict sceptic rationalist atheist comedian chameleon and caricature.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Glass houses

Nadine Dorries.   It's hard to know where to begin.  She's got a safe Tory seat, and more and more she seems to be trying to position herself as the UK's Sarah Palin.

She does a bullshit blog in which she makes up 75% she says (though this may be an elaborate ruse to get people to think that her massively delusional bollocks is just her messing around and not the sulphurous brain farts of a clueless idiot.)

And she's passed a 10 minute bill on teaching sexual abstinence to girls by a majority of 67 to 61.  Though I suspect it's because the 67 mistook the 10 minute bit of the title to infer that's how long you should abstain from sex before saying "Oh, go on then."

Abstinence in sex education obviously works, I mean look at the teenage pregnancy rate in the US states where they teach it...  Oh, hang on a minute, don't, they show categorically that not only doesn't it work, that in fact the opposite is true it leads to higher levels of teenage pregnancy.

But up until the other day and Dorries appearance on the Vanessa show where she basically said that if girls were taught to say no there'd be less sexual abuse.

Think about that for a second.  Yes.  If girls said "no" then there'd be less sexual abuse.

That's like the Jimmy Carr joke about the number one cause of Paedophilia being "sexy kids"  It's a gag that works because it takes you down one way and then changes the direction at the end.  The idea is that no reasonable person could believe that that is the reason.  It's a perfect example of irony, where the literal meaning is the opposite to the actual meaning. (I know this definition of irony from watching St Elmo's Fire, ironic I know that I only know the definition of irony from an American film, when the British regard the Americans as not knowing the meaning of irony.)

As a joke, the idea that sexual abuse is the fault of the victim works when it is taken to ludicrous extremes because no one would believe it, but when an elected MP says it, and means it, and people back her up on it, then it's just terrifying.

Because make no mistake, that is what she has done there.  She's said it's the victims of sexual abuse who were at fault.  And for someone who has political power, and who has had a motion passed to be read as a full bill with the express intent of being enshrined in law to say these things is dangerous.

Let's have a look at this and take it apart shall we.

Firstly, Abstinence education doesn't work.  It just doesn't, and for it to be girls only is startling.  This basically says girls have all the responsibility for teenage sexual activity.  Therefore boys are just left off the hook, it's not their fault, they're horny little buggers and can't help themselves, whereas "ladies" need to be the ones in charge.

It also perpetuates the misogynistic idea that sex is something for women to endure rather than enjoy.  Guys like sex, women don't, sex is all about making the man happy and women should just go through it because that's how you get babies and marriage and a house and trinkets and all the other things to fill your life with to distract you from the fact that nothing really makes you happy and you've not fulfilled the potential that 6 billion years of evolution has prepared you for.

I used to do a joke in my first Edinburgh show about how I thought I was bisexual because the idea of sleeping with men didn't make me feel sick, didn't make me disgusted, didn't really make me feel anything negative at all.  I didn't feel anything positive from it, but I assumed that all women felt like this.  That all women found men to not be physically attractive, because they aren't, they're hairy and masculine and rough and that's not attractive in what I believed to be an objective sense.  Then I realised that most women don't think like that.  In fact the only other women I knew who felt like that were lesbians who hadn't realised that they were lesbians yet.  This myth that women endure sex fed in to this and meant it took me longer to figure out who I really was.  For the record I wish I was bisexual, I hate to discriminate against people and I feel it's unfair of me to remove 49% of the population from the potential dating pool, but you know, you don't fancy who you don't fancy and for me that includes blokes.

Sex is ace, it's loads of fun, wherever you fit on the sexuality or gender spectrum it's loads of fun if you're having sex on your terms.  For me that's in a relationship with one person to whom I'm monogamous, but that's just me, I don't like one night stands, group sex, nor am I polyamourous.  But there are people who are, there are women who are and who have amazing sex lives that they really enjoy.

And they're not "giving it away"  They're having sex on their terms.  When they want and with who they want. This however does not mean that if any of them were to be sexually assaulted that they deserved it.  This is why the Slut Walks are currently taking place, because you should be able to walk the streets without fear, and know that if you get attacked that it is not your fault but the fault of the person doing the attacking.

It's like the Islamic cleric who got in the news arguing for the Burqa by saying that if you left a piece of meat out you shouldn't blame a dog for eating it.  No one comes out of that analogy looking good.  What he's basically said is that all women are pieces of meat, and that all men are pretty much rapists given the chance.

Is that really where we are as a society?

One of the things that really affected me in my life was when I was growing up, and being trans I was being brought up male as far as the rest of the world could tell.  But I wasn't male, my head was as has always been female, and because of that my natural behavioural tendencies attracted the attention of bullies and I was picked on frequently, I was attacked at school and in the street, and on one occasion had a group of about 20 boys beat me up, stub cigarettes out on me and cut my hair.  I complained to the school, and they told me two things, number one was that they were very proud of their record when it came to not having any bullying at their school and they didn't want that to change so they were going to leave it and hope that it all worked out for the best, and secondly the deputy head said to me, "have you tried being more normal, maybe if you conformed a bit more this wouldn't happen."

I held on to that for a very long time, it was one of the things that delayed me coming out, it was horrible, I was being blamed for bringing the bullying on myself,  I later realised that this was because of Section 28 and that the teachers all assumed I was gay (which I was but now how they thought) and that if they did anything to stop it that they'd be seen as condoning homosexuality as an acceptable "life choice"

These laws and decisions that are made at the top have consequences far beyond what they originally intend, and the same is true of this particular statement by Dorries.

Back to the fucking teenagers (which if it isn't a porno film title it should be), basically when you hit your teenage years you do want to fuck.  It's natural, it's your body telling you that you're ready to reproduce, however for the most part when you're that age you're not economically independent so it's probably best you don't have any kids.

So for that reason it's best that you try to have sex as safely as possible, know enough about sex to know what is and isn't your thing, what you do and don't want to do and know above all things that you have the right to say "I don't want to take this any further, and I don't want to do that." at any time.

What I think though is that when it comes to teenagers they should be having as much sex as they like whilst they're still young and attractive.

The other side to this is that whilst most kids do want to have sex when they're that age, with it comes crippling self doubt and low self esteem in dealing with people who they fancy, so that knocks the numbers of those who'll be doing it down a fair few.

Guys have always had this idea that woman can have sex with any guy they want just by offering and yet I know loads and loads of women who spent their teenage years desperately horny and not able to find anyone to have sex with them.

I think good old fashioned teenage uselessness at social interaction is a far more useful contraceptive than abstinence.

Part of allowing teenagers to say "I don't want to do that" needs to be that they know that they're not going to get in to trouble for having sex, and the current age of consent laws work directly against that.  Teenagers know that what they're doing is already against the law, so they're less likely to go and talk to people about it and less likely to get advice.  Add to this that the British are so fucked up about sex, it's really not surprising that we have the highest rates of STIs and teen pregnancy in Europe.

Let the kids know that what they're doing is legal, that they can go and talk to responsible adults without the adults going "you shouldn't be having sex"  and you'll find that that does a much better job of lowering STIs and teenage pregnancies.

That's a part of it, another part of it is that we have poor sex education because parents like to think that their kids should be as fucked up about sex as they are and don't like the idea of their kids knowing and being ok with sexual stuff that they feel squeamish about.

The biggest part of this however, by a long way is the socioeconomic conditions that lead to us having the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Europe.

Basically for a lot of working class people they're brought up and told that they'll never achieve anything beyond working in some manual labour job that they probably don't like but which will pay the bills so that they can go out for a pint a couple of nights a week and have a house that they rent and possibly an ok second hand car, and that aspiration is for other people.  That going in to the professions or the arts are for other people, "not for the likes of them".  Everyone around you is told the same thing, all your friends grow up thinking the same as you, and every time you show ideas above your station you're ridiculed.  Better to not try and stay with the group you grew up with than try, mark yourself out as different and then possibly fail anyway.

If you add to this that the manufacturing base in this country has been totally destroyed over the last 30 years, you find that there's vast swathes of people who have grown up with no hope for a better future, the jobs that they would have gone into after leaving school no longer exist and so there's nothing for them.

Nothing to aspire to.

But,  if you have a baby...

Schools not going to lead anywhere, you don't enjoy it and there's not point in trying, but with a baby there's purpose for you, there's something that's easily achievable, and the result is something that loves you that you love that allows you to know that you're doing the most important job in the world and that you love your kid and your kid relies on you.

And the cycle begins again.

No amount of abstinence education and no amount of victim blaming will overcome that social pressure.

To lower the STI and teenage pregnancy level you need to do something about that.  You need to educate in schools, not just about sex, but that if you're from a working class background you can achieve anything that you set your mind to, that you can have aspirations, that the professions can be for you, that the arts can be for you, that you don't have to settle for this unfulfilling life with the hope of a lottery win at the end of it.

That there's more boys can achieve than being a footballer and more girls can achieve than being a glamour model or footballers wife.

Do that and watch the teen pregnancy rate drop like a stone.

The mystification of sex has been far more damaging to us as a people than almost anything else in the world, it's part of the cause of misogyny, it's part of the reason for some of the weirder rules in every world religion, and it needs to stop.

We need to let each other and teenagers know that it's ok to talk about these things, and it's ok to say no I don't want to do that, but that it's also ok to say "yes I do want to do that" and that it's ok to talk to people before you make some regrettable sexual decisions.

Which let's face it is all part of life.  I've made some really bad mistakes with regards to sex, fortunately no one caught anything and no one was born as a result, so in the grand scheme of things I just felt stupid and upset for a bit, and we both had sex with someone we didn't really like.

Anyway I think the point I was trying to get to is that everything about Nadine Dorries blaming the victims is wrong, her teaching of Abstinence only sex education is wrong, and for a woman to be proselytising about sexual abstinence and the morality of sex education when she started seeing her current partner when he was still married and cheating on his wife is a bit rich.

Big fuck off glass house, and a big fucking stone.


Neumaisse said...

Now, I know this sounds extreme, but I may well have my son read this blog when he starts high school. Beth, I couldn't have said one SYLLABLE of that 1% as well as you did. I was particularly agape at the paragraph about how your school handled your being bullied, because we got an IDENTICAL response from Owen's former head teacher. (Notice the word "former". I'm proud of that. :D) I think this is something that boys and girls should all be taught from the cradle, (along with recycling...;D) because the only way for men and women to truly respect each other, is to be RAISED to respect each, both in word and in deed. So many adults I know talk a great game about equality, and respect for the opposite gender, but many less of them actually walk the walk. I think the answer is to devolve sex just a little bit, by teaching our kids about it openly from the time they are young. We talk about sex openly at home,we admit that we enjoy it, and that it feels good, and that we dont' want to do it with anyone except each other. we admit that sex isn't the same for everyone, and that alot of people enjoy it in alot of different ways. Although the boys both squirm and go red, we try to desensitize the subject. But we also stress making sure that BOTH people really WANT to be doing it, not just one. We don't shield the boys from mild sexual content in media but we discuss it as we watch it. We have no closeted gay/bi/whatever friends, everyone we know is out, so to our boys, being ashamed about sex or where you land on the spectrum is as inconceiveable a concept as slavery, or segragation. Anyway, you're brilliant. I kind of want to marry you. (And that ranks you with Nigella Lawson and Salma Hyek. ;D)

Bethany Black said...

Thanks :) I'm glad you likes it, it constantly shocks me that we as a people allow sex to be such a scary and destructive thing.

knowledge and information is the most important thing, the more we know the less scared we are about things, and I see it that we have a duty to live our lives openly and in public to say this is who I am and I'm not ashamed of that.

and that comes down to any of the things about us that can be used as sticks to beat us, age, gender, race sexuality, weight, even the things that we're interested in as past times. It's the feeling that we're weird and alone and different in some way that leads to so many problems, and stops us from doing the things that we want to and that we'd enjoy, and that's the biggest tragedy.

Anonymous said...

I liked the comment on teenage uselessness. Felt that came from my life and my attempt at dating girls.

Back to Nadine. Two years ago, I thought she was a wonderful woman, her attitude to sex workers seemed positive. But now I see her attitude as poor woman, who need all the help. Nadine has seriously gone down in my estimation with her views on abortion an sex education.