Lies Your Abstinence Speaker Told You

Mother Jones has an article about a bunch of people who collect large sums of taxpayer money giving assemblies in public schools encouraging teenagers to wait until they get married to have sex. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that they routinely lie to the students during those talks. Like Shelly Donahue:

Shelly Donahue: “Girls are more feelings-oriented, and boys are more facts-oriented.”

Donahue is a speaker for the Colorado-based Center for Relationship Education, an abstinence-only education program that works with students in 42 states and has receivedmillions in federal funds. In 2006, Donohue caused controversy at Natrona County High School, a public school in Casper, Wyoming, when she gave a religious-themed abstinence presentation. According to the Casper Star-Tribune, she asked students, “Do you get closer to your God or do you get farther away when you have sex?” (The answer she wanted: “Farther away.”) She also said that boys are “wired” to like math, science, and numbers, and girls are wired to be more feelings-oriented. She held up a bag of noodles to indicate that girls “are like spaghetti, with their feelings about parts of their lives entangled,” according to theStar-Tribune. (She told the paper“The outpouring and the positive was so much greater than this one kid’s complaint.”) In a training video posted by the Denver Westword in 2011, Donahue tells students that if a guy gets sperm anywhere near a girl’s vagina, it will turn into a “little Hoover vacuum” and she will become pregnant. (No. Vaginas don’t vacuum sperm off the couch.) In another 2011 video, she says, “the boys want to love and respect these girls, and the girls won’t let them. The girls are backing up the booty, the girls are being assertive, these girls are emasculating these boys.” She continues to conduct sex-ed training programs for teachers on public Title V funds and is holding one this month in Greeley, Colorado.

You have to see this video of her. Is there anything funnier than a wealthy, middle-aged white woman trying to use black slang like “backing up the booty”? And her claim that boys wish girls wouldn’t have sex with them is just plain moronic. And somehow, girls wanting to have sex with boys is “emasculating” to them. You keep using that word…

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  • Ellie

    Turn into a Hoover?!?

  • DaveL

    In my book, the top two lies told by abstinence educators are:

    1) That a woman’s (sometimes they try to pretend it’s men too, but the sexism usually comes through crystal clear) worth is entirely tied up in her NOT having had sex. By implication, everybody’s mother is used up and worthless, like somebody else’s used chewing gum. Also by implication, men are such loathsome, disgusting creatures that being intimate with one renders a person forever thus tainted.

    2) That marriage will protect you from the any heartbreak from the end of a relationship. As a widower, I find this to be a terrible, positively cruel thing to teach children.

  • dingojack

    Does she mean that assertive women are turning men into Herbert or John Edgar?


  • Nihilismus

    There was an episode of Scrubs where it was explained that a male character who prematurely ejaculated on the outside of his girlfriend without ever penetrating her caused her to get pregnant. I remember thinking, “I know this a comedy, but it’s a medical comedy, so they really shouldn’t require me to suspend disbelief of medical issues for the joke to land.”

  • a miasma of incandescent plasma

    Yeah, it’s all the girls’ faults for being st00pid girly sluttys. Boys are the awesome-est. And if it weren’t for those bad fathers girls wouldn’t be so slutty. See?! It’s all the girl’s fault cause the boys are great!

  • Childermass

    I think it is safe to say that Shelly Donahue is not “facts-oriented.”

    Of course one cannot extrapolate this to all women as has been pointed out by xkcd:

  • raven

    They’ve been reading their instruction manual again, Orwell’s 1984.

    The Junior Antisex league is alive and well. And working as well as it did in 1984.

  • Michael Heath

    I’m sorry for your loss DaveL. Even though we’ve never met in person, it’s a real kick in the teeth finding out you lost your wife.

    DaveL writes:

    In my book, the top two lies told by abstinence educators are:

    Indoctrination attempts on me and my peers attempted to reinforce the lie that sex is dehumanizing and disgusting. I think this one belongs anyone’s top X list. Since this was the 1970s, a transitional moment, a simultaneous argument was that sex was great but only if you acted per God’s design for you, e.g., after marriage, women were submissive, etc.

    I always thought this message resulted in young Christians marrying too young and settling for a sub-optimal partner and compromising their careers. I also think it causes many to dangerously act-out like young people who live in a tee-totaler environment can act-out, which is binge sex and drinking rather than learning to act moderately (says the moderate).

  • iknklast

    Girls are more feelings-oriented, and boys are more facts-oriented

    I actually find this more hilarious than ever after reading Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia. Darwin made it very clear that, according to his observations, men are the ones who are emotionally invested in relationships, while women weren’t particularly emotional. They were willing to regard marriage from a pragmatic standpoint, as a convenience and a necessity, and didn’t get overly emotional when a relationship didn’t last or a spouse died. (He seemed to mean this as a compliment to women)

    Of course, that is no more true than the drivel this woman is spreading; but it is interesting to note how things that they assume everyone has always known are in direct opposition to things that once used to be “known”, often with as much certainty as their opposite is now “known”.

  • scienceavenger

    @2 as opposed to the whopper that abstinence is the only 100% method of remaining unpregnant?

  • dougtaron

    > boys are “wired” to like math, science, and numbers, and girls are wired to be more feelings-oriented.

    ARRGH!!! The last thing we need is to further discourage girls from math and science.

  • sinned34

    If boys are “wired” to like math, science and numbers, then how come I always got made fun of for being a nerd in high school, and never got any respect until I showed I could also play sports or hold my own in a fight?

    Patriarchy targets women the most, but us men do get some splash damage.

  • magistramarla

    Dave – I want to second what Michael Heath just said.

    Michael – I also came of age in the ’70s. My mother seemed to be particularly frightened of anything having to do with sex and tried to make me very scared, too. She was also very abusive to me, so I concluded that anything that she believed was quite suspect and did my own research.

    Lucky for me, I met a wonderful and gentle man, learned to trust him and learned to enjoy everything about sex.

    (We married young, but we’ve now been happily married for 37 years.) I suppose that some good came of my mother being so abusive and making me distrust her.

    Because of that, the indoctrination that was so prevalent at the time simply didn’t work on me.

  • “Girls are more feelings-oriented, and boys are more facts-oriented.”

    Yeah, girls are a bunch of lying liars who lie. Especially when accusing boys of…..well, anything. Liars!

  • @Nihilismus #4: Techincally, it could happen. Sperm doesn’t have to be deposited at the back of the vaginal canal to result in pregnancy. If ejaculation happened onto the vulva, and some got into the cleft, it is possible (though – ahem – unlikely) for a woman to get pregnant.

    Anywhere else, though, and no, it’s not possible.

    Some sperm does emerge even before ejaculation, too. Not much, but sometimes enough. Aside from – er – failures of pratice, that’s yet another reason why the ‘withdrawl’ method is… not to be relied on.

  • Yesterday, I had a random memory pop up. I think it was from a Q&A column in my local newspaper. Someone asked if orgasm was necessary for conception. The answer was simply that conception happens when sperm meets egg and that orgasm didn’t matter.

    If I hadn’t previously heard about Greek philosophers who authoritatively recited the superstitious myth and a later controversy brought up when someone pointed toward a woman who got pregnant because she was raped while comatose, I would have facepalmed at the seeming randomness of the stupidity.

    Since the stupidity had a history, I did, however, facepalm at their reliance on pre-scientific authorities. The fact that we’ve got so many people perpetuating ignorance and disinformation about sex and rape is just sad. A lot of them sound to me like urban legends irresponsible teenagers tell themselves to avoid anxiety over the potential consequence of pregnancy or for avoiding guilt and accountability for rape. Of course, I’m sure these urban legends have likely been around for millennia, and likely for the same reasons.

  • M can help you with that.

    Sinned34 @ 12:

    If boys are “wired” to like math, science and numbers, then how come I always got made fun of for being a nerd in high school…

    …and why are the two students in my current math class who are actually getting involved with research a woman and a giant fruit? (I’m the latter, FWIW…) This is in the most abstract, most math-geeks-only part of the field; and yet the manly men haven’t stepped up.

  • Nihilismus

    @15 Ray Ingles

    I remember reading a medical article that explained that sperm is not in pre-ejaculate by itself, but if the guy goes for a second round without an intervening urinary flush, the pre-ejaculate can push sperm through the urethra.

    Without ejaculation during penetration, there is no force to propel sperm to the cervix. While pre-ejaculate might be deposited near the cervix, it is unlikely to be forced through. Also, vaginal fluids are acidic to sperm. While normal ejaculate contains some alkaline bases to counteract this, the lack of such bases in pre-ejaculate would drastically lower the chance a stray sperm would make into through the cervix. Even if ejaculation occurred on the vulva, the ejaculate is unlikely to make it all to way to and through the cervix, unless the women was intentionally positioning herself so that it would.

    The female orgasm has been shown to cause the cervix to dip into an accumulated pool of semen in the vagina, so I suppose this could increase chances of pregnancy, but the opposite would also be true — the lack of an orgasm would lower the chances of stray sperm that was not already forced through the cervix to be “sucked” in.

    The real reason the withdrawal method has a higher failure rate than some other birth control methods is as you hinted at — failure of practice, particularly with inexperienced teens who might not know when they are about to ejaculate. This reason is why such a method should strongly be discouraged, but I don’t think we should lie about the effectiveness of the method when properly done.

    Which reminds me about the lack of explanation given for condom failure rates in sex education classes. I’ve seen several shows/movies where a women gets pregnant despite her partner using a condom and despite it not breaking, with it usually explained, “Well, condoms aren’t 100% effective.” Again, the primary reason for failure is improper use, including not preventing a bubble in the reservoir, continuing to use the same condom through an intervening flaccid period, and rougher use due to lack of lubrication from both the condom and the partner.

    But even when it fails despite perfect use, the failure is obvious — the condom breaks or slips off. If the guy pulls off the condom and there is no leaking, then there was no sperm that got through. Of course he won’t know of a last second failure until he pulls out, so there is still some risk, perhaps more than a perfect use withdrawal method. If both methods are used together, I would go so far as to argue that pregnancy is impossible.

    I feel that sometimes the “typical use” failure rates of certain methods are used by some to justify teaching abstinence rather than how to perfectly use those methods, which is dangerous because teens will still have sex and make all the mistakes that lead to a discrepancy between typical and perfect use failure rates.

    @16 Bronze Dog

    As I explained above, female orgasms do increase the chance that ejaculate will pass through the cervic, thus increasing the chance for conception. But it certainly isn’t necessary, as you pointed out.

  • Red-Green in Blue

    From the MJ article:

    [Shelly Donaghue] asked students, “Do you get closer to your God or do you get farther away when you have sex?” (The answer she wanted: “Farther away.”)

    Accepting for the sake of argument that Shelly Donaghue’s God exists, and that he is the benevolent deity she no doubt claims him to be:

    If you get farther away from God when you have sex, UR DOIN IT RONG.

  • Acolyte of Sagan

    She also said that boys are “wired” to like math,

    Math? Singular? I don’t know what they’re teaching on that side of the Atlantic, but it cannot be good if nobody over there knows that there’s more than one math.

  • jasonfailes

    Do you get closer or further from your God when you have sex?

    Oh how I would have loved for that school to have one brave Hindu student stand up and give an unabashed summary of Tantric philosophy.

    Also, in North America we teach the One True Math!