‘Stop it, punish it, corral people, shame people’

Last week we looked at an incident involving an evangelical college that fired a woman for having sex outside of marriage — offering her former job to the man she slept with. Examining San Diego Christian College’s double-standard, and the affirmation of that double standard in Christianity Today’s reporting on the incident, I wrote this:

Given the chance to choose between “saving babies” and controlling women, both the magazine and the college instinctively opt for controlling women.

Women who have sex must be punished. …

And over the weekend we looked (again) at the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act — a necessary piece of legislation that “pro-life” social conservatives ought to be enthusiastically supporting, but are not. That lack of support is so inconsistent with and contradictory to this movement’s purported aim of protecting the unborn that, I wrote, it seems to disprove the integrity of this claim, revealing the movement to be “really motivated by an anti-feminist impulse to control and punish women.”

Some responses to both of those posts have suggested I’m being uncharitable — that it is unfair for me to accuse the leaders of the pro-life movement of being driven by their desire to punish women who have sex.

That does seem like a rather harsh accusation. But in my defense, there’s one good reason I keep accusing the leaders of the pro-life movement of really wanting to punish women who have sex: The leaders of the pro-life movement keep saying that they really want to punish women who have sex.

Here is Family Research Council senior fellow Pat Fagan, speaking yesterday on a Christian radio program:

It’s not the contraception, everybody thinks it’s about contraception, but what this court case said was young people have the right to engage in sex outside of marriage. Society never gave young people that right, functioning societies don’t do that, they stop it, they punish it, they corral people, they shame people, they do whatever. The institution for the expression of sexuality is marriage and all societies always shepherded young people there, what the Supreme Court said was forget that shepherding, you can’t block that, that’s not to be done.

Fagan’s agenda is clear: Stop, punish, corral, shame. His words, not mine.

So yes, I am in fact accusing the leaders of this movement of cruel and unseemly motives, but that is only because they themselves say that is what motivates them. Is it uncharitable of me to take them at their word?


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  • AnonaMiss

    avarice because of Roosevelt (the bad one who redistrbuted wealth, not the good one who punched bears for fun),

    Nah, even Teddy was a bad Roosevelt. Wouldn’t even shoot a damn bear cub, not to mention the national parks and the trust-busting. Feh.

  •  “I’m pro-family. ALL families.” fits nicely enough on a bumper sticker.

  • konrad_arflane

    Family Research Council senior fellow Pat Fagan

    Am I the only one who initially misread the senior fellow’s name as “Fat Pagan”?

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t think Roosevelt all the way through, obviously.  He also signed off on the creation of the Food and Drug Administration, which was (a) an egregious trampling of the rights of job creators and (b) inspired partly by that Communist Sinclair and his anti-makers muckraking.

  • Lectorel

    “Anti-Shame: Trust women. Support families.”
    Of course, that leaves out that non-female trans* people can become pregnant, and it doesn’t cover everything I’d like it to cover, but for a bumper-sticker, I think it’d work.

  • other lori

    Well, in fairness, statutory rape laws have ALWAYS been about controlling the sexuality of young women. The difference is just in how we punish and justify it. We used to justify it by saying that a teen girl who had sex was going to be “un-marriageable” and so the punishment was often forcing the guy she’d slept with to marry her. (The guy could get out of legal penalties by marrying the woman, and that was the main impulse behind having the laws at all, so that guys couldn’t deflower and knock up teen girls and then waltz away leaving her a lonely old spinster who would never get her dad a decent bride price.)

    Today, we justify it by saying that post-pubescent teen girls are “mentally incapable” of consenting to sex (unless, of course, we’re talking with a liberal and it’s with a guy their own age, in which case they suddenly do develop that capacity, although it will disappear when they are around a guy 19 or older) and punish it by treating guys in their 20s who dare take a teen girl who says she wants sex at her word worse than we treat child molesters. 

    It all comes down to the same thing: wanting to either punish teens for having sex or at least control who they are having sex with. 

  • P J Evans

     I really, really, want these idjts to spend, say, a year finding everyone they can on their family trees. I can just about guarantee they’ll find seven-month babies, children born out of wedlock, divorce, desertion, and a few other things that they’re going to be shocked, shocked, to discover happened to people they thought they knew. (They’re also going to find out how many people died young, how many never married or married but had no children, and how many married after the age of 50.)

    And that’s just the 19th century….

  • other lori

    I don’t like to identify myself as either anymore. I do believe that choosing to end a pregnancy unless it’s necessary to save the woman’s life is wrong, but I also believe that the government forcing women to continue pregnancies against their will is worse. I used to say I was “pro-choice,” but I’ve honestly been just too turned off by so many pro-choicers who demand an ideological purity that requires that people not just think abortion should be legal but are always willing to celebrate all abortions as morally good and right that I just can’t really comfortably associate myself with that any more.

    But I’d certainly never identify as pro-life, because I am vehemently opposed to the tactics and goals of the movement. 

  • Jenny Islander

    This essay can’t be disseminated too widely:


    But even this article doesn’t light up the true Stygian depths of the modesty-body policing-rape culture mentality.  Somewhere at No Longer Quivering is a rundown of things that people remember being taught in church about how to tell a slut on sight.  They amount to assorted trivial physical characteristics that some people develop as they pass puberty.  I think walking with a sway was one of them.  Pouches under the eyes was another, IIRC.  I hesitate to use the word “crazy” to describe anybody, but this is full-on insane.

  • Jim Roberts

    I had a conversation with someone about these kinds of labels and bumper sticker politics and cam to the conclusion that the best possible answer when someone asks what your position is on a particular issue is, “Do you have a minute? I have some questions for you first.”

  • Magic_Cracker

    I’ve eschewed bumper-stickers ever since I was riding with a friend who had a back-end full of stickers and we were first tail-gated and honked at and then passed and dangerously cut-off by someone with a full back-end of opposing stickers. My friend decided to return the favor with honking and cutting off and middle fingers, etc., which escalated the situation and led to us being chased all over the back roads outside of Lancaster PA until our pursuer finally got bored/gave up.

    The only bumper-sticker on my current car is for faculty parking at Miskatonic U.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    (Possible Trigger Warning)

    Piers Anthony wrote a short story called “In The Barn,” which Harlan Ellison included in his second Dangerous Visions anthology.  It was a detailed description of what goes on in a dairy barn, and the reader slowly realizes that the diary is actually milking  HUMAN WOMEN and treating them like animals.  When someone complained to Piers about the story, he said that all the details about the dairy’s operations were true to life.  The only difference was that they were using human women instead of cows to generate their product.

  • Carstonio

    I’ve never encountered anyone who claimed that all abortions were “morally good and right.” It’s possible that you encountered the extremist outliers among pro-choicers. Or maybe you misinterpreted their arguments, something that I’ve done myself in other debates. The label “pro-choice” should mean only one’s position on abortion’s legality, and there are plenty of people who share your position on both the morality and the legality.

  • Jim Roberts

    Piers Anthony confuses me. I can’t tell if he’s a misogynist pretending to be a feminist or a feminist pretending to be a misogynist or just utterly confused. I tend to go with the third. When he writes a strong female character, she kicks unholy amounts of ass, but most of the time they’re just there to be deflowered by the male lead.

  • Loquat

    If a car company started selling a computer-controlled car that could avoid crashes while being driven by a drunk person, would you then advocate against it on the grounds that drunk driving OUGHT to be as dangerous as possible so as to deter people from doing it?

    Because that’s basically what Schlafly was doing in that quote – advocating against STD vaccination on the grounds that making premarital sex less dangerous is bad.

  • The_L1985

    Wow, she’s not even TRYING not to sound inhumanly cruel there.

  •  I will.  Because any time any woman doesn’t want to carry any pregnancy to term, for WHATEVER REASON, and is able to abort it, that is a moral good*.  It’s a moral good that does not put one more unwanted child in this world, it is a moral good that women are allowed bodily autonomy, it is a moral good that people are allowed to access the health care they want.  Anything beyond that opinion is just about getting to be judgemental, and I’m not down with that. 

    People who support reproductive rights have to stop falling into this trap that abortions are necessary but also immoral.  The moral judgements people want to attach to abortion are why we still live in a world where it is considered acceptable to force women to undergo unnecessary vaginal penetrations for pointless tests to obtain abortions.  It is why anti-choicers can lie their ass off and claim RU-486 is more dangerous than Tylenol, because we insist on and allow moral judgement on abortion.  It’s why no one can stop the falsehoods about the side effects of abortion, because in our screwed up world of cheap and easy rationalization, something that “we” all “agree” is so bad must cause some harm somewhere. 

    *And goodness knows, I hope it’s understood, but let me be clear.  Any time any woman is forced to abort any pregnancy is not a moral good and is not what I am talking about when I say that all abortions are good and right, because I am only talking about voluntary abortions. 

  • Lectorel

     I tend to fall on the side of ‘misogynist with vague feminist tendencies’. The HBIC female lead is, as far as I’ve seen, the archetype of choice for writers who are just starting to figure out women can be interesting characters too.

    It’s a nice, safe character model that doesn’t challenge the core assumption of sexism (that having power and being forceful and unilateral in your interactions is the best and most laudable way of being) while still allowing them to explore the idea of an engaging female protagonist.

    It doesn’t hurt that people in general like seeing/reading that archetype for the same reasons.

  • Victor

    (((I tend to go with the third.)))

    In that case, he and/or she should probably have a bumper sticker saying something like;  “Live and let live”!

    Right Jim?

    I hear YA!  (((“Do you have a minute? I have some questions for you first.”)))

    Go Figure! :)


  • The_L1985

     I was too busy thinking of the Dickensian Fagan.

  • Edo

    You could capture the same set of connotations neutrally by just calling it “pathological.” It really is.

    This Lent I’ve been discovering a need to speak about and against pathological theology, and it’s really scaring me. Partly because it’s so much more widespread than I think of it as being. But mostly because I can’t shake the feeling that we’re about to see a lot of people live out the implications of bad theology, with ugly results.

  • The_L1985

     I’ve found it:  http://www.lycaeum.org/mv/BX/piers_anthony_stories.html

    MAJOR trigger warning, though, and not for the usual Piers-Anthony reasons.

  • smrnda

     The problem is you should be honest to people about risks and also steps that can be taken to minimize them. Exaggerating the risks, or failing to discuss actions that can reduce risk in a situation is dishonest and manipulative.

  • Carstonio

    While I agree with your overall point, you and the Other Lori seem to be talking about two different things. You’re talking about access to abortion and not about abortion itself. From my reading, her extremists apparently believe that abortion is the moral choice for every pregnancy, not just the ones where the woman doesn’t want to carry the pregnancy to term. That sounds much more like an anti-choice straw woman.

  •  No, I am talking about abortion itself.  Any abortion a woman wants is a moral abortion.  There should be no judgement, regardless of whatever circumstances put the woman in that position. 

  • The_L1985

     I honestly think he’s confused.  The fact that he’s in his 70’s, and thus grew up in the 40s and 50s, probably also accounts for a lot.  A lot of the stuff in his more recent books reminds me of my grandmother’s view of black people–an older person desperately trying to shake off prejudice learned in childhood, while also blind to some of the aspects of that prejudice because they’re so deeply ingrained.

    His earlier novels, like Ox, I found wholly unreadable.  He’s definitely come a long way in his view of women, but he still has a long way to go.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I wanted to say something akin to this, but wasn’t able to word it as gracefully. Thank you.

  • It all comes down to the same thing: wanting to either punish teens for having sex or at least control who they are having sex with.

    The application of most modern statutory rape laws are about controlling who underage women have sex with, specifically to prevent them from being in sexual relationships with substantial power differentials, as those sorts of imbalances tend to impair meaningful consent. With age and experience, adults learn to recognize imbalances and either avoid them or seek to correct them, but teenagers don’t have that experience. 

    Socially, when it comes to getting the experience needed to avoid being harmed and/or exploited, we’ve tried to write laws to allow some opportunity, but under restrictions that reduce risk. Teenagers can work, but there are limits on when and how many hours while they’re under 16. (18 in some states) Teenagers can drive cars with provisional licenses or learners permits, but there are restrictions on when they can drive, and with whom. And statutory rape laws usually contain a clause that the law does not apply to partners who are relatively close in age. The purpose is fairly consistent: these are activities with a risk of harm and/or exploitation, having experience reduces that risk, so here are some limited situations where you may gain experience with reduced risk.

    by treating guys in their 20s who dare take a teen girl who says she wants sex at her word worse than we treat child molesters.

    I’m uncomfortable with phrases like “guys in their 20s” because that gives equal cover to a 20-year-old having sex the day after their birthday with 17-year-old  as it does to a 29-year-old engaging in statutorily-non-consensual sex with a 15-year-old. It doesn’t take an oracle to determine which of those scenarios only violates the letter of the law versus which one is in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the law. 

    Statutory rape laws aren’t about controlling the sexuality of young women. They’re about punishing adults who would seek to exploit the inexperience of minors for their own immediate sexual gratification. “The law, in its majesty, prohibits both the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges.” 

  • Daughter

    To be fair, there are some stories by men among the stories I’ve read in the “Raised Quiverful” series posted Libby Anne (the Patheos blogger of “Love, Joy, Feminism”). And they mention plenty of punishment, corralling and shaming they experienced as teens for struggling with lust, porn or masturbation.

  • LL

    Eh, I no longer waste time time trying to parse these people’s reasons for the dumb shit they say and supposedly believe (though by all means, other people who feel compelled should continue to do so; parse, that is). 

    I just operate from the assumption that they’re idiots and/or colossal assholes and that’s pretty much it. Trying to come up with some sort of misunderstanding loophole (whereas either I don’t understand what they’re motivated by or they don’t understand the implications of what they’re saying) is giving them far too much credit. They’re just stupid. Or assholes. Or both. 

  • SkyknightXi

     {shudder} Just reading Jensen’s name gives me a chill…What did he think the first civilized were supposed to do instead, LET Fate and/or Chaos toss them about every which-way?! The biological imperative doesn’t exactly take well to letting that happen. (I’d also like to see if any hunter-gatherer peoples share his low opinion of Hope and high opinion of Despair…although I have a hunch the word he actually wants is Fatalism. They were probably actively pressing against the barricades the Ice Age environs placed on survival LONG before its wane. The impulses that ultimately led to civilization, and its attendant attempts at safety, are probably ancient in the extreme. But unlike Jensen, I’m not willing to condemn the past, even just the past few millennia, as evil. Desperate, yes…And the idea that original peoples were originally at peace even with the woes, I worry that a form of Stockholm Syndrome is involved, although the tormentor in this version is VERY unknowing and unintentional about what it’s doing in any fashion. Still, I sometimes worry if he and/or Zerzan might deem anything beyond instinct as inherently evil…)

    But back to the point…In a sense, non-apex-predator animals also have to worry about getting cleaved by a predator’s claws and teeth, so their idea of horror would perhaps look the same. No creature could possibly look forward to theirself being sundered and devoured. So it’s probably not so much anything like projection as a primal fear dating back to when humans had to sometimes worry about getting crosshaired by lions, bears, crocodiles, or smilodons. And primal fears that, say, chipmunks have about getting crosshaired by lynxes or hawks.

    The problem is how well humans CONSCIOUSLY understand themselves as apex predators. Raising creatures JUST to feed upon their flesh is definitely a quandary, but I can see how it was an attempt to get away from the chanciness inherent in hunting. Pain, sadly, seems to be bound up in life from the first heterotrophic archaebacteria onwards (a plant may not be sentient, but I doubt IT would look forward to being sundered and devoured by a rabbit). The problem is how to interdict pain for both predator (pain from being unable to find proper prey in hunting and the attendant starvation) and prey (the woes of factory farming et al.).

  • fraser

     Yes, but Schafly is closer to saying we should remove seatbelts to make people drive more carefully.

  • Daughter

    Back in the late ’90s, I was working with a group of teens in a health program. And when asked what they wanted to learn more about, they said, “STDs.” They said that they hear a lot of messages about HIV/AIDs in school, but none about STD’s.

    So I invited an adolescent pediatrician in to discuss the topic. He showed a slide show that was – well, gross is too mild a word for it. And the discussion that followed was very sobering. It probably had a bigger effect on helping those teens to choose either abstinence or consistent use of condoms than any “Just say no” or abstinence curriculum ever could.

  • Daughter

    Yup. The pro-marriage equality folks in Washington state co-opted that term to describe marriage equality, and judged by the results, it made a difference.

  • Beroli

     He’s said that he opposes sexism, and I think he meant it, as far as his perception of himself goes. I think…he’s a very dedicated gender essentialist who believes a lot of really backward things about the sexes in general. He doesn’t, at least consciously, believe men are better than women. He does believe they’re completely different, in all sorts of ways, including women not really enjoying sex for its own sake and men being barely controlled beasts where sex is concerned.

  • Carstonio

     Agreed that there should be no judgment, and that’s actually part of my point. To me, “any abortion a woman wants is a moral abortion” suggests that any woman who finds herself in the same exact position as Woman X should make the same choice as Woman X. I refuse to call any particular abortion moral or immoral because I have no business making that judgment, partly because I’ve never had a womb.

  • Ross Thompson

    The only bumper-sticker on my current car is for faculty parking at Miskatonic U.

    This one?

  • EllieMurasaki

    To me, “any abortion a woman wants is a moral abortion” suggests that any woman who finds herself in the same exact position as Woman X should make the same choice as Woman X.

    Which is true, IF AND ONLY IF Person X and Person Y want the same thing from their otherwise identical situations. If the situations are identical in all respects bar whether they want an abortion, then the situations are vastly different and should be treated differently.

  • stardreamer42

    I disagree. As our society is currently structured, a 22-year-old man who seeks out a 16-year-old girl as a sex partner is a sexual predator. Yes indeed, it used to be the case that men didn’t marry until they were established and women were expected to marry before their mid-20s, and therefore the customary age difference between husbands and wives was 7-15 years. That isn’t how things work any more.

  • stardreamer42

    There’s already a term for that: “pro-natalist”. And one of the standard parts of it is the assumption that ALL women must have children, period.

  • Carstonio

    If the situations are identical in all respects bar whether they want an
    abortion, then the situations are vastly different and should be
    treated differently.

    True. My point about “moral” is that the word implies “should,” just as “immoral” implies “shouldn’t.” The thing about shoulds and shouldn’ts is that they presume to take precedence over what one wants even if this agrees with them.

  •  I don’t know why you feel that their is only one moral decision to any possible decision though, because I don’t see that at ALL. 

    I can get on board with the rest. 

  • Lliira

    They don’t just want to punish women who have sex. They want to punish women, period. If a woman is raped, they don’t care, it was probably her fault for being a woman anyway.

  • True, yet any good PSA will tend to play up the risks. Consider the anti-tobacco ads; and for all that, people still smoke and still even enjoy it. I guess my thoughts are giving people all the info, and make it accurate, but also ask them, “Is this really worth it?” 
    It’s important to be able to protect yourself, but it’s no less important to be able to avoid bad situations.Like I said, the real importance is common sense.

  • Jim Roberts

    Which is precisely why I didn’t use that term – I’m not interested in requiring anyone have children, just in supporting those that choose to do so.

  • stardreamer42

    IMO Piers Anthony is a hack, writing what he knows will sell. I don’t blame him for this — he’s got bills to pay and kids to put thru college. But I think it’s a waste of effort to try to analyze his writing for anything beyond what’s immediately obvious on the page, because I don’t think he puts that much thought into it.

  • Lliira

     I don’t want to use the “not getting any” as a measure of a human’s
    worth, and I’m not going to joke about penis sizes or anything like

    I won’t joke about penis size, because it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts. And these people may very well be getting a lot of sex.

    But I am very sure that they are not getting good sex. You cannot have good sex with a person whom you do not consider a person, nor can you have good sex if you do not consider yourself a person. And I am very sure that the men are terrified that if women aren’t somehow forced to feel they need to marry, they will not get women to marry them. And they are terrified that if women start being allowed to have sexual standards and demanding equal time in the bedroom, then the men will have to actually start paying attention to women and treat them like human beings in order to get laid. And, maybe most of all, they are terrified that women will realize we have the right to consent, or not consent, as we choose.

    Their fear is that they’ll have to actually give a damn about those icky yucky slutty disgusting horrible baby-making things they like to stick their dicks in. Instead of changing themselves, they do their best to brainwash the rest of the world. They managed to get sex ed thrown out of most schools, which was a huge step toward their goal. But they didn’t take the internet into account. They’re losing and they know it.

  • Sad thing is, a lot of people don’t like or use them anyway. I wonder how much the No Seatbelt crowd overlaps with the Anti Birth Control one.

  • Lliira

     I’ve never encountered anyone who claimed that all abortions were “morally good and right.”

    Now you have. All abortions freely chosen by the person who is pregnant are morally good and right.

  • Lliira

     including women not really enjoying sex for its own sake

    I bet Piers Anthony sucks at sex. In the bad way.