Insanity is commonly defined as repeating the same action over and over again expecting a different result each time. Bristol Palin, who is now pregnant for a second time without ever actually marrying either of her fiancés, personifies the insanity of idealized sexual abstinence promoted by so-called ‘purity culture.’
But then what are we to make of her mother? “The cool thing about putting your faith in God is he certainly is a God of second chances and third and fourth and fifth chances,” Sarah tells CBS in the above video.
Bristol Palin would do far better to put her faith in some contraceptive technology if she wants to avoid her next out-of-wedlock pregnancy. And if she starts dating again without birth control, Bristol is almost certainly going to end up taking advantage of her god’s “third chance” to be an unmarried parent.
I’m not digging at Bristol. As an autonomous adult, she has a right to enjoy sex and pursue fulfilling relationships. Single moms are incredible, and I’m the last person to cast shame on women and children who lack a father in the house.
A few years ago you said abstinence for teens isn’t realistic. Do you still believe that?
You know, that quote was taken out of context. What I was trying to say is it’s not realistic for everyone. I know that it’s not realistic for every single person. But for me, my sisters, and my family, I believe that that’s the right way. It’s realistic for a lot of people but certainly not 100 percent of the population.
You wrote that your parents gave you a purity ring. Do you think purity rings and abstinence pledges are effective?
Absolutely. I know lots of girls, lots of girls whose parents gave them abstinence rings and they held true to their word. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of having premarital sex, but from that I have a beautiful child and he is just the light of my life. So I did get blessed with that, but I did disobey my parents and I regret that.
That was before she met the father of her new child. Bristol blames herself for this situation, yet she’s not the one at fault in her family. Instead of weighing their daughter down with unreasonable expectations, Bristol’s parents should have been frank with her about the facts of her own plumbing and the management thereof. They owe her an apology, not the other way around. As Jonny Scaramanga wrote at Patheos after Bristol’s announcement, she is to be pitied, not censured.
I can’t point and laugh. I can just feel the weight of all that unreasonable expectation, of a culture that can’t admit that our actions are shaped by our environments. The whole evangelical doctrine of redemption is premised on the idea of individual responsibility for sin. We each, individually, deserve punishment for our sins, and we must each, individually, choose Jesus if we want salvation. This is only justice if you think we can act as though all decisions are made in a vacuum.
I am not particularly surprised Bristol Palin has had sex at least twice in her life. It is equally unsurprising that she didn’t use a condom, because that would require some forward planning. It would require her to admit to herself in advance that she was going to have sex. But sex is a sin, and she is a good girl. Good girls do not sin. Therefore, she would not be needing any birth control. I use this phrase a lot on the blog, and for once I’m not being sarcastic—the logic is flawless.
In purity culture, to encourage a teenager to use contraception is to give them permission to have premarital sex. But a lack of parental permission has never stopped Bristol from having sex, it has only stopped her from having sex without getting pregnant.
Her resulting children aren’t a punishment for sin, they’re the biological consequences of a warped morality.
After years of self-denial, Bristol was so anxious to have sex that she couldn’t wait for the actual marriage ceremony, which she had to cancel when the groom disappointed her. That makes her a human being, not a ‘bad girl’ or a ‘slut’ or any other judgmental label.
Clearly, Bristol’s situation is born of her mother’s irrational form of nurturing.