So Bristol Palin went on “Good Morning America” this morning to talk about her new book, and the host couldn’t help asking about what was on most people’s minds: what exactly did she mean when she said Levi Johnston “stole” her virginity? Her response was this:
“That’s what it felt like. I’m not accusing Levi of date rape or rape at all, but I am just looking back with the adult eyes that I have now, and just thinking ‘that was a foolish decision.’ I should have never been underage drinking, and I should have never gotten myself into a situation like that.”
Well, okay then. I’m glad she doesn’t feel like she was raped. That’s a horrible feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But here’s the deal: words mean things. You cannot say Levi “stole” your virginity, i.e. took it knowingly without permission, without implying that he assaulted you. If that’s not what you mean, choose a better word. Coerced, manipulated, corrupted, tempted into darkness, what have you. If you feel like he “stole” it, you feel like he took it without permission, which does nothing to dispel the idea that you were raped.
It’s also somewhat distressing that she frames her decision in terms of deciding to “underage drink,” making no mention of a decision to have sex. That doesn’t sound good! Just because you underage drank with someone doesn’t mean you’ve consented to sex with that person. The language that she uses here–“I never should have put myself in that position”–very well might refer to putting herself in a position where she was likely to consent to something she thinks she shouldn’t, but it still sounds uncomfortably like victim-blaming language to me.
Part of my annoyance here is probably due to the fact that I’m tired of feeling concern for someone who says dumb, contradictory things like this:
I’m not an abstinence preacher, you know. I think that if you wanna prevent teenage pregnancy, that’s the only option. I talk about in the book how I was on birth control, and obviously it wasn’t used effectively, and abstinence is the only way you’re gonna prevent teenage pregnancy, but, um, if you’re gonna have sex, practice safe sex, very safe sex.
BUT I THOUGHT THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS SAFE SEX?! Nice passive construction, by the way. I’m not going to let my empathy for what I still think sounds like a sexual assault (or at the very least, serious sexual misconduct) keep me from attacking her views. Abstinence-only education is proven to be ineffective, and the religious zealot wing of the Republican party continues to put life-threatening restrictions on women’s access to adequate healthcare. It’s entirely possible for bad things to happen to people who advocate bad public policy.