The "Screw Abstinence Party"—a July 14 NARAL Pro-Choice Washington fundraiser at Queen Anne's Watertown bar–features a "sex ed class for adults," a "Sexy Safer Sex" lecture from the vibrator chicks at Toys in Babeland, "Screw Abstinence" T-shirts, and free screwdrivers when you buy a $30 "Full Monty" ticket.
"This is an edgy idea to attract 25- to 35-year-olds, a fundraiser in a trendy bar in Seattle," Karen Cooper, executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, explains. "This is for a sophisticated, liberal group." Yeah—brought to you by a politically unsophisticated liberal group.
Consider: The left is currently in a standoff with Christian conservatives over sex education in the public schools. The left wants to preserve comprehensive sex-ed programs that include information about STD/HIV and contraception, while conservatives are pushing abstinence-only programs ["Parental Dissent," Amy Jenniges, May 26]. And the right is fucking serious: The Bush administration requested a mammoth $273 million in funding for abstinence-only programs this year.
When the preeminent liberal group re: sexual matters jumps into this public debate with "Full Monty" specials, yelling "Screw Abstinence," it's time for liberals to reconsider our spokespeople—or at least challenge them to do a better job on our behalf. The flippant "Screw Abstinence" event—which Cooper says was geared at "Seattle, not Ellensburg" when I told her how concerned I was—stupidly plays into the stereotype of progressives as permissive, amoral, and not serious about very serious issues.
It's a blunder that will de-legitimize local liberals when they try to engage moderate voters in the sex-ed debate—say, next year when NARAL Pro-Choice Washington testifies in front of the Lake Washington School Board about Lake Washington High School's controversial curriculum. While NARAL's own literature supports sex-ed programs that discuss both abstinence and contraception, a "Screw Abstinence" party in Seattle upends that smart (and mainstream) point of view.
"I love it when they do this," says Republican Party State Chair Chris Vance. "It's just another example of the liberal-left marginalizing itself. They forget who they're trying to target: suburban parents. And suburban parents are very worried about [premarital sex]."
I'm not suggesting NARAL cave to the right and back away from the progressive agenda. I'm suggesting that NARAL honor the progressive agenda, which actually treats things like sex-ed curriculums and unwanted pregnancy seriously—rather than like an episode of Sex and the City as conservatives like to believe.
This may sound hypocritical coming from a columnist who writes for a newspaper that's currently sponsoring an amateur porn contest (mark your calendars! It's Saturday, August 20 at the Northwest Film Forum and then at Chop Suey for the awards ceremony!). But I'm not soliciting donations to carry the liberal agenda re: sex-education issues. The Lake Washington School Board doesn't have to listen to a word I say. I'd like it if the Lake Washington School Board (as well as state legislators from places like Ellensburg) felt compelled to listen to NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, though. ■