05/09/08

Pregnancy, rape and bestiality. What can we report?

I wasn’t even going to bother to gloat about the goody-two-shoes Republican Vice-Presidential candidate’s swelling family. Plenty of others have done it for me. But the kerfuffle did get me thinking about what’s fair game in science and reporting. And that led me on an unlikely path to rape and bestiality.

Yes, Sarah Palin gutted funding for pregnant teens at just about the same time her own daughter was romping around with boyfriend but without condom. Yes, she’s a staunch supporter of the abstinence-only education which is delivering a rise in births to US teenagers. And yes, when a personal story occasions sensible reflection on a potential president’s ability to make data-free policy decisions, then I think it’s fair game for press coverage, even if it involves a family member’s sex life.

Others question that; there’s been heated discussion about what it is and isn’t fair to report.

As I was considering these issues I was reminded of a story about a bestiality and rape that was reported with great glee a couple of months back. The victim was almost certainly a minor, the rapist was 16 times her body weight. Was there a discussion about protecting the victim’s privacy? Not a bit of it. Scientists photographed the encounter, and the pictures were widely published. As here:

Lust in a cold climate

Lust in a cold climate

The assault involved a seal and a penguin. Different species from us, much like politicians. That’s what made it fair game for reporting.

Over at Bound Not Gagged, Jill — a seasoned reporter on penguin prostitution — assumes that the victim will soon start turning tricks (because as we know, all sex workers were set on the path to harlotry by a dark past of child abuse and incest). So say the very people who also believe that telling teens to cross their legs is an effective way to prevent pregnancy. Heigh ho.

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This post was published on 05/09/08 in Good sex and bad.

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  1. Comment by Pierce Wetter, 05/09/08, 11:12:

    Cmon Elizabeth, don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper!

    Sarah didn’t “gut” the funding. She cut part of the additional funding, that is to say, they got more money, just not as much of an increase as originally requested. That’s not gutting. In fact, that’s sort of typical bureaucratic budget process, don’t you think?

    Note that the line items you show in a picture are for a Library, and Food Bank, which doesn’t have much to do with pregnant teens that I can see.

    As for her so called “support” for abstinence only education, not only has she never done anything like that as governor, but the original exchange was as follows:

    Q: Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?

    SP: Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.

    So what she really said is that she won’t support “explicit” sex-ed. She never said to my mind that she supported abstinence-only education. Given that in AK, she’s pretty much left the status-quo and that this was a questionaire sent to her by a super conservative religious organization, that may have just been a politicians answer.

    Whether you agree with it or not Elizabeth, there are lots of people that are a little leery of having the schools distribute condoms to teenagers.

    Perhaps instead of gloating at her daughter’s pregnancy, some reporter should actually ask her what her opinion is of what sex-ed should encompass? Oh, wait, that would require journalists to do actual journalism instead of just beating up a story based on a written questionaire mailed to the candidate a couple of years ago.

  2. Comment by Pierce Wetter, 06/09/08, 08:36:

    The LA Times actually asked: http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-na-sexed6-2008sep06,0,1923582.story

    Meanwhile, the “cut” above is part of a 50% increase in funding.

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