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New Line of Tween Panties Promotes…Abstinence?

New Line of Tween Panties Promotes…Abstinence?

Recently, @msmagazine received a response to a tweet about sexual assault on college campuses — a topic we’ve been covering a lot in light of our “Click!” blog carnival, National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement of a nationwide initiative to combat rape on campuses. Not to mention the brand-new investigative report on rape in a recent issue of Ms.

So, naturally, we clicked. And what we found was a frilly pink website devoted to selling underwear.

Needless to say, more explanation was in order:

About Us

Having high schoolers of our own, we realize that at one point or another, teenagers are going to want to date … We’ve decided there’s no reason to get uptight about it, after all, finding a romantic partner is a normal and healthy part of adolescent life. But, why not help our teens make wise choices while they navigate the dating scene? We created a line of underwear to use as conversation starters to help reinforce family morals as they relate to relationships and dating. One part Victorian (who are we kidding?), three parts frisky, these adorable undies put new meaning to saying it loud and proud.

What better way to reinforce family morals than by wearing underwear that doubles as a conversation starter, right? If the junior prom after-party starts to get dull, just take off your pants and encourage a dialogue! Awkward first date? Lift up your dress and ask for some feedback!

On the one hand, these panties were created by parents to encourage their teens to remain abstinent. On the other hand, these are panties. A strange choice of merchandise to hawk in the name of chastity.

Stranger still, these 75-percent “frisky” garments seem to be closely tied to a religious agenda. The very name of the line implies a Christian affiliation — subbing “your mother” for Jesus in the familiar WWJD. So what’s really going on here? Let’s take a closer look at some of the site’s offerings.

The messages on these panties — “Dream On,” “Zip It!” and “Not Tonight” — coyly indicate non-consent to a potential romantic partner. The marketing campaign confirms this.

But the whole concept of abstinence-promoting underwear makes about as much sense as commemorating sobriety with flasks instead of coins at AA meetings.

It isn’t just dumb, it’s dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your children to choose abstinence before marriage; there is something wrong, however, with not empowering them with the knowledge and tools to make that choice and confidently communicate it to romantic partners. Without pulling down their pants.

What’s more, the panties can really muddy the notion of “consent” in young people’s minds. What if a teen girl wears “Not Tonight” panties and decides at some point in the evening that she actually does want to have sex? Nothing wrong with that, but the dissonance between the panty-message and her ultimate decision may well reinforce the mistaken idea that “no means yes” in her partner’s mind.

This bizarre line of undergarments calls to mind what Jessica Valenti dubbed The Purity Myth in her book of the same name. In an interview, she argues that oversexualization of women in the media and pop culture has begun to intersect with the conservative movement, resulting in the fetishization of virginity:

If you are telling young women over and over that what’s most important is their virginity … then you’re sending the message that it’s the body and sexuality that defines who they are … With the virginity movement it’s adults — and a lot of men — deciding what appropriate sexuality is for younger women. It’s anyone and everyone except young women themselves defining (their) sexuality.

This is ridiculously displayed in WWYMD’s promotional videos, which feature abstinence-friendly songs and wind-blown girls posing suggestively in their skivies next to fully-clothed young men. Here are some of the choice lyrics:

No kiss, no touch, no makin’ out
hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey…
When men see a body like this, they have a tendency to dismiss
that I got anything upstairs, but I got me a lot of brains up there
Let me make it clear, so there’s no mistake
my life’s goin’ good, there’s too much at stake
to just hand it over, to any man…

The second video is even more explicit and confusing, combining gratuitous crotch shots with pro-chastity song lyrics:

I am waitin’, for my time in life,
I am waitin’ for love.
I am waitin’ on the world to change
I am waitin’ on you

Abstinence-promoting strategies as ineffective as these will certainly prove to be are, unfortunately, not unprecedented. It was reported that the Candies Foundation paid Bristol Palin more than $260,000 to be a pro-abstinence spokesperson — seven times the amount they spent on actual teen pregnancy prevention programs. With the rise of what’s been called the chastity-industrial complex, peddling purity is big business. Once again, social and religious conservatives say one thing, do another and wait for the money to roll in.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine’s blog.

Related Stories:

Bristol Palin’s Nonprofit Paid Her Seven Times What It Donated

Abstinence-Only Education Lesson 1: Drink the Spit (Video)

Young People Report Abstinence But Still Test Positive for STDs

 

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Photo by genibee via flickr
written by Annie Shields, a blogger for Ms. Magazine

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131 comments

+ add your own
9:39PM PDT on Oct 16, 2011

How about underwear that is sold with a complementary condom?

9:05AM PDT on Sep 30, 2011

127 COMMENTS PLUS MINE??? Can't say I'm surprised........I couldn't view either of the videos.......chances are it would have had me reaching for my keyboard yet again......

9:03AM PDT on Sep 30, 2011

This may come as a great surprise to some of us, but (please listen )- if you have got as far as flashing your drawers at your swain, it's kinda a come-on- y'hear what I'm sayin'?? If I want to keep Charley's hand OUT of the cookie jar, I'm hardly going to put a bloody great arrow on the cupboard where I keep it, complete with the legend"'Here it is"- AM I??

It's a bit like having a guy drop his pants, flash an erection at you, and say- "You can't have that- I'm saving it for my future wife"........if you want to play the games that the big kids play, learn the rules of the game- that's all I'm saying.......don't fart about- that way madness/rape/a kick in the balls lies. Sometimes i wonder if these idiots come from the same planet as I do.. .y'know that??

8:45AM PDT on Sep 30, 2011

This may come as a great surprise to some of us, but (please listen )- if you have got as far as flashing your drawers at your swain, it's kinda a come-on- y'hear what I'm sayin'?? If I want to keep Charley's hand OUT of the cookie jar, I'm hardly going to put a bloody great arrow on the cupboard where I keep it, complete with the legend"'Here it is"- AM I??

It's a bit like having a guy drop his pants, flash an erection at you, and say- "You can't have that- I'm saving it for my future wife"........if you want to play the games that the big kids play, learn the rules of the game- that's all I'm saying.......don't fart about- that way madness/rape/a kick in the balls lies. Sometimes i wonder if these idiots come from the same planet as I do.. .y'know that??

8:31PM PDT on Jun 1, 2011

WITHOUT VIEWING, I TRUST IT IS APPROPRIATE.

10:34AM PDT on May 25, 2011

Well, when I was a teen we had the fear of eternal damnation, the fear of the Lord, the fear of getting pregnant & the fear of getting massacred by our parents if we came in disheveled from a date.....anyway, in "those" days we didn't have the pill and we were scared to death of having a bad reputation.....this all sounds like the middle ages but it was the 60's...such was life then, AND, we were all slim - no fat girls in my school of 400 and we all wanted to look as slim as possible so we wore lightweight girdles (that had garters attached - I am not kidding)- ok go ahead have a laugh! We also wore stockings with garter belts (actually very sexy looking)...I remember once in Paris seeing a billboard: Are tights going to kill love? - well, I guess they didn't.....
So what would be wrong with teaching humans starting age 4 about human reproduction & how to avoid it?? That seems logical to me.
I would go about it like this: I would go to schools to talk to teens & ask them to describe exactly what is a BABY? Then, I would have a young mother come into the school room with her as-close-to-newborn as possible, followed by as aged a person as I could find to come to the school with me, & teens, I would say>this person is what happens to a BABY. STOP making them until you know you want all the responsibility of taking care of one when it is a BABY & when it is your aged dependent parent & stop practicing - you are too young, too irresponsible & n

12:52PM PDT on May 18, 2011

you are all being ridiculous about this. their made to encourage girls who want to wait till marriage to have sex. what in the world is wrong with that? You people need to leave these girls alone. if they want to wear the underwear they can, if they don't they don't have to buy it. get over thinking you have a right to say what they do with their lives.

10:26PM PDT on May 10, 2011

Sorry about the typo on across.

10:25PM PDT on May 10, 2011

Not really my choice of how to get the message accross to young people but to each his own, I guess.

3:53AM PDT on May 10, 2011

I doubt that "Just say NO works" Most teens would need directions on how to say NO and make it stick. Most girls need to be taught "If he loved you he would be willing to wait until he gets a job adequate to support a wife and two children and then marry you."

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