A Hester Prynne for Our Times
I’m tempted to use the term “hoisted with her own petard,” but that wasn’t what Bristol Palin was hoisted with. Yep, she’s pregnant again. Bristol has expressed her disappointment with this turn of events, so clearly it was unplanned. Her PR team has tried to smooth this over with the fact that Bristol was engaged at the time, with the implication being that an engagement ring is tacit permission to have sex. Look, I don’t think we need permission to have sex—it’s a natural function—but that isn’t the message Bristol has been espousing from her soapbox of young adult morality.
In my opinion, if there’s a time to be amoral, it’s while we’re young. Later in life, the things we regret are often the risks we didn’t take. My big regret is James. I was crushing on him throughout high school, and the sexual chemistry between us was hot. We both knew it, we just didn’t act on it. Unfortunately, he was one of those bad boys everybody knew only dated girls who put out, which eliminated me. I should have been easier.
Bristol asks on Facebook that people don’t lecture her, so I won’t. I also won’t judge her. The conservative circles who endorse her abstinence message will do it—and harshly. In fact, it has already begun. She might as well put on a scarlet “S” and embrace her inner slut.
While the truth will be ignored, the real lesson we can learn from Bristol’s experience is that sex is a strong impulse in every species. Something impossible to stay away from, and the safest way to avoid pregnancy for a woman—not to mention STDs—is birth control and condoms. But that’s not how Bristol’s current predicament will be played. A single failure is worthy of redemption and forgiveness, but a repeat of that failure and Bristol becomes a living morality tale, used to scare young virgins into abstinence.
In the past, Bristol has admitted that abstinence is hard, but it’s the only acceptable form of birth control. Apparently, it was harder than she could ignore, every pun intended.
As someone with an addictive personality, I can tell you from experience that thinking you are in control rarely works. Just saying “No” makes for a good soundbite, but it trivializes our compulsions and addictions. I’m left with two alternate conclusions for Bristol’s pregnancy. The first is that she embraced her own message, that using birth control warred with her inner conscience. The second is that this is a cry for help from a confused young woman.
More than most women, Bristol had everything to lose by getting pregnant again—her credibility, her endorsements, her speaking career.
The lesson I take away from this is one I’ve always endorsed in my own life. Try not to be a stellar example of anything. You disappoint people a lot less.