Nadine Dorries MP is under fire from the Family Planning Association after her appearance on the Vanessa Feltz daytime TV show on Monday 16th May, promoting her Ten-Minute-Rule Bill calling for abstinence-based sex education for girls. Many Christians have reservations, but more of that in a moment.
The assault on Nadine is being led at the moment by English Literature student Morenike (Reni) Eddo-Lodge, who was outraged at her appearance on the television. How dare Channel Five give air time to someone who disagrees with the liberal status quo?
Reni fumed in The Guardian: 'When it was first introduced, Dorries insisted her aim was to empower teenage girls to say "no" to sex. There is really nothing empowering about teaching young women that their sexuality is not their own. Abstinence-based sex education teaches girls that sex isn't something that they participate in – instead, it's something they give in to.'
Nadine was opposed on the Vanessa Show by Julie Bentley, chief executive of the FPA, which masquerades as a 'sexual health charity' (that's how Reni described it - on message, well done) but is actually a business selling sex education materials and contraceptives.The show will be there online until Sunday 22nd May. Also involved in the discussion were former England international rugby player Lawrence Dallaglio and Vanessa's co-presenter Ben Ofoedu.
Reni ought to have declared an interest. She has started volunteering for the FPA, according to an interview she did for the online mag Studentbeans, in which she looks very sweet but comes across as bit of a family planning feminist fanatic. She persistently blogs about such themes. Her column in the Guardian will have done herself no end of good in the eyes of her uber-boss Ms Bentley. She also wants sex education to be compulsory, but from what age she doesn't say. Most sex educators want the children whose protective natural modesty they invade to be as young as possible. Teaching four-year-olds that homosexuality is normal and natural is firmly on the agenda. Two years ago, parents of infants in Leytonstone banded together to keep their children off school for a week of indoctrination about homosexuality.
Miss Eddo-Lodge's blog 'No Comment' gained a commendation from Channel 4's Best Young Blogger of the year 2010, which led to a stint at The Guardian last summer. She is also Student Union President-elect of the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. She is a busy young lady right now, but says she will panic when she graduates.
Like most feminists, Reni lives in a fantasy world where women and men have exactly the same abilities, characteristics and hormones. Women on the Eddo-Lodge planet are just as predatory as men, and the contrary idea that young men tend to pressurise young women into sex (rather than the other way around) is an ideological impossibility.
Julie Bentley said on the Vanessa Show that sex education should be 'better', but sex educators always say that, and ask for more government money to do it. 'Abstinence simply doesn't work,' she said, 'when they don't stick to abstinence, they don't know how to look after themselves.' She did accept Nadine's accounts of sex educators bringing appalling materials and ideologies into the classroom.
Nadine Dorries, of course, is not proposing abstinence only, she wants to bolt abstinence on to existing sex education. Defending the 'girls only' approach, she rightly says that the impact of pregnancy falls primarily or even exclusively on girls.
Actually, Nadine gave a good account of herself on the Vanessa Show. 'Along with sex education in school I would like to see abstinence to empower them and give them an alternative,' she said. She is right, girls do need the power to say 'No', but she has chosen an unfortunate word.
The word 'chastity' is far better than 'abstinence' and its message is more positive once you get over the jocular association with medieval belts and the like. The reason is theological and ideological. You can abstain from something at any time, and then take it up again - chocolates for Lent is the usual example. In contrast, chastity is a lifestyle in which you honour and respect your body and those of the opposite sex.
Chastity is also a Christian virtue, in line with the laws of God, and therefore in line with how human beings are wired. That is why chastity needs to be taught to boys as well as girls. Boys also need to need to learn chivalry, the attitude of looking after girls, and girls in particular need the recover the virtue of modesty, about which, at a time when a 'Slutwalk' is being planned in London, more could be said. Reni likes slutwalk, of course. Girls want to be modest and protected, and boys yearn to be real men who fight battles to save them.
Vannessa herself told the FPA's Julie Bentley that sex is seen as inevitable by them. She also brought up the subject of parents. 'Where do they figure in all this? Children could be told you can even wait until you are married', said Vanessa. 'You can't rely on what they are taught at school' said Dallaglio, and Ben Ofoedu agreed that children need to be told that they can say 'No.'
The response from panellists on the Vanessa Show might just indicate that Nadine Dorries is voicing concerns held more widely. This is something which clearly worries sex education pros as Julie Bentley and aspiring members of the chattering classes like Reni Eddo-Lodge. Her Bill goes nowhere like far enough, but it is something of a start.
WRITE (or email): to your MP at: House of Commons, London,SW1A 0AA. Ask your MP to support Nadine Dorries' Ten Minute Rule Bill and ask the Government to give time for it to become law.