A Day in the Life of a Sexologist

RSS

The most hideous anti-abortion protest, and most inspiring counter protest, you’ve ever seen

Trigger warning for… well, just about everything. Graphic (not kidding, GRAPHIC) photographs of dead fetuses, murdered bodies including racially motivated lynchings and genocide victims, children bruised from abuse, and animal cruelty, are contained in this post. (Can you see why we needed to counter protest?)

It started at just before midnight on Thursday when someone posted to my facebook page that an organization would be staging an anti reproductive choice demonstration on the campus of nearby West Chester University. It’s the same organization that stalks and harasses women as they try to enter the local Planned Parenthood. The community was encouraged to counter protest starting at 9am. So I went.

image

The organization had done the same protest the day before at the West Chester courthouse (how did I not hear of this??) and promoted the campus event, titled “God is Coming Back to Campus” on the events page of their website. As you can see from the screen shot, “able-bodied men” were asked to help set up their protest displays. And herein lies the problem with the “pro-life” movement. It claims to be pro-life and pro-babies, but in reality, it’s anti-women, anti-sex, and most especially, anti-women enjoying sex. The whole belief system is predicated on the idea that women are ill-equipped to manage their own bodies. They can’t manage deciding if a pregnancy is good for their life or health right now, and they can’t manage carrying heavy things.

I showed up at 9am but saw no one. After waiting a half hour I was about to go back home when I found two other counter protesters, students, who came prepared with signs. Just the three of us. I didn’t feel hopeful.

image

We finally found the protesters, who ended up being an hour late to their own party. They had a whole truck full of dozens of those white billboards (and of course, a number of “able-bodied men”). I started thinking our counter protest party of 3 was going to be very insufficient to what they had in store for us.

image

The “able-bodied men” began setting up their display…

image

… and the counter protesters, which was now outnumbering them 3 to 1, set up next to them. Peacefully, not saying a word.

image

They moved to evade our counter protest, and we moved with them. They ended up moving a total of 4 times before giving up and setting up their billboards.

image

Now, next I’m going to show you what the billboards have on the front, on display for the students of West Chester to have no choice but to see as they walk to class on their campus. This is where shit gets graphically grotesque for a few photos. I just wanted to give people curious or interested a chance to see why we felt it was so important to do a counter protest, and do a “human shield” a la the Westboro Baptist Church counter protests, blocking the hideous view from people who didn’t want to see it. Many of you may want to scroll past these photos. Scroll until you see a big white gap of no text or photos. After that the photos will be better. The billboards can be seen in the background, but are not up close.

.

.

Yes, these would be photos of genocide and black men being lynched, in case you couldn’t see the last photo with the poor lighting.

image

The man standing to the right of the right of the billboard will give you perspective as to the size of these things. The fetus and dime photo is taller than his waist. A real dime held next to the photo of the dime would be about the size of Roosevelt’s eye, and thus the fetal tissue, in real life, would be a speck on this display. Not an accurate depiction.

image

image

image

image

image

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I borrowed a sign that said “if the anti-abortion movement took a tenth of the energy they put into noisy theatrics and devoted it to improving the lives of children who have been born into lives of poverty, violence, and neglect, they could make the world shine”. I learned that this organization is not local, and travels the country going campus to campus with their message, which is a significant expense. The boards undoubtedly cost at least $1,000 a piece, and they had dozens of them. Imagine how many abortions could have been prevented if they put that money into contraception advocacy or sex education so that people would know how to avoid an abortion, or into caring for unplanned babies that would be neglected. But don’t look for logic from someone who likens abortion to the Holocaust.

image

More and more and more counter protesters stepped up to block the images while still leaving room for people to look who wanted to, which no one did.

image

It was really powerful for me to see this level of organic student activism. Most folks were merely walking by, became horrified at the sight, and said “I’m going to stand here with you”. The thing about protests are that everyone’s welcome. It’s the one time where you can walk up to a group of strangers and start hanging out with them, knowing they’ll welcome you warmly instead of thinking you’re weird.image

It was also really powerful for me to see so many menfolk standing up for women. Allies are incredibly important, and since this anti-abortion demonstration was mostly run and managed by men (able-bodied ones), it was imperative that other men call them out with signs like this one that says “Not your body? Not your choice!” A solid 50% of the counter protesters were men.

image

What so fascinates me about movements like this that rise up organically, suddenly, and without notice (at least for most people who happened upon it while walking to class), is that people step up and assume roles without needing supervision, direction, or pre-planning. They just act, and they see the importance in taking on a supporting role that is perhaps less glamorous than standing with a sign but still so important to ensure the operation keeps moving. For example, one student brought a case of water bottles for the counter protesters, another came around with a bottle of sunblock for us to use as we stood in the hot sun, a third brought us food.

image

Others students texted their friends to come too, and asked them to bring supplies. People began showing up with paint and poster board, metal rods, bed sheets, and duck tape to fasten large banners. Large banners on rods were needed because in response to our counter protest, the anti-choice folks erected more billboards, this time on stilts to make them 15 feet tall and unable to be blocked by our bodies alone.

image

The new, taller billboards contained even more hideous depictions of dead fetuses, abused children, and lynchings that were so huge, even holding bedsheets on rods over our heads couldn’t cover it. A few more graphic images to follow. Scroll down past the large white space again to skip this part.

.

.


image

image

image

That’s me on the left below:

image

image

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

As you can see, these things are massive and there is no way, despite our best efforts, one could avoid seeing these images. I cringe to think the day before they were seen by children who passed them on the busy lawn of the West Chester courthouse. I find it ironic that West Chester used the “children can see it” argument when they sent a police officer to ask me to leave a public street for displaying a t-shirt that says “the clit is the shit”, but they issued a permit to these folks to use county property to display these images in front of children. But I digress.

I made friends with the students I met. I’m now a seasoned activist, but when I was their age, it was all new to me. For many, this was their first time. I talked to them about why it’s important not engage with these types of people (because often they fund their demonstrations by saying hideous things, provoking people, hoping it escalates until the person hits them or vandalizes their signs, and then sues for lots of money). I talked to them about the history of the pro-life movement and why they aren’t really pro-life because they’re anti-contraception, which is just ludicrous. And when they talked about skipping their next class so they could counter-protest a little longer, I assured them they shouldn’t feel guilty about that because it’s moments like this that make the college experience, and are just as valuable educational opportunities, if not more so, than what happens in the classroom.

The protesters did indeed try their damnedest to provoke us to engage, to the point of harassment, but everyone remained peaceful and passive. Here, a woman (only one of two with the organization) carried around a fake plastic baby doll in a blanket and started preaching. She told one student that’s she’s a “bad person” and would be going to Hell. The woman refused to leave her alone, even after she held her poster up high to hide her face. Just look at the body language here. Wow! It’s super hard to remain calm in a situation like this, but kudos to this student for staying peaceful.

image

In this one minute video, which I titled “Male anti-abortion protester gets in my face and asks me if I “like babies”, you can see how they go person to person trying to provoke you (as if the photos weren’t provocation enough). As much as my blood boils that a man is trying to tell me as a woman how to live my life, how to manage my body, and doing so in such a patronizingly simplistic manner (as if the myriad complexities around why a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy doesn’t exist, and it’s all about whether she “likes” babies or not), I remained non-confrontational.

The most inspiring moment of the day for me was when the engagement and provocation tactics were kicked up a notch and one of the men of the organization stood up on a chair and began preaching loudly. He began talking about how women today don’t dress modestly as God calls them to do and how WE are being disrespectful to THEM for blocking their message. But then something amazing happened. A student with an acoustic guitar started playing music, everyone started singing, and the preacher could no longer be heard over our voices. It was like out of a movie! Check out this one minute video, which I titled “That beautiful moment when a hate preacher is drowned out by spontaneous group song”. It’s pretty heartwarming to watch positivity triumph.

(video seems to not be working in tumblr app.) With this moving group sing along that lasted about 10 songs, and the use of humor (see sign below), I was super proud and inspired by these students and their creativity and activism.image

As a final note, I want to reiterate how important it is to donate to and support people and organizations (ahem) who are sending the kind of messages you want college students to hear. This organization’s supporters do. I found their tax returns. They had almost 2 million dollars in revenue last year, almost all of which came from private individual donations. They received no grant money. They fund these expensive campus demonstrations on a $20 donation here, a $150 donation there. Do you know how many lives I could change if the sex education programs I do at colleges got donations of 2 million dollars a year? This would be the most sex-positive country on the planet in a decade. image