How to Turn One Sad Story into an Epidemic

Readers bbrzkfbsdn
— Canada’s “Contrarian” explains how the media work (and even how upset parents sometimes behave). Read the whole piece here.-  L

Fear-mongering as news: turning sad stories into bogus trends

(1)  A teenage girl becomes involved in sexual activity that most grownups, regardless of their own sexual behaviour as teens, find shocking and horrific.

(2)  The girl’s parent or parents learn of the activity and are utterly devastated.

(3)  A family crisis ensues, with outcomes that can range from good to horrendous.

(4)  In their struggle to process shocking new information about the child they love, the distraught parent or parents construct a frame to explain and cope with this cognitive dissonance.

(5)  The frame invariably posits the existence of a large but hitherto unacknowledged social problem that explains how a good child falls into bad situations.

(6)  The parent seeks a journalist’s help in exposing this putative social problem.

(7)  To justify publicizing salacious details of a private family tragedy, the journalist adopts the frame. The girl’s story is not simply her story, but an exemplar of an unrecognized social problem of broad and increasing scope—a sinister trend, usually one in which digital media are implicated.


Lenore here: I was just fascinated by this idea of a path from personal humiliation/sadness/fury  to paranoia to policy. – L

Read all about it! (Whether "it" is the actual problem or not.)

Read all about it! (Whether “it” is a widespread problem or not.)

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27 Responses to How to Turn One Sad Story into an Epidemic

  1. Amy January 20, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    I wonder how different our culture would be if we could find a way to deal with girls’ and women’s sexuality in a healthy way, rather than holding on to our Puritanical need to control female sexuality through shame, guilt, etc.

    Featuring your daughter in a news article as described is the modern version of the scarlet letter.

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  3. CrazyCatLady January 20, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    This was recently “my” town. (Could have been.) A couple of months ago a “special” was run about underage prostitution. I must say, that I don’t see lots of news reports about people arrested for this (and when I say I don’t see lots, I mean that I don’t see any.) Yet, they ran this “special report” twice. I am sure that there are some kids involved in this…but I don’t think it is an iceberg of kids. Yes, I do feel sorry for kids involved who are being forced, or are using as a way to pay for their drug habit. They do need help.

  4. Coasterfreak January 20, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    This reminds me of a few years ago when I saw a news story regarding the rising abuse of a new hallucinogenic drug that I had never heard of, among teenagers. The hook on this particular story was that this drug was perfectly legal, could be bought at any convenience store, and was potentially deadly. Most teenagers know about this drug, the report said, and it was estimated that at least 50% of all teenagers had tried it already.

    Being the parent of two teenagers at the time. I was intrigued and looked into it. Not only did I find out that the drug had been out there for DECADES, and was nothing new, I also discovered that no matter how many convenience stores I went to, I could not find any. And no matter how many adults or teenagers I asked, I could not find one single person who had ever heard of it. Even friends of mine who had been (or still were) drug users had no idea what I was talking about.

    And how many times after that single, shocking news report did I hear about this supposedly serious problem? Zero.

    That was when I learned to not trust everything I hear on TV, even the news, and I am better for it.

  5. lollipoplover January 20, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    This recently came across our local news and made me think of the need to make everything into an epidemic:

    I haven’t had the “don’t snort gross candy” talk with my kids yet and I can’t image I ever will.
    But you NEVER know….

  6. Cin January 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    Sorry, but he makes the journalist way too innocent in this, and the parents way too guilty.

    I was a social issues reporter for the better part of a decade, and while I generally avoided this frame (since I was busy covering real stories, usually involving a level of government abusing or trodding all over the poor, the disadvantaged or the genuinely victimized — as in they had survived a crime against them) when I did cover a story about a real social trend affecting teens in a truly bad way (think of a dramatic increase in cocaine use, well documented by the cops in several raids, or a string of brutal sexual assaults outdoors), it was often very, very difficult to find a family willing to go on the record.

    I think reporters see one story, invent a trend in their mind, and then go actively searching for a family that fits the mould, far more often than these stories being parent-driven. That’s what I saw during my time as a journalist, and what I still see today (it’s quite obvious to my eyes when a family has been shoved into a trend story.)

  7. J.T. Wenting January 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    it’s “pedophile internet child pornographers” here. Every week there’s an arrest of someone who’s supposedly “abused hundreds of children online”.
    But never is there any mention of a conviction, leading me to believe all those arrests are bogus, people being arrested on hints and rumours dropped off anonymously on police hotlines before any investigation is ever run.
    The ruined lives of the innocent victims (the arrested men…) are never mentioned at all. They live the rest of their lives branded as pedophiles, on vigilante “pedoregistries”, being forced to flee from place to place by mobs with the full support of city councils and police who don’t want to anger citizens by “allowing pedophiles to live in our town”, etc. etc.
    Until they change their name and flee the country, or more often commit suicide, and then are just more anonymous statistics.

  8. SKL January 20, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    I’m dealing with a variation of this on another site. Adoption fraud. How horrible! Nobody would argue with that. However, the specific offense now being discussed (in a certain country which no longer allows international adoptions) was proven to be rare and was only done by a very narrow group of bad people, who have been caught and shamed, and some % of whom have been incarcerated, lost their licenses, etc. Maybe some are on the loose and wreaking more havoc, but if so, it should be easy to identify them and punish them, because the facts are there. And we know the facts are there because they keep being broadcast (sensationally) to the whole world, with the effect that the average American thinks adoptive parents are OK with stealing a loving mother’s baby out of her arms. And because I won’t get behind this movement to BROADCAST IT TO THE WORLD, that means I don’t really care whether my adopted kids were stolen or not. Right?

    It’s crazy.

    (For the record, adoption fraud was nothing new at the time of my adoptions, and I did a lot of research and verifying of safeguards etc., because yes, I do care that my kids were not stolen.)

  9. Donna January 20, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    @JT Wenting – Convictions such as that rarely make the news because the cases are resolved as a result of a plea bargain in the midst of a regular 100 case court calendar and the press is not aware that it is happening. Very rarely will a particular case still have enough interest when a conviction happens many, many months after the arrest to generate press interest for a routine guilty plea. It would have to be very high profile.

    That said, the internet predator is the epitome of what this article is talking about. You have some young girls who intentionally seek out the online sexual attention of some older men. The parents freak out and totally blame the men, ignoring the fact that maybe you should consider why your 14 year old daughter wants to have sexually explicit conversations with 40 year old men. We now have an epidemic and this epidemic is featured on every news magazine in print and screen medias. They even get their own TV show – “To Catch a Predator.” You then have police officers going into chat rooms pretending to be young girls to lure these “predators” out. The police officers go into ADULTS-ONLY chat rooms, engage in extremely sexually aggressive conversations and send sexually explicit pictures of ADULTS to their targets. Large numbers of men get arrested for sexual exploitation of children despite having never “spoken,” seen or met with a child. Since there is this supposed epidemic, we can’t get a jury to see the extreme entrapment present in these cases, and men who do go to trial get 5-6 years more time in prison than those who plea guilty, so ultimately everyone starts to plea guilty in order to spend far less time in prison. We now have convictions to “prove” that this really is an epidemic and so it goes.

  10. Papilio January 20, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    “A teenage girl becomes involved in sexual activity”

    And they still need all the rest to get North-American parents to panic??

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist 😀 )

  11. Bob Davis January 20, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    There are certain periods during the year when TV new program ratings are compiled, which are sometimes called “sweeps weeks”. They can usually be recognized by the “news teams” investigating stories involving sex, food, or crime, with high-energy “teaser” announcements during prime time shows. Back when TV and even broadcast radio were still in the realm of Sci-Fi, we had “yellow journalism” with screaming headlines on the front pages of sensationalist tabloids. Remember that story about “white slavers” who would (according to the lower levels of the press) would drug and kidnap young women who were riding streetcars and force them into a life of prostitution?

  12. J.T. Wenting January 20, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    @Donna given the number of reported “internet pedophiles targeting hundreds of children” there should be some reports of convictions, at least mention, but none ever surface.
    And here there is no such thing as a plea bargain. You’re arrested, you’re either going before a court of the police can’t get a case together that will stand up in court.
    And if there’s really hundreds of victims, a case should be child’s play to put together as even a single semi-reliable testimony is enough to get a conviction.
    And that would be a very public conviction.

  13. Donna January 21, 2014 at 12:42 am #

    @JT Wenting – Your country may be different, but in the US reporting on convictions is the exception, not the rule. In 10 years of practicing criminal law to the tune of about 500 cases a year, I’ve only had a conviction reported in a very small handful (definitely won’t exceed my fingers in counting) high profile cases. Arrests are sexy but the public rarely stays interested long enough to care about the resolution unless the case is particularly interesting for some reason so the press doesn’t even bother.

  14. marie January 21, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    Where I live, the US Attorney’s office sends out a press release when they convict someone. The local newspaper dutifully prints the press release. I don’t watch local TV so maybe they report on these too; when my husband was convicted, it was not on TV.

    As for those hundreds of victims, they are imaginary. But talking about them as if they are real keeps the funding increases coming for the investigating agencies. And using the word “pedophile”, no matter the age of the minor victim, is a good way to keep interest high as well.

  15. anonymous mom January 21, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    @Donna, thank you. I’m always afraid to share my opinion on this, because I have a personal stake: my husband, when he was 25, was arrested in one of those internet stings (in an 18+ sex chat room, with an undercover officer several decades my husband’s senior pretending to be a very sexually-experienced fifteen year old eagerly seeking out a hook up with an older guy). But, it is time we admit that post-pubescent teenage girls (like boys) have sexual agency, and that when they willingly make bad sexual choices, what happens is an entirely different matter than when a child is molested. There is a qualitative difference between a guy who shows terrible judgment when faced with a mature-sounding, post-pubescent, sexually-experienced teen actively and eager seeking out sex and a guy who sexually gratifies himself using a child who is frightened, objecting, or simply too immature to understand what is happening.

    These stings will easily garner, in a single county, 4-5 dozen arrests in a week or two. What that indicates is that there is, in reality, an endless supply of men who, if offered sex by a mature, willing teen a year under the age of consent, won’t turn her down. Are those men right? No. They are wrong, and there should be some consequences. But, is the girl a helpless victim of a sexual predator? No. And there is no registry in the world large enough to protect a teenage girl dead set on acting out sexually from finding willing partners to act out with her.

    Most people who know about my husband’s offense are very supportive and understanding. On a few occasions, I’ve had people say they wouldn’t want him around their teenager daughter, and they are glad there’s a list to “protect” their teen daughters from men like him. I always have to bite my tongue, because what I really want to tell them is 1) if they are honestly concerned about their daughter going into adult settings and coming on to older men, they should be worried about nearly every man in the neighborhood, because many would be willing to take her up on it and 2) if their daughter is the type to make advances towards older men, I’d rather she not be in my house and expose my family to that kind of potential danger, so thanks.

    Again, this is not to say that the men are not guilty or have no role. They have done wrong and are responsible for their part. But the teen girl (in cases where there *is* a teen girl, and the hypothetical teen girl who the officers are pretending to be) is responsible, too. For much of history, 15 year olds worked, married, and even raised children. If we don’t feel like it’s appropriate to treat them like full adults today, that’s fine, but we are doing them no favors by pretending that they are not responsible for the choices they actively choose to make regarding sex because of their age.

  16. anonymous mom January 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I read a piece in the NY Times a few weeks ago about concerns about “sex trafficking” at the Super Bowl. Apparently, there is concern that large numbers of “victims of sex trafficking” may descend upon the Meadowlands, and that the public needs to keep their eye open for them so they can be saved. The interesting thing was that the ENTIRE piece, while it used the word “pimp,” never once used “prostitute.” It was ALWAYS “victim of sex trafficking” or “survivors of sex trafficking.” It was framed entirely as the Super Bowl being a time when evil pimps drag their victims to the game so that evil predatory johns can then further exploit those women. It seemed to me that the article could have just as easily been framed as “Predatory prostitutes will be descending on NJ in order to exploit the drunken men who are away from their families and obviously have too much disposable income available to them.” But of course we could never frame it that way.

    Certainly sex trafficking happens, especially internationally. But I have seen zero evidence that actual sex trafficking–women being sold into sexual slavery, or forced into prostitution against their will–is a significant problem in the United States, or that most (and certainly not ALL) prostitutes are selling their bodies because bad men are forcing them to do so.

    I remember, when I was a teen, reading cautionary tales about how you shouldn’t do drugs because you might get addicted and the next thing you know you’d be out on the streets selling yourself for more drugs. Today, apparently, the idea that a teen might make bad choices that lead to the further bad choice of engaging in prostitution is not possible; the teen would be a victim of sex trafficking, who is entirely innocent and not responsible for any of her choices.

    I don’t see how stripping not just young women, but ALL WOMEN (as the NY Times piece did) of agency is empowering. It seems the opposite to me. Women have, since the dawn of time, turned to prostitution as a way to earn money. Do they do so out of desperation? Sure, often. But people turn to all sorts of jobs out of desperation; it doesn’t mean that they are all victims. To completely collapse the categories of “prostitute” and “sex trafficking victim,” so that every woman who sells her body for sex is seen as doing so because she was forced into it against her will (and, therefore, not only not legally responsible, for deserving of recompense from the people who exploited her), seem profoundly disempowering and anti-feminist to me.

  17. SKL January 21, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

    I tend to agree that sexually mature teens have some accountability for their choices. However, dare I say that out loud in certain forums, and I am all but run out of town on a rail. Supposedly it is misogyny to suggest that a female who does not want abc should not do xyz, and that if we’re talking about teens, they should be guided accordingly. Many times I have been accused of being in favor of “rape culture” or “slut shaming” because I personally would advise my daughters to avoid/prevent rather than engage/regret.

    My personal pet peeve is the idea that if a female has gotten herself drunk, then her actions are the responsibility of the male she is with. I never hear it the other way around, nor does anyone clarify who’s to blame if both parties (or all parties) are drunk. It doesn’t matter if she’s pulling his zipper down and jumping on top of him, she’s too drunk to consent, therefore he is a rapist. Makes me glad I’m raising girls – some of the time. 😉

  18. anonymous mom January 21, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    @SKL, I’ve got two boys. When they are old enough, they will be told that 1) they CANNOT have sex with a girl who has had ANYTHING to drink. Ever. No matter what. It doesn’t matter if she is literally asking for sex; they have to say no (and so they shouldn’t ever drink around girls, either, because they don’t want their own judgement impaired). No means no, of course. But, a yes when drinking has to be treated like a no. Period.

    And, 2) they are probably safest waiting until they are married. At the very least, no hooking up. That’s just a culture fraught with all sorts of gray areas that they do not need to deal with the consequences of.

    I worry a lot less about my daughter than my sons, at this point.

  19. SKL January 21, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    Anonymous, I wish all kids would always say no, drunk or not. So, don’t get me wrong – my kids will know I think it’s best for them to save both sex and drinking for a much later date. Another one of my pet peeves is people insisting that is impossible. But whether my kids choose wisely or not, they are accountable for their choices.

  20. anonymous mom January 21, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    @SKL, that’s very true. I do think, though, that there’s extra importance to this today, because it’s not just a moral issue. Mixing sex and alcohol, especially for teens, is a bad idea on every level. But, especially for males, it not just that they might make an irresponsible choice or do something they later regret or even a matter of morality: they could actually be committing rape, even if their partner actively, vocally wanted it, depending on the laws of the state and how a given police officer or judge chooses to interpret them.

    So there are certainly moral reasons for waiting to have sex, and I hope that my kids share those beliefs. But, even if they don’t, just like we want the to be informed about STDs and pregnancy, they need to be informed about the legal risks. And, it’s not just boys. Yes, boys need to be made particularly aware of the dangers, especially around sex and drinking. But, girls need to be warned, too. They need to know that having any kind of sexual contact (even just “making out”) with a guy a few years younger than them is probably illegal and a serious sex offense in their state, even if he’s the one pursing the relationship, or that sending their boyfriend a lewd picture of themselves when they are 17 could get them branded a child pornographer. In some states it’s technically illegal for two underage people to have sex with one another, and prosecutors could press charges if they wanted.

    It’s a hard line, because I don’t want to instill unnecessary fear in my kids. At the same time, I do want to make sure they fully understand the risks involved in having sex, including the ever-increasing legal risks. For the most part, avoiding ever having sex with anybody who’s had anything to drink and delaying sex until you are over 18 and your partner is also over 18 are basic precautions for avoiding the most common sex crimes teens are charged with.

    And, you know, sometimes a little fear isn’t a bad thing, if it steers us away from truly risky behavior. Fear of AIDS kept me from making some bad sexual choices when I was a teen. If fear of arrest or the sex offender registry keeps my kids from making bad choices, so be it.

  21. anonymous mom January 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    @SKL, I also wanted to say, before I do the school pick-up, that I totally agree with you that common sense advice should not be seen as “victim-blaming.” As the mom of a daughter, I hate the messages girls are getting. We are scaring them to death with non-existent risks (like making them think if they walk home from school alone they’ll be abducted and murdered) while being prevented from telling them about common-sense precautions (like the idea that getting drunk at a frat party might not be the wisest idea).

    I see conversations between young women online that just horrify me. These women take what I would consider to be extremely excessive precautions to avoid minimal risks: they will, before a first date, request a copy of the guy’s driver’s license and send it to three of their friends, so their friends will know who to lead to the police to if they go missing; they will view a man on the subway who asks them what book they are reading as somebody who probably wants to rape them and so move their seat and get off at a different stop than he does. But, they believe that getting as drunk as they want whenever they want is a God-given right that anybody who questions is a “victim-blamer” and a “rape apologist.”

    There are so many genuine reasons not to binge drink. It’s bad for your health (and in some cases could kill you). If you are underage, you are breaking the law. It could get you kicked out of school if caught. If you drive in that state, it’s a crime. You will feel like crap in the morning. And, of course, you are much more likely to be the victim of an alcohol-related rape. You will never be raped because you were too drunk to say no (or too drunk for your “yes” to count) if you never drink to excess. There is not a single benefit to binge drinking, and there are countless downsides.

    But, we are instead teaching girls that it is their inalienable right to binge drink, while at the same time teaching them that it’s wildly dangerous for them to walk from their dorm room to their library alone. It’s a crazy world.

  22. Donna January 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    @SKL – Did you read the Slate article that had everyone in an uproar a couple months ago on this topic? It basically said ladies protect yourself against rape by not drinking so much, especially when socializing with men. You’d have thought she suggested that we should all dress in burkas and never leave the house to prevent being raped. I read it expecting to be outraged with everyone else on Facebook and beyond and was completely stumped as to the offense.

    Her premise is definitely not that the rapists are excused and women to blame if they are drunk. She basically says: Rapists exist in the world, many rapists prey on the weak, drinking alcohol to excess makes you weak and unable to defend yourself should you happen to find yourself in the company of a rapist. If you have your wits about you, you are far less likely to fall prey to a person looking for a easy mark.

    I find it interesting that for every other crime it is perfectly acceptable give safety tips to protect yourself against falling victim to a crime. We don’t consider it blaming the victim to suggest locking doors, getting alarms, changing our internet passwords regularly, never giving out personal information, etc. We understand that such advice is not given to excuse the conduct of the criminal or to blame the victim. But suggest in any way whatsoever that women can do things to decrease their chances of becoming a rape victims and you’ve committed some horrible sin.

    Yes, it would be nice if we lived in a utopia where rape does not exist. Until that utopia exists, I fully intend on teaching my daughter how to lessen her chances of being the victim of ALL crimes, including rape.

  23. SKL January 21, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Isn’t it sad that political correctness has taken over the language of rape prevention? I just hope moms are happily ignoring all this “rape culture / slut shaming” rhetoric and telling their daughters like it is. :/

  24. anonymous mom January 21, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    @Donna, the other issue is that in many states, it is rape if a person is “too intoxicated to consent,” without their being any clear definition of what exactly that means. Sometimes it’s easy: obviously is somebody is unconscious, they are too intoxicated to consent and it’s clearly rape.

    But a lot of cases are not that clear. If somebody is up and walking around and talking, how drunk is too drunk? How do you determine if the woman who seems to be totally into having sex with you–and may have explicitly, enthusiastically said “yes”–is drunk enough that her ability to consent is compromised? How do you determine that if you yourself are a drunk guy whose judgement may also be compromised? How do you know whether tomorrow the woman will realize that last night she was drunk out of her mind and had no idea what she was doing?

    This is what a lot of rapes, especially on campuses, look like. It’s not a forcible rape. It’s not even a “traditional” date rape, where a woman says “no” and/or resists her date’s advances and he pushes ahead against her will and forces her. It’s a situation where the woman was willingly going along with the sexual activity, and may even have initiated it, but was or felt she was too drunk for her consent to be legally meaningful.

    You can 100% avoid that particular kind of rape by never getting so drunk that your judgement is impaired. 100%. You never have to worry about saying a drunken “yes” that wasn’t real consent because of your intoxication if you never give a drunken yes in the first place.

    You may still be the victim of a stranger rape or a date rape. You may still one day find yourself in a situation where you say no and a man forces you anyway. And it sucks that women cannot fully protect themselves from that kind of rape, no matter how careful they are. But rapes that occur because a person was too intoxicated to consent are almost 100% preventable, except in the VERY rare cases where a woman is drugged. (Studies have found that in something like 99% of cases where a woman thinks or claims she was drugged, the only substance in her system is alcohol, and she simply underestimated or didn’t understand how compromised the alcohol she chose to drink would make her.)

    Anyway, the Athens, OH case was a test study in this. A woman and man, both obviously VERY drunk, were recorded by numerous passersby engaged in cunnilingus. After she saw the pictures, she said she was raped. The videos made it extremely clear that she was both conscious and willing: at one point, the man stops when he realizes they are being taped, asks her if she wants him to stop, and she tells him not to stop, moving his head back to between her legs. She posed for pictures, smiling at the crowd, with the man afterwards. In this case, charges were not filed. But, depending on the prosecutor, they could have been, and many feminists online were absolutely outraged over the outcome and said things like, “This is what rape looks like!” If we honestly believe that what rapes look like is a drunken woman actively enjoying sexual activity with a man, and urging him to continue, then it is unconscionable for these same feminists to NOT tell women not to get drunk.

  25. marie January 21, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    Anonymous mom…you’ve said a lot today I will pass on (again) to my daughter and son.

  26. Donna January 22, 2014 at 5:27 am #

    @anonymous mom – The best college drunk “rape” story is from Athens,Ga. Basically a group of young coeds went out to a bar drinking one night and apparently got really drunk. The next morning one of the women complained about some vaginal soreness to her roommate. The roommate (who may or may not have been out with her; I don’t think it was ever clear) convinced her that she MUST have been raped at the bar. Off they go for a rape exam and police report and all that fun stuff. Turns out they were in a local bar with video cameras which proved conclusively that, not only was this idiot not raped, she didn’t have anything even closely related to sexual contact with anyone all night. Clearly, THIS “rape” could have been prevented by not getting so damned drunk that your night is a HUGE blur. Luckily this situation resolved in a short period of time with obviously no charges, but can you imagine what would have happened if some poor guy had done something like help her walk to the bathroom because she was stumbling all over the place?

    But even in cases of true rape, I do think women need to take some responsibility for protecting themselves. I don’t mean blaming the victim. Nobody ever has a right to touch you if you don’t want them to regardless of how you’re dressed, where you are or how drunk you are and anyone who does so deserves a long stint In prison. But we live in an imperfect world and need to realize that things like stumbling out of a bar falling-down drunk and getting into a cab alone is a bad idea. Sure, I could be raped by a cabbie completely sober but I have a much better chance of preventing it if I have my wits about me than if I can’t even hold my head up. And should something awful happen, I can give a coherent statement, accurately describe what happened and maybe get this man off the street.

    And why limit this to women and rape? Drunk college guys get mugged downtown all the time. Sober guys almost never. Yes, it would be nice to be able to be drunk and not get mugged, but it is awfully hard for the police to do their job and arrest the muggers when the victims can’t speak in coherent sentences or remember it in the morning.

  27. Dunno January 22, 2014 at 6:45 am #

    There was not one recorded instance of kids having a “rainbow Party” (group oral sex). When asked by every conceivable means of eliciting a truthful response by psychologists child welfare workers, kids had no idea what “rainbow parties” were. That did not stop Oprah from making “rainbow parties” a key segment on one of her “what your kids are doing when you a not around” specials, and turning a non-event into a moral panic.