Dorries: Step away from the damn banana

What is it with Christian nutjobs and bananas?

You may recall that perhaps the most embarrassing creationist video of all time involved Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron’s musings on the perfect god-given design of the ‘atheist’s nightmare’ – the banana.

And now, Nadine Dorries is running around peddling the ridiculous claim that seven year olds in Britain are being taught how to put condoms on bananas, although thanks to a bit of digging by Tim Ireland, we now know that Dorries’ evidence for this is nothing more than an extremely dubious looking personal anecdote:

“In her unedited interview with Jane Lees Chair of the Sex Education Forum, Nadine Dorris [sic] claimed that she went to her daughter’s school and accompanied her to a lesson where the teacher put a condom on a banana. She added she’s seen even more explicit material aimed at seven year olds.

“Nadine Dorris [sic] has told the production team that she had been contacted by whistleblowers who support her assertion that some sex education lessons for seven year olds do involve bananas and condoms. However, she declined to pass on their details.

Those comments come from the producers of the BBC’s One Show.

Given the distinct whiff of bullshit around this anecdote, I decided to take a quick ride around the deepest recesses of Google’s news archives for evidence of the earliest sighting of the condom on the banana story, a trip that took me right the way back to 1990 and the United States of America, where the both the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald and the Milwaukee Journal reported that parents who attended an AIDS seminar had complained that a demonstration of condom use using a banana and a cucumber went ‘too far’ and didn’t emphasise abstinence as an option. Neither report refers to children of any age having attended this seminar.

In 1991, The Miami Herald published an article on local school board discussions on a new ‘candid’ AIDS curriculum, quoting one member of the board as follows:

Should fifth-graders be told how to use condoms? “I’m not comfortable with that,” Dade School Board member Michael Krop said during a recent School Board discussion of Dade’s new AIDS curriculum.

Again, there’s nothing to indicate that any children were party to these discussions or even that the proposed curriculum would have included a vegetable-based condom demonstration aimed at 8 10-11 year olds.

Moving on to 1992, the condom on a banana story resurfaced in the Anchorage Daily News, again in the context of HIV education and, for the first time, we have a direct reference to a banana demonstration being used in a classroom setting, but not with younger children where – in the fourth grade – seven to eight 9-10 year olds were merely introduced to AIDS as a communicable disease and given information which countered some of the common – non-sexual – myths about its transmission.

[Oops my bad for forgetting my Recess/Simpsons, fourth grade in the US is, of course, year 5 in England and Wales and ages have been adjusted accordingly]

The first direct reference to anyone complaining about young children being given the banana/condom demonstration comes from the Washington Times, which was owned by the Unification Church – i.e. The Moonies – and dates to 1996:

A fourth-grade girl complaining that she was given a “condom on a banana” demonstration.

However, the context of this story is important as it relates to a failed attempt by religious conservatives to ‘reform’ Georgia’s sex-education laws and impose restrictions on what could be taught in the classroom. The bill was – for the record – quietly killed in committee and, given the source of this particular story, its likely that what we’re looking at here is nothing more than political propaganda.

Swinging forward to 2004 and the primary stage of the US Presidential Elections, we come to our final condom on a banana reference in a quote attributed to Peter LeBarbera, senior policy analyst with the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America.

LaBarbera noted that the question asked about discussing “how HIV and other STDs are transmitted and how to protect against them,” not the so-called “comprehensive sex education” advocated by the NGLTF and other pro-homosexual groups.

“Americans do not favor radical sex education,” he argued. “They don’t favor homosexuality being taught as just another lifestyle, the same as heterosexuality.

“They don’t want anal sex taught or young kids taught how to put a condom on a banana,” LaBarbera added.

Everything you need to know about both LeBarbera and the main source of the recurrent ‘condom on a banana’ allegations should be obvious from the tone and content of the article, a reprint of a report which originally appeared on the ultra-right wing CNS News website, but in case anyone needs it spelled out, consider this extract from LeBarbera’s entry on the excellent Encyclopedia of American Loons:

Peter LaBarbera is a relatively insane anti-gay bigot associated with WorldNetDaily, particularly notable for his complaint that there are just to many homosexuals on television. The fact that so many TV people are gay, LaBarbera contends, is the gay rights movements’ attempt at brainwashing children (and others) into thinking that gays are ordinary people with equal rights…

LaBarbera is president of the group Americans for Truth [About Homosexuality] – which is really no more than a promoter of wild conspiracy theories. It is all about “the [apparently militaristically organized] gay agenda”, and rather shrill. Fighting the gay agenda is a tough fight, but one LaBarbera is apparently willing to fight.

LaBarbera may be a relatively minor gay-hating nutjob but his association with ‘Concerned Women for America’ provides genuine cause for concern as this links him directly to Timothy LeHaye:

…an evangelical Christian minister, author, speaker, a primal force at the most insane fringes of American fundamentalism, and one of the more dangerous loons on our list.

LaHaye, whose wife, Beverley, heads up ‘Concerned Women for America’ has an extensive rap sheet for ultra-right-wing theocratic lunacy:

LaHaye has, apart from his literary antics, promoted (or founded) numerous groups to promote his insanity, such as the Council for National Policy, back when he was the head of Falwell’s Moral Majority. In 1979, he helped to establish the Institute for Creation Research, along with Henry Morris. In the 1980s, LaHaye founded the (radically insane) American Coalition for Traditional Values (Andrea Lafferty’s organization) and the Coalition for Religious Freedom, currently run by James Lafferty, the husband of yesterday’s Andrea Lafferty), and the Pre-Tribulation Research Center along with Thomas Ice (covered earlier) in 1998, dedicated to producing material that supports a dispensationalist, pre-tribulation interpretation of the Bible. Tim is also connected to the John Birch Society, and played a significant role in getting the religious right to support George W. Bush for the presidency in 2000 (he has later cast his vote for Huckabee, an outspoken fan of LaHaye’s Left Behind series). He also co-hosted (with Dave Breese) in the prophecy television program The King Is Coming (partially the foundation of his delightfully paranoid mixture of conspiracy theories and batshit crazy Rapture-porn in his book “The Rapture”). LaHaye has furthermore contributed millions of dollars Liberty University, earmarked for its student center and “LaHaye’s School of Prophecy”, which opened in January 2002. He is, finally and unsurprisingly a historical revisionist of the David Barton school, though more extreme.

Not to mention that he’s arch-conspiracy nut…

Oh, there’s more. LaHaye believes in the Illuminati, a “satanically-inspired, centuries-old conspiracy to use government, education, and media to destroy every vestige of Christianity within our society and establish a new world order”. The Illuminati is, in fact, just one of many groups he believes are working to “turn America into an amoral, humanist country, ripe for merger into a one-world socialist state”, together with secretive, cabalistic, satanic groups such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, Harvard and Yale universitites, and the Democratic Party. LaHaye described his views in the book “Mind Siege”, written with David Noebel. In fact, according to LaHaye, if you are not a biblical literalist, you are a tool of the antichrist.

And a rabid homophobe, naturally…

In 1978 LaHaye published “The Unhappy Gays” (a.k.a. “What Everyone Should Know About Homosexuality”), describing homosexuals as “militant, organized” and “vile”, and arguing that gays share 16 pernicious traits, including “incredible promiscuity,” “deceit,” “selfishness,” “vulnerability to sadism-masochism” and “poor health and an early death.” LaHaye suggested that Old Testament death penalty for homosexuality would in fact be acts of mercy towards gays, and did as such call his own book “a model of compassion.”

It has to be remembered that the use of bananas – and cucumbers – to demonstrate how to use a condom originated in the HIV/AIDS education campaigns of the late 1980s and early 1990s and that the most vehement opponents of this type of sex education have always been the far-right gay-bashing Christian fundamentalists.

Yet again, we find Dorries peddling misinformation sourced, originally, from the American Taliban only this time she’s trying to dress it up as a personal anecdote in an effort to disguise her real sources.

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  • I’ve just remembered another reference to condoms and bananas.

    in 1994, Neil Gaiman wrote an 8-page comic called “Death Talks About Life” in which his character Death (yes, that Death) talks about sex, AIDS and condoms. She demonstrates putting a condom on a banana.

    You can read the whole comic at http://members.fortunecity.com/bookdepository/comics/death/life.html

    • I remember that! Classic stuff; “After use, dispose of the condom sensibly. You can eat the banana.”

      Useful post, Unity. Thanks. No sign of Dorries at 5:30pm. Looks like I’m free and clear to investigate this claim she makes about one of her daughters being exposed to a banana. I look forward to the feigned hysteria.

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