Long before she became the latest fascination of the political press and the cause-of-the-moment of the Tea Party movement, Christine O'Donnell (R-D.E.) was appearing on news outlets large and small extolling the sins of not just sex but masturbation.
The Delaware Republican, who is challenging Rep. Mike Castle in the state's Senate primary and has earned the financial backing of a portion of the Tea Party movement, made an appearance in the MTV series "Sex In The 90s." Entitled "The Safest Sex Of All," the episode was ostensibly geared towards understanding the importance of abstinence. But O'Donnell's guidance went a bit further. Masturbation, she argued, is not a moral substitute for sex. "The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust."
"The reason that you don't tell [people] that masturbation is the answer to AIDS and all these other problems that come with sex outside of marriage is because again it is not addressing the issue," she extrapolated. "You're just gonna create somebody who is, I was gonna say, toying with his sexuality. Pardon the pun."
The president of Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT), O'Donnell was, at the time, just becoming a visible voice in the pro-"chastity" movement. Her organization, a youth-based group started in 1996 with a focus on establishing conservative Christian values in college-aged kids, made frequent appearances on television in addition to lobbying Congress. They did it all despite taking in just $2,000 in revenue.
SALT also helped mold and advocate a host of positions on sex education that, in the context of O'Donnell's current Senate run, seem a bit doctrinaire. In November 1998, for instance, she wrote a piece for an outlet called the Cultural Dissident, discussing why simply being abstinent was not a lofty enough goal.
Yes, I am a Christian. Yes, I do seek to surrender my entire life to the will of our Father. That is precisely why I don't talk about abstinence or secondary virginity when I am asked to speak about sex. Abstinence is a physical discipline, not a calling. It makes our physical condition the goal.
Years later, she was part of a group of outraged religious conservatives who criticized President George W. Bush for allowing continued research on 60 stem cell lines that had already been developed (Bush's position was considered restrictive in its own right). More recently, she suggested that age-appropriate sex education, even for kindergarteners, could convince children that strangers with candy were "not so creepy."
There is, indeed, an abundance of writing and television appearances from this time period of O'Donnell's life that provide a window into her personal beliefs and politics. The fact that they haven't surfaced is owed, primarily, to the fact that no one took her candidacy seriously until this past week. That's now changing. The Castle campaign pledged on Thursday to launch negative advertisements against O'Donnell -- a remarkable and undoubtedly unexpected use of funds from a candidate who was supposed to coast to victory.