Rainbow party (sexuality)
A rainbow party is a supposed group sex event featured in an urban legend spread since the early 2000s. A variant of other sex party urban myths, the stories claim that at these events, allegedly increasingly popular among adolescents, females wearing various shades of lipstick take turns fellating males in sequence, leaving multiple colors (a "rainbow") on their penises. The idea was publicized on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2003, and became the subject of a juvenile novel called Rainbow Party. Sex researchers and adolescent health care professionals have found no evidence for the existence of rainbow parties, and consequently attribute the spread of the stories to a moral panic. On May 27, 2010 the television program The Doctors discussed the topic with dozens of teens, parents, and professionals.
The story was originally related by American pediatrician Meg Meeker in her 2002 book Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids. The book related case stories of adolescents suffering cancer, sterility, acute infections, and unwanted pregnancies as a consequence of starting sexual activity too early in life. Meeker relates the following story from a 14-year-old patient from Michigan:
[Allyson] had heard some kids were going to have a "rainbow party," but had no idea what that meant. Still, she thought it might be fun, and arranged to attend with a friend. After she arrived, several girls (all in the eighth grade) were given different shades of lipstick and told to perform oral sex on different boys to give them "rainbows." Once she realized what was happening, Allyson was too stunned and frightened to do anything. When a girl gave her some lipstick, she refused at first but, with repeated pressure, finally gave in. "It was one of the grossest things I've ever done."
On The Oprah Winfrey Show
The idea of the rainbow party was publicized in October 2003 on the episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show titled "Is Your Child Leading a Double Life?", which was about the trend of increasing sexual promiscuity among American youth and the lack of parental awareness of the sexual practices of their children. In the O Magazine Michelle Burford asserted, among other things, that many teens across the United States engaged in rainbow parties.
Rainbow Party is a novel commissioned by a Simon & Schuster editor. The author is Paul Ruditis. The book, which Library Journal declined to review, is about teens who fantasize about having a rainbow party.
The book has proven controversial, as it was meant for teenagers (recommended by the publisher for ages 14 and up), thus raising questions about its propriety. In turn, concerns were raised that excluding the book from bookstores and libraries would amount to censorship. The publishers justified Rainbow Party on the grounds that it was a cautionary tale intended to teach readers that oral sex can be dangerous.
Deborah Tolman, director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University, writes: "This 'phenomenon' has all the classic hallmarks of a moral panic. One day we have never heard of rainbow parties and then suddenly they are everywhere, feeding on adults' fears that morally-bankrupt sexuality among teens is rampant, despite any actual evidence, as well as evidence to the contrary." Tolman finds that several features of the story ring false. She was skeptical that many adolescent girls would be motivated to engage in such activity in the face of the severe social stigma still attached to sexual activity, and rejected the idea that adolescent boys would examine each other's lipstick marks. However, the urban legend was widespread; an informal survey taken by The New York Times in 2005 found that most teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 were familiar with the rumor.
Canadian parenting coach Lisa Bunnage claimed in a 2014 TEDxSFU talk that such parties were taking place, citing this Wikipedia article as her source. She claimed that despite rainbow parties being described by Wikipedia as an urban legend, they were an ongoing issue.
In popular culture
It was referenced on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 7, Episode 13 ("The High School Reunion Part 2: The Gang's Revenge") and on Season 1, Episode 3 of the Showtime series Huff. It was also referenced on NCIS Season 3, Episode 19 ("Iced" @ 21:55) as well as Law & Order SVU Season 16, Episode 19 ("Granting Immunity"). It was also referenced on The Hard Times of RJ Berger Season 1, Episode 6 ("Over the Rainbow"). See also Shades of Blue Season 1 ("Equal and Opposite"). The alleged phenomenon was called a "lipstick party" in The O.C. Season 3, Episode 24 ("The Man of the Year").
- Lewin, Tamar (2005-06-30). "Are These Parties for Real". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
- Meeker, Meg (2002). Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids. Lifeline Press. ISBN 978-0-89526-143-4.
- Meeker, p22-23.
- Trystan T. Cotten, Kimberly Springer eds. Stories of Oprah: the Oprahfication of American culture. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-60473-407-2.
- Memmott, Carol (2005-05-22). "Controversy colors teen book". USA Today.
- Bunnage, Lisa. 2014. "TED Talk at SFU." YouTube. URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKAehegqTvg.
- Ruditis, Paul. Rainbow Party. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1-4169-0235-X.