Rainbow party (sexuality)
A rainbow party is a supposed group sex
Group sex
Group sex is sexual behavior involving more than two participants. Group sex can occur amongst people of all sexual orientations and genders...

 event featured in an urban legend
Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

 spread since the early 2000s. A variant of other sex party
Sex party
A sex party is a gathering at which sexual activity takes place. Sex parties may be organized to enable people to engage in casual sexual activity or for swinging couples or people interested in group sex to meet, but any gathering where sexual activity is anticipated can be called a sex party.Sex...

 urban myths, the stories claim that at these events, allegedly increasingly popular among adolescents, females wearing various shades of lipstick
Lipstick is a cosmetic product containing pigments, oils, waxes, and emollients that applies color, texture, and protection to the lips. Many varieties of lipstick are known. As with most other types of makeup, lipstick is typically, but not exclusively, worn by women...

 take turns fellating
Fellatio is an act of oral stimulation of a male's penis by a sexual partner. It involves the stimulation of the penis by the use of the mouth, tongue, or throat. The person who performs fellatio can be referred to as the giving partner, and the other person is the receiving partner...

 males in sequence, leaving multiple colors (a "rainbow
A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicoloured arc...

") on their penises. The idea was publicized on The Oprah Winfrey Show
The Oprah Winfrey Show
The Oprah Winfrey Show is an American syndicated talk show hosted and produced by its namesake Oprah Winfrey. It ran nationally for 25 seasons beginning in 1986, before concluding in 2011. It is the highest-rated talk show in American television history....

in 2003, and became the subject of a juvenile novel called Rainbow Party. However, sex researchers and adolescent health care professionals have found no evidence for the existence of rainbow parties, and as such attribute the spread of the stories to a moral panic
Moral panic
A moral panic is the intensity of feeling expressed in a population about an issue that appears to threaten the social order. According to Stanley Cohen, author of Folk Devils and Moral Panics and credited creator of the term, a moral panic occurs when "[a] condition, episode, person or group of...

. On May 27, 2010 the television program The Doctors
The Doctors (2008 TV series)
The Doctors is an American syndicated talk show airing daily in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Sweden and Finland. It debuted on September 8, 2008. The hour-long daytime program is produced by Phil McGraw and his son Jay McGraw and is distributed domestically and globally by CBS Television...

discussed the topic with dozens of teens, parents, and professionals.


The story was originally related by 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 entitled "Is Your Child Leading a Double Life?", which was about the perceived trend of increasing sexual promiscuity
In humans, promiscuity refers to less discriminating casual sex with many sexual partners. The term carries a moral or religious judgement and is viewed in the context of the mainstream social ideal for sexual activity to take place within exclusive committed relationships...

 among American youth and the lack of parental awareness of the sexual practices of their children.

O Magazine writer Michelle Burford, who claimed to be aware of teenagers' sexual habits, asserted, among other things, that many teens across the United States engage in rainbow parties.


Rainbow Party is a novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 commissioned by a Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster, Inc., a division of CBS Corporation, is a publisher founded in New York City in 1924 by Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster. It is one of the four largest English-language publishers, alongside Random House, Penguin and HarperCollins...

 editors. The author was Paul Ruditis
Paul Ruditis
-Early life:Ruditis was born and raised in Philadelphia. He attended West Chester University where he majored in Theatre Arts with a directing emphasis. After graduation he moved to Los Angeles where he began working at Paramount Pictures where he worked as a tour guide and usher...

. The book, which Library Journal
Library Journal
Library Journal is a trade publication for librarians. It was founded in 1876 by Melvil Dewey . It reports news about the library world, emphasizing public libraries, and offers feature articles about aspects of professional practice...

 declined to review, is about teens who fantasize about having a rainbow party. It did not sell well.

The book proved 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
Deborah Tolman
Deborah L. Tolman is a developmental psychologist and the founding director of the ASAP Initiative at the City University of New York...

, director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University
San Francisco State University
San Francisco State University is a public university located in San Francisco, California. As part of the 23-campus California State University system, the university offers over 100 areas of study from nine academic colleges...

, writes: "This 'phenomenon' has all the classic hallmarks of a moral panic
Moral panic
A moral panic is the intensity of feeling expressed in a population about an issue that appears to threaten the social order. According to Stanley Cohen, author of Folk Devils and Moral Panics and credited creator of the term, a moral panic occurs when "[a] condition, episode, person or group of...

. 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 others' lipstick marks. However, the urban legend was widespread; an informal survey taken by The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

in 2005 found that most teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 were familiar with it.
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