Sloppy Seconds Sex Ed


Last week, the conservative circles of the internet were abuzz in disapproval over Elizabeth Smart’s recent criticism of abstinence-only sexual education. Speaking at a forum on human trafficking at Johns Hopkins University, Elizabeth said that the abstinence-only education she received left her feeling “so dirty” and “so filthy” after being repeatedly raped.

The reactions to this were infuriatingly predictable. Good people, people who have proven to be thoughtful and compassionate, immediately shut down in the face of any criticism of abstinence-only sex ed. Their responses to Elizabeth Smart were irrational, ignorant, and stunningly condescending. From accusing her of “casting blame” to snarkily suggesting that we teach “bestiality (oral, anal, etc…) as an alternative to those worthless, dirty, filthy feelings”, there was a mob-like mentality on display. People stubbornly defended her religious parents and reminded each other how she had held on through her captivity so she could get back to them, without bothering to explain what that had to do with the point she was making. People insisted that the shame and unworthiness she felt was solely the result of the abuse she suffered, and by making her emotional trauma about abstinence-only education she was doing a disservice to other forms of abuse. People claimed that she was using her platform irresponsibly, and should have thought through the impact her words would have on the abstinence-only sex ed movement.

What almost no one did was hear what she said. No one was horrified at what she had been taught in her abstinence-only sexual education. No one acknowledged that the direct, logical result of such an education is a sense of shame and unworthiness after having been “used.” No one showed even a hint of sympathy for how she had suffered, not only at the hands of her captors, but at the hands of a degrading philosophy of human sexuality. Such a callous indifference to human suffering is appalling. It shows that too many Christians, too many proponents of abstinence-only education, have put their concern for the welfare of a quasi-political movement above their concern for the welfare of a human being, of human dignity itself.

For some time, I have thought that the reason more people aren’t speaking out against this “purity culture” is that they are unaware of it. After last week, I’m not so sure. The mainstream message of abstinence-only education got press far and wide with Elizabeth Smart’s denunciation of it, yet I saw no shock, horror, or disgust.

Let me be clear about the particular type of abstinence-only education Elizabeth Smart is referring to. I’m not entirely convinced that there is another type, but just in case, this is the abstinence-only message that Elizabeth Smart received as an adolescent:

“Smart said she grew up in a Mormon family and was taught through abstinence-only education that a person whose virginity was lost before marriage was considered worthless. She spoke to the crowd about a school teacher who urged students against premarital sex and compared women who had sex before their wedding nights to chewing gum.

‘I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value’.”

(Read the rest here)

Perhaps there are some people out there who think this mindset is an abberration, who are not responding to this because they genuinely believe this is a rare exception to typical abstinence-only curricula.

It isn’t.

It is absolutely crucial that Catholics, Christians, and all proponents of abstinence-only education get their heads out of the sand on this. This is not some sort of freaky Mormon glitch in the abstinence-only train. This IS the abstinence-only train.

When I heard it, it was glasses of water. Women (and only women, mind you; the boys got a separate talk about cherishing each woman as if she were the prized treasure of another man) were like glasses of crystal-clear spring water. If you “fooled around” before marriage, it was like someone spit in your glass of water. If you had sex before marriage, it was like someone took a huge drink of your water, swished it around in their mouths, and then spat it back into the glass. The more sex you had, the dirtier your glass of water got. “So think of that before you have premarital sex,” we were admonished. “Think of the gift you’re going to give your husband on your wedding night. Do you want to give him a pure, untouched glass of delicious water, or a dirty cup of everyone else’s backwash?”

For one of my friends, it was an Oreo cookie that had been chewed up and spat back out. For another friend, it was a pair of custom-made shoes that had been stretched and warped from being worn by people they weren’t made to fit. Cups of spit. Plucked roses. It goes on and on. I’ve heard a million variations of it, but always the message is the same.

This does not teach anyone chastity or purity. “Abstinence-only” sex ed is a fundamentally flawed concept, beginning with its very name. It teaches children to negate an act, to deny a fundamental part of human nature until such a time as it’s permissible to indulge. It doesn’t teach children what sex is, what their sexuality means, how to understand it, or how to properly integrate it into a life of chastity both without and within a marriage. It doesn’t teach a boy that sex is primarily about the giving of himself, and that he can’t fully give himself to his wife unless he learns how to master himself first, how to wait, how to have patience, how to love her instead of using her as a vehicle for pleasure. Actually it teaches boys the exact opposite of that; that a woman is a trophy, a prize, that a good one (one worth keeping forever) will be untouched, but that there are plenty of dirty water-glasses walking around that have been ruined for any decent man anyway, and they might as well be used up since they’re not worth saving.

And what does abstinence-only sex ed teach girls? It doesn’t teach girls anything. It conditions girls into conforming with a sick, “religious-ized” chauvinism that masquerades as concern for moral purity but is really just plain old abhorrence of sloppy seconds. It says nothing to a girl about her inherent value as a human being, about her precious and vital role as life-giver, about her unique feminine genius that is inextricably linked to her sexuality. Like Pavlov’s dog, girls are told over and over in abstinence-only education that sex before marriage will make them dirty and worthless. The conditioning definitely works as intended on us pieces of chewed-up gum; our sexual relationships within marriage are usually fraught with psychological blocks, feelings of worthlessness, and fears of abandonment. It also does a number on girls who have been raped, like Elizabeth Smart. But here’s the thing: it totally screws up the “good” girls, too, the one who wait until their wedding night. You can’t tell a girl that having sex is like being a chewed and regurgitated Oreo and then expect her to be totally excited when it comes time for her husband to chew her up and spit her back out. You can’t teach a girl that her sexuality is a prize for a man, that the whole purpose of her existence as a sexual being is to be used by someone else at the “right” time and in the “right” way, and then wonder where these silly girls get their “objectification” martyr complexes.

It’s time to have a serious conversation about abstinence-only sex ed, and how it is not only failing but damaging our youth. It is screwing up our cultural understanding of human sexuality just as thoroughly as the hedonistic effects of the sexual revolution are. There very well may be some good abstinence-only sex ed courses out there, but they are certainly not the norm. We need to create a new way of teaching children about human sexuality, a way that emphasizes their essential dignity as rational, spiritual, and sexual human beings. We should strive to teach them to grow in virtue, to gain temperance, to master their passions, and to love for love of the other, not out of desire for pleasure, power, or possession. We should be teaching human sexuality as a series of positive moral developments that boys and girls must attain before sex can be truly enjoyed. We shouldn’t be teaching our kids to white-knuckle it through puberty and then glut themselves as soon as they say “I do.”

The question is not whether or not abstinence-only education is working. I’m not even sure what proponents of it mean by “working.” In the incarnation I’m familiar with, it certainly doesn’t seem intended to do much beyond shaming kids into not having sex using the crudest, most psychologically destructive means available. Research is pretty clear that it’s not even managing to accomplish that. The only thing abstinence-only education is accomplishing is entrenching misogynistic, licentious attitudes toward sex in a whole new generation of kids.

There is no excuse for Christians to close their eyes and pretend that abstinence-only sex ed is even a tolerable thing, much less a good thing. This dehumanizing approach to sexuality is not an acceptable alternative to the Planned Parenthood-driven over-sexualization of our kids. I will not settle for my kids learning anything less than the full theology of the body, and neither should you. You don’t need to defend abstinence-only sex ed from attacks by girls like Elizabeth Smart; you need to defend girls like Elizabeth Smart from the psychological effects of abstinence-only sex ed. It is not “education” in any sense of the word. It is shallow, sickening cultural conditioning, and we owe our kids enough to admit it. There are two whole generations of young adults who have been psychologically and emotionally damaged by the widespread and complacent acceptance of abstinence-only sex ed. Let’s not make it three.


*I am still getting used to our new comment system, which requires a great deal more moderation than I usually do. If you post a comment and it disappears, it got caught in my spam filter, and I will release it when I check in periodically. I don’t delete comments.


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  • Chelsea Dumontier

    What we need to do is teach kids the purpose of sex, which starts with marriage. God created marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman with the purpose of sex to be to procreate. We then need to teach kids all possible outcomes of having premarital sex. Next we need to trust that we have given them all the tools they need to make their own informed choices. And finally, we need to be there to support them with whatever choices they make. To put this into context for you I’ll give you a little background about myself. I am a 20 year old, Catholic woman who still has and cherishes her virginity. I believe that we need to stop placing blame and start being there for each other to provide support and complete honesty. I have no way of ever empathizing with Elizabeth and I’m not about to say that I can understand her frustration and anger towards some false information, but I will say that there never is an easy answer to these types of situations, but there are always other options and if we taught the true meaning of sex, we wouldn’t have girls and boys who have these views or feelings towards sex. Sex would become this beautiful, life giving act shared between two people with immense love.

    • spinetingler

      “God created marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman with the purpose of sex to be to procreate.”

      So my 72 year old father who married a 70 year old woman (i.e., past her “breeding years”) after my Mother died lacks your Gods blessing for his marriage bed?


    I feel that there are many points that can be made in this thread but I will try my best to only share some initial important ones that are necessary to mention and helpful to parents.

    I was a Florida Regional Director and consultant for an Authentic Abstinence Education organization for 10 years, a teacher for 13 years, and currently a parent of a college student. Also, I have attended a few human and sex trafficking conferences which have not made me an expert but has given me a great deal of useful information to do my part to stop the problem and understand why we have a problem.

    Human and Sexual Trafficking is a real problem in the world but also in our own country because it has increased. It is less costly to abduct a young person
    domestically than from another country. It is a growing problem created by sick
    sex addicts and now more by sex and drug addicts because drug rings have
    realized that they can make more money from a using a person as young as ten
    years old, than a drug where you only use once. That is an unfortunate reality
    that we must do everything in our power to change it. Through prayer and becoming educated in knowing the flags in our culture to help stop it. I experienced several human and sexual trafficking conferences personally. They affect you so very deeply that you are never the same.

    Elizabeth Smart’s story is horrible and I cannot imagine her suffering. I immediately began praying for her when I became aware of her story.

    Her mention about abstinence-only education and not on her experience of being a sex slave in a human & sex trafficking conference is interesting to me. Her awful
    experience of being taken from her family, being treated as a sex slave and raped
    repeatedly weighs greatly for a platform where she can tell her story about
    that. I would attentively want to hear any talk she makes that pertain to her personal experience of being captive for so many years.

    I see a problem in her platform when she attempts to place all “Abstinence Education programs under the category “Abstinence-Only”. Her
    one bad Abstinence Education program experience cannot represent all Abstinence Education programs. It would be unjust to do that. It reveals that she does not know the field well. So why did she declare this? There are reasons which are too lengthy to discuss here.

    It would have been so helpful to Elizabeth to either have been presented with the Theology of the Body or another faith based angle program or an Authentic Abstinence Education program to help her understand her value and role as a woman with dignity under God’e eyes. It was unfortunate that she experienced a bad program and I don’t think experiencing one bad program makes you an expert to declare that all of the Abstinence Education Programs should to be discarded.

    It is very important to point out that the word “Only” in the term “Abstinence-Only”, was created
    by proponents of Sex Education not Abstinence. The word “Abstinence” is not a sinful word. Yes, it does not include God but it is not sinful because it does not reflect on God. You can choose to use the word “Chaste” and that would be ideal but the word “Abstinence” was created for very good end goal in mind. Proponents of Abstinence have succeeded. It is important to know the history of the Abstinence field. Created by faith-based people wanting to help young people in the public square where all children function if they connect with other young people. The “Abstinence-Only” term means Abstinence Education without promoting birth control in the eyes of Sex Education or Comprehensive Sex Education proponents. They want to promote birth-control to teens. The word “Only” was added to the “Abstinence”
    term by them to communicate to the culture and the public dialogue that an abstinence program was not complete because it did not encourage birth control, also abortion, and sexual experimentation. They also chose
    the term “Comprehensive Sex Education” for their agenda. We have used the terms Abstinence Education, or Abstinence until Marriage, or Authentic Education for years, never Abstinence-Only, as they have wished it. Authentic Education programs do not promote birth control but educate young people that birth control is not the best and healthy choice. When you hear public figures state that “Abstinence-Only” Education Programs are bad or don’t work, people then conclude all Abstinence Education programs are bad which is what Sex Education or Comprehensive Education proponents want to accomplish, therefore opening up the opportunity to get their Sex Education and Comprehensive Sex Education programs in the schools. These proponents try to persuade teachers to
    only teach programs that teach young people about having the so called “Safe
    Sex”. There is no such thing as safe

    That is the trap laid out by the media to brainwash the culture to believe. It takes years of being in the field to understand the language but most importantly
    connecting with the pioneers of the field to understand its history and vision.

    Sex Education or Comprehensive Sex Education gives a mixed message to youth because they present Abstinence but they also encourage birth control and other detrimental ideas for youth. The teen brain needs a clear message or it will be confused. It is like encouraging a young person to abstain from sexual activity, alcohol and other drugs, and then teaching them how to use birth control, drink, and use drugs if they choose to. It is important not to fall into traps that certain local, state or national level interest groups try to create in society. Changing the language to persuade the public to get on the bandwagon is a trap.

    Most children are in public school. Most home school parents place their children
    in public or private school when they begin middle or high school. Since faith-based programs are not allowed in public school unfortunately, the term “Abstinence” instead of “Chastity” or “Purity” was created to bring to public schools the message of abstaining from sexual activity, alcohol and other drugs from a health medical angle. It is important also to educate young people why they will be healthy spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially. The word “Abstinence” is a secular word but it is not a bad word just because we don’t use the word “Chaste” or “Pure”. It is a word that can be used in the public
    arena as well as the faith based one.

    I attended many national Abstinence Education or Authentic Abstinence Education conferences which were organized by leaders of Abstinence Education or Authentic Abstinence Education organizations, and met with the founders of hundreds of Authentic Abstinence Education programs that do not include activities in the contexts described in the blog. Some of the same exercises have been included in programs but to prove other points, never to make a young person feel de-valued. That does not make sense. Just think of that intention for
    a moment. Why would Authentic Abstinence Education programs want to do that? Their main purpose is to help young people protect their value by choosing to not engage in the negative high-risk behavior. Now, if the presenter is not
    trained well, it can confuse the young person or students in a school with a
    bad program. Bad programs promote sexual activity among teens because they provide information on how to use birth control. The more they are sexually
    active, the higher are the chances they might get pregnant, have an abortion or
    support experimenting with different partners. Their goal is to make them potential clients for abortion which equals money in their pocket.

    Abstinence Education or Authentic Abstinence Education programs include other important skills like being goal minded, having a game plan for life, protecting their minds from the media, understanding they are valued and that it is never too late to start over again, why boundaries matter, the importance of choosing your friends, looking at marriage as a goal, and how to make it work in a culture that goes against all of these messages. Programs are athletic or adventured themed. The programs teach young people how to map a healthy course in their life journey, how to recognize road blocks in their culture that create challenges, how to develop character, how to avoid situations that compromise their integrity, how to avoid high-risk behavior that cause negative consequences, how to prepare
    themselves for a future marriage and family. These programs teach young people ways to avoid situations that make them at-risk of a high risk behavior. Abstinence
    Education and Authentic Abstinence Education educate young people about the
    negative consequences as well because it is important to make them aware of
    them so they avoid them. I presented the AC Green’s GAME PLAN 8-chapter program to my son the summer right before entering 6th grade. It gave
    him the tools to feel confident about choosing to abstain from sexual activity,
    alcohol and other drugs. He was presented with all three opportunities in 6th grade and he not only knew how to handle each situation but became a leader for his peers. Connecting with organizations that create great Authentic Abstinence Education programs open the doors for your children to take part in other opportunities to help them succeed. Our organization brought in speakers throughout the years to reinforce positive best practices for young people and help parents create and maintain high standards for their children.

    I had the opportunity to train over 300 teachers and reached to thousands of students with our program. Training is vital. When we received a 3-yr grant under the Bush administration, we reached 45,000 young people in three years. Authentic Abstinence Education organizations all use the term “Authentic” not “Abstinence Only”. We included pre and post tests based on the
    content of the programs, non-invasive, where parents were aware of the content and the tests were analyzed by Northwestern University with amazing results. The
    key is for parents to become aware of the local main and supplemental texts
    that are approved by their state and county, and the state laws if their
    children are in public or private school.

    If homeschooled, it is important for parents to learn about the federal agenda
    called common core which will affect home school parents if they do not act
    now. The Obama administration removed the Abstinence Education department and replaced it with Sex Education or Comprehensive Sex Education in the beginning of his first presidency which has pushed an agenda that begins in kindergarten. Since then, there have been many programs that have come into the field and the pro- sex education, pro-birth-control for teens, pro-sexual experimentation, and pro-abortion, etc. proponents have targeted defunded Authentic Abstinence Education Programs and kept drilling into the minds of the public that Abstinence Education programs don’t work. Not all counties or states have implemented the bad programs and there are many schools where they experienced effective Authentic Abstinence Education programs before the Obama administration and chose to continue implementing the healthy programs for the students.

    When it comes to teaching young people about human sexuality, it is best for the parents to be first to teach their children about human sexuality. It is valuable to teach young people both from the faith and medical angle. Personally, my favorite faith-based resources are Theology of the Body by Dr. Waldstein, TOB for middle school and high school by Jason Evert and TOB by Christopher West. These are Chastity Education resources for parents and teachers in private schools. In addition to these, the GAME PLAN, NAVIGATOR and QUEST programs Kelli mentioned in this thread are created by Authentic Abstinence Education organizations like Abstinence and Marriage, AC Green, and past organization like Project Reality that teach young people other skills that are valuable for their survival in the culture they live in. Some of these same organizations offer also other faith based chastity programs.

  • Newp Ort

    Abstinence Only just means they don’t discuss any other means of pregnancy or disease prevention; it’s not necessarily the idiotic “ignorance + scared and ashamed is best” approach discussed here, a sex-positive chastity type approach would be Abstinence Only, too.

    So what do the commenters here think about “abstinence + full education” approach? Where they start with abstinence is the only sure way to not get pregnant or a disease, and maybe some emotional aspects and why you might want to wait until marriage (or at least until you aren’t a dumbass highschool student). Then get into different methods to avoid pregnancy and/or disease, here’s how effective they are etc, plus reminder that you are now incurring serious risk, so think about if you really want to do that and what you (and your partner) will do if it fails.

    Basically you do a hard sell on abstinence but knowing some are gonna do it anyway they are at least able take a damage control approach.

  • Zoe

    This is so bizarre to me. Being serially raped by a violent criminal is not the same as not abstaining from sex. Elizabeth Smart didn’t not “abstain” from sex when she was raped. She was a victim of a crime. To talk about sexual abstinence in relation to rape has no place. If you want to make a case against abstinence, please do it independently of a rape case. If Elizabeth Smart had not been taught to abstain from sex she still would have been traumatized from being kidnapped and raped.

    • Auryn Grigori

      I think the point was not that it was equivalent. Most abstinence-only education does not differentiate between willingly participants and unwilling victims when they compare people to wilted flowers, chewed gum, and the like. And it does not matter if the gum was stolen prior to the chewing, it still is a chewed piece of gum. It is not against abstinence-only education, but the specific teaching that if you have sex, that you are a ruined, unloveable person. It is hard enough when you are a willing participant. Imagine when you are not. You start to think “well maybe, if I didn’t do this,” “perhaps it would not have happened to me if I was dressed this way,” etc. Rape victims already put those burdens on themselves, and then it is confirmed when a well meaning, but utterly clueless person pulls out sticks of gum and insist that all their virginity that they may have been saving is now naught more than a chewed up wad of gum.

  • Rhianna Ulrich

    Thank you <3

  • Randy Gritter

    The truth is that when someone was raped there was real damage done. The victim is not at fault of course. Just like if someone forcibly cut off her hand. She would not be at fault but she would be damaged. Sure there is healing through the grace of God. Does that make you a virgin again? No. Sex is an act that has real spiritual consequences. That is precisely why rape is bad. Telling a rape victim that this was no big deal because virginity does not really matter is not helpful either. She knows it is not true.

    Is sex dirty? In a way, yes. The analogies do work to a point. A glass of water with a little spit is not dirty to the person who’s spit it is. It is dirty to other people. That is not a terrible analogy as long as you understand it is only an analogy. Obviously a woman is not a glass of water. In marriage we have an intimate messiness going both ways. It is a grossness but it is their particular grossness. I kind of like that image of marriage. Do you want to share the most grotesque parts of your lives with each other?

    The assumption of contraception eliminates some of the most natural arguments for abstinence.A potential for pregnancy not only makes sex serious but makes it really matter who you have it with. The baby will get their DNA and bond you together as co-parents. Of course pregnancies still do happen. People just leap to the assumption of 100% effective contraception.

    So if you can convince teens they never want to use contraception then the battle is won. What school board will go there? You can make the argument but it would mean many parents will have some uncomfortable questions to face when their teens arrive home. So we use a half truth. We argue that the sex act distorted by contraception is something that belongs in marriage. Actually it does not belong anywhere.

    • Broken Whole

      The truth is that when someone was raped there was real damage done. The victim is not at fault of course. Just like if someone forcibly cut off her hand. She would not be at fault but she would be damaged. Sure there is healing through the grace of God. Does that make you a virgin again? No. Sex is an act that has real spiritual consequences. That is precisely why rape is bad. Telling a rape victim that this was no big deal because virginity does not really matter is not helpful either. She knows it is not true.

      I think we need to keep separate here rape and the loss of virginity. Rape is awful because it involves, as the Catechism says, “the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person.” Obviously, if the person who was raped is a virgin there can be even deeper psychological wounds than those normally inflicted by rape simply because this is the person’s first experience of sex. But rape is not bad because it takes virginity, rape is bad because it forcibly takes away someone’s control over their own body and sexuality.

      I don’t think that anyone here is suggesting that we tell rape victims that this “was no big deal.” Of course it’s a big deal. All that Calah and others are trying to say, loud and clear, is that (1) rape is never, ever, ever your fault and (2) your personal worth is not determined by whether you’re a virgin or not. None of that denies that rape has very real and devastating effects on its victim—it simply aims to not make an already painful situation even more painful.

      Is sex dirty? In a way, yes. The analogies do work to a point. A glass of water with a little spit is not dirty to the person who’s spit it is. It is dirty to other people. That is not a terrible analogy as long as you understand it is only an analogy. Obviously a woman is not a glass of water. In marriage we have an intimate messiness going both ways. It is a grossness but it is their particular grossness. I kind of like that image of marriage. Do you want to share the most grotesque parts of your lives with each other?

      Personally, I wouldn’t be fond of drinking my own spit water, though I suppose that’s neither here nor there. Also, the clear point of the example is to inspire disgust; I don’t think that disgust represents a necessary response to sex and I truly don’t think that disgust represents an appropriate response to someone simply because they had sex outside of marriage. The “dirty water” basically comes right out and says that a person is dirty, a person is gross—the analogy is fundamentally dehumanizing.

      • Randy Gritter

        that (1) rape is never, ever, ever your fault

        That is politically correct. Is it true? Can both participants be blameworthy and yet the man be guilty of rape? Is that really impossible?

        Then you could take it to the St Maria Goretti level. That is could the woman have avoided the rape if she would have been willing to die to prevent it? The beautiful thing about Catholicism is it really does not matter if it is your fault. As long as you look back on it as a sinful act now then God’s grace can work powerfully to heal. You can even go to confession if you want. It does not matter if the guilt is a false guilt or if you really did something inappropriate. You can just tell the priest you had sex with a guy. You receive absolution. Then all the question of did I do something wrong become irrelevant.

        (2) your personal worth is not determined by whether you’re a virgin or not

        Sure. Virginity is not the center of your self worth. It is not even the center of your virtue. But it does mean something. You can’t have it both ways. If it means nothing when you lose it through rape then it means nothing when you lose it through consensual sex. Sex is one of those physical acts that has spiritual consequences. In a case like this you wish it didn’t but wishing does not make it so.

        • Broken Whole

          That is politically correct. Is it true? Can both participants be blameworthy and yet the man be guilty of rape? Is that really impossible?

          Some things have the unique virtue of being both politically correct and true. First of all, we are obviously talking about moral responsibility here, so the “technically you could have jumped out a window and killed yourself” response doesn’t address the question of moral blame. Furthermore, I can’t imagine a worse response to a woman who has been raped than to ask why she wasn’t willing to die to prevent it!

          Frankly I have to tell you upfront that this is an issue which you’re never going to get me on your side for: I do not think that people who are raped are at fault for their rape. I do not think that people who fight to preserve their lives during their captivity and rape should bear any blame for that. Most folks don’t go around placing moral blame at the feet of folks who are mugged or murdered: I see no reason why we get to place moral blame at the feet of rape victims.

          I think it’s worth noting that the Catechism doesn’t hedge about the horrors of rape or try to share the blame, it states outright—and without any qualification—that the act is intrinsically evil and “wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right.” Compare this to pretty much every other sin against Chastity, in which the Catechism clearly considers the moral responsibility of all involved.

          The beautiful thing about Catholicism is it really does not matter if it is your fault.

          Catholicism would be a cruel and absurd ethical system if fault did not matter. Any religious system with a concept of sin—particularly of mortal sin—does, in fact, care about who is morally at fault. There’s a difference between saying “sins can be forgiven” and saying “moral responsibility doesn’t matter.”

          You can even go to confession if you want. It does not matter if the guilt is a false guilt or if you really did something inappropriate. You can just tell the priest you had sex with a guy

          Just to be clear: in this section are you suggesting that people who have been raped go to confession for their rape? If that is, in fact, what you are suggesting then I am inclined to disagree with you in the strongest terms possible. A woman struggling with guilt over her rape needs a therapist, not a priest. And any priest worth his salt is going to tell someone who is walking around with guilt over something they are not morally responsible for that they don’t need absolution, they need to recognize that they didn’t do anything wrong. Many priests might even advise a woman—or man—who has “confessed” being raped to seek counseling.

          Sure. Virginity is not the center of your self worth. It is not even the center of your virtue. But it does mean something. You can’t have it both ways. If it means nothing when you lose it through rape then it means nothing when you lose it through consensual sex.

          I didn’t say that it “meant nothing.” If you re-read my comment, you will see that I note that a virgin who was raped may well have additional struggles because their rape was, tragically, their first experience of sex.

          [n.b. I keep referring to a "woman who has been raped," but we should, of course, remember that both men and women are victims of rape and both men and women can be rapists.]

          • Randy Gritter

            Frankly I have to tell you upfront that this is an issue which you’re never going to get me on your side for: I do not think that people who are raped are at fault for their rape.

            I am just not sure that is the real world. First, it is not a question of sides. I want what is truthful and what is pastorally helpful.

            What I see here is the application of a black and white absolute to a wide variety of situations. It also seems to contradict the intuition of the victims themselves. That is they feel at least partially to blame. Yet we are supposed to tell them they are not at all to blame without even hearing all the facts. Maybe that is right. Maybe just telling women they are not to blame is best. I just wonder. What if they know it isn’t true? Or perhaps they just suspect it isn’t true. The fact that no counselor is permitted to even entertain the notion would be highly unhelpful. They are told “it is not your fault” but of course that is something counselors say automatically and the victim will know that.

            It just occurs to me that if they were not raped. If they just made a terrible decision and had bad sexual encounter they might actually be better off. They could take some of the blame themselves and that might help them. So it seems that society, trying to be helpful, has actually closed one road to recovery. They insist on the “it is not your fault” road which apparently does not work for everyone.

            When you look at it from a Catholic point of view we see that lacking full volition can make you less culpable but yet still partially to blame. Could a rape victim be in that boat and, despite everyone’s assurances to the contrary, know in her conscience that she bears some blame?

            I get that this is something that is never supposed to be questioned. People jump to the “I can’t believe he is blaming the victim!” reaction. I don’t. But sometimes the victim blames the victim.

          • Broken Whole

            You say:

            I want what is truthful and what is pastorally helpful.

            You also say:

            If they just made a terrible decision and had bad sexual encounter they might actually be better off. They could take some of the blame themselves and that might help them.

            If the person has been raped, then the above is simply not true. That is not what rape is. So if you are concerned with “what is truthful,” this is not a useful fiction: it’s a refusal to show someone the truth of the situation. The terrible thing about rape is that something happened that you did not consent to, it was in no ways a “decision”; the way to help survivors of rape heal is to help them look squarely at that truth and work through it.

            When you look at it from a Catholic point of view we see that lacking full volition can make you less culpable but yet still partially to blame. Could a rape victim be in that boat and, despite everyone’s assurances to the contrary, know in her conscience that she bear some blame?

            A rape victim is not committing rape, period. One cannot be held responsible for a sin that one is not committing. It is intrinsic to the very definition of rape that it is something that happens to you, it is not something that you do. It is not something you can consent to, for the very definition of rape involves a lack of consent (or ability to consent). I would refer you—again—to the point that nothing in the Catechism’s treatment of the sin and crime of rape suggests any guilt or volition on the part of the victim.

            Frankly, if we as Catholics want to defend the Church against the popular stereotype that it is sexually repressive, anti-woman, and soft on priests who commit rape, your line of reasoning is certainly not the way to go about it. Church teaching takes rape seriously, even if the Church as institution has failed in the past to take incidents of rape as seriously as it should have. Church teaching does not blame victims of rape for their own rape. Church teaching recognizes sexuality as a gift from God that should be valued, respected, and which should never be harmed through sexual violence.

            But sometimes the victim blames the victim.

            Yes. But it is neither a truthful nor a compassionate answer to encourage someone in their own false thinking.

          • Randy Gritter

            Anyway, I shall drop this now. Thanks for letting me throw around some idea without freaking out too bad. God bless you.

  • Kassie Hill

    This opened my eyes to how ‘abstinence-only’ sex ed was being taught in some places, and it saddens/sickens me. I don’t think that teaching kids to wait to have sex until they are married is wrong. I believe that this act can teach kids how to have self control, and confidence in themselves. Knowing that your boyfriend/girlfriend loves you for you, and not for your body can be a huge confidence builder. I do no agree with saying people who have had sex before marriage, forced or by choice, are like chewed up and spit out oreos, or dirty glasses of water. That is absolutely horrible. Sin is sin, none greater than the other. It is not our place to judge, but God’s. We are supposed to love each other and build each other up, and God love’s everyone. Because all sins are equal, a person who has had sex before marriage and a person who lies (or has lied) are both equal. Meaning the person that lied is just as chewed up as the other. I think that teachers need to learn to be more sensitive and loving in their sex ed classrooms. it needs to be a safe place.

    • Randy Gritter

      Different sins do have different moral gravity. This why you go to jail for murder but not for adultery. Check out Luke 12:46-48 or Mat 23:23-24.

  • Chip98

    Perhaps you should take your head out of the sand and look at what real quality abstinence-only sex ed consists of.

  • Jennifer Ayars Bush

    A person finds value and worth in the understanding that they are a child of God. It is precisely by recognizing that they have engaged in dirty and sinful behavior that they would want to change their behavior. Now, if they are proud then maybe they won’t change. One has to acknowledge the sin in order to receive forgiveness and change his/her life.

    • Josh Metheney

      I have worth just being a person, no need for any deity. My self-worth is what I can do, what I can’t do, and what I continue to strive to do. As for forgiveness and sin, it sounds like you are prescribing a made up cure for a made up illness.

      • Tracy

        Josh – you are right. You have tremendous value, but it is because of God, and the fact you are created in His image. What if you were never able to walk, or work, or became a quadrapledgic? Does that mean you then have no worth becuase you are no longer able to ‘do’ anything of value? Not at all! We don’t get our value out of what we do so much, as the fact we are worthy regardless of what we do. As for forgiveness and sin…. it depends on how you see the world and people i guess. I see a lot of hurting people and sickness and disease – results of unforgiveness and sin. I don’t know how you would explain the mess that the world is in, but it’s not all smelling like roses to me.

    • magpie1027

      Actually I find value and worth by the impact I have on the world around me, not with any God. Does this mean I should live my life according to your rules?

      Knowledge is power. I work with teens in a clinical setting and often the topic of sex comes up. We find that the teens who are armed with the TRUTH: consequences (mental, physical, social), pros and cons of both waiting, AND being safe (condoms, birth control) are the ones who DON’T get pregnant unexpectidly. They are the students who go on to graduate from high school, they graduate from college, and they grow into empowered women. All of this because someone trusted them with the TRUTH! They were able to make wise decisions armed with all the information they needed.

      I’m not saying people don’t make mistakes, and there are plenty of women (of all ages) who don’t seem to understand all the consequences of sexual activity. But teaching teens that abstinence is the ONLY option they have doesn’t work. It leaves them already feeling dirty, alone and often frightened when something goes wrong (pregnancy, STD). If we keep the dialogue open, it allows girls (and guys) to learn from their mistakes and from the mistakes of others. Cutting off all communication by saying “It’s bad- don’t do it” obviously doesn’t work.

      • nettwench14

        This is the one thing that works. Honesty and not judgments telling they are sinful or have been shamed. One thing you did not mention is that it has been PROVEN that girls getting comprehensive sex education usually do WAIT to have sex, because they are now aware of all the effects – that having sex too carelessly or at a young age has consequences for their future. Getting an STD may damage their ability to have children. They realize that getting pregnant before finishing high school can destroy their dreams of going to college with all their friends, and affects their future financial security and getting a good job. Kids are not stupid, You have to give them some credit that they will make good choices. The rational approach does work.

        Teenagers are very curious. They mess around, regardless of what you teach them. Shame as some kind of prophylactic has never worked in the entire history of the human race. Knowledge is power. It keeps kids from making stupid mistakes like “I can’t get pregnant the first time,” and nonsense like that. You don’t want them to get their education from gossip and rumors, or off some Internet porn they got a glimpse of. Movies and television portray sex very unrealistically -you never see someone reach for a condom, or taking their birth control pill. It’s irresponsible not to give these kids this information, especially with all the influence from media these days.

      • Billy Ten Eyck

        Your impact on the world is only because of the Grace of God, and nothing else. That is true for all of us, whether we believe in Him or not.

    • dom

      You’re an emotionally manipulative and abusive person, you’re just trying to hide that fact by bringing religion into it. You’re shaming and abusing people for being HUMAN so they will convert to your religion. No wonder female sexuality and knowledge is so fucked up with people like YOU spreading misinformation just so you can gain “converts”.

      Congratulations on traumatising and ruining many girls and women Jennifer. We all know you won’t be making it to heaven for that behaviour

      • Tracy

        Dom, you last comment was pretty much along the lines of what you are accusing Jennifer of doing. Jennifer will go to heaven based on her faith in Christ, Not anything she does or doesn’t do behaviour wise. When Jesus died 2000 years ago, he died for ALL sin, for ALL time. No one now will go to heaven or hell based on their behaviour. It’s NOT about sin anymore. its about what you, and what everyone else will do with the gift Christ has offered. Pure and simple. God doesn’t send people to hell, we choose to go there when we openly reject the way he made for us to have Life with HIm. Free will and freedom of choice is what He gave us. Now it’s up to us to choose.

  • Catherine Seiwert

    While I understand your concern and yes, we are called to more than just merely ‘abstinence’, I have to agree with your presentation of the situation. You have only perpetuated the negative connotation that is already so prevalent with abstinence only education, and in the long run, I believing hurting those who want to teach saving sex for marriage.
    Let me explain myself: There are some bad programs out there. There used to be a lot more even worse ones. Can you find me a perfect one though? How about a perfect chastity or theology of the body based one that everyone will agree with? How about one that will reach deep into the heart of every person who hears it and totally make sense to them and they’ll want to live it in there own lives? ……waiting…..hmm, can’t do it, because it doesn’t exist. There are some pretty amazing ones out there. As a Catholic, I LOVE the Everts, but I have a very well formed and straight and narrowing practicing Catholic friend that can’t stand some of the perspectives that Jason and Crystalina propose. So, first problem, everyone has their own likes and dislikes and will be effected differently by different messages.
    My second point is that I think you need a bit of clarification about what abstinence only education means. The ‘only’ does not mean that the only thing spoken about is not having sex. It is used to differentiate from ‘comprehensive’ which includes artificial birth control and all the other things that groups like PP love to teach. Most of the abstinence programs I know in existence nowadays have a whole person approach (I’m the executive director for one and I have a wall of research lined with different curriculum) They focus on good decision making skills, lifestyle choices, character development, an outlook on the future, self-respect, and an overall attitude of self-control rather than self-indulgence. This can be applied to sex, drugs, drinking, etc.
    Third and final: I don’t want to just be limited to Catholic and a few Christian schools. I want to be able to offer something to public schools and people who freak out over the mention of religion/God. I CANNOT use the word chastity. IT WON’T FLY. I am open to suggestions, but I don’t know a secular word that encompasses chastity.

    So, why don’t we focus on making abstinence only programs more effective, rather than cutting down those who are really trying to accomplish the same things. I totally agree that in a Catholic school setting, nothing less than straight to the point, full blooded Theology of the Body should be taught. In the rest of the world though, don’t hurt us who are trying to make head way into the secular world with no funding, no support, and VERY narrow doors.

    And do more research. Don’t hand me a couple article picking up on a handful of individual seminar speakers as evidence that the majority of abstinence education is flawed. I’ll hand you back more than a trailer full (literally) of 20 years of sexual health research and curriculum that teaches everything from STDs to NFP.

    • CS

      On using a non-religious term for chastity: How about Integrity?

      • Catherine Seiwert

        I think you’re onto something, but even that word is still not as encompassing as chastity. It’s definitely part and parcel, but I would think that someone could say integrity is using a condom out of respect. An understanding of chastity doesn’t leave room for that misuse. I often talk about self-control, but again, it lacks fullness.

        • CS

          I think that self-control as the enactment of integrity, particularly in the early years when the body might be ready but everything else is kind of …in transition… It gives you the opportunity to Wait and See where this goes, as it were.

          Honestly, condom usage *is* respectful if you look at it from a secular perspective…and your premise is that sexuality doesn’t need to be confined to marriage.

          I think chastity works because it is contains within it all the theological premises and describes the virtues and meaning behind the actions one is referring to with the term. No single other word I can think of does this in a secular way, which is why you can build a case with a few interlinking concepts.

    • Calah Alexander

      Catherine, I’d be delighted to see some sexual health research and curricula! Honestly, I am intrigued by the program that you describe. I made it extremely clear in my post that I am talking about the type of abstinence ed that I and all of my friends who received abstinence ed experienced. I did spend a while before writing this trying to find some hard sources for abstinence only education, but with no luck and little time to continue, I felt it best to just say what I had to say.

      Unfortunately, you seem to be missing what is the crucial point of my post. You’ll notice that I proposed no solution for the problem: I will write more about that later, but I don’t believe there is one in our current cultural/educational circumstances. However, the lack of a perfect program absolutely does not negate the existence of programs that spiritually and emotionally damage girls and boys. It is extremely important that we be willing to admit that this tactic, at the very least, is not only a failure but is, by its very nature, designed to hurt/shame/psychologically wound EVERYONE, not just those who do engage in premarital sex. The lack of a perfect program does not in any way mitigate our responsibility to recognize and reject harmful ones.

      In fact, your attitude is the very attitude I saw on facebook that troubled me so profoundly. When a group of people become willing to overlook a seriously harmful “teaching’ method that has actually and is continuing to truly harm children for the sake of “the good of the movement” (or, as you put it,”why don’t we focus on making abstinence only programs more effective,
      rather than cutting down those who are really trying to accomplish the
      same things”), their priorities have become warped. We are supposed to always care about people first. This particular abstinence only program (and again, I’m delighted to hear that it is not the totality of these programs, but I assure you that it IS taught to a large number of children) is causing genuine damage. I know this, because it has caused genuine damage in my own life and marriage. I am not willing to overlook that for the good of the abstinence-only movement. If the movement has any merit, it doesn’t need us defending it. It will stand up to criticism and prevail. The people who have been hurt by this, however, and who are now being brushed aside so their inconvenient stories don’t mess with a political movement, are another story.

      • Catherine Seiwert

        I admitted that there have been and still are bad programs out there, but I also addressed what might cause damage to one person can help another. There are many people out there who learned a lot and were encouraged to make better decisions with their lives with the same speakers/programs that caused others to take a negative route. There is no way to know or filter for everyone. It is impossible. That’s why a holistic approach (not the secular ‘comprehensive’ e.g. how to use condoms) to the whole person is important (e.g. proper use of sexuality, self-control/chastity, etc.). This last point I think we agree on?
        I whole-heartedly agree that the only goal can’t be to shame and make sex look dirty. BUT we also have a duty to be honest about the reality of things. There IS shame in it and there are more OFTEN than not physical and emotional consequences to sex outside of marriage. There is a healthy aspect to shame. When we sin, it is the shame and/or guilt (whichever word you prefer) that comes when we know that we have broken with our convictions of right ordered behavior. Should we leave it at shaming, no, that’s why we also talk about second chances (‘recharging your V card’, second virginity, born-again virgin, confession and forgiveness for the Christian mindset). A program that didn’t also include the real likelihood of consequences, psychologically, emotionally and physically (spirituality, for the parochial schools) is just as lacking and potentially damaging as you are accusing the opposite of being.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that you are saying that anything that causes feelings of shame is damaging? I can’t reconcile that with our faith. We are called to want to obey God out of love for Him an obedience (perfect contrition), but the reality is in our human nature, its often the shame that we feel in knowing what the right thing was but still doing the wrong, that gets us back to God (imperfect contrition). We are then embraced with forgiveness and reconciliation, which He had on offer, just waiting for us to accept. Is the glass of water used? Yes. Can it be cleaned? Yes. Both/And