Shaming Teenage Girls

Leilani grew up Mormon and is now an atheist.  Here’s a taste of what “Young Women’s Classes” could be like:

One random Sunday it was my mothers turn to give the lesson. It was on chastity. She had placed a beautiful long stem red rose in one of my grandma’s vases from home, in the middle of the table in the front of the classroom.

She started her lesson, talking about how we were all so precious. We were all loved by our Heavenly Father and how we were all princesses. She spoke of how we would all marry a worthy priesthood holder in the temple one day and how we would be able to stay on the path of righteousness and one day have our own planet, a flock of sisterwives and the love of many spirit children.

She spoke of how we were beautiful, just like the rose in the vase on the table. She then took a step towards the rose and plucked a petal from it. She held the petal in her hand and said that it takes away from us, if we make-out with a boy. She plucked another petal and said it takes away from our worth (to a potential worthy priesthood holder) if we allow a boy we are dating to touch our breasts.

She continued pulling irreplaceable petals from this poor rose until the last one, which she ‘labled’ having sex before marriage.

A few girls who had gone kinda far with their boyfriends had tears streaming down their faces. A few who were rumored to have gone all the way were stoic. I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t believe that my mom ripped apart a rose from my grandmothers garden, just to guilt us into staying chaste.

The common propensity of religious people to shamelessly, self-righteously, and un-self-critically exploit and manipulate the emotions of children and of emotionally vulnerable, uncertain, and insecure teenage girls who are trying to find acceptance and trying to come to terms with their bodies and their boyfriends, is one of the solidest indicators to me that in religion you do not find anything like moral enlightenment (let alone a divinely granted sort).  All you get is a horrifyingly immodest sense of certainty in your own supposed rightness and in your supposed right to inculcate them in others through whatever means are necessary.  It’s permission for the rankest, unreflective arrogance and abandon of principles.

Of course, it is important to make the qualification that I do not see all teenage girls as delicate, vulnerable flowers.  The point though is that this story illustrates the attitude that not only sees them all as such but sees wants them all to be such and wants to exploit them as such in order to control them.  And to the extent to which a given girl is vulnerable and confused, this kind of religiosity only works to worsen the situation, rather than to empower her.

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