Sex and Chewing Gum: The Danger of Purity Culture

Remember how I wrote recently about how the belief that one’s virginity is of utmost importance can make women stay in abusive relationships they might otherwise leave? Well, it’s worse than that. Elizabeth Smart, a girl who was kidnapped at age 14 in 2002 and held captive for almost a year before she was rescued, recently explained that these exact ideas about sexual purity can aid and abet human trafficking.

Rescued kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart said Wednesday she understands why some human trafficking victims don’t run.

Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”

Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex 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 know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said. “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.”

This is why taking on these ideas is so important. People need to be fully aware of just how dangerous it is to teach girls (or boys for that matter) that their value and worth is tied up in their virginity. If you think your value lies in your sexual purity, it’s only natural to conclude that losing that will render you worthless. It’s worth noting that the same and worthlessness an abuse survivor feels is not at all unique to what I call “purity culture,” the evangelical obsession with purity balls and purity rings and purity pledges, but when you mix purity culture ideas in the cocktail becomes more toxic.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Mel

    Oh, this breaks my heart. No one should think they are a chewed-up piece of gum. Being raped doesn’t make you less of a virtuous woman; you didn’t chose that. My church teaches that sex should wait until marriage but I’ve never heard this whacked-out crap about being dirty or less of a person based on having an intact hymen. To me, Elizabeth Smart is a hero because of her actions to help others. That matters far more about sexual choices.

    • Libby Anne

      What does your church teach happens if you have sex before marriage, though? Is it singled out as worse than, say, telling a lie? I have yet to find any church that teaches that sex should wait until marriage without also stigmatizing those who *don’t* wait, and I’m honestly not sure that the two can be separated.

      • Christine

        From my background, it’s more on a par with not going to church. But there’s no value placed on virginity. The value is presented strictly as a “not having sex” thing: like most things that churches teach it’s in the context of what you do, not what you are.

        What would you consider to be stigmatizing? To me that would mean things like asking couples that are already having sex to do extra pre-marital counselling (or refusing to marry them at all), maybe having the importance of not having sex before marriage be a recurring theme (at least as often as other non-biblical topics), or publically praising couples who didn’t have sex. Those aren’t very common at most churches.

      • Mel

        Yeah, those all sound creepy too. My church requires premarital counseling for everyone who wants to get married. We had an awesome licensed counselor who guided us through the nuts and bolts of talking about money, sex, religion, child-rearing and communication skills. It has made our marriage much easier so far because we learned how to talk. FYI – I’ve never heard a sermon on premarital sex. Maybe other Catholic parishes do, but every parish I belonged to would be horrified. That would seem gauche.

      • Libby Anne

        So is what you’re saying that it’s not usually in a sermon? Because now that I think about it, it wasn’t *usually* in sermons at my evangelical church either. But it was in the literature, and the Bible studies, and the youth group teachings, etc., etc.

      • Mel

        We’d hear about it once a year during grade school in 5th-8th grade. It was the 9th chapter of an age-graded book series called “Family Life”. It came after avoiding drugs and before being a good steward of the environment. We never brought it up in Confirmation classes (age 16). It never came up during HS Youth Group. It may have come up in one daily lesson in four years of daily religion classes at a Catholic High School, but it was pretty perfunctory. I do remember two Theology-on-Tap talks on avoiding premarital sex. That was to the 21 and up crowd with most of us being between 25-32. We had fun debating about it afterward.

      • Libby Anne

        That’s really fascinating.

      • jemand2

        Perfunctory doesn’t always feel perfunctory to someone who was raped. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you dismissed messages by “of course that doesn’t apply to me” that a raped girl in your same classes took to heart and thought meant she was worth less.

      • Christine

        Honestly, had I not gone to a Catholic school I probably wouldn’t have really heard very much about premarital sex. Like Mel says, it showed up in the sex ed stuff we got, but nothing strong about “this affects your worth as a person”. Never in Bible Studies or the like. Nor were things like the youth ministry events, etc, as big a deal in the Catholic church, so even though you did run into a few of the people for whom it was a Very Big Deal (they were never the ones in charge though), it didn’t happen that often. Nor did they have a lot of chances to discuss sexuality, because it was never really relevant to anything that was happening.

        I agree that there is a lot of a push for NFP, but I have never seen that explicitly tied to premarital sex. (Obviously it’s a problem because premarital sex is more likely to be in a context where NFP doesn’t work, but the anti-birth control issue is aside from premarital sex.) It’s also tempered by the fact that if you’ve grown up in the church you know how seriously that’s taken. I would agree that a lot of the anti-birth control and abortion issues are more the hierarchy than the church (the standard “the bishop sent a letter that we’re supposed to read” phrasing always comes across as “I don’t agree with this” to me). But there’s also the fact that these aren’t normally tied to premarital sex in the contexts in which they’re presented, so deciding that your conscience leads you to believe that contraception isn’t wrong is generally completely aside from deciding what your conscience dictates on premarital sex.

      • Christine

        I don’t think I’ve ever heard a homily on it either. It would seem less gauche and more creepy. Somewhat gauche, yes, because everyone knows that you’ve got people in the pews who are having sex even though they’re not married yet.

        I don’t know about yours, but our pre-Cana was fairly careful to ignore the fact that a lot of people were probably already having sex. We did large and small group activities, and I think that the couple who facilitated our small group acknowledged that some people where already living together (or it might have been one of the participants instead), but that was specifically in a relevant context – during communications skills, acknowledging that it’ll work different for people who already lived together. In fact, as I recall, it seemed to be assumed that people were already living together – at least one of the exercises needed the couple to have come together rather than separately.

      • Mel

        Ours was one-on-one with a counselor. Our diocese had pre-Cana group classes, but my husband is a 24-7 on-call dairy farmer so we didn’t want to risk not being able to complete the class if a cow had a breech birth. The counselor asked if we were living together to tailor our sessions to our needs. I know lots of Catholic couples who were living together before marriage. It’s pretty routine now.

      • sylvia_rachel

        At the last Catholic wedding I went to, the bride and groom had been living together for more than a decade, owned a house together, and had two kids…

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Huh? I’m sorry, but you’re not convincing me that a church with a historic (and somewhat current) obsession with martyred virgins whose primary female figure is frequently referred to as ‘The Virgnin Mary” or “The Holy Virgin” does not place value on virginity.

      • Alix

        The medieval church also had a major fascination with stories of repentant prostitutes – including some really, erm, interesting stories about how some of these women prostituted themselves to get to holy sites or otherwise glorify God (which rather undermined the message they were trying to send, but that’s saints’ tales all over).

        Of course, as feminists have pointed out for ages, this is just the other half of the problematic, obsessive focus on virginity.

      • Christine

        See, what I’ve heard of those stories was that these women were considered just as virtuous (once they repented) as women who hadn’t had sex in the first place. It was the fact that they were choosing to not have sex (in the then-present) that was fetishized, not the fact that they hadn’t had sex before.

      • Alix

        That’s still pretty problematic.

        And there are at least a few tales that do manage to work in a weird twist (given the church’s typical views on female purity) where the saint is considered at least somewhat holy for prostituting herself for a good cause – Mary of Egypt is one that springs to mind – though they do have the obligatory suffering/humiliated repentant prostitute aspect later in their stories.

        But, y’know, saints’ tales are as a whole pretty weird. Case in point: Saint Christopher.

      • Christine

        I’m not saying that the medieval church wasn’t messed up. One of my husband’s biggest complaints about the Catholic church is that it’s not distancing itself enough from the medieval church – if something started then, they’re as likely to find theological justification for it as they are to ditch it.

        And I was going to name a bunch of other odder saint’s stories, but I think that (like Saint Christopher) the church has finally officially distanced itself from most of them.

      • Alix

        I … actually kind of like the odd saint stories, and I rather wish they were embraced more not run from. I mean, I could easily see a reinterpretation of Mary of Egypt’s story in a much more feminist light today – part of her story was that she loved sex so much she was a “whore” who didn’t charge, and when she converted, she happily prostituted herself to pay for her trip to the Holy Land. Sure, there’s the coda of how after this she went and lived in the desert for years, before miraculously predicting her own death, but given how people freely editorialize saints’ lives anyway, that’s not really an insurmountable issue.

        Other saints are either explicitly or implicitly survivals of local beliefs, like Brigit in Ireland or Christopher, and I really really hate how local beliefs get stamped out. Still others preserve a surprising amount of information about the early church and the church’s advent into various parts of the world, and again, I don’t like seeing that get shoved aside.

        All my quirky ~feelings~ about the saints aside, I do agree with you and your husband.

      • Christine

        I like the stories a lot too, I just don’t like it when the church calls them history. The church at some point (post Vatican II, but I can’t say more than that) decided that maybe there should be some sort of reason to claim that someone existed if they’re going to insist that they lived and died (in a specific way no less). Keep stories alive as folklore or whatever, definitely. Even the Christian versions – some of them persisted as long as the original ones, and even though they were deliberately changed, they’re still a cultural retention.

      • Scott_In_OH

        I really don’t see the Church distancing itself from the saints, Christine. The Creed says we believe in “the communion of saints.” Our parishes are named after saints. St. Christopher medals are still given at Baptisms and First Communions. John Paul II strongly advocated devotion to the saints (especially Mary, of course, but also others).

        I admit to not following this subject closely, so maybe I have missed some changes. Do you see some saints being de-canonized or having their stories told less frequently or something?

      • Christine

        I wasn’t talking about the saints in general, just about a few (mostly early) ones. While there isn’t really a decanonization process, saints have been removed from the church calendar, which generally leads to people saying that they were decanonized. These saints are generally not ones whose stories are told less frequently, and they are definitely not less popular. As an example – this includes St. Christopher, who has got to be one of the more popular ones (although I’m sure St. Jude has him beat.)

      • Christine

        Can I at least try to convince you that the church doesn’t place a value on people getting crucified these days?

      • Alix

        Erm. That very much depends on what you mean – the widespread belief in stigmata comes to mind, and the interest in mystical “experiences” of the crucifixion. And while I’ve lost the reference, so I don’t know if these people identified as Catholic, there are definitely Christians in some parts of the world who reenact the crucifixion (with ropes, not nails!) as a sacred act of suffering, rather akin to the flagellants in medieval Europe.

        But I’d agree that as far as I know, the Catholic Church isn’t going around crucifying people for their own good, or anything like that.

      • Mel

        I grew up in a liberal Roman Catholic household. Choosing to have sex before marriage was a sin. The part that is hard to explain is that sin is a choice that affects your relationship with God. Choosing to have sex before marriage hurts your relationship with God. There two benefits to seeing sin as a relationship-harming paradigm. First, if you thoughtfully decide that you disagree with the teaching of the Church, you *must* follow your conscience. If you decide that sexual activity outside of marriage will not damage your relationship with God, you are not sinning. Second, you can fix your relationship with God through prayer, repentance, Reconciliation and receiving the Eucharist. These ideas are the same for all sins.

        For me, I evaluated my sexuality choices on a partner by partner basis. My choice not to have sex before marriage was about me. I don’t think my choice applies well to other people.

        I’ve never had anyone push avoidance of premarital sex as a virtue greater than honesty. We were supposed to do what Jesus did – feed the hungry, tend the ill, visit the imprisoned, teach the ignorant, comfort the mourning and a whole list of other social justice issues. I’ve also never heard any of the candy bar, roses, or gum crap… all of which are very creepy.

      • Libby Anne

        “I’ve never had anyone push avoidance of premarital sex as a virtue greater than honesty.” Really? You grew up in a Catholic Church, and yet it was never really emphasized? I guess I’m remembering the time I was Catholic, between being evangelical and losing my faith altogether, and getting majorly pushed to use natural family planning. Also, to my view, the Catholic Church spends more time on opposing birth control, abortion, and gay marriage than it does on social justice issues. But that could always be the hierarchy as opposed to the individual church.

      • Mel

        I imagine it varies a lot from parish to parish due to the local hierarchy. For example, lots of sisters are very involved in anti-poverty and education concerns. Something like 92% of practicing Catholic women use artificial birth control including me. The National Bishop’s group likes to bang a drum about preventing gay marriage and birth control, but we’ve never passed the hat at my parish to support that. We do support the local ministries to the homeless, collect diapers for needy parents and tutor people for the GED or in English. As a cradle Catholic, I learned that bishops are a bit crazy and we should just work at helping others.

      • Libby Anne

        So why not fix that? I mean, you’re aware that the bishops aren’t just “a bit crazy,” right? You know that they’re doing real harm and damage, and that they claim to represent you and speak for you?

      • A

        This is a two-fold problem. The first issue is that the lay people don’t have much say in the first place. I mean, you can’t really vote the Pope out of office, or sign a petition to change church ruling. So the only method of protest is to leave the church entirely. That leads to the second problem – most people won’t leave the church, regardless of how they feel about birth control, abortion, or homosexuality. Mostly because these teachings don’t harm them personally, while leaving the church will. Most people just ignore the teachings on contraception anyway, and if you are also heterosexual, you have nothing to gain, personally, from leaving. But you have so much to lose. You lose your community, your faith, and in many ways your culture. In some cases, your family may even turn away from you. This is especially true for those who are raised Catholic. In other words, leaving the church will cost the church one more follower – but it will cost you everything. I was raised Catholic. Attended Catholic school from K-12, went to church, and was part of our youth programs. I do not agree with some of the teachings, especially about contraception, homosexuality, and abortion – but I won’t leave. The harm I would do to myself, and to my family, by so doing far outweighs the good it could achieve.

      • Libby Anne

        When I was Catholic, I went to a parish that catered to college students (it had a Newman Center). The priest was very laid back and understanding and social justice oriented, but the college student outreach was VERY conservative on sexual matters, etc. Then the priest left, and the next priest would literally start a sermon saying “we need to talk about social justice” and then explain that by social justice he meant the evil of abortion. So I do think it can vary. I will say, though, there are Super Catholics who are about as scary as uber fundamentalist Protestants. They’re generally the ones using NFP and damning everyone who doesn’t! Also, Latin mass. Also, head coverings.

      • Little Magpie

        I’m enough of a nerd that I would love to see the RCC get more progressive on sexuality / social issues but go back to the Latin mass, because, well, Latin. Because I’m a nerd. (I took 4 years of Latin in high school.) And for a generation entirely post-Vatican II, it amused me to no end that even years later could understand Latin-based stuff (like maybe hymns or whatever) better than my former-altar-boy then-boyfriend. :)

        That said, I have to acknowledge that I’m giving this opinion from an entirely outsider point-of-view, never having been Catholic or even any other kind of Christian. :)

      • Christine

        You know, I would have probably agreed with you until they re-translated the mass from the original Latin version. It’s all technical and scholarly now, and the excuse for (most) of that is that it’s the best match for the Latin. So basically the Latin version = you can’t hope to have a clue what they’re saying without a theology degree. But that’s just me.

      • kcars1

        That is worthwhile noting, there is a BIG difference between the liberal (V-II) oriented and the conservative (Latin mass, head covering) crowd. Every bit as big as between Jim Wallis and Rick Warren. And, unfortunately, the conservative faction has done a much more thorough job of colonizing the hierarchy and within it are much more vocal than the liberal faction.

      • Monala

        Never a Catholic, but I would imagine that the difference between conservative Catholics and conservative evangelicals on this issue does have a lot to do with the ‘good works’ idea. Being a good Catholic includes a lot of positive good works, but conservative evangelicals are often leery of ‘works righteousness.’ So what’s left to prove your holiness? It has to be showing you’re not like ‘the world,’ and sex seems more tangible and easier to condemn than lying, gossip or greed.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        From what I hear about how the Church handles its money, you really have no idea if that money you put in the collection plate is actually going towards those designated causes or towards more nefarious purposes. You’re better off just giving directly to charities, imo.

      • Christine

        A lot of the local charities are small enough that they don’t have a web form for donations, so we’re kind of suck with fundraising drives. If I If I’m supposed to assume that the diocese is going to come and steal the change out of the SVdP baskets, or the Marillac place bottles, then why would I assume that they’re not just going to mug the volunteers who deliver the change in the first place? I’m not as convinced as you that they’re lying on financial statements about where the money from the collection goes either – CCRA is more than willing to strip a church if its charitable status if they break the law, so they’re not going to do something that basic.

      • alr

        But did you not get the message that the church is monolithic and if Libby Anne or anyone else heard it at one single parish, then it is true of every single parish… I went to Catholic school, too, and taught in one. We NEVER heard any of these stupid “sex ruins your life” analogies when I was in school. Not once. And the only time they were taught in the school I worked in was when the admins naively allowed an evangelical abstinence group in for an assembly. There was damage control done immediately. Catholic teaching, real Catholic teaching–not what your prude 98 year old grandmother might have thought–does not equate sexual activity as the unforgivable sin and rarely uses the word “purity”. “Chastity” was talked about, but it is a different concept and includes fidelity in relationships.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Dude, it doesn’t get more monolithic than having One Magic Guy who supposedly acts as the mouthpiece of God to an entire global religious community. Just sayin.’ I am aware that there are many liberal, self-identified Catholics who are great allies in progressive causes and that, for many of them, the pope and the hierarchy are really not what defines Catholicism to them in their personal experience and local community. But if you are going to a Catholic Church and giving money to them at collection, you are associating yourself with an undeniably top-down, authoritarian monolithic power structure. There is just no way around that. I understand why people choose to remain Catholic anyway. I’ve known enough liberal Catholics to know that it is not as simple as just walking away and I don’t envy them their dilemma. But I’m still gonna call a spade a spade.

        And, whatever you want to call it, “purity” or “chastity,” in my observation (not Catholic myself but raised in a mostly Catholic community), the differences are semantic and it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other–and all toxic.

      • kcars1

        The focus has change a lot over the past 20 years. I don’t remember it being much of an issue at all when I was a child in the 1980s. The ONLY reason I think I was exposed to it at all is my sister had a baby at 17 and the priest refused to confirm her with her class because she wouldn’t leave the baby to go on the weekend-long retreat… and the consensus was that was a pretty dickish thing to do (he was a jerk totally apart from being a priest).

        It got to be an increasingly important one thru the 1990s but it varied by diocese. The bishops really set the tone because the bishop of the mission diocese I lived in the 1990s rarely if ever focused on it but, whoa, when I moved to a diocese in a much more Catholic region did it become a pretty constant topic and then when my old diocese got a new bishop (old one retired), my parents complained about the shift there too.

        Don’t get me wrong, the message hasn’t changed (much), it is primarily the priority placed on it. The reason why my sister was penalized was she was the 1st (in a long time) — and while I am sure everyone liked to pretend that all the teens were virtuous and virginal, what we know really happened it other girls when to the city for abortions or went to “stay with relatives” and gave the babies up for adoption.

      • The_L1985

        My experience with the RCC was very different. Sex was always presented as this horrible forbidden thing.

      • Scott_In_OH

        I agree completely, The_L1985. The RCC is *very* clear that sex is only OK if it’s between a married man and woman and there is a risk of (i.e., an “openness to”) pregnancy.

        When speaking to teenagers, our priests definitely state that abstinence is the Right choice. They don’t say it in family masses very much, but at teen masses they certainly do.

        Our Pre Cana counseling included a section on the wrongness of premarital sex (and artificial birth control). While it may be true that some priests and parishes don’t worry too much about it anymore, plenty do. For one example, see

        My son, who is in Catholic school, told me, when I asked him what he had learned in sex ed, that the Church sees sex as a holy act that’s only acceptable in certain instances (and that he thought that was nuts, at least the “holy act” part). I told him he was right on both counts, although that didn’t mean that sex was something to be taken lightly.

      • Virginia Smith

        My mom and her family were Catholic, and my sister and I were baptized Catholic but never confirmed. We came back to the church as adults and had to go through the (year-long) Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults to get confirmed.

        What I was taught about the church’s teachings was super liberal, in that we were told not to worry about most of it. You can disagree with the Pope and the Church on pretty much everything except the “infallible” stuff (the miracle of transubstantiation, the existence of the Holy Trinity, etc.) and that’s fine, I was told. So I never felt any real pressure to conform to the church’s teachings on sex. There was one priest who liked to talk about pro-life issues, and I found that annoying, but that was it.

        However, that’s Catholicism in the North. I’m not Catholic anymore, but I had thought about visiting a Catholic Mass down here in the South (where I’m currently living) and I was warned that it’s nothing like the Catholicism of the North. It’s *super* conservative down here. So I just didn’t go.

      • Feminerd

        It was always presented to me in the Conservative temple (which we stopped going to when I was 9, so YMMV) as a not-great choice, but not one that impacted your life forever or made you a less valuable person. Like, oh, underage drinking. It’s common, you’ll likely do it, but it’d be better if you didn’t, and for God’s sake don’t be stupid about it, because the consequences of stupidity can be pretty high.

        Also, God doesn’t like premarital sex, but we’re Conservative Jews so we do a lot of things God doesn’t like and don’t follow all the rules anyways. It’s just another rule you choose to follow or not based on your own personal code. It’d be better (in God’s eyes) to keep kosher, but if you don’t, eh well, you don’t. Premarital sex was seen like that as I recall.

      • Mel

        Exactly! You’ve hit it right on the nose.

    • Silent Service

      Agreed. Elizabeth and her family should be very proud that she has come though such a horrible ordeal to be a better person and a hero to women everywhere; to everybody actually. It has to be incredibly hard to stand up and talk about her ordeal, but she has made her terrible experience into a positive message about the value of each person and how our value is not limited to or constrained by our sexual experiences, either good or bad.

  • Christine

    The arguments on how the purity culture could lead to staying in an abusive relationship make sense to me, but this sort of problem – feeling so worthless that there’s no point to rescue – can’t be entirely blamed on the purity culture. Predators do whatever they can do induce it. It’s possible that this was made easier by the purity culture, but rape does a lot of harm, even if you were raised in a healthier environment.

    • Libby Anne

      “It’s possible that this was made easier by the purity culture.” Really? Only “it’s possible”? You can read Elizabeth Smart saying out right that the purity culture teachings she received played a direct role, and you conclude only that she *might* be telling the truth about that?

      • Christine

        I would agree that the purity culture teachings definitely determined how the problems manifested. But I don’t actually see a huge difference between her reaction and other rape survivor reactions. Just because that’s the context in which she experienced her reaction doesn’t mean that it’s the only one which exists.

      • Rosa

        We all live in purity culture to some extent, though. Otherwise stuff like slut-shaming rape victims would only happen in the same small circles as purity balls/purity rings.

      • Christine

        I see your point. It can be a very toxic mixture if you see your value in being able to take care of yourself (rather than in virginity). It’s not just that something bad happened that you couldn’t prevent – it’s that the something bad which happened is one which the culture says is especially bad.

      • Sarah-Sophia

        Even if a girl does not grow up in a purity culture, she will pick up on the idea that her value is determined by her sexuality. Not only by not having too much sex but by also by being “beautiful.” Otherwise there would not be the belief that unless you look “sexy” you should not be wearing that outfit, and people wouldn’t laugh at the idea of a father shooting his daughter’s boyfriend because he had sex with her.

    • Yoav

      Predators would use any tool they have and purity culture, by teaching women that their entire worth is bound to whether or not they’re virgins, just hand predators a massive club they can use to break down their victims, with a bow on.

      Technical point: in the transcribed quote I think “know longer” should be “no longer”.

  • Rosie

    The indoctrination I got was more subtle, but I now think no less damaging. I knew it wasn’t (exactly) my fault that I’d been raped, but it was probably more traumatic than necessary because I had no sense of a world in which sex could be just sex, without any higher metaphysical meaning attached. It was always a necessarily huge thing involving not only body but soul. Besides, fault aside, after that I knew things I could not unknow. I was really afraid that even if a virgin was willing to marry me, I just wouldn’t be able to relate to him or talk to him about what had happened.

    Well, I couldn’t go backwards, so I went forward. The first order of business was to find out if I even could enjoy sex, but the context of a committed relationship seemed like it would put a lot of pressure on me to “enjoy” it regardless. So I learned the value of casual sex (and also the difficulty of finding partners willing to be truly casual about it). And then, given the trust issues I understandably had after the abusive-relationship-date-rape, I learned the value of living with somebody, and having sex with them, before marriage. All things considered, I guess I did pretty well: happily married for a dozen years now.

    • Little Magpie

      Thanks for sharing your story, Rosie; I’m glad things have turned out well for you.

    • J Shay

      Rosie, I understand too from a male point of view and having been molested as a small boy. It has taken ALOT of time to be comfortable and knowing it was NOT my fault! it is the past it is what happened, but today is a beautiful day and tomorrow will be as well. I believe in karma and it has been nice to see that he got his.

    • Tyro Kathar

      I’m so happy things worked out well for you!

  • Silent Service

    Wow, I had not ever thought about it in quite that way. That’s terrifying.

  • Niemand

    I’m pretty sure from the “purity culture” point of view, this is a feature not a bug. So much easier to blame a young woman for being raped if she believes its her own fault too.

  • judyv

    So did Elizabeth Smart learn anything from this? Or is she still a practicing Mormon?

    • JohnH2

      She is a practising Mormon and finished a mission for the church while the trial was going.

      • judyv

        Thanks. That’s what I thought. Good for her for being strong and being able to get married and get on with her life. But she is still basically endorsing the very religion that taught her she was a used piece of ABC gum, and enabled her captor to control her! I feel very frustrated by this, it’s evidence of the extreme power of indoctrination.

      • JohnH2

        I am Mormon.

        The idea of being a ‘used piece of ABC gum’ while a very common cultural aspect in the church is not doctrinally valid. It causes tons of problems.

        Better doctrine is what the article ends with from Elizabeth Smart “you will always have value and nothing can change that.”

      • mythbri

        JohnH2, I *was* Mormon. Emphasis on the *was.*

        The Young Women have added a new Value to their list of Personal Progress values. Do you know what the new Value is?

        It’s Virtue.

        Do you know what one of the supporting scriptures is? It’s Moroni 9:9-10. I quote:

        “9 And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue –

        10 And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.”

        This is quoted directly from the Church’s scriptural website. Link for convenience:

        That is doctrine. This is about as doctrinally valid as it gets.

      • JohnH2

        No, that isn’t doctrine, that is an uncharitable reading of Mormon condemning those that are doing the raping and etc and not those being raped.

        “Be assured that you are not to blame for the harmful behavior of others. You do not need to feel guilt. If you have been a victim of rape or other sexual abuse, whether you have been abused by an acquaintance, a stranger, or even a family member, you are not guilty of sexual sin. Know that you are innocent and that your Heavenly Father loves you.” –

      • mythbri

        JohnH2, what exactly do you think that this scripture is supposed to mean, in the context of being tied to the Value of Virtue, which is being taught exclusively to the Young Women of the church?

        The scripture explicitly states that the Lamanite women who were taken prisoner and raped were deprived of “that which was most dear and precious above all things.” Specifically, chastity and virtue.

        This is a literal interpretation of a scripture that was specifically selected to illustrate Virtue as one of the eight major pillars of what is taught to Young Women.

        How am I being “uncharitable”?

      • JohnH2

        The scripture is supposed to mean that chastity and virtue are “that which is most dear and precious above all things” in the context of the Young Women’s program. Chastity and virtue are taught to the Young Men as well, as the sacred powers of procreation are to be reserved for the eternal bond of marriage regardless of gender, it just isn’t a personal progress value as Young Men don’t have personal progress.

        You are trying to take an epistle where Mormon is talking about how barbaric the people were and condemning them for it and say that he is condemning the victims.

        I think you are right with that verse not being the best to present the ideal of virtue because it can be read in that manner and victim blaming, thinking chastity and virtue are anti-sex, and other associated behaviours which cause perhaps less visible problems are very common among especially the women of the church.

      • mythbri

        I never said that the narrator of this scripture is condemning the victims, although I hope that you agree that losing ‘that which was most dear’ and then being killed off is problematic – when I was growing up in the church I was taught that ‘virtue’ was something to be defended with your life, rather than ‘lose.’

        I’m glad that you agree that this is a TERRIBLE scripture to teach young people about ‘virtue’ (whatever that’s supposed to mean). What do you think a young woman (or young man) is going to take from this scripture, emphasized as it is in their lessons, if they happen to be raped? Because this scripture literally places the most importance on so-called ‘virtue’ explicitly in the context of rape.

        What are they supposed to feel about that, if not EXACTLY the way Elizabeth Smart describes feeling in her speech to John Hopkins?

      • mythbri

        JohnH2, just to clarify:

        You made the claim that the “used chewing gum” metaphor is not doctrinally valid – rather, that it’s a cultural problem within the Church. I’m telling you that it’s both. It’s in the scriptures, as I’ve demonstrated, and specifically taught to Young Women.

        I know that the young men also get taught about chastity and “virtue”, but I assert that it’s nowhere close to the amount of time that the Young Women spend on it. And I’ll bet you that Moroni 9:9-10 isn’t cited when “virtue” is being taught to young men.

        Also, I’d like to know what you mean by this:

        other associated behaviours which cause perhaps less visible problems are very common among especially the women of the church

      • JohnH2

        “not doctrinally valid”

        Regardless of what Moroni 9:9 seems to perhaps imply the whole idea behind such a metaphor runs counter to everything else that is in scripture. Sin must be something that is chosen freely, the Atonement allows us to be free of all sin, the women caught in adultery was not condemned but just told to repent and not sin any more, we are all children of God and therefore of infinite worth, and so on. It is a horribly prevalent cultural problem, but it really isn’t very good doctrine.

        ” nowhere close to the amount of time that the Young Women spend on it.”

        I completely agree with you on this; Not only Young Women but all women in the church spend inordinate amounts of time in lessons on the subject and do so in ways that are really bad doctrinally, emotionally, and in pretty much every other way possible. Go to Elders Quorum and the sanctity of sex, the goodness of our bodies, and other such unique features of Mormon doctrine are on full display. Go to Young Women’s and Relief Society and there is more in common with St. Jerome’s view on sex then what is presented in the D&C, and I really don’t know why. It isn’t even in the lesson manuals taught like that (any more, perhaps during Kimball’s time given “the Miracle of Forgiveness”?) but the women teach themselves this and their daughters and I think it is a real problem, as I will explain.

        “Moroni 9:9-10 isn’t cited when “virtue”

        D&C 121:45 is the one that I remember being cited the most in regards to virtue.

        “I’d like to know what you mean by this:”

        So it seems that instead of sex being presented as this great and sacred thing which should be reserved for marriage it appears to be often presented (to the women (by the women)) as this dirty thing which should be reserved for marriage (a la St. Jerome). This causes quite a lot of marital and emotional problems for newly married women (and their husbands) as they have been wrongly taught that sex is dirty and unclean leading to shame, guilt, lack of pleasure, shame for pleasure, and similar problems even when they are married. Doctrinally abstinence in marriage is not healthy for the marriage and sex is not only for bearing children, but both do happen more often then people realize because of the messed up teaching that women give each other. These aren’t however problems that anyone outside of the marriage really sees. They aren’t visible like a teen pregnancy is visible. Such stories don’t get told in women’s chastity lessons because for the most part all anyone knows is their own personal story, and perhaps they are the only one, even though in all probability all of the women sitting next to them have or are dealing with the same problems.

        Doctrinally there is no celebration of virginity; marriage is celebrated and sex is actually celebrated doctrinally. But that seems to be way too often missed in lessons by and to women. That is what I mean by causing less visible but very common problems especially among the women in the church.

      • mythbri

        No. Uh-uh. I am not letting you hang the blame for these toxic teachings solely on the women of the church.

        They are part of the problem – they are definitely perpetuating it and teaching it, passing the same toxic ideas down to their daughters and their daughters’ daughters, but this is not the fault of women alone!

        Who has the ultimate authority in the general leadership of the church? Men. Do you really think that the general leadership of the Young Women are teaching things that the General Authorities don’t know about? Do you think that these lessons have somehow not been approved? Out of respect for LIbby Anne’s commenting policy, I’m cutting out the more colorful vocabulary, but I have to tell you that the absolute wrongness of your comment here has me extremely angry.

        Young Women growing up in the church are taught that women are the gatekeepers of sex, and that their sexuality is defined in opposition to men’s sexuality (by which I mean that it doesn’t exist in its own right), and that women are practically inherently sinful just by virtue of being female. They are taught that they are responsible for the “sinful” thoughts of men. Rather than teaching young men healthy attitudes and respect toward women, they are “let off the hook”, so to speak, by not being held accountable for their own thoughts. The young men are taught that they are the heads of the household, that their authority is at all times greater than that of any woman. They are also taught that a woman’s worth lies in her virtue, and that the best marriage may be obtained by marrying a woman who has “saved herself.” Conversely, any woman who is known or suspected not to have saved herself is no longer worthy of positive attention or respect.

        Don’t you dare lay all of the blame for this on the women of the church. All of this is taught within one of the most patriarchal structures I have ever had the misfortune to live in.

      • JohnH2

        ” Do you think that these lessons have somehow not been approved?”

        Chewing gum, Cupcakes, and most of what else goes into chastity lessons are not approved by anyone other then the person teaching them.

        “I have to tell you that the absolute wrongness of your comment here has me extremely angry.”

        I am sorry, I was relating my experience and trying to be truthful in doing so.

        “Young Women growing up in the church”

        All the things you list after this are straight out of St. Jerome and St. Augustine’s writing, none of them come from the scriptures.

        “teaching young men healthy attitudes and respect toward women”

        They do teach men healthy attitudes towards women and young men are very much held responsible for their own thoughts. You should check out pretty much any given Priesthood session of General Conference for examples.

        “Don’t you dare lay all of the blame for this on the women of the church.”
        President Kimball takes quite a bit of the blame as well.

      • mythbri

        JohnH2, the chewing gum and cupcakes and roughly-handled roses are a “logical” extension of the idea that virtue and chastity are the most important aspects of a person’s (specifically, a woman’s) identity. The root cause of that toxic idea is doctrine. You’re merely expressing disapproval of the method of teaching, not the idea itself.

        The problem IS the idea. And no, they’re not merely borrowed from the saints you’ve reference, with no basis in Mormon teachings whatsoever.

        They do teach men healthy attitudes towards women and young men are very much held responsible for their own thoughts. You should check out pretty much any given Priesthood session of General Conference for examples.

        I wasn’t exactly invited to those, JohnH2, on account of I’m a woman. And no, teaching young men that their priesthood gives them institutional authority over women, at home and at church, is NOT healthy. It’s NOT respectful. Asking a man for permission to give his wife a church calling is NOT respectful. The practice of polygamy and its remnants in temple sealings is NOT respectful.

        President Kimball takes quite a bit of the blame as well.

        Weren’t you the one who just said that the totality of those toxic teachings were borrowed from St. Augustine and St. Jerome?

      • JohnH2

        “Weren’t you the one who just said that the totality of those toxic teachings were borrowed from St. Augustine and St. Jerome?”

        Did you want a list of crappy ideas exposed by presidents of the church which are carbon copy borrowings from other sources? Given the scriptures then only way I see President Kimball getting those ideas is via either direct reading of St. Jerome et al or indirectly via cultural influences coming from St. Jerome et al.

        I am not aware of husbands being asked in regards to their wife receiving callings, that has never happened with me and my wife. I know wives are asked about husbands receiving callings in the Bishopric and some other callings. I think you have the wrong idea otherwise about the priesthood and what its responsibilities are and I am not sure this is the place to get into that.

      • mythbri

        Did you want a list of crappy ideas exposed by presidents of the church which are carbon copy borrowings from other sources? Given the scriptures then only way I see President Kimball getting those ideas is via either direct reading of St. Jerome et al or indirectly via cultural influences coming from St. Jerome et al.

        So are you saying that the teachings of the prophets should NOT be considered like unto new scripture? Are you saying that prophets are NOT always dispensing revelation from God? If there’s so much “borrowing” going on, how do you know if anything the prophets say is actually true?

        And whether or not you’re aware of it, husbands are asked for permission before giving their wives callings. My brother was asked before a calling was extended to my sister-in-law. And in my sister-in-law’s last interview with her bishop before she had her first child (my niece), the bishop sternly lectured her about her place now being in the home, and that she should not go back to work after having her baby.

        I’ll get into whatever you want to get into – priesthood or no. Perhaps I have the wrong idea about the priesthood. It’s not like it was ever offered to me. But all of my brothers have it. My father has it. Most of my extended male relatives have it. I don’t like the way you seem to be giving the church doctrine a free pass on the toxic purity culture that Elizabeth Smart has cited as a real obstacle in her recovery from being raped, daily, for nine months.

      • JohnH2

        “So are you saying that the teachings of the prophets should NOT be considered like unto new scripture?”

        A prophet is only a prophet when they are acting as such. Given Adam-God, racist theology, blood atonement, polygamist theology, this topic, John Birch Society-esque theology, and so forth that have in large part been contradicted by subsequent church leaders then it should be obvious that prophets are human and able err. New scripture must come through the prophet and be approved by the quorums of the church, otherwise it is not scripture.

        “Are you saying that prophets are NOT always dispensing revelation from God?”

        I do not know that it has ever been claimed that prophets are always dispensing revelation from God, Joseph Smith was the one that taught that a prophet is only a prophet when they are acting as such. Each member of the church regardless of gender is equally able to receive revelation from God as the prophet, but that revelation is valid only for them while the prophet is able to receive revelation for the entire church. In this way, by receiving personal revelation for one self as one does for knowing the Book of Mormon is true, we can know the truth of all things including whether the prophet is actually speaking for God to us or is just saying the philosophies of men mixed with scripture. If the revelation is important enough it will go through the quorums of the church.

        As I said, I am married and I have never been asked about my wife’s various callings. If a Bishop decided to do so then that is the Bishop’s problem. I have known too many Bishops; they seem especially susceptible to what is warned about in D&C 121.

        Which brings us to the priesthood. The purpose of the priesthood is to serve and not to rule as “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood”. The priesthood can be conferred upon a man but as soon as he exercises control, or dominion, or compulsion then the Heavens withdraw and the priesthood and authority of that man is at an end. Wives are to submit to their husbands only as husbands follow Christ and love their wives as Christ loves the church, Christ who died for the church and suffered death and hell. Love being shown by way of actions, and not words.

      • mythbri

        A prophet is only a prophet when they are acting as such.

        How convenient and not at all confusing.

        I do not know that it has ever been claimed that prophets are always dispensing revelation from God

        And yet twice a year all of the members of the church are asked to sustain them as prophets, seers and revelators.

        I quote:

        “There is an expanding gulf between the standards of the world and those of the gospel and kingdom of God, and … living prophets will always teach the standards of God.”

        The priesthood can be conferred upon a man but as soon as he exercises control, or dominion, or compulsion then the Heavens withdraw and the priesthood and authority of that man is at an end.

        So….a priesthood holder is NOT the head of the household?

        Wives are to submit to their husbands only as husbands follow Christ

        Then the chain of command goes Christ -> Man -> Wife. And the wife is required to “submit” to her husband as long as the husband follows Christ. This is exactly what I was talking about when I said earlier that young men in the church are taught that their authority is always greater than that of any woman. A 12-year-old boy has more authority than his mother or grandmother.

      • JohnH2

        Always teaching the standards of God does not mean that they are always dispensing revelation from God, nor does it mean that they even know all of the standards of God.

        Being a priesthood holder does not automatically make one a head of a household. A young man being raised by a single mother is not the head of the household, the mother is. The priesthood is also irrelevant in whether a non-member father is the held of the household or not. The commandment is to honour ones father and mother and that doesn’t change dependent on gender, membership, or any other factor. Obviously if ones father and/or mother is abusive then the best way to honour them is to seek outside assistance and/or leave, which again priesthood or not doesn’t change.

        How does a 12 year old have greater authority then any women? A twelve year old can be called to assist the Bishop and the teachers, expound, exhort, and invite all to come unto Christ. even passing the sacrament is a service that the deacons have been assigned. The performing of outward ordinances of the gospel, which is the responsibility of the Aaronic priesthood, gives members of the Aaronic priesthood no authority over the actions of any women whatever her position otherwise. The priesthood is about performing sacred rites and serving others, not about authority over others.

        Eve was created as a companion, not as a lesser being. According to “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”, which is approved by both the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, husband and wife are to be equal partners. Yes, the areas of primary responsibility are different but neither is supposed to be greater or more valued than the other, and each is to help the other.

      • mythbri

        Always teaching the standards of God does not mean that they are always
        dispensing revelation from God, nor does it mean that they even know all
        of the standards of God.

        I can’t believe you even wrote this. Did you proofread before you hit “reply”? How in the world are prophets, seers and revelators supposed to always be teaching the standards of God while simultaneously not even knowing the standards of God?

        Being a priesthood holder does not automatically make one a head of a household. A young man being raised by a single mother is not the head
        of the household, the mother is. The priesthood is also irrelevant in whether a non-member father is the held of the household or not.

        I see. So the standards of qualification for being the “head of the family/household” involve being a male who has procreated. A woman can only be the head of the family or household in the absence of such a male. Gotcha.

        How does a 12 year old have greater authority then any women? A twelve year old can be called to assist the Bishop and the teachers, expound,
        exhort, and invite all to come unto Christ. even passing the sacrament is a service that the deacons have been assigned. The performing of outward ordinances of the gospel, which is the responsibility of the Aaronic priesthood, gives members of the Aaronic priesthood no authorityover the actions of any women whatever her position otherwise.

        Okay. So even though all kinds of priesthood blessings start with “By the authority of the Aaronic/Melchezidek Priesthood”, having the priesthood doesn’t really mean authority, it means service? Can a devoted 30-year-old woman who has spent her whole life in service to the church and others bless or pass the Sacrament? No? Is that because she doesn’t have the authority?

        I must have hallucinated the time when, after my step-dad passed away, the bishop shook my younger brother’s hand and said, “You’re the head of the household now.” My brother is a good person and wise enough to not take that seriously or believe that he had the authority to tell my mom what to do, even though apparently the bishop thought he did.

        Eve was created as a companion, not as a lesser being.

        Eve was never created, unless by “created” you mean “fictional.” Eve never existed. She was not a real person. She was a story. A metaphor. A metaphor upon which thousands of years of demonization of the female and prejudice against women was built. Even stating that Eve was created to be a “companion” is insulting, because it implies that she merely existed to fill a role. Just as I mentioned above, when women’s sexuality is acknowledged at all in the church it is characterized as a complement to male sexuality – it doesn’t exist in its own right. The same principle applies here.

        Yes, the areas of primary responsibility are different but neither is supposed to be greater or more valued than the other, and each is to help the other.

        This is one of the major reasons I left the church, and it explains why you glossed over the anecdote I related about my sister-in-law being told by her bishop not to return to work after having her child. What if she and my brother needed the extra money to survive? What if my brother lost his job or needed to focus on school? What if my niece had medical problems that incurred significant additional expenses?

        Aside from all of that, what if my sister-in-law liked her job and wanted to continue working? Her wants don’t matter? She just has to force herself to fit into this Jell-O mold of family structure, whether she likes it or not?

        I didn’t like that family structure. I didn’t want to have children. I didn’t want to get married and obey my husband as he obeyed the Lord. And yet what am I told, growing up in the church, over and over?

        No one can reach the Celestial Kingdom without a temple marriage. You should strive to attain the highest degree of Salvation. A woman’s greatest calling in life is as a mother. Make a list of righteous qualities you want in your future husband. Keep yourself pure and modest so that you can be worthy of that future husband. Everything I was taught was intended to mold me in the service of husband and children (NOT myself!), and that was not what I wanted. In fact, a lot of women don’t want that.

        So I was told to fast and pray and read the scriptures, which is every bishop’s answer to everything. I did this for years. By the end I was begging for a way to stay in the church while still being true to myself and my conscience. Until I realized that there was no one to beg, and no reason to stay.

      • JohnH2

        ” Did you proofread before you hit “reply”?”

        In this case I actually did proofread.

        ” not even knowing the standards of God?”

        “we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Which implies that we do not now know all that God will reveal and that future knowledge will likely supersede much of what we currently think we know.

        ” Gotcha.” – I am going off of what the scriptures say on the subject; if they were written more in line with a cultural understanding of things rather then a revelatory perspective I don’t know, but until more is revealed by God that is what it is.

        “it means service” – It is given to serve, it means the power of God given to men to act in His name. Blessing never come by way of the Aaronic Priesthood and Women are quite capable of giving blessings, though generally the pattern given in scripture to call for the Elders is followed. By the authority, means that the person giving the blessing is authorized by God to bless others, not that they have authority over the person they are blessing.

        “pass the Sacrament?” – Well, considering as how she likely does pass the Sacrament from one person to the next then there is no doctrinal reason why she couldn’t. Church policy in the Handbook of Instructions says that Deacons are to pass the sacrament (and teachers are to prepare the sacrament), neither responsibility is given in scripture as a priesthood one so that is matter of policy and not doctrine. Blessing is reserved for priests in the Aaronic priesthood in scripture.

        ” the bishop thought he did.”

        I would suggest that both you and the bishop watch the most recent training videos.

        “demonization of the female and prejudice against women was built.”

        You should know that Eve is celebrated and not demonized in LDS theology; she did a good thing.

        “companion” – sorry, you find that insulting. Would you rather I say that man was created to be a companion to the women as it is equally valid and equivalent. Neither the man nor the women exists by themselves, the highest ordinances in the church must and can only be done by husband and wife acting freely and equally, neither can be said to exist in their own right.

        “What if she and my brother needed the extra money to survive? What if my brother lost his job or needed to focus on school? What if my niece had medical problems that incurred significant additional expenses?”

        ” fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” – The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

        “wanted to continue working?”

        “Verily I say, (wo)men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; 28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.” D&C 58:27-28

        The doctrine is to council with the Lord given the desires, wants, and needs of the individual and family and then do what is best as the Lord does not command in all things.

        “(NOT myself!),” -Selfishness is not a Godly attribute for either gender and serving others is what both genders are called to do, but not everyone has to serve in the same way. The cultural devaluation of children is quite the social problem, it also implicitly devalues women and motherhood, which is also a social problem. If one looks at the history of the church there is just as long a tradition of women getting and education and working as there is of women caring for children, the second tends to be emphasized currently but the other isn’t bad either.

        However, everyone is an agent to themselves. Everyone is free to choose, and everyones situation and needs are different. Marriage is a prerequisite only for exhalation, which involves “a continuation of seeds forever” and everyone is free to choose whether that is something they desire or not. The Lord meets people where they are, if that is not something that you desire then neither God nor the church can reject you for that. Bishops as I said are not perfect, as no one other then Jesus was or is. They just as much as anyone else must learn and grow in their knowledge, we are supposed to forgive others and try to help them to be better.

        As for Women and the priesthood, Deborah and the other Prophetesses in scripture make it very clear that God has not restored all knowledge on that subject. In fact the sections in the D&C addressing the subject also make it clear that there is more that will be revealed by God in the future; meaning likely my and everyone elses understanding of the subject is slightly flawed, so I will not speculate.

        Oddly ones conscience is the light of Christ and is from God and if listened to leads one to truth and happiness. I suggest following it and doing what one knows (of oneself) to be right and repenting of what one knows (of oneself) to be wrong; Scripture helps if one knows that it is true and is from God, if one does not know it is true or from God (or that God is real etc) then scripture can help one come to a knowledge of God; I suggest following the council found in Moroni 10:3-5 (or perhaps more relevantly Alma 32) to know whether God is real and then go from there using the same pattern with everything that one has been taught so as to discern truth from error. Obviously, I am just some random dude on the internet but I know that this works and that God does answer prayers and loves all His children.

      • mythbri

        Hey, JohnH2, you know what else works? Realizing that trying to live your life based on teachings from old books of questionable provenance is ridiculous.

        I’m an atheist. I have been for some time now. I don’t usually engage with believers in terms of doctrine – I only did it this time because you claimed (wrongly) that the purity culture that cause Elizabeth Smart additional pain in recovering from her horrific experiences was not based in doctrine.

        It is.

        This is the point where I stop arguing with you, because arguing with doctrine is not arguing in terms of reality, and reality is where I prefer to live my life.

        You know what happened to me after I left the church? I became happy, and at peace with myself. That is what worked. Enjoy your stories. I prefer the real world.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Yeah, I’ve always wonder how any grown woman can stand for one minute the idea of some little teenage putz having more authority than she can ever have. No matter how much lip service is given to respect for women, that is not a system that upholds it.

      • fiona64

        I was going to say … the women’s lessons are “correlated” (which really, IMO, means “developed/designed”) by the Brethren.

  • Brian Skinner

    you left out the part where they told her they would kill her and her family if she tried to escape.

    • Libby Anne

      And the point of your comment is . . . ?

  • Ahab

    My heart breaks for Smart. She points out a huge problem with abstinence-only programs and “purity” culture — there’s no room in the purity paradigm for things like sexual abuse, trauma, and the dynamics of consent. They’re not even on the radar!

    A while back, I infiltrated a Silver Ring Thing presentation for my blog, and their mixed messages about sexual victimization left me uneasy. One speaker discussed sexual abuse, assuring the audience that they can always “start over,” no matter what they’ve done or “what’s been done to them”. A sexual abuse victim hasn’t done anything wrong, so what would they need to start over from? Why would their alleged purity need to be revamped? Ugh.

  • perfectnumber628

    I saw this story this morning and thought “I should send this to Libby Anne, she’ll totally want to write about it.” But you already found it. :)

    So I just want to say, this is EXACTLY what purity culture teaches. This “if you’re not a virgin, no one will want you” is EXACTLY the message. It’s not something Elizabeth Smart misunderstood or incorrectly extrapolated from teachings on “purity.”

    And it’s totally what I used to believe too. And I’ll probably end up writing about this on my blog.

  • Miss_Beara

    I went to Catholic schools in the 90s. Rather than the sex and chewing gum analogy, we got the sex and duct tape one. Duct tape is super strong when you first use it but then with repeated uses it becomes weaker and weaker until you have to throw it away. Isn’t that lovely? :-P

    • Niemand

      Lovely and even more problematic. When duct tape gets stuck to the wrong thing (as it not infrequently does), getting it off is difficult and may involve damaging the object it is stuck to. So…the best sexual relationship is one that you’re stuck to and can’t get out of without damaging both yourself and your partner?

      • Miss_Beara

        I never thought about it that way before. It makes it even more twisted. Bleh.

    • Saraquill

      Is it all right if I revise the metaphor?

      Sex is like duct tape in that it has a light side and a dark side. It can take on many forms (for sex, orientations, kinks, for tape, anything from prom dresses to cannons.) Misapplication can be messy, but when used wisely, amazing things can happen.

      • Alix

        I love this metaphor.

        In other news, I now really, really want to make a duct-tape cannon. Preferably with neon leopard-print duct tape. It might alarm the neighbors a bit, though…

      • Niemand

        “They say duct tape is like the force: It has a dark side and a light side and it binds the whole universe together.”

  • disqus_PC7oexhink

    Please correct the spelling errors in the article. You should KNOW the difference between NO and KNOW.

    • Beutelratti

      Okay, I’m well aware that Libby Anne can speak for herself, but I’d also like to point out that she most likely KNOWS the difference.
      Spelling errors happen to all of us from time to time. Pointing them out nicely and politely is the way to go. What you just did here is neither.

      • disqus_PC7oexhink

        I don’t think I was rude at all, only trying to emphasize the words that should have been corrected.

      • Beutelratti

        No, you were lecturing her and telling her what she should know. That is condescending and that is rude.

      • disqus_PC7oexhink

        As a graduate student and a writer she should know better. Posting sources without basic proofreading is sloppy. I have enjoyed reading her posts and find her to be, for the most part, a competent and passionate writer. If she wants to portray herself as a sloppy and take offense at a bit of criticism, that is her right. Instead maybe she can use this as a learning opportunity.

      • Beutelratti

        Again, you did not criticise, you lectured.

        And why on earth would you think that spelling errors in her sources would disqualify her own blogpost?!

        You apparently created a Disqus-account just to lecture the author and now claim you were doing this with good intentions? Say what? Read your initial comment again. Here, let me rephrase that, this would have been positively criticising: “Great article. I do not mean to sound nit-picky but there is a spelling error in one of your quotes: It should be NO and not KNOW.” Instead you did this: “Please correct the spelling errors in the article. You should KNOW the difference between NO and KNOW.”

        So how about you listen to your own advice for future communication on the internet and take this as a learning opportunity?

      • sylvia_rachel

        I think I’d have [sic]‘d it if it were me, but scholarly standards are very clear: when you quote something, you have to quote it. You don’t get to silently improve it.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Gosh, I bet you’re just a blast at parties.

      • Composer 99

        Libby Anne’s only responsibility in blog posts is to accurately quote her sources. So if her sources make spelling errors, she either lets them stand or [sic]s them.
        Your posts are definitely not “a bit of criticism” or “a learning opportunity”. They are smarmy & condescending.

      • Virginia Smith

        Perhaps you are new to the Internet… When you write in all caps, even just a word or two, it comes across as extremely strident. “You should KNOW the difference between NO and KNOW” will be read as loud, condescending, and sarcastic 100% of the time online. Want to do a little experiment? Try a similar thing on any blog where the author responds in the comments. It’ll be down-voted and labeled as rude every single time. It will never be considered as a polite criticism or “learning opportunity” (which, btw, is also a rather condescending thing to write, but I can understand that you’re getting defensive because you don’t understand what’s going on here).

        If you want to be taken seriously, don’t write in caps.

        Oh, it’s also rude in general to tell someone that they should know the difference between “no” and “know,” because it implies that they *don’t* know the difference. The polite (and usually accurate) assumption is that it’s a simple typo. Not a failure of knowledge of the English language. Everyone makes typos. Cut people some slack, and if you feel the need to point out a typo in an informal medium (such as a blog), at least do so politely.

    • Libby Anne

      YOU try juggling two children, graduate school, volunteer work, AND blogging, and THEN you can come here and lecture me on my spelling and grammar.

      • J

        How about graduate work in advanced nursing, four kids ( all under 9) volunteering and working. Try again.

      • Noelle

        You still don’t get to invent journalistic rules that never existed even if you care for thirty children while studying for multiple degrees.

      • Trollface McGee

        You got four kids under 9 volunteering AND working? That’s got to violate some child labour laws. (And you might want to check your comma placement before you rant about someone (not) making an error in grammar).

      • Beutelratti

        I did not notice this the first time I read it … thanks for the morning chuckle. Tehe.

    • Libby Anne

      I just checked and you know what? The error was in the article I was quoting, NOT my commentary. So go take that up with the Christian Science Monitor, not with me.

      • disqus_PC7oexhink

        It is your responsibility as a writer to proofread the works that you quote.

      • Beutelratti

        Okay, seriously: What. The. Eff?

      • disqus_PC7oexhink

        Exactly as stated, being a writer is more than copying and pasting articles together. Take professional responsibility. She made a mistake, she should own it. Nothing wrong with that.

      • Beutelratti

        She did not make the mistake. It was the author of the quoted article. You do not simply change quotes, even if they contain spelling or grammatical errors. That would be unprofessional. What you CAN do is adding a “[sic]” to show that you are aware of the mistake, it is absolutely not an requirement though.

      • JetGirl

        Yep, the best thing to do is sic ‘em.

      • fiona64

        I saw what you did there. ;->

        <– Former newspaper editor

      • JetGirl

        Oh, how I miss the newsroom.

      • Noelle

        Where in the world did you learn journalism?

      • Alix

        Actually, that depends greatly on the standards being used. For the historical writing I usually do, you explicitly do not alter the spelling, grammar, syntax, or punctuation of a text you quote. Why? Because they aren’t your words, and you are trying to preserve the historical record, not change things to match your current perceptions of language.

        Accurate reporting means accurately reporting errors. A surprisingly large amount of valuable historical information has been lost by people trying to edit or correct things in the sources they quoted – and this doesn’t even get into the fact that policing language is a fantastic way to trample all over the self-expression of groups that use non-standard dialects.

      • Saraquill

        If Libby Anne did that, people would nitpick her for tampering a source. In short, she can’t win, so let’s drop the matter.

      • Libby Anne

        This actually happened once — there was an error in a post I was quoting, and I KNEW it was an error and it kind of mattered, so I just changed it. And then a reader got upset with me for doing that. So yeah, no winning here.

      • Anat

        I think one can quote the error and point out that it is there? Or insert ‘sic’? Of course sometimes pointing out the error in the source becomes a total distraction.

      • Libby Anne

        Believe it or not, if you did that in the profession I am studying in graduate school, you would end up kicked out of the profession. You can’t alter a source. Period.

      • Noelle

        The correct journalistic and research approach is to lift a written quote exactly, without changing spelling or grammar. If you do change something, you need to break quotes, and know when to put in your …’s For changing any spelling or words you need to pull out your brackets, bring out the sic. And that is only advisable when absolutely needed for clarity. You should strive to not alter your source material in any way.

        It is the responsibility of the writer to do it right, not some made up way.

      • disqus_PC7oexhink

        Learn to take criticism without getting defensive, as a graduate student you should know this already.

      • Alix

        Libby Anne doesn’t strike me as the one getting defensive here.

      • Libby Anne

        Learn to give criticism in a way that is constructive and maybe I will. Also, in case you didn’t notice, this is my blog, not a dissertation defense, and you are my reader, not my professor.

      • Noelle

        Why should anyone agree with criticism that is blatantly wrong and goes against the rules of journalism? You can only change a direct quote with the proper notation. And you should never change a quote for spelling only. If your source can’t spell, that reflects them.

      • Katherine Hompes

        Exactly! Thank you!

        (A journalism student)

  • Heather Dawn Lynn

    Another insidious part of purity culture is it teaches you to lie — to yourself and others. For me, the constant lying led to the shame around my sexuality. It’s interesting to see how people who’ve disassociated with religion still carry around the subconscious shame about sex and desire.

    • Miss_Beara

      Ugh, I know what you mean. I haven’t been told this purity culture nonsense in over ten years, haven’t called myself a Catholic or religious for even longer, but I still carry a subconscious shame. I am fully aware that it is completely ridiculous but I can’t help it. I guess I am better than I was before, but I suppose to takes time and a patient partner to rid oneself of the shame mindset.

      • Kate Monster

        Yep; absolutely. Even when you know who you are and what you want, it’s almost impossible to silence the little voice of years of Catholic school sex “education” yelling that you are spit in a cup or a flower with no petals or chewed gum or used tape and that pieces of your heart are being hacked off every time you so much as think about doing the nasty outside the bonds of holy, baby-makin’ matrimony. The hardest thing is that knowing it’s all crap doesn’t fix the subconscious reactions programmed in by years of being surrounded by purity nonsense.

  • Beutelratti

    I did not have much contact with Christians raised in a purity culture so far. However, I have a friend who is a pretty liberal moslem, she likes to party, she wears short dresses and she would never wear a headscarf. Yet what I’ve seen ingrained in her is sort of similar to these Christian purity teachings. It goes further than that though.

    Apart from having been taught abstinence only, she hasn’t been taught about her anatomy at all. Until turning 16 she did not know that there was something more between her legs than her urethra. Which is quite scary to think about. It seems that her “sex ed” went further than purity culture: They somehow managed to make her uncurious of her biology and uncurious of sex in general. I don’t want to imagine how that was achieved.
    Additionally to not having sex before marriage (which is her choice), she also insists on not using tampons before marriage, which of course is also her choice, but it seriously left me speechless for quite a bit.

    How can shaming sexuality and even just the thought of having sexual organs be considered healthy?

  • BobaFuct

    Of course, for men, there’s no shame or really any stigma at all. The message is “guys, if you wait until marriage the sex will be mind-blowing! but if you don’t, then your wife is going to be a nagging harpy that won’t put out.” Doesn’t really balance out with the message women get.

    • Niemand

      I never understood the logic there at all. Sex will be better if you DON’T practice? Isn’t this completely in contradiction to how practically every other physical or mental skill works? (Also, ahem, rather contradicted by my experience…but I won’t add any more because I’m a nagging harpy after all.)

      • Beutelratti

        I know a woman that waited for marriage … her husband and her had a terrible wedding night because she was in so much pain that they eventually gave up and decided to see a doctor.

        My first time wasn’t that “dramatic”, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want it to have happened in my wedding night. Sex now is so much more fulfilling.

      • Pauline

        Incidentally, I waited till marriage. I seem to often hear in these circles the notion that that’s always bad and regret-worthy, same as you hear the opposite notion in the purity culture. You know what? I don’t regret it. I was educated about my body, I’d been wanting it & gearing up, I was ready. The first time was pretty low-key, we were well aware that we were just learning. We continued learning, actively (heh) and before long we knew what we were doing & enjoyed the heck out of it.

        It’s of course emphatically untrue that your first time will be awesome without practice, but I don’t really see why people are so obsessed with telling you you *must* practice *before* marriage. Is it that if the sex is not awesome right away as soon as you get married you’ll wish you hadn’t, or something? Every human being needs that practice time, but getting it with the person I planned & plan to stay with the rest of my life just suited me up and down. There was a level of trust with him I wouldn’t have had with any other guy I ever met. I honestly don’t know that I would enjoy it this much today if I’d decided to have sex with other guys first. Especially my *first* boyfriend.

      • Beutelratti

        I for one would never say that everonye absolutely has to practice before marriage. If you decide to wait for marriage, go ahead.

        What many of us absolutely do not support though is how people are being shamed into waiting for marriage. They are being told lies about impurity and heavenly marriages. Shaming sexuality is wrong.

        I am absolutely glad that I did not wait for marriage. I do not want to marry a person that I don’t know inside out. And yes, for me that includes knowing the person sexually. The thought of marrying someone without having previously experienced sex with him freaks me out. I want my wedding night to be bombastic. I want to continue celebrating my wedding in the bedroom, I do not want to practice in my wedding night. That is me, that does not mean that the same goes for others.

        You can also get the practice time with the person you plan to stay with without waiting for marriage. Practising ahead should also not be shamed.

        I have a friend who is waiting for marriage. I’m not telling her to get laid already, I’m just trying to make sure that she waits because she actually wants to and that she doesn’t wait because of false pretenses like emotional purity.

      • Pauline

        Well, I wish you a wonderful wedding night! I’m glad that you’re having a good experience, and I do appreciate your sharing that you’re encouraging your friend to own her choices without looking down on her for waiting.

        Listen, I’m sorry if my comment came off as being any kind of rebuttal to yours; it certainly wasn’t meant to be. I mostly only placed it under yours because it had go somewhere within the thread your comment was in (the “telling people to practice” thing was really more about what Niemand said, both here and upthread)—and you mentioned someone who had a bad experience waiting. It’s not my intention to try and invalidate her experience, or yours, at all. I just wanted to share my own, because this is not the first conversation of this type (this comments section in general, not just what you said) in which many arguments against waiting are given but no one ever mentions “But hey, waiting can be OK if you do it with a positive view of sex, etc etc.” I just wanted to offer that perspective as well.

        I suppose I should have offered disclaimers when saying anything positive about waiting. No, I’m not part of the Purity Culture, no I don’t think people should be shamed,
        and yes, I absolutely agree with what Libby Anne said in her post. I was in fact taught to wait but I wasn’t taught any of that used-chewing-gum shit and I think it’s sick. I was taught a few things that I discovered on my own were bullshit, like “be careful not to cross X line or sex will inevitably follow,” so, though I chose to wait, I tossed those things. But I wasn’t taught that it was dirty or made you dirty, etc, etc, and for a long time it was hard for me to understand why Christians had a reputation for thinking that. Having read more about the extremists, I do understand it now.

        Part of the reason I sometimes share my experience is that I feel like people like me are a bit invisible. The Purity Culture presents supposed perfection (and how it can be ruined by breaking the slightest rule, like I did), the survivors tell stories of terrible experiences (which are extremely important for us all to hear.) But we tend to walk away with the sense that virginity until marriage equals all these bad things we’ve read about, that anyone who chooses to wait must be part of that, that a healthy experience of choosing that can’t exist. (*I* certainly would walk away thinking that if I hadn’t experienced another side of it.) I’ll never forget the deer-in-the-headlights look my gynecologist gave me when she first realized she was dealing with a 25-year-old virgin who’d come in because she was about to get married—or how relieved she looked when I started talking about my menstrual cup and taking a lively interest in what she could tell me about my body. I didn’t blame her at all—I think that’s the view most people have, really, because the abuses & the very real repression that happens in some quarters are what gets publicized the most, both because scandals get more press and because people rightly feel motivated to speak out against harm-doing. I am not making any claims that such things are in the minority (I’m no sociologist) and I certainly do not think they should be ignored and left to happen. (If you don’t see me speaking out against them on this site, that’s only because it would be very redundant.) I am really only trying to communicate the fact that people like me exist.

      • Beutelratti

        I’m sorry if my reply sounded a bit harsh. I certainly did not mean that either. :)
        I’m glad to know that people like you exist and I’m glad that you made the right decision for yourself.

        I don’t think the person with the painful wedding night I named earlier is thinking any differently now than she was before. For her it was the right thing to wait for marriage. She most likely would’ve experienced the pain as well if she had not waited.

        I really do respect anyone’s choice to wait. Like I said, I just really can’t tolerate people shaming others into waiting as it ultimately leads to a distorted view of oneself and of one’s sexuality. It also seems occasionally to lead to people getting married early to people they might not really know/love so they can have sex (which really defies the whole notion of a marriage for me).

        I also see a trend on “my side” though, namely ridiculing people who are still virgins at certain ages. “Not having been laid” is somehow attributed to being a failure. So, I also have to admit that I stayed a virgin for a while longer than might be considered usual and I sometimes felt so embarrassed that I acted as if I wasn’t a virgin. Only a handful of people know when I really had sex for the first time.

        I think both “extremes” are inherently dangerous. Ultimately, I think it might be best to just say “Listen, this is sex, some people decide to wait until they’re married, some people don’t. Whatever you decide for yourself, just make sure that you do not feel pressured to do so and always make sure that you are ready for it.”

      • Andrew Kohler

        I very much appreciate this comment, as I think that virgin-shaming is no more desirable than slut-shaming. People should be empowered to figure out what is right for them personally and be educated in how to pursue it safely. Your proposal of what to say to people sounds very good to me; I’d just add that people should be told both to ignore pressure to have sex and to ignore people telling them that they are doing something horrendous if they become sexually active.

        Why do people feel entitled to arrogate to tell perfect strangers what to do in one of the most personal aspects of a person’s life, and why are they so concerned with what people are doing with their own private parts? (Excepting the legitimate concern about safety, of course–which the dreadful purity culture completely ignores.)

      • Thalestris

        *waves at Pauline*

        I’ve shocked a gynecologist with my superannuated virginity, too! It’s kinda fun.

      • Christine

        I had seen advice that said it was a good idea to go to see the doctor before you had sex to check for problems. Seriously, don’t do that. The doctor acted as if the only reason to go for a pre-marriage checkup would be if you were worried about STIs. I got the impression that she thought I was a naif who knew nothing about sex, or about the fact that you need to get pap smears, because she then discussed some really basic stuff. It was frustrating to say the least.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        I certainly acknowledge that couples who waited until marriage and have happy marriages and good sex lives exist and I’m happy you’re part of one such couple. It’s just that I think that, when things do work out, a lot of that is luck and could just as easily go the other way. Positive attitudes about one’s body and sexuality and realistic expectations are certainly good things that will increase the likelihood of a successful marriage and sexual relationship but they’re just not going to be enough if two people are just fundamentally incompatible–say, if they have really mismatched sex drives or are actively turned off by what the other is into etc. Sexual incompatibility is a real thing and it DOES ruin marriages. (NOTE: I’m not trying to imply here that sexual incompatibility can never be overcome in some situations but I do think there are times when people just don’t have enough in common sexually to make it work, no matter how much they may want to.) If you marry someone without knowing if your’e sexually compatible enough, you’re taking a gamble, and the fact that some people win that gamble doesn’t make it otherwise.

        Of course, I suppose we all “gamble” on our futures to some degree or another because we can never fully know what the outcomes of our major choices (including marriage under any circumstances) are going to be. I suppose it’s just a matter of how much you want to gamble. I personally don’t see the point in leaving more of my happiness up to chance than is necessary and it seems to me that it just makes sense to know as much as possible before you make any major choices. But that’s an individual decision and not everybody thinks the way I do. (Also, it’s important to point out that not everybody needs a hot, busy sex life in order to be happy in a relationship. Sex is less important to some people then to others and that is perfectly fine. We don’t all need to have the same criteria for personal fulfillment.) Still, I maintain that teaching people that waiting is ideal is a bad idea for the reasons laid out, even if it is done in a gentler way than with nasty chewed gum metaphors. And I have a hard time conceiving of how this teaching even makes any kind of sense when completely disconnected from purity culture–I do think it needs purity culture to survive. I don’t mean this to sound confrontational, I’m just putting my thoughts out there. If you have any to offer back, I’d love to hear them.

      • Anat

        Some people are sexually incompatible. It can be very sad to discover this after being married for a while and realizing just more practice isn’t going to solve the problems. That would be a reason to start having sex before marriage. But not a reason to make it a ‘requirement’.

      • Scott_In_OH

        Sex will be better if you DON’T practice?

        That is exactly the teaching. This is because sex is not simply a physical act; it’s a spiritual unification of two people in the eyes of God. To do it outside of marriage is to lie to God and yourselves–you haven’t fully committed to each other yet, so sexual union is improper.

        This is phrased somewhat differently in Catholic and Protestant traditions (and, of course, there are many different Protestant traditions), but this is a really important part of how they portray the morality of sex.

  • Saraquill

    In regards to the chewed gum parable, I’m reminded of an autobiography I read, of a woman named Marzena Sowa. When she was growing up, gum was precious, so she and her classmates would take turns with the same piece, a half hour to each child. Marzi was also thrilled to discover that not only was well chewed gum a decent eraser, but it can still be chewed afterwards.

    • jmb

      Heh. ABC gum as a First World Problem.

  • Virginia Smith

    Thank you for posting this. We need more people writing about these kinds of topics.

    • Miss_Beara

      Yes! It helps to know that we all are not alone and it further improves the healing process.

  • Mira

    I definitely remember being taught the chewing gum thing…or something similar. When I was raped, it took me a very long time to recover, and partially because I wasn’t sure whether or not the rape hurt more than the fact that I had “lost” my virginity. I was terrified to tell anyone, too–and when I finally did have the guts to actually talk to someone, I got the reaction I feared. That rejection, and consequent feelings of worthlessness, shame, and self-disgust, stayed with me for a really, really long time and caused eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. I still fight the results. Quite honestly I’m still not sure whether or not the rape was the more traumatic of the situations.

    • Niemand

      I’m sorry this happened to you! Just to make sure someone’s said it…It wasn’t your fault. You are not to blame in any way for being raped. You are not defiled or disgusting. You are a good person who has gone through a horrible event. Anyone who says otherwise is simply wrong, wrong, wrong!

    • Miss_Beara

      That is disgusting that you had to go through trauma twice. It hurts my heart to know that people put so much shame and blame onto the victim.

      I hope you have healed and found people you can trust.

  • JKPate

    At my evangelical private school, we had the chewing gum metaphor but also this demonstration in middle school. They got one female student from the high school and several boys, and gave the girl an empty cup and all the boys a cup of juice. She went to each boy, and he drank some of his juice then spit it into her cup. Of course, the cup became full of several people’s spit, and then the facilitator asked who wanted to drink from the girl’s cup.

    • Whirlwitch

      That…doesn’t even work. Because even the FIRST boy would be unlikely to want to drink from the girl’s cup, and of course nobody could drink from her cup at all until someone spat some juice in. The main message seems to be “women are disgusting, don’t touch them”.

      The only conclusion that makes sense to me (other than that they really did mean that women are disgusting) is that the original demo was supposed to have a number of boys each sipping from a full cup of juice held by the girl, with mounting concerns over germ-sharing and the declining level of juice, a la “pieces of your heart” teaching, and a succession of incompetent and poorly trained evangelical teachers botched it beyond all recognition.

  • Tulips

    The analogies being used are inherently objectifying with the explicit purpose of portraying sex as disgusting and women who have sex as defiled. They only work as an analogy if the woman is dehumanized. If we instead passed a baby (actual human being) around and let people shower it with affection (no one is more prone to casually redistribute bodily fluids than an infant) I’m betting it’d be a tough sell to persuade the participants that the baby was now defiled and become repulsed by contact with it.

    • aim2misbehave

      I saw another example with $20 bills, albeit not related to any metaphor on sex, but it’d still work nicely as a counter-example to purity culture – Everyone in the room wants the nice, crisp, clean $20 that the motivational speaker is holding up. But then, he crumples up the $20, steps on it, etc, and holds it up… and everyone in the room still wants it! And then he hands the $20 off to a random audience member near the front (because that’s how motivational speakers’ metaphors with cash always go) and goes on to explain how the $20 has inherent value, not value based on how pretty and untouched it looks.

  • Niemand

    Maybe we need a new analogy…Sex is like making cake. The first time you and your beloved make and eat cake together they’re likely to be pretty good. And you’ll probably enjoy them for sentimental reasons if nothing else. But it might go drastically wrong and end up with an inedible disaster. The more you cook, the less likely such a disaster is. And the more you practice together, the more likely it is that you’ll know each others techniques and taste and the less likely that you’ll do something the other finds unpalatable accidentally. You’ll know whether you both like chocolate or if you like chocolate and your beloved likes vanilla but you can compromise on a nice angel food recipe with a side of chocolate sauce. You’ll be able to explore whether either or both of you have a secret yen for cinnamon and chilli peppers.

    Would you risk having your wedding cake be a disaster or be something that one or both of you really doesn’t want because the person baking it had never done so before and you’d never tried cake to decide what types you liked? Then why risk having an unpleasant, painful, or just disappointing sexual experience on your wedding night by not trying out sex before hand?

    • Ibis3

      This metaphor is also good because there’s nothing wrong with trying to bake cake with many people just for fun, or because you’re hoping to find someone who complements or meshes with the way you bake and what flavours you like. Also, there’s no rule saying everyone with round pans can only bake with square panners. An all-round-panner cake is just as legit as a mixed panner cake. Mmmm. Cake.

    • Christine

      See, the part of your analogy that you forgot was that it’s a heck of a lot of fun to have stories about the disasters.

      But I totally agree with you about the wedding – if you haven’t had sex before the wedding, you really shouldn’t be planning to have sex the night of.

    • j.lup

      You hit the nail on the head: It’s about regarding sex as something that’s created and enjoyed, not surrendered by one and consumed by the other. What I hate most about purity culture is that it regards and values sexuality, and especially women’s sexuality, as a non-renewable resource that’s valued for its scarcity. It ignores the truth that sex and love are renewable resources that improve and increase in value over time and through good use and maintenance.

      And just to extend the cake simile: Most brides/couples who have their weddings catered taste the kind cake that’s going to be made for their wedding, and sampling cakes so they get the one they want doesn’t ruin the enjoyment of the final product.

  • smrnda

    Purity culture, or just Christian sexual ethics, are about taking normal sexuality and making it into something wrong, and creating standards that nobody can attain and that, really, nobody should want to. It’s all about driving a wedge between couples – you have to get your guilt and shame taken care of by the church, and you can’t confide in your partner because both of you’ve been fed the same nonsense. It’s a terrible situation, and seeing couples where people can be honest about previous sexual experiences or their current sexual feelings.

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