Question: What Do Presents, Chocolate Bars, Roses, Chewing Gum, and Packing Tape Have in Common?

Answer: Nobody wants them when they’re used.

Presents, chocolate bars, roses, chewing gum, and packing tape have all been used by abstinence educators and various Christian leaders and teachers to illustrate to young people how having sex before marriage will ruin them and leave them disgusting and unwanted. Those who grew up in the purity culture probably knew the answer to the question asked in the title before even opening this post.

I was reminded of this when reader Laura left this comment on my blog:

I had to go through the True Love Waits program. The “activity” I remember the most was a wrapped present. I held the package and stood at the front of the room. Then, the youth leaders lined up the guys and each of them tore off some of the paper. Then I had to read some paragraph about how virginity is like a gift – no one wants a present that was “meant for them” to have already been opened by someone else.

Because of that one activity, I never told anyone I was raped at 15 until years later. I can’t even imagine the rest of the damage that was done to the other girls in the group.

Laura’s comment reminded me of Samantha’s post from several months back. In her case, the teachings she received about purity led her to stay in an abusive relationship long after she should have left—because she believed that, having given up her virginity, she was ruined for anyone else. Here is why Laura’s comment reminded me of Samantha’s post:

When I was fourteen, I went to a month-long summer camp at the college I would later attend. Like most Christian summer camps, this one involved going to a chapel service twice a day. Most of the time they were fun, lighthearted– until one evening they split up the girls and the boys. Great, I remember thinking, because I knew exactly what was coming. Segregation can only mean one thing– they were going to talk about sex. I sighed when they made the announcement. Again? I thought wearily.

That evening, when the camp counselors had shooed all the men and boys out of the building, the speaker got up to the podium. She didn’t even beat around the bush, but launched right into her object lesson. Holding up a king-size Snickers bar, she asked if anyone in the audience wanted it. It’s a room full of girls– who doesn’t want chocolate? A hundred hands shot up. She picked a girl close to the front that wouldn’t have to climb over too many people and brought her up to the stage. Very slowly, she unwrapped the Snickers bar, splitting the package like a banana peel. She handed it to the young woman, and asked her, very clearly, to lick the chocolate bar all over. Just lick it.

Giggling, the young lady started licking the chocolate bar, making a little bit of a show of it. At fourteen, I had no idea what a blow job was, so I missed the connection that had a lot of girls in the room snorting and hooting. The young lady finished and handed it back to the speaker. As she was sitting down, the speaker very carefully wrapped the package around the candy bar, making it look like the unopened package as possible.

Then she asked if anyone else in the room wanted a go.

No one raised her hand.

And Samantha gives a second example, too:

My sophomore year in college, another speaker shared a similar object lesson– ironically, in the exact same room, also filled exclusively with women. She got up to the podium carrying a single rose bud. At this point I was more familiar with sexual imagery, and I knew that the rose had frequently been treated as a symbol for the vagina in literature and poetry– so, again, I knew what was coming.

This speaker asked us to pass the rose around the room, and encouraged us to enjoy touching it. “Caress the petals,” she told us. “Feel the velvet.” By the time the rose came to me, it was destroyed. Most of the petals were gone, the ones that were still feebly clinging to the stem were bruised and torn. The leaves were missing, and someone had ripped away the thorns, leaving gash marks down the side.

This reminds me too of something teen kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart said, explaining one reason she stayed with her captor and didn’t try to run sooner.

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.”

And finally, Ariel Levy has reminisced similarly:

To illustrate his not terribly complex point, Worley called a stocky young man from the audience onto the stage and then pulled out a length of clear packing tape.

“This is Miss Tape. She looks pretty good, right? She’s tall, right? She’s … what else is she?” Worley raised his eyebrows at us encouragingly.

“Thin!” someone shouted out.

“Right! She’s thin,” he said, and wiggled the piece of tape so it undulated in the air. “And she has nice curves!” Worley winked. “So they have sex.”

To illustrate the act of coitus, Worley wrapped the piece of tape around the volunteer’s arm. After a few more minutes of make believe, we came to the inevitable bump in the road when Worley said the volunteer had decided to move on to other chicks. Worley ripped the piece of tape off his arm.

“Ouch,” said the volunteer.

“How does she look now?” Worley asked, holding  the crumpled Miss Tape up for inspection.

I fought back the urge to yell, “like a dirty whore?”

Presents, chocolate bars, roses, chewing gum, packing tape—these sorts of metaphors abound in circles where what I call “purity culture” is strongest, and each one is used to illustrate how having sex before marriage will ruin you, rendering you dirty and potentially even unable to bond or form real relationships for the rest of your life. In the effort to keep young people from having sex before saying marriage vows, Christian leaders, pastors, and parents resort to threatening their youth, doing their utmost to scare them out of having sex and slut-shaming like crazy in the process.

In case you were wondering, no, this isn’t healthy, and the result of these teachings has been a generation of Christian youth with warped and toxic ideas about sex, dating, and even their own bodies. And in the process, these very teachings have led young women like Laura, Samantha, and Elizabeth to leave their rapes unreported, remain in abusive relationships, and stay with their abductors. This is not okay. 

How about you? What similar metaphors have you encountered, and how have they affected your life?

The Modesty Rules---Not So Simple, Really
What Courtship Was for Me
Be Pretty, but Not Too Pretty
Nine-Year-Old Sluts and Masturbating Dinner Guests
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.

  • Lisa

    when I read the title, I immediatly knew the answer – that is, what they have in common. “Nobody wants them after someone else used them”. Funny how deeply conditioned a person can be to be able to answer this straight away while many others probably would think you’re crazy (or asking some kind of joke-question).

    • The_L1985

      My first thought was, “VIRGINITY!” and I felt weird and uncomfortable for even thinking it.

    • Joykins

      Of course, all the things they pick are things that are destroyed by repeated use, whereas you could have (for the sake of argument, safe) sex every day and still be perfectly healthy.

  • Rilian Sharp

    The reason the analogy with the candy bar fails is because people can take baths.

    • Sally

      Totally what I was thinking.

      • Kate Monster

        No! You aren’t supposed to THINK about it! If you think about it, Jesus will be sad, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?

        Jezebels! Lesbians! Evolution is satanic!

      • Jolie

        Exactly that; see my comments above about the only 100% sure contraceptive method :))))

    • Gillian

      People replace their entire bodies slowly over time as well. Cells die off and are replaced with new ones. So at some point, it won’t even be the same vagina that you used the first time.

    • smrnda

      Totally. Plus, let’s look at the tape. The tape doesn’t work if you re-use it, but as far as I can tell, people don’t wear out in any way so easily.

    • Hat Stealer

      These people don’t have actual arguments, so they have to resort to misleading analogies if they want to justify their unjustifiable positions.

  • badgerchild

    I was even younger and the explanation was slightly more complex. “Mom, what’s a virgin?” “Well, you know how when I give you and your brothers a plate of cookies, you have to eat the one you touched? That’s because nobody wants to eat a cookie somebody else touched; they’ll just put it to the side. If you have sex with a man and he decides not to marry you, then you are like the cookie on the plate. Other men might touch you and put you aside, but they won’t want to marry you.”

    My parents weren’t even fundamentalists, just explaining what they believed the “best way” was. I didn’t have sex till I was engaged, and that relationship didn’t work out. Since I didn’t marry the young man, I devalued myself and became, in my mind, the girl who it was OK to touch but not marry. It would have been better to just look at marriage properly in the first place, rather than as something you did to get sex.

    • badgerchild

      It occurs to me, after reading other stories and thinking about it a bit, that my mother would have been more honest if she had come right out and said, “allowing yourself to be used for sex before marriage makes you into a whore”. There’s that notion of “being used”, like a capital asset undergoing depreciation.

    • Niemand

      I don’t know…I think that analogy might encourage me to have sex outside of marriage. If I’m a cookie, eaten=killed (or maybe having my soul obliterated, if I’m a believing fundie). So wouldn’t it be better to be a cookie that has been touched and will then be left alone to live my life rather than being devoured by marriage.

      • Kit

        I’ll be honest, sometimes I straight up tell women that having sex is a very good way to prevent yourself from dating terrible men. If men are ONLY interested in whether or not you’re a virgin, chances favour them being terrible people who will never see you as a real person. In that case, not being a virgin is actually a protective mechanism and I don’t even have to expend any effort to screen them out!

      • Alice

        This is why I can’t understand why anyone would want to wear jewelry that broadcasts their virginity to everyone they meet. That bling has got to be a creep magnet, and it’s no one’s business. If it’s a personal thing between them and God (and their parents, double yuck), then you would think it would fall under Matthew 6:6. If they need a constant reminder not to have sex, then I don’t think a little bit of metal or gems is going to be much protection :)

      • phantomreader42

        Well, ALice, you have to remember that Matthew 6:6 is one of those verses in the bible that magically disappears the instant it becomes inconvenient to the ideology being promoted. Which is to say that it’s a verse in the bible…

    • Gillianren

      My sex education was clearly very different. I think I was five or six when I asked my mother what a virgin was–because we were Catholic, and it was a word that came up a lot. And Mom hauled out the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Science. With colour transparencies, yet. I don’t remember the conversation, just the trauma. I saw that exact edition in our local Goodwill not that long ago, and I had to go sit down for a while.

      I don’t know about Catholics outside my parish, but we never got sex education of any kind. Maybe if I’d gone to confirmation classes, there would have been something then, but I went to Sunday school through eighth grade, and sex never came up. Mom didn’t want us having sex outside of marriage, but she never made us feel it was dirty, and I know she never tried to impose her views on anyone but her own daughters. She had a rental house on our property, and I know she rented to unmarried couples–and, once, a gay couple.

      • ArachneS

        Heh, that’s funny. Total truth that “Virgin” is a word that comes up a lot In Catholicism. Virgin Mary. Catherine, Virgin and Martyr. Agnes, Virgin and martyr. When I was very little and I asked what a virgin was, I was told it was someone who wasn’t married, and that those saints that were virgins when they died had promised to be married to God. Might have made sense if they didn’t keep referring to Mary as a Virgin. So I started thinking that maybe virgins were just young girls. So like, when Mary had Jesus and she was a young girl, even though she was married to Joseph.

        I now find it find of odd, that Catholicism states the non-sexual status of its saints. There are even saints that were married and have the label, because according to their story, they promised to be a virgin for their whole life and their husband converted to Christianity and there for they never had sex. Not saying it couldn’t have happened.
        But it is a simple human experience that some saints are given more accolades for not experiencing.

      • Kate Monster

        Note that many–if not most!–of those “some saints” praised for not experiencing sex are women. The gulf between what gets men praised/raised to sainthood and what grants women the same status is huge.

        Who is the chief male role model? Jesus. Rebel. Man of action. Miracle worker. Leader, brother, friend, protector. Powerful beyond measure, yet willing to endure and overcome unimaginable pain. Master storyteller and teacher. A man who suffers no fools.

        Who is the chief female role model? Mary. A pregnant virgin, then a mother.

      • Jayn

        I grew up with the understanding that ‘virgin’ meant something like ‘good’ or ‘holy’, but no one ever explained to me what it meant (even badly) until sex ed in school, so while it was clear that it signified something good, I had no context beyond the fact that Mary was obviously considered a good/pure/holy person.

      • Amtep

        I think your idea of a young unmarried woman is closer than the modern meaning of virginity. The greek word was “parthenos” which means something like “maiden” and has connotations of purity and chastity. Note that Mary was engaged but not married when the angel spoke to her (Luke 1:27).

      • Alice

        “When I was very little and I asked what a virgin was, I was told it was someone who wasn’t married.”

        I was told that too. I grew up Protestant, but I heard it a lot because of Mary and the parable of the ten virgins. The word “eunuch” was heard sometimes too because of the story in Acts, but I thought that just meant an official. I also heard about “circumcision” a lot. I sort of knew what it meant, but I had zero knowledge of male anatomy.

        I was so sheltered as a child that I never gave much thought to where babies came from. I just thought that women couldn’t get pregnant until they were married, and the timing of the children was dependent on God’s will. I also thought our (neutered) male and female dogs really liked to play horsie.

      • The_L1985

        Sex Ed in Confirmation class? Hardly!

      • Gillianren

        I meant more “abstinence only”/”purity” kind of sex ed, but I managed to convince my mother that I just didn’t have the time to take confirmation classes, given all the school-related stuff (plus therapy, plus all the stuff Mom had to do) I was already doing. This means I was never actually confirmed, though I’m not sure Mom knows that. I think she thinks I went through it later, as an adult.

  • Jolie

    While blessed with never being exposed to that sort of crap, I’d like to counterimpose the sort of opposite, healthy exercise (and I’d surely wish the “you’re like spitted-put chewing-gum” advocates of purity could witness it and see how they’d feel about it).

    Some years ago, a blogger/artist whose blog I was reading came up with a very interesting discussion topic/art project: it was something called “The Museum of Loves Past”, or something like that. Basically, readers were challenged to think about how past relationships changed them and made them evolve as human beings: what do you keep after a breakup? Maybe the memories of a lovely holiday together, maybe an expression or quirk you picked up from your ex- like eating fries with hot sauce- , maybe certain ideas, maybe a little sexual kink (hee hee… not telling ;) ); and also to contribute photos and little trinkets/”relationship souvenirs” to the project if they so wished. As someone who stayed friends with exes, this is something I relate to a lot. This is why I’m very taking aback by framing it in terms of “any relationship that is not “The One” takes something from you”- as opposed to “gives you something, as part of your personal journey.

    I was reminded of that a while ago; for Valentine’s Day, my sweetie, who was abroad at the time, sent me some really nice roses; so after they faded I decided to preserve them dried/pressed in a book. It just so happened that in the same book I found another rose, from…. well, a very long time ago ;). I thought it was totally cute and I told my boyfriend about it; he told me “Your past relationships are part of what makes you who you are- you wouldn’t be my little darling without them”.

    You know… I never really got the idea that true love only happens once in a lifetime; I’ve been blessed with being deeply in love at least twice; perhaps three times, if I think of it… Both my ex, with whom I had a very serious relationship for more than two years, back in my home country, and the guy with the rose (friendship that turned into a charming impossible fling one week before I left the country) are still among my best friends: last summer, when I went back to visit my parents, I spent time with both of them, and even went on a seaside weekend with the rose guy and one of his friends; this summer, when I’m taking my boyfriend back to meet mu family/friends, I’m sure he’ll get to know both of them. (We might even do the seaside thing again).

    By the way… about two years before my impossible fling with rose guy, on my first year of college, I had briefly dated the guy who eventually became pretty much his best friend. (I had broken up with serious relationship guy, and after a few months-break, during which I went on a few dates with the other guy, we got back together). When the fling happened, he knew about it and there were no hard feelings or awkwardness between us. When this other guy got a new girlfriend after our brief dating, I actually became very good friends with her. Serious relationship guy has a new girlfriend, she makes him genuinely happy, I’m happy for him and I will probably get to meet her someday. From what he tells me about her, sounds like we could become friends. (I’m sure if we weren’t in different countries we totally would have, by now). This is how I function. This is how people like me function. It’s a bit scary to think of a culture where friendships like this, the very particular relations I have with people I care about- all of this would be unconceivable. And I wish I could tell all the girls who had to sit through purity crap my stories- because I know there’s plenty of love and joy in my world ;)

    • Pofarmer

      That was awesome, thanks.

    • Jayn

      I tend to see it the same way. I only truly regret one of my past relationships (which I really shouldn’t have gotten into–it wasn’t bad, I was just in it for the wrong reason) but all of them helped me recognize the man I wanted to marry because I learned from them. I feel the same way about the idea that you can’t have a platonic friendship with a guy–I’ve had tons of those over the years and I know the difference between liking a guy and liking a guy. I’m not sure I’d be able to pick out BFs very well if I didn’t think the former was an option (not to mention, if I didn’t spend time with guys I’d’ve never met my husband))

    • Kit

      I absolutely agree with this. I, too, feel like I’ve learned something from every single one of my serious relationships. I’ve learned that I need someone with a backbone – easygoing is ok, but they need to be able to stand on their principles and straight up tell me when I’m being unreasonable, because I have a forceful personality that will stomp on them otherwise when I AM being unreasonable, and I don’t appreciate making someone into a doormat any more than they appreciate being made a doormat. That’s not a relationship. My next serious relationship, I learned to set boundaries, even if I was madly in love with someone. I learned that when a guy refuses to acknowledge you as his girlfriend in public, it doesn’t matter how much he showers you with love and attention privately, he’s just not worth it. That was a really important lesson! And of course I’ve learned about what I like in sex, which is really important because if you don’t enjoy the same things …

      I was never part of the “purity culture” aside from general abstinence-plus education (ie “Here are all the contraceptives and their success rate. Now repeat after me: The only 100% method of contraception is abstinence.”), so I have never, ever felt guilt about any of this. It’s incredible to me that virginity is so prized in some circles!

      • Jolie

        By the way, I’d love to troll them a bit.

        Instructor: “What is the only 100% sure method of contraception?”

        Jolie: Strict lesbianism. Plus your trusted vibrator if you feel like being penetrated.
        Tee hee heee…

      • Hat Stealer

        Unless of course God takes a fancy to you.Then you’re screwed (well, not literally. But you are pregnant.)

      • Jolie

        Then… lesbianism, vibrator and exclusively worshipping female deities?

      • Conuly

        They cheat, you know. The failure rate of condoms includes all the people who usually use condoms but didn’t that one time, and the failure rate of the pill includes all the people who forgot to take it just once. Guess what? The failure rate of abstinence includes all those people who intended to abstain but didn’t manage to do it. That’s a number much greater than 0%!

      • Trynn

        Actually, Abstinence did fail once in 6,000 years, so even THEN it’s not foolproof.

      • Conuly

        XKCD’s planet mnemonic: Mary’s Virgin Explanation Makes Joseph Suspect Upstairs Neighbor.

    • Miss_Beara

      That was lovely to read! :)

    • Joykins

      I know what you mean–when I look back on my past relationships, I see people who either enriched my lives, or through whom I was able to learn something (whether about myself or others, or things to watch out for or whatever). I don’t regret them or feel less for them or feel emotionally un-whole because of them. I was told I was going to by people at church growing up, but I simply don’t feel that way. Those people were wrong. Relationships I have had in the past are part of the journey that made me who I am. And I’m fine the way I am, I’m happy. People were made (or evolved if you prefer) to live in community and relationship with each other (social), and normal human interactions are not something to shy away from. This is the reason that while I do personally find sex intensely personal, and I am totally monogamous by nature (found that out by trial and error too!), I can’t be part of purity culture and I can’t encourage my children to engage in it.

      • Jolie

        That’s actually a very good point: you need to figure out how you are like emotionally, sexually and in a relationship through trial and error… but the good news is, the journey getting there is quite wonderful ;)

    • smrnda

      Thanks for the story. Having exes is a part of life, and much of the time relationships end without necessarily any hard feelings or bitterness. Having an ex is like having a friend you used to hang around with more than you do at present. I just don’t get the levels of jealousy of freaking out some people get over it.

      I think that’s something socially conditioned.

    • Maria

      I love the idea of this being part of a sex ed program. Just the tone, that your experiences make you learn more about yourself and strengthen you makes me so happy. It also encourages responsible decision making, that you want to choose people with positive traits that you yourself want to embody. If I ever have kids, I want to remember this.

    • sylvia_rachel

      That’s an awesome idea.

      There’s one relationship in my past that I do sort of regret, because I got into it for the wrong reasons and because it made me unhappy. Fortunately, it was (a) very short and (b) a long time ago! The others … well, things didn’t work out with either of those guys, but they are both great guys, I have happy memories of my time with them, and we’ve all gone on to have interesting careers, marry other people, and have adorable kids ;) I didn’t have sex with any of them — these boyfriends were all before I was 18, which is when I went away to uni and met my DH, and I was a bit of a late bloomer in the sex department.* But I don’t think I would regret it if I had.

      *Also, there was that unpleasant episode with that one totally unconnected guy at choir camp when I was 16. The kind of unpleasant episode that if I’d known then what I know now, I would have reported it to the police.

    • CarysBirch

      I’ve thought about this a lot. I find a lot of music through various relationships in my life, I can track my own history through that “soundtrack”. There’s other–largely more personal–things I’ve picked up from my exes, none of which would I trade under any circumstances for less experience. It would mean being less me.

  • Amtep

    I so wish I could be at one of those meetings, just so I could raise my hand and get the chocolate bar. (How would they react to that?)

    • badgerchild

      With shock and anger because instead of earnestly following the rules (and I’m surprised at that one girl, basically putting on a burlesque show on command), you would unconcernedly munch the candy bar.

      To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a candy bar is just a candy bar. :)

      • Amtep

        Maybe I can give a little speech too :) “Why wouldn’t I want this bar? It’s chocolate! It’s good! I love chocolate! In fact, I say that anyone who no longer wants it just doesn’t love chocolate enough and doesn’t deserve to have the bar.”

      • Hat Stealer

        Then proceed to lick the chocolate as sensuously as possible.

      • Alice

        “Hey, I trade saliva with girls all the time anyway, and I love chocolate, so give me the licked candy bar!”

  • The_L1985

    I was told, over and over, that my “purity” would be ruined if I had sex–thus, in my mind, causing other forms of moral purity to be devalued. To me, it was OK to lie to my own parents on a regular basis to avoid trouble, but if I ever had sex, that would make me a monster. My sexual fantasies all involved me being surprise-married to an attractive man. Married, because even in my fantasies, I couldn’t separate the two. I was that well-conditioned.

    And then I had sex, to a boy I thought I would probably marry who turned out to be a complete jerk. And my father yelled at me about it for 2 hours.

    I was suicidal for 5 months, compounded by seeing something in the toilet a few weeks later that looked like it might have been an embryo. (I’m still not sure–but it was tiny enough, and comma-shaped.) I figured that was it for me–that my dreams of someday getting married and having children were forever gone because someone else had had sex with me.

    After that period, it took transferring to another college and realizing that nobody could tell whether I’d had sex or not to snap me out of my funk. It finally hit me that sex couldn’t, and shouldn’t, define my value as a human being. I am so much more than my vagina. So I went on with my life. I dated a lot of young men. Some of them I had sex with; some of them I didn’t. I learned how to find actually good-for-me boyfriends, and how to be a good friend and girlfriend. And now, I’ve finally found someone who’s a good match for me. He doesn’t care that I wasn’t a virgin when we met, because that’s not the main thing men look for in the first place.

    • badgerchild

      If you had miscarried at 4 weeks, the embryo actually would have been smaller than a grain of rice and you would not have been able to make out whether or not it was “comma shaped”. If you had miscarried at 5 months, it would have been several inches long and you would have had more obvious medical problems than painlessly losing it in the toilet. I occasionally notice bits of white mucus in the toilet when I’m having a bladder infection, and they look a bit startling too. There are much better and more likely explanations for what you saw than a miscarriage. I hope that helps ease your younger self’s mind a bit since you said you are still “not sure”.

    • psykins

      I, too, felt bad even fantasizing about sex outside of marriage. In fact, even when I did fantasize, I’d freak out if my period was late because I’d be scared that somehow God made me pregnant as punishment for my fantasies (even though I *knew* that wasn’t how things worked…but he was all-powerful and did it to Mary, right??)

    • Don Gwinn

      “because that’s not the main thing men look for in the first place.”
      Apparently, they’re working just as hard in these trainings to convince the boys that they have to despise “used” girls as they are to convince the girls that the boys will naturally (and rightly) despise them if they’re “used.”

      And remember, kids: when you have sex with someone, it always means they’re using you! Otherwise it wouldn’t make sense that they’re using you up, and if that weren’t true . . . mass chaos.

  • Goatless

    I am suddenly very glad that religion had absolutely nothing to do with my sex education. I don’t recall anybody even mentioning the possibility of just waiting until marriage. Obviously they talked about emotional maturity but I don’t think anybody so much as said the word ‘abstinence’. Let alone made any of those horrible analogies.
    It wasn’t perfect. There was very little talk about consent and how consent can be impaired. Or about how calling other people ‘sluts’ was shaming. But I’m very glad for it now.

    • Basketcase

      Emotional Maturity, Yes. Thats what I want to teach my son. Sex can wait – till you feel you are ready to deal with any potential fallout. And until you can absolutely commit to treating your partner with respect for their needs and desires.

    • Jayn

      While even in high school I felt like I wasn’t getting a great education (looking back it was possibly better than I thought, though some areas could have certainly been improved), sex ed is the biggest exception to that. We learned about abstinence, to compare it to contraception, but it was never held up as something to necessarily aspire to, focusing instead on emotional maturity (purity was NEVER mentioned, to my memory). We learned about consent, with also a focus on not letting yourself be pressured (we didn’t gender separate, so the boys heard everything I did), the teachers never even tried to portray non-straight people or those who slept around as doing anything wrong–I’m sure plenty of people did get that message from church or home, but I never heard it at school. There was certainly some pressure to wait even so, but it wasn’t held up as something that would ‘ruin’ you so much as something you wanted to be sure you were ready for.

      I’m always slightly amused at people who think that it has to be abstinence-only or teenagers will turn into sex-addicts, because even having the type of sex-ed they’re so afraid of I actually came pretty close to their ideal.

      • Little Magpie

        Good for your school. Mine certainly dealt with contraception (I think was abstinence mentioned, but only briefly as one of many possibilities); but my memory is that what we had by way of sex-ed was very dry, anatomical how our ladybits work, when in the cycle it is likely/unlikely to get pregnant, and what the various methods of contraception were and how they worked… for part one; and part two, these are all the horrible STD’s (we weren’t calling it STI’s yet), and students are to do detailed little research reports on one of them. No mention of feelings, relationship dynamics, consent, etc. SOO… dry biology with no joy, and then scare tactics. AND we were gender-segregated for it. (To be fair, this was because sex ed was part of ‘health’ which was part of Phys Ed – and Phys Ed was gender segregated. So it wasn’t like we were being separated specially for these classes.) To be fair, though, the guys may have gotten a much different version; and quite specifically to my school, it’s not directly due to the social double standard, but because the girls PE teacher was very repressed and uptight about even talking about sexuality, as an individual, and the boys PE teacher was quite laid back (which I know because I’d discussed some stuff with him outside of the context of class a couple of times.)

        For context; this was in a private school – but private for “high academic excellence” reasons, not cultural/religious reasons, so basically using the standard provincial curriculum – in Ontario (Canada) in the early 1990′s.

      • Jayn

        It probably helped that a lot of our sex ed was taught by a public health nurse, rather than regular teachers, especially prior to high school. Not that our regular teachers didn’t get in on it (all I remember from 7th grade health class is the French word for ‘breasts’) but they weren’t our only source.

        It could have been a bit better than it was–relationship dynamics weren’t really touched on past “someone who respects you won’t try and force you into sex”–but it tried to focus on there being no one right way to approach sexuality and instead just give us the information we needed to make informed decisions. I hear about schools that avoid contraception entirely and it drives me nuts. Even waited-until-marriage couples have use for that information.

      • sylvia_rachel

        I went to school in Alberta in the 80s and 90s (graduated from high school in 1992), and I got what in retrospect seems like surprisingly good sex ed in school. Hilariously terrible sex-ed films aside, I got lots of good info on contraception, physiology, and what was then called “safe sex”. We were told that abstinence is the only 100% guaranteed way to not get pregnant, but that didn’t stop our teachers from also showing us a diaphragm, demonstrating how you put on a condom (a banana was involved, IIRC), explaining that your doctor wasn’t allowed to tell your parents if you went in and asked for a prescription for BCP, and so on. We had a “question box” wherein everyone was required to deposit a slip of paper at the end of class, with or without a question on it, so that if you had a question you could ask it anonymously (questions were answered in the following week’s Health class) and not be outed as that one kid who put something in the box. I don’t recall there being any “purity talk” at all … although there was that one Health teacher I had in grade 8 or 9, I forget which, who told us at great length how horrible pregnancy (not teen pregnancy or non-married pregnancy specifically — pregnancy, full stop) was in, I guess, an attempt to scare us into abstaining. Many of us looked at him like o_O and said “Um … that’s not what my mom told me.”

        What was missing, of course, was any discussion WHATSOEVER of non-hetero sex or relationships. Not that the teaching was in any way anti-gay … you just would never have known, based on the information we got, that same-sex relationships were even a thing, and wow, that must have felt really, really oppressive for certain classmates of mine.

        Also, either my schools were better at sex ed than some other schools in Calgary were, or I paid a lot more attention in Health class, because I feel like some of my high school friends who had gone to other elementary and jr high schools were significantly less informed. (My mom was way more open about this stuff than some people’s parents, but I know for a fact she was not the one who explained condoms, BCP, and diaphragms to me — that was stuff I learned at school.)

      • Little Magpie

        Yep I remember the banana demonstration! (I dunno about you, but I’d think twice about wanting to eat that banana after.. not because “ick” from being used as a prop, but, well… lube. Possibly with Non-9. Even though one doesn’t eat the peel anyway… ;D

        Yes, I agree about no mention of anything other than hetero sex. I think that must have been pretty standard at the time.

        I think I probably learned more from Sue Johanson’s radio show than from Health class – did you get that out it AB or was it a Toronto thing?

      • sylvia_rachel

        Talking Sex with Sue!!! Yes, we sure did :D

      • Alice

        It always kills me when fundies spend all this energy on teaching abstinence, bashing birth control, and talking about how horrible and shameful unmarried pregnancy is and that it will ruin your life and your kid’s life

        …and then they yell at women for getting abortions. They really are trying to amputate their foot with a shotgun. Or like Libby Anne has said, it’s all about controlling women, not saving fetuses.

  • Niemand

    Presents, chocolate bars, roses, chewing gum, packing tape—these sorts
    of metaphors abound in circles where what I call “purity culture” is
    strongest, and each one is used to illustrate how having sex before
    marriage will ruin you, rendering you dirty and potentially even unable
    to bond or form real relationships for the rest of your life.

    It seems to me that the message is really that marriage will ruin you. All the analogies talk about things that are destroyed or essentially changed by use and which the original user likely won’t want anymore after first use or can’t use again. You can’t rewrap a present. Chewed gum is likely to be nearly as unappealing if it was you that chewed it the first time as if it was someone else. Chocolate that is eaten is gone.

    So, the message seems to be that once you’ve had sex it’s all over. You’re no longer “pure” and therefore no longer interesting. Even to the person who you had sex with. Doesn’t this imply that you should expect your husband to lose interest in you pretty quickly? Who wants to keep chewing the gum they’ve already sucked all the flavor out of? It’s not just about waiting until marriage, it’s about feeling like you’re worthless once you’ve been “used” once. Just another way of keeping women under control?

    • Aeryl

      Marriage makes it magic chewing gum that never loses it’s flavor…..or something.

      • Alice

        I think it’s supposed to be like underwear. As long as the man bought underwear brand-new and it’s washed occasionally, he doesn’t mind using it over and over, but no one wants to wear hand-me-down underwear because it’s gross and we’re afraid of infections, no matter how many times it’s been washed.

        I just made up that horrible misogynistic analogy, but that is really the impression I get from fundies.

      • Niemand

        That analogy works much better than the ones being used. If actually makes some sort of sense. It’s still a bit ominous when one thinks about what happens when the elastic starts to fail, but at least it’s not a case of one use and you’re done.

    • lana hobbs

      so many women in this culture tell stories of feeling terrible after their wedding night. i was happy, but also felt a little like my life was over. i saved my virginity for my husband, and it’s gone. and never are there any other options for my life. (i’m happily married, but – or because – i no longer believe these things. i’m my own person and i’m not adamantly opposed to divorce ever anymore.)

    • forgedimagination

      I think this does happen– there’s an insane amount of pressure now on evangelical wives to keep the bedroom spicy (from people like Mark Driscoll, especially).

      • Niemand

        That’s one of those things that strikes me as really strange. Before marriage, women are encouraged to be completely uninterested in sex, to never dress in a “sexy” manner, practically not admit that they have bodies, certainly not admit that they have desires. But after marriage somehow it flips around to women are supposed to be crazy interested in sex with their husbands (but, of course, ONLY their husbands). How is that supposed to work?

      • forgedimagination

        I don’t think it does. Most of the women I’ve known who have come out of this and get married have a hard time with sex. One of my close friends didn’t have sex for the first six months.

      • Stev84

        Libby has written about that several times. Many women who grew up in that culture simply can’t flip the switch and carry around baggage and emotional blocks with them for many years.

  • Astrea

    Urgh – The object lesson I got was a male leader telling a mixed youth group ‘nobody wants a cake that some one has already taken a bite out of’ (this was mainstream evangelical but leaning fundamentalist). Also a female leader told a girls group not to ‘act like whores’ (she wasn’t even talking about sex, she was talking about kissing at parties – and this was from a very mainstream organisation endorsed by a lot of churches).

    I have this discussion with Christian friends, and while some of them are receptive some of them deny that these kinds of analogies and all the blaming, shaming baggage they carry (based on a selective and disputable reading of the Bible), are almost ubiquitous in evangelical circles. The thing I would like to say to Christians who haven’t had an object lesson like this and is therefore unwilling to believe that they are a problem is this: don’t try to convince me that ‘we’re not all like that’ (I already know that), instead, if you truly understand why these kinds of analogies are wrong, try to convince pedlars of this drivel in the name of Christianity that their view on sex is skewed, and that it is possible to be a Christian and have less harmful perspective.

    • Kate Monster

      Had he never shared dessert with someone? I mean, I’m a total germophobe when it comes to my food, and even I’VE eaten cake that had bites out of it when I was sharing with my friends. (Wait–is sharing dessert with a group the same thing as an orgy in this metaphor? I think it might be.)

      • Jolie

        Mmmm… cake orgy!

      • smrnda

        A lot of people I know are Ukrainian. If they pass around a bottle, you’re supposed to drink out of the same bottle as everyone else (of course, it’s vodka so it probably disinfects itself) but sharing bottles, eating utensils with friends is considered normal, at least among the Ukrainians I’ve met, so the whole ‘ick’ factor is probably culturally conditioned as well.

      • Jolie

        Also… to think those people never experienced the joy of sharing a sandwich during lunch break at school :( poor little them…

      • badgerchild

        I taught a class to a group of co-workers in Buenos Aires who passed around the mate gourd during class, including to me. Which surprised me not so much because I was actually lecturing at the time I was handed the gourd, but because it’s considered a mark of honor and friendship to be included. You better believe I used that communal silver straw. :)

  • H. Rasmussen

    I can’t remember how I originally found this link, so apologies if I’m reposting it here, but I found this article to be very insightful. It talks about how the language used to describe sexual sins/loss of virginity hijacks the mental frameworks involved in determining whether food is safe to consume. Including the belief that once something is contaminated, no actioin is sufficient to make it safe for consumption again.

  • MNb

    The metaphor I (white, male) have encountered, while distasteful and derogstory as well, is this one: men have to learn it on an old bike. There is a positive side to it though. Sexual experienced women should be regarded as positive. That’s the very antithesis of virginity, even if it implies the saint/whore dichotomy as well.

  • BobaFuct

    It’s no coincidence that the one who gets “used” or whatever in all these scenarios is the woman. The piece of gum is the woman, the candy bar is the woman, the present is the woman…the ones who “take” are the men, and the guy who chews the gum or licks the candy bar just gets to enjoy it and move on. So the underlying lesson is “guys, make sure all the women you have sex with are virgins, otherwise, yuck.”

    • Marian

      Actually, I’ve seen it done where the guy gets used. When I was in college I volunteered with a local youth group, and we were supposed to do a skit where a guy had an apple, and each of us girl leaders were to come take a big bite out of the apple, and then he would “propose” to the last girl with nothing but an apple core. I refused to participate, because even back then I was starting to have misgivings about the purity culture, though I couldn’t really articulate it.

      Despite my objections, they went ahead with the skit. It didn’t really work anyway. Three girls can’t eat an entire apple in three bites, so instead of having nothing but a core left, he just had an apple with a couple small bites taken out of it.

    • stacey

      This reminds me of a custom in certain Islamic countries- Mutah marriages. It can be for a day or a year, basically temporary, so a man can have sex without sin.

      Many poor women lose their virginity this way, having been sold to the men by family, and are then considered worthless after he leaves. Not so nice in a culture where purity can mean a safe life, and “impurity” can mean being a beggar or a prostitute. (this is also used as a cover for prostitution.)

      The men never lose, they can only gain, while the women ALWAYS loses. Because patriarchy.

  • Aeryl

    Let me demonstrate how ubiquitous this shit is in our culture. I’m in my 30′s, so I got my sex ed before abstinence made this resurgence in public schools.

    I got good age appropriate sex ed, in 5th grade and 7th grade. In 9th grade, the education wasn’t too bad, but it was served with a healthy dose of gender unbiased slut shaming from the male health class instructor/basketball coach.

    I grew up in a non church going home, I can count the number of times I attended church, outside of weddings and funerals, and VBS(cuz that was just to get me outta my mom’s hair), on one hand.

    Yet this whole idea of virginity=purity had completely seeped into my subconscious as I reached sexual maturity. Because of that, I held off having sex for some time, but finally acquiesced to the pressure from my long term BF of the time. Thankfully, he wasn’t TOO BAD a guy, and didn’t have to feel with much emotional fallout from it, but because I had bought into that purity ideology, after that I didn’t feel that there was ANY reason to not just have sex when I or someone else, wanted to. I never learned how to establish boundaries, how to gauge my own desire, any of that, because I was sullied.

    I threw of the belief that I was devalued because of the fact I had sex pretty quickly after that, but it still caused me a lot of pain, and shaped my views on my own sexuality in ways I still find it hard to overcome.

    • Jolie

      There’s a concept that I really love; explained by blogger Noah Brandt (formerly on Good Men Project): hegemonic heterosexuality, aka the cult of s#!++y relationships; a very pervasive (though, once you see it, utterly absurd) way of looking at men, women, love and sex:

      It dictates that:

      (1) Relationships are about finding The One you’ll spend the rest of your
      life with. Naturally, a jealous and possessive form of monogamy is a
      strict requirement. It is necessary to hate all of one’s exes, because
      they were not The One, and one must also be jealous of all one’s
      partner’s exes, because they touched your property before you even got
      there. Relationships that end at ome point cannot be cherished or valuable.

      (2) Men are from Mars and women are from Venus; men love football, sci-fi and video games, which women utterly hate; women love shopping, massages and romantic movies, which men utterly hate. One must do things on the opposite-gender list, to please one’s partner, but never actually enjoy them; if you enjoy the wrong gender stuff, you’re kind of weird and therefore not the One. This also implies that actual friendship between men and women is impossible, because they could never have anything in common ever.

      (3) In the framework outlined at (2), sex is a “male thing”, while marriage, relationships and emotional intimacy are all “female things”. Men can never be desired sexually and women can never do the desiring. Since, as established at (2), men and women never have anything in common and there is no way they might actually enjoy each other’s companionship, relationships function as a trade-off: men put up with being in a relationship, offering emotional intimacy and eventually getting married in order to obtain sex from women. A woman who offers sex too easily is a “slut”, and therefore not The One: men will only use her for sex because they can get it very cheaply from her, and not offer emotional intimacy in return because they have no reason to. One who is prudish or, say, wants to wait until marriage is setting too high a price, limiting her options- and therefore should offer other things, such as complete submissiveness, to compensate. Also, men will constantly try to “scam” women into having sex with them by promising things like intimacy or commitment and withholding them once they are sexually satisfied.

      (4) There is a narrow range of “normal” sex acts that are permitted;
      anything outside those bounds is weird and gross, especially if there’s
      any hint that it might be driven by some form of female sexual desire,
      which is by definition perverse. Men sometimes want “extreme” or “kinky”
      sex acts, (such as oral sex) which a woman may perform in order to please her man; expecting compensation such as, say, sparkly jewellery or watching that sitcom she loves and he hates together. Still, the list of “kinky stuff men want” is quite severely limited. Women are encouraged to please their husbands sexually, but not to explore too much what they like, since sex is a “male thing”.

      (5) Men are primarily valuable for their worldly success -mostly how much money they make- and women for their physical appearance- defined according to very strict beauty standards.

      (6) Because, as (2) and (3) establish, relationships are ultimately adversarial in nature, they are based in a very ritualised form of manipulation. At all points and in all ways, the man must take the initiative. He must
      be the first to approach the woman and ask her out, he must be the
      first to propose sex, the first to propose each escalation of the
      relationship, and, obviously, the first to propose marriage. The woman’s
      role is to get the man to do each of these things in the appropriate
      order without ever directly asking for any of them. If she expresses a
      desire out loud, she loses points and may be demoted from The One
      status. Instead she must silently manipulate the man so that he follows
      these steps in the right order at the right time as though of his own

      And finally (7): if, as (1) states, relationships are all about finding the One; but on the other hand The One is a person with whom you have nothing in common (2 and 3), your relationship is based on a zero-sum exchange, haggling (3), manipulating each other (6) and standards of acceptability you never decided upon (5)- it follows necessarily that once married (a victory for the woman since men hate marriage), most married couples hate each other and this is normal.

      This, boys and girls, is the cult of s#!++y relationships; from The Rules, to Cosmo relationship tips, to the vast majority of sitcoms, to jokes and internet memes; we encounter it pretty damn everywhere. I have hope that recognising it as what it is, and putting it in these terms will, to at least some degree, protect us from internalising it.

      • smrnda

        If this was true, the rate of heterosexuality would be pretty low I think.

      • Jolie

        The idea isn’t that actual men and women act like this: but that a huge chunk of pop culture assumes they do or should (even though in reality they’re utter BS.)
        However, internalising this BS we are bombarded with on all channels does have real consequences on real relationships: from slut-shaming to poor communication within the couple.

      • smrnda

        Very true. Even if some people consciously know these standards are nonsense, they can exert an influence anyway.

      • Romana

        Holy cow. This is awfully similar to what my father insists is true about relationships. I was getting my information about sex from elsewhere, fortunately, so I’ve always ignored the weird stuff that he says. But… gosh. How could anyone live like that? :/

      • Little Magpie

        In respect to #2: I am a woman, and I love scifi and (some) video games; I won’t go so far as to say “hate” but I don’t much care for rom-coms. On the gender-role-normative side, I’m disinterersted in football and enjoy shopping. But then, I was raised by a mom who wears sensible shoes, hasn’t worn makeup since her own wedding (43 years ago next month :D ) and almost always wears pants (I can literally count the number of times I’ve seen her in skirts/dresses on my hands), is definitely the dominant personality in the marriage; and a dad who is intellectual, somewhat of a doormat, has carried a purse for longer than I’ve been alive, and does not worry about what he does/wears “threatening his masculinity” – and loves to quote from the original French _La Cage Aux Folles_. So what do I know about gender-role-normativity huh?

      • Feminerd

        Lol. You wrote something similar to what I was going to- we’re not identical or have identical families, of course, but I too love sci-fi and some video games (much more into RPGs than any other type), dislike football and rom-coms, and like shopping.

        I’m also very good friends with my husband’s ex-girlfriend, who is his best friend. She’s a good person. Why should I hate a good person, when to me it just means my now-husband has good taste in women? :P

      • Little Magpie

        Yeah. I’m currently single, but in general I expect to like the boyfriends/girlfriends of my platonic friends, for similar reasons; I’m friends with my friends because of common interests and being “my kinda people” (in a personality/outlook on life way), so the likelihood is that they will date / partner up with someone who is also “my kinda people” and will share common interests with them – which may or may not overlap with the interests the friend and I have in common. And also, because we all have good taste in friends. :)

      • Joykins

        Wow, that’s dangerously close to “My mama told me pretty girls don’t have to give bl*wj*bs.”

      • Jolie

        Yep, that’s an example of it too.

        Or those “She’ll pretty much have to now” commercials for diamond jewellery; which as someone who “likes to” rather than “has to” and also really dislikes diamonds for a mix of personal and ethical reasons irk me to no end.

        Speaking of BJ’s: in the English language, when something is bad, ugly or otherwise unsatisfactory, it “sucks” or it “blows”; when a driver cuts us and we nearly crash into him we might scream in anger as we flip him off: “Watch out, you stupid c0(&5ucker”… and then we wonder why some women find oral pleasuring to be gross or degrading…

      • Alice

        “And then we wonder why some women find oral pleasuring to be gross or degrading.”

        Also, several feminists have written that porn also /frequently/ portrays it as degrading: having the woman do oral immediately after the man has had anal with her, ejaculating in the woman’s face, etc.

      • The_L1985

        Ewwww, why would you go ass to mouth? I love the idea of a facial, but ATM is just a horrible idea from a disease perspective.

      • Joykins

        Ah, there’s a dissertation worth of stuff to write on that alone, most of which has to do with traditional notions of gender rather than the sex act itself.

        I do find the idea that oral sex is “kinky” to be rather quaint.

      • Kate Monster

        Well, I find the PHRASE “oral pleasuring” to be pretty terrible…

      • phantomreader42

        I don’t think there were any actual “She’ll pretty much have to now” commercials for diamond jewellery. I think that was a parody of the commercials with women swooning over diamonds. Which only makes it marginally better…

      • The_L1985

        It was on Family Guy. That show is hardly a paragon of feminism.

      • Monala

        I agree that these attitudes have spread throughout our culture. There was a time not that long ago when, even if your eventual goal was to find The One (and that was many people’s goal), you knew you would do a lot of casual to serious dating before that point. That dating was hardly value-less – it taught you what you liked/disliked/needed in a relationship or partner, and how to deal with the give and take of a relationship. You know, stuff that would prepare you to be successful in a relationship when you finally got together with The One. And you know, it can be cool when you end up as friends with an ex.

        But to give you an example that has really taken me aback: I belong to an amateur romance writers’ forum, and most of the authors have no problem having their heroes and heroines engage in plenty of premarital sex, to the praise of other writers there. But just let the hero or heroine have a relationship with someone else – even if it was long before the two met – and the critics come flying out of the woodwork. “The thought of [the hero] with another woman just sickens me!” is one typical comment. Sickens you? A fictional character? Whose previous relationship (it’s a given) isn’t going to stop him from falling madly in love with the heroine? But those who see eye to eye with me about this are few and far between on that forum.

      • Alice

        Long before they even met? That is strange. I could understand wanting the characters to be single at the beginning of the story, because I hate 95% of love triangles (especially with cheating), but I don’t understand that.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yeah, that’s weird o_O

      • Monala

        Yeah, it seems that many have a similar idea, that if the hero/heroine was in love in the past, that somehow cheapens their relationship with each other. (Akin to the “emotional purity” idea). Some seem to be OK if hero/heroine had a non-relationship in the past, such as a forced marriage with no love lost, or meaningless sex. But a prior relationship, even one long ended, where there was love, respect and affection? Oh, the horrors!


      • sylvia_rachel

        Totally. I mean, isn’t it *good* to know that the person you’re contemplating a relationship with has prior good-quality relationship experience? Isn’t that a good sign for the future of your relationship?

        I guess i’m as guilty of this as anyone else, though, since I’ve written a book in which two young and inexperienced people fall in love and get married because otherwise one of them will have to marry a much older total stranger in another country… In my defense, though, the setting is quasi-Regency, and also they’re not inexperienced on purpose, they just haven’t had opportunities. I dunno. I’d probably write it differently if I were starting it now; I finished it several years ago and had pretty much given up on it when, to my astonishment, it finally sold, so now I’m stuck with it…

        One of my favourite romance narratives is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Sharing Knife series, in which the love story is between two people who both have past relationships (will say no more because spoilers).

      • Feminerd

        Heck, in Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, most of the protagonists have romantic “pasts”. Miles doesn’t marry the first woman he falls in love with (it’s not really a spoiler, chillax folks), Ekaterin has a past, Cordelia and Aral both have pasts. It’s one reason I like her characters so much.

      • sylvia_rachel

        OMG yes!!! And Ista, don’t forget Ista. (Of the 3 Chalion-verse protags, she’s my favourite, and that’s one reason why.) And Ivan. Love Ivan.

      • Feminerd

        Oh yes, Ista is fabulous! I’m so glad she got to move from side-character to main character. And yes, Ivan is fantastic.

      • aim2misbehave

        I have more than a few friends who write fanfiction, and I can (unfortunately) assure you, that if one of the story’s main pairing – especially if it’s the fans’ very favorite pairing – happens to have ever had a past sexual relationship with anyone else, EVER, there’s more than a few readers who will leave the stories nasty reviews about how awful either the character with the past relationship or the other character in the past relationship was. (And occasionally a few authors who will also write stories with such messages)

  • lana hobbs

    THIS IS NOT OKAY. Ugh. i can’t believe i wrote, as a teenager, perpetuating purity culture. of course, it damaged me, too, in subtle ways. i can’t imagine if i were raped. by the by, i thought that if anyone tried to rape me, what i was supposed to do was fight to the death or else i would be partially guilty :( everything i read about the importance of virginity, and the verses in the bible about the guilty raped woman, made me believe that. i thought death would be what god wanted of me…. :( I never had to actually deal with that, but the women who do :( it’s so sad and sick and christians should know better. I didn’t, i was young and entrenched, but adults should realize the impact of what they are teaching.

    • “Rebecca”

      I also remember being explicitly taught that a martyr’s death is better than surviving a rape. Coupled with the fact that I already had martyr wishes and suicidal tendencies, this could have ended horribly for me…. :(

      • The Other Weirdo

        When I lived in the Old Country™, decades ago(it doesn’t even exist any more), we had a story that was taught to us when we just start school. It concerned, how in the 1920s, a boy(17tyo) tried saving a tractor which had caught fire. The boy died in the attempt(fire and all). The moral of the story was that he had been granted posthumously Hero of the Soviet Union because, in the words of our teacher, a tractor was worth a 1000 of us. We were replaceable, the tractor not. Which, while technically true, completely devalues human life.

        So it is, I think, with this. It’s the devaluation of human life, female as well as male, that drives it. It’s startling in its intensity.

  • AAAtheist

    Although useful, the problem with suggesting teenagers be emotionally mature enough to handle the repercussions of sex is that people aren’t ever truly ready to handle the repercussions of sex until they start having sex. Practicality is what’s woefully lacking in sex education. Besides, the repercussions aren’t always diseases, broken hearts, misunderstandings and misogyny. Pleasure, deeper understanding of others, relaxation, joy, greater self-confidence, empathy, and fun are also “repercussions” of enthusiastic, consensual sex. I think scare tactics only serve to isolate and discourage adolescents instead of, you know, actually educating them.

    If we have to use analogies for sex and dating, why not bicycle riding? At first, you fall down and bruise your knees because you haven’t learned to balance yet. You feel silly and foolish, but with a good attitude and the right protection (helmets, knee pads, instruction, etc.), you get better, you travel safer, you can ride faster or slower (in groups or alone), and you can learn fun and interesting tricks and teach them to others.

    Imagine! (sarcasm)

    • Jolie

      Look up on youtube “sex as jamming”; another great analogy.

      • AAAtheist

        Sex as musical jam sessions! A lifetime of process-driven, collaborative, renewable pleasure that doesn’t focus on results, outcomes, or expectations!

        YES, THIS!

        You deserve puppies and kittens for that! Here you go! ☺

      • Jolie

        Aww thanks :)

      • AAAtheist

        My pleasure, Jolie.

        Good ideas deserve a virtual “high five.” ;-)

      • Jolie

        Have some Bob Marley: (sounds sexier after the “sex as jamming” thing, doesn’t it? ;) )

      • Little Magpie

        I think Jolie might even deserve an internet for that. :)

    • Maria

      I remember a speaker using an analogy of milk and it’s pure whiteness. I don’t think I was paying attention because I thought there were oreos dunked in the milk. Even in my naive state I knew that cookie crumbs increase the deliciousness of anything. It actually might of been dirt that was thrown in but I was playing MASH with my sister. But what a bad metaphor, why would someone put dirt in milk?

      • Alice

        And chocolate milk of course! Chocolate milk is way better. And a lot of people like latte things even though I don’t. Hmm, that analogy is vaguely racist. :)

  • Chris Algoo

    Wow, this is literal objectification.

  • Miss_Beara

    I was taught that sex is like duct tape. It is really strong and it will hold things together, but as you rip it off and put it on something else, it isn’t as strong and soon it becomes useless.

    Virginity is not a “gift” for a man. We are not defined by our virginity. Our virginity or un-virginity is our own. We do not owe it to men, including fathers (ick) to be virgins and it is disgusting to even think about that.

    Good job at treating girls and women like dirty filthy objects, purity culture.

  • alwr

    I thought this was going to be about how no one should give each other gifts or celebrate anything in a relationship. Probably because today is my wedding anniversary and last year when I posted about it and our plans to celebrate on FB, a bunch of self-righteous killjoy people I know (all either extreme left or extreme right which was probably not a coincidence) answered about how it is shallow to celebrate or give gifts and their relationships are better than that.

    • Ibis3

      blech. What’s life for but to celebrate when you have the opportunity? Happy anniversary alwr & spouse!

    • Whirlwitch

      Well, maybe THEIR relationships aren’t worth celebrating…

      Oh, and happy anniversary!

  • Rachel Marcy (Bix)

    So how do boys react to these exercises, when they’re asked to line up and tear paper off a present, or whatever?

    • Patrick

      While I don’t remember encountering a scenario where we had to do anything like this, the metaphor is so blatantly obvious that I would have felt incredibly creepy participating. Worse, I think it reinforces the notion that boys just can’t resist a piece if the option is given. We’re just big aqueous sacs of hormones. If the present is there, we have to take it. It’s nature…ugh.

  • Patrick

    I know Libby Anne has talked about this previously, but I have actually seen this metaphor extended into the “emotional purity” realm. I grew up in a Pentecostal denomination and remember going to what they termed a deliverance conference (basically, a time to admit you’re a dirty sinner and get free). One of the areas of the talk went into sex and relationships. I’ll never forget this, but they glued two pieces of construction paper together and then tore them apart leaving transfers of paper. While it basically follows the sexual metaphors mentioned, they said that this is what happens anytime you date and there is a breakup. Pieces of yourself are left.

    This was when I was college-aged. I left the church soon after, but I really never got over this type of indoctrination. The felt bad just for dating (once, one girlfriend). I was (and am) still a virgin. I have noticed that I have avoided relationships like the plague as I’ve gotten older. It’s terrifying that at some point I will have to have a conversation where I must detail all these fears and apprehensions and why I’m so nervous about being close to anyone. As has been mentioned many times, this is pervasive and it is disgusting.

    • kagekiri

      Yeah, I have had similar after effects of religious “emotional purity”, a lot from crap like Josh Harris and all the courtship and anti-masturbation/thinking sexual thoughts that my church pushed.

      Not even considering dating has just become a habit for me (1 almost girlfriend…that’s it). I still can’t shake the instinct to immediately shut down thoughts about people as potential mates.

      Talking or even thinking about finding someone attractive or what I find attractive is uncomfortable. An emotional relationship prior to marriage has been totally purged from my mind, and it’s hard to start “courtship” if you’re not able to commit anything emotionally or think/say “I like you”. This has also affected friendships with people of both genders.

      This emotional stunting and self-enforced asexuality hurts all the more as you see other people moving on with their lives. “What the hell is wrong with me?” is the constant refrain in my mind as I see my friends getting married and moving on in life. Also doesn’t help when various people ask if I’m dating yet or when I’m going to get married.

      Turns out, if you get into the habit of not even considering eating chocolate or using tape (used or otherwise), you might just miss out on the experience or utility entirely. I share your disgust in that purity crap.

    • solarsister

      Oh, your last paragraph. I have the same issues, only from the female side of things. I missed out on all the things normal people go through with relationships because of the fear instilled in me by purity messages. Now that I’m older, at a point when most people my age who didn’t grow up in that culture have had several serious relationships and (mostly) seem to know what they’re doing, and all of the evangelical types are long since married off (not that I’m looking for an evangelical type anymore), I feel like I’m missing something huge, like when it comes to “worldly” relationships I’m still at the terrified teenager stage. It’s just easier NOT to do relationships at this point.

  • psykins

    If anyone knows a teen (or post-teen!) in need of REAL advice about sexuality and sex education, I highly highly highly recommend I grew up in an evangelical Christian household, and although I wasn’t exposed to nearly as many sketchy sex talks as some other people, it was a topic I definitely wasn’t comfortable discussing with my parents (in fact, they kicked me out of the house where I refused to apologize for having sex). When I was considering having sex for the first time, Scarleteen really helped me understand all of the risks AND benefits associated with sex, including a real look at how sex might affect me emotionally. It’s sex-positive, but by no means does the staff push sex as a good choice for all, or even most, teens.

    • Little Magpie

      YES. I’ve browsed scarleteen and it is awesome.

    • tsara

      I’m not old enough to drink in the States, I grew up with pretty liberal (and nonreligious) parents and had decent sex-ed, and I’m asexual and a bit gender-wtf, and I’ve found Scarleteen to be very helpful.

    • victoria

      Scarleteen is fabulous! is another good resource with a similar commitment to both teen/young adult issues and also good science.

  • LadyCricket

    The lesson I got was the gift. My teacher had two girls come up to the front of the class, and handed a wrapped present to one and told her to unwrap it. After she was done, the teacher said “oh, my mistake, the present is actually for her!” and handed the unwrapped present to the other girl. Supposedly this left both girls disappointed; one because the present wasn’t for her after all, one because someone else got to undo the wrapping.

    The thing is, even as a conservative, religious teenage girl taking the lesson, I thought… isn’t wrapping paper on presents strictly a cosmetic thing? It struck me as snobbish to be disappointed in a perfectly good present because the wrapping wasn’t pristine. It’s still a lovely present! All the wrapping does is make it a little prettier for a minute or two until you unwrap it! People give gifts completely unwrapped all the time! And accidentally giving it to the wrong recipient struck me as an innocent mistake to make, one that shouldn’t ruin the present for the intended recipient.

    And this was long before I started rejecting the church’s teaching.

    • ArachneS

      The present one seems like its reaching. In what world can you not re-wrap a present? And even further, we give multiple gifts to people all the time. After that first girl gets the gift, she can just keep it and we can get another for the second girl.

      Although I know what they are trying to say, as in “keeping the gift” is Marriage… it seems absolutely nonsensical to make the idea that sex makes you want to “keep” people.

      • The_L1985

        You mean…I’m not supposed to keep my exes around the house? Guess I’d better get rid of all these cages, then…

  • smrnda

    I think I should come up with some counter-analogies that make having sex before marriage seem OK.

    Most of my clothes come from vintage and thrift stores, because I find more things that really have style there. The fact that the clothes are ‘used’ is a plus – if I can figure out that a piece of clothing is older than me and still in great shape, that says a lot for its longevity.

    Or let’s take books. Old books beat new books in terms of monetary value, and sometimes they have really neat inscriptions in them.

    Or tools – my industrial sewing machine from the 1920s has probably seen a lot of use, and it’s still going strong.

    Though speaking of this, I recall one person I know who had bought into this saying that he was so glad his wife and himself had not had sex before marriage because, otherwise, they would find it icky. (That’s my translation.) All said, I think that’s what this teaching is meant to do – make people go ‘ick’ so they can be controlled with guilt and shame.

    • Jolie

      I guess I’m still a bit uncomfortable with this kind of analogies, because it compares your sexual partners with objects. I understand the intention though :)

      • smrnda

        I agree and think analogies in this area are almost always BS since people and things aren’t analogous, but I can’t resist making a case for used== better.

    • phantomreader42

      I especially like looking around a used bookstore. All sorts of neat, strange stuff you’d never find new. Authors I’d never heard of, great books from before I was even born, and just an assortment of hidden gems that aren’t in the standard stock at Books-a-Million.
      I wonder how the fact that my wife is divorced and older than me relates to this analogy? And the fact that we met by trading used books. :)

    • Newbie

      And also, if you take into account that we’re talking about people here, a sexually experienced partner is akin to a chef who’s perfected his/her art over time, as opposed a rookie who never made a peanut butter sandwich

      • grindstone

        This is not the first time I’ve said this on this forum, but….I for one am very grateful to the women who have had a relationship with my husband prior to mine. Especially the freaky one….damn girl, if I could I’d say thank you to your face.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Or let’s take books. Old books beat new books in terms of monetary value, and sometimes they have really neat inscriptions in them.

      They are also beautifully typeset, which many modern books are not.

  • Scott_In_OH

    In case you were wondering, no, this isn’t healthy, and the result of these teachings has been a generation of Christian youth with warped and toxic ideas about sex, dating, and even their own bodies.

    You’re right, but it’s much, much, much more than a single generation.

  • Trollface McGee

    Chewing gum, packing tape, and chocolate bars are meant for one use only. The human body? Do they expect us to have sex one time in our lifetime? I wouldn’t want to rechew my own chewed gum. Besides, tape comes in a roll because you’re supposed to have enough to satisfy your needs (multiple times if necessary). Also that “she’s thin therefore worthy of being used” comment? Way to throw in some free body/fat shaming for body conscious teenagers.
    Roses on the other hand, aren’t meant to be handled by our clumsy hands. Their thorns protect them so they can have their nectar drank by bees and butterflies and so that they can spread their pollen to as many roses as possible..which is kinda sexy.
    But yeah, this is a horrible message what makes it even more horrible is the effect it has on people. Reading Elisabeth Smart’s pieces was a very sad eye opener of what it does. Teenagers are already vulnerable in their self-images and to use tools to shame teens when good sex ed should be empowering them to make good decisions is despicable.

  • Kristen Fournier

    I was thinking about this the other day when I was getting into a debate about the “chocolate cake” bikini controversy. This woman (who had a joint facebook account with her husband) kept throwing metaphors out instead of addressing the content of my arguments. She said things like “how much something is treasured shows its value” and I said I’m not a treasure, I’m a person. She said something like “would you let you three-year-old play with your expensive diamond ring?” and I just had to stop because she made no sense and obviously was never going to address the issue up front. It got me thinking about how this metaphorical language not only objectifies people, but it keeps people from communicating clearly about sex. Kids grow up without the language or concept of what sex is and what consent is, and a big part of that is because when they are taught about sex, purity, and modesty, the whole thing is shrouded in metaphors and euphemisms. Not only is it shaming, but it’s super confusing. It’s like ‘I know I’m not supposed to have sex, but I’m not sure what that is’.

    • The_L1985

      Or they engage in oral or anal sex, still thinking themselves virgins because “that doesn’t count.”

      • Christine

        It’s not hard to not have sex if it’s something that you don’t want to do. If you think that all these purity culture messages are necessary, you’re doing something wrong. It just encourages the legalism of “well that’s not really sex”, the madonna/whore dichotomy, and unprotected sex/other means of girls and women playing “hard to get”.

      • Kristen Fournier

        “It’s not hard to not have sex if it’s something that you don’t want to do.”
        I would argue that purity culture makes it harder to say no to sex you don’t want.

      • Christine

        Very true. And in ways that go beyond pretending that it’s difficult to do.

      • Jolie

        Studies say so.
        Kids who get abstinence-only sex-ed don’t have les sex than kids who get told about contraception; but they have significantly more unprotected sex.

      • Christine

        I’d almost expect them to have more, given what they do and don’t get taught.

      • Jolie

        In a very f-ed up way, it does. You see, being taught purity strongly correlates with being taught homophobia. So, it turns out being exposed to the “Sex is only OK within heterosexual marriage and gays are horrible” message leads to two kinds of behaviour:
        -Hetero kids have anal sex, because they think it doesn’t count since the physical hymen remains intact; or because they think they can’t catch STD’s that way since no one ever mentioned it to them
        -Gay kids, on the other hand, feel pressured to have hetero penis-in-vagina sex, to escape being shamed for being gay.

        So yeah… hetero-purity teaching causes straight kids to have anal sex and gay kids to have vaginal sex; wonderful!
        (I think it was Savage who wrote about it , not sure).

      • Joykins

        I love Dan Savage’s reply to that–if anal sex is doesn’t count, he’s been preserving the heck out of his husband’s virginity for decades now…

      • phantomreader42

        I’ve heard the term “saddlebacking” used to describe this, named after Rick Warren’s church.

      • The_L1985

        Yep. Another Dan Savage phraseology.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      Were we in the same convo because I pointed out to someone with a similar argument that diamonds only are expensive because of marketing. They have no inherent worth that human beings do have. Hymens are not worthy in and of themselves either…

      • Anat

        Hey, diamonds are good for cutting hard stuff. (But I agree that kind of usefulness alone wouldn’t result in heir current price.)

      • Kate Monster

        Funnily enough, vaginas are ALSO good for dealing with stuff that’s hard…

      • Feminerd


      • Christine

        Diamonds are actually quite cheap, if we include those ones. It’s only “pretty” diamonds that are expensive.

      • badgerchild

        Diamonds are not even as rare as some “semiprecious” stones. I have probably a pound and a half in total of polished and carved bits of charoite lying around. Does anyone remember what Anne of Green Gables thought diamonds would look like? Charoite is purple and silky and chatoyant, and basically mined out of its Siberian location, and the amount of it found, next to the total amount of gem-quality diamonds ever mines, is minuscule. I wear a charoite ring set in silver because my husband is not fond of gold.

        We have a saying between ourselves, “Our silver is more precious than anyone else’s gold.” And that’s how we feel about each other. We don’t have to be perfect in the eyes of anyone else because we know what we prefer and we find it in each other. So what if I was married before, and what if he was a bit wild when he was younger, it doesn’t matter now. :)

      • kagerato

        It’s true that rarity has essentially nothing to do with beauty, aesthetic, or moral value. Quartz can be quite stunning, too, and it’s just crystalline sand.

      • Jolie

        Actually, the reason why we think now diamonds are valuable is because enough people 2-3 generations ago believed hymens are valuable. See, up until the 60′s or so, it was still quite widely expected of a woman to marry the first guy she ever has sex with: lest she be considered “damaged goods”.

        Now, around the beginning of the 20th century, massive diamond mines were found in Africa. Deposit owners formed the cartel we know as De Beers. To maintain the perception that diamonds
        were rare, De Beers not only significantly limited how many diamonds they mined each year, but also literally started buying up all the other diamonds and just stockpiling them (along with their own excess supply).

        Now, how could they get people to actually buy them? Enter one of the most cynical aggressive marketing campaigns ever known: based on convincing women to only grant access to their cootchies to those willing to provide one of their blingy stones conveniently priced at the guy’s whole salary for a good number of months; as a costly signal that they won’t merely rob
        them of their virginity and run; because yeah, that’s a totally great
        way of starting a healthy, trust-based relationship.

        The more expensive the ring, the more your gal’s virginity was worth.Actresses were persuaded to wear rings in public, lecturers talked to high school girls about the importance of an expensive ring. In their own words, De Beers attempted to “make it a psychological necessity capable of competing successfully at the retail level with utility goods and services …”

        De Beers went on to become one of the biggest financial backers for the apartheid regime in Africa; as well as infamous for the relocation of the Bushman tribe from their land in order to explore diamond resources. To get rid of them, they have had their water supplies cut off, they have been taxed, fined, beaten and tortured. Besides, rough diamond caches have often been used by rebel forces to finance arms purchases and other illegal activities. Al Qaeda amassed millions of dollars by selling diamonds mined by Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone. Neighbouring and other countries can be used as trading and transit grounds for illicit diamonds. Once diamonds are brought to market, their origin is difficult to trace and once polished, they can no longer be identified.

        More than one-half of the world’s diamonds are processed in India where many of the cutters and polishers are bonded child laborers; and many mines in Africa use child labour too; the same children forced to fight in tribal conflicts with weapons paid for by the diamond trade. Bonded children work to pay off the debts of their relatives, often unsuccessfully, because of high interest rates. When they reach adulthood their debt is passed on to their younger siblings or to their own children. Workers are often paid only a fraction of 1% of the value of the stones they cut.

        This is why I boycott diamonds.

      • Jayn

        If I’d had any input into my wedding ring I’d’ve insisted on Canadian diamonds. As it is, the De Beers history always makes me like my mother’s more than I already do–it’s sapphire.

      • kagerato

        It’s half-true that diamonds are expensive due to marketing and supply-demand manipulations. Large, natural, attractive diamonds that are accessible from the Earth’s crust are relatively rare — rarer than gold, even though they’re composed of carbon (a much more abundant element).

        However, modern technology is a rather stunning thing. We actually have not one, but at least four different methods of creating artificial diamonds from purified carbon (essentially graphite):

        [1] HPHT (high pressure, high temperature), which involves putting the carbon into a large press where it gets compacted under extreme stress.

        [2] CVD (chemical vapor deposition) which uses lasers, microwaves, or another heat source to build diamond from hydrocarbon gas and a substrate.

        [3] Explosions — detonating certain types of carbon-containing chemicals can create small diamonds.

        [4] Ultrasound cavitation works based on fluid dynamics and is a relatively new research development.

        Artificial diamonds made by these methods are frequently used in industrial applications. Diamonds are really fantastic in some contexts (like drill bits, for example), since they’re still one of the hardest materials known (and the hardest naturally occurring substance by a large margin).

        For jewelery, though, artificial diamonds have never managed to displace mining. Possibly it’s a matter of aesthetics, but I believe it’s mainly that mining them is still cheaper — especially when you barely have to pay for labor.

  • Birchmen

    If I ever saw this nonsense, I’d just repeat the illustration with a $20. Crumple it, step on it, lick it, whatever… still worth $20. The worth is inherent.

    • NeaDods

      You can even clip a piece off the corner so it’s gone forever — and it’s still worth $20!

    • Feminerd

      You should get all the pluses. This is an excellent counter-demonstration.

    • stacey


    • The_L1985

      That’s been used, too. “Now who wants this $20 after I’ve spit on it?”

      • Jolie

        Troll Jolie would totally take it, then loudly announce to the class that it’s going towards coffee and donuts for everyone who thinks comparing women to objects that get used-up or contaminated is utter BS.

  • MarnieMacLean

    What’s interesting about all these analogies is that they fly in the face of what many Christians claim is the very basis of their belief, namely that they are born sinful and by believing they are forgiven. In this case, women are born sinful but pure in one sense and if that purity is breached she is never forgiven. Sort of mind boggling how those two ideas can be considered logically consistent.

    • Joykins

      That’s because things having to do with sex and gender are a complete exception to everything else Christianity teaches about sin and forgiveness. Frustrating!

      • phantomreader42

        It’s not just sex that’s an exception, ANY part of christian dogma gets ignored if it’s even slightly inconvenient for the ideology of the preacher at the moment, only to be revived the instant it can be twisted into something useful again.

  • Alice

    Hmm, I’m trying to remember what object lessons I was taught…I’m sure there were more, but this is all I can think of at the moment.

    1. Sex is like checkers because you need to follow God’s rules and boundaries.

    2. One time, the actors had a really long, thin rope, and they played tug of war, jump rope, all kinds of games with it. They kept cutting it shorter and shorter, and then when the rope was too short to do anything with, they dumped the girl. When it came time for marriage, the owner of the rope couldn’t use it to tie her and her husband together. The actors were three guys and a girl, so was that supposed to represent an orgy? LOL.

    3. Sex is like electricity. There is something very powerful happening that we can’t see (spiritual bonding), so we need to be careful how we use it and not violate our commitment to God. This involved a long cord with exposed wires. A boy held the exposed end while a girl plugged the cord into the wall. The boy pretended he was in pain from being shocked (It wasn’t really connected to electricity!). At the time, I was too innocent to appreciate just how incredibly awkward the speech was, all the talk about plugs, holes, telling the assistant to “Just stick it in,” and several mentions of “He’s in pain down there.” (meaning down at the other end of the stage). I watched someone’s DVD again recently, and I nearly died from snorting so much.

    • Jolie

      The “sex is like checkers” one is sooooo stupid! The “sex is like musical jamming” one counters it nicely;)- as long as everyone involved enjoys it and genuinely wants to do it- anything goes, screw the rules!

      • Alice

        Exactly, and it’s not like everyone casually plays checkers the same way anyway. Some checker enthusiasts play by the “compulsory captures” official rule, while others don’t.

  • Saraquill

    I’ve commented on previous posts about my thoughts on duct tape and chewing gum as sex/relationship metaphors. I’m pulling in a new one.

    By this I mean the Scott Pilgrim series. He has dated before, as has his love interest, Ramona Flowers. They both carry baggage from their previous relationships, which has an effect on the one they have now. This does not stop them from working through their issues, striving to become better people, and staying together. They hit rough patches, but they work it out.

    • Jolie

      Fair enough; though I’d love to see at least once in a mainstream movies exes not being portrayed as either a-holes or competition for the hero; you know, a story where the ex is the bride’s “bridesman” and they DO NOT end-up hooking-up by the end of the movie… or a woman reminiscing about the good moments in a past relationship without the implication that she’s still hung up on the guy; it’s sad that as far as Hollywood goes that’d be pretty damn unthinkable.

    • Alice

      That is a lot better than the traditional metaphors, but baggage has a negative connotation, and I don’t think every past relationship leaves baggage that is hard to get rid of. And even a bad relationship in the past can teach us who not to date or what to do differently next time. So I’d phrase it as “Yeah, we both have baggage, but we’re committed to working through it and staying together, plus carrying it all these years has given us both awesome upper body strength.”

      • Petra Lorre

        That reminds me of the end of an episode of How I Met Your Mother where everyone was lugging around literal baggage labeled with emotional issues – suitcases, knapsacks, steamer trunks, and then someone else would walk up (their significant other) and help them carry it. I teared up a bit at that.

  • Nancy Shrew

    We had an abstinence-only speaker come to talk to our health class in freshman year of high school (thankfully we also had comprehensive sex-ed; they just had to show us “both sides”). We did an exercise similar to the packing tape one except it was a piece of scotch tape and everyone had to stick and re-stick it on our arms until it wouldn’t anymore. The speaker also had us do an exercise where she had each of us chew an Oreo and then spit it into a cup of water.

    I knew it was all stupid then, but to this day I wish my fourteen-year-old self had had the words to articulate that.

  • Kate Monster

    I remember our “Abstinence Guy” from high school–one of the big names on the abstinence circuit. He did all the usual gross metaphors you mention, Libby. He also went on and on about NFP and how well it worked. All typical purity schlock.

    But the thing that stood out the most was his wife. She was never with him–she back home with another NFP pregnancy every year, even though she “usually” came with–but he used her as an example. See, HE was a virgin when they married, but SHE wasn’t. And he’d tell the story of her existence as a fallen woman. How terrible she felt about having sex. How the sex she had was so degrading to her as a woman. How she had slept with many men (as is a frequent trope of such talks, she had had sex because of the fact that she had low self esteem problems as a teen. This is, of course, the only reason women ever engage in any kind of extramarital sexual activity). How she had found God (second trope: these self-esteem-less women who have sex are always outside the church/in a state of having misplaced Jesus) and how God had allowed her to find real fulfillment in abstinence. How they had fallen in love, and very piously not done all the sex ’til after the ceremony. He painted a nasty picture of her. Well, not nasty to a normal person, but given the context of the rest of his talk, it was terrible. And while he spoke of his wife with tenderness, he spoke of her past with a sort of thinly veiled disgust.

    I always wanted to raise my hand and ask him a few questions. How does your wife feel about being the subject of your cautionary tale? And, don’t you love your wife? Don’t you cherish her, and the children you have together? Aren’t you two happy together? And doesn’t that kind of… contradict your main thesis, which is that sex before marriage has a lasting and horrific effect on those who have it?

    I wish I could Eternal Sunshine that dude out of my memory. Because even as I was sitting in the auditorium, rolling my eyes in exasperation and whispering to my friends about how and why everything he said was utter nonsense, it still exists in my subconscious. That’s the worst part of these kinds of teachings: even once you know better, you still can’t escape. It’s always there. Always sitting in the back of your mind.

    Anyone who has a surefire cure for religious anti-sex indoctrination is a hero.

    • Jolie

      Wouldn’t be surprised if he is emotionally abusive to his wife….

    • sylvia_rachel

      Wow. That’s … a really repulsive speech to give about your wife.

  • j.lup

    I didn’t grow up with any of this crap. I guess I was raised with the implicit message that sex and love are renewable resources, that practice and skill development make all activities better, and that the only sex that counts is that which is participatory and mutually consensual (where rape is considered sexual trauma rather than sexual ‘experience’).

    It always infuriates me when I hear Purity Cultists warn about ‘giving away pieces of your heart’, as though each person has only a finite amount of heart. (Which raises the question of whether Quiverfull parents can really love all their many children if they only have a limited amount of heart. What happens if child #5 uses up that last piece of heart — do kids #6 through #11 have to go without parental love?) ;)

  • Fina

    I’m not sure what the name of that fallacy is, but it might be false equivalence.

    At any rate, it goes something like this:
    You reinforce your argument by taking your main assumption, and proving its validity by comparing it to something where the exact same assumption applies. This is typically done with something where the assumption is clearly true, regardless of whether it applies to the original subject.

    In the examples you’ve shown, the core assumption is something like “women are vulnerable” or “women are one-use only”. Showing that roses are vulnerable, or that chocolate is only good for eating once, doesn’t actually do anything to prove that assumption – but it reinforces it in the mind of the listener anyway because we respond well to physical, simple analogies.

    Another example is “if a key opens many locks, its a master key. If a lock is opened by many locks, it a shitty lock”.
    The core assumption is that a penis (excuse me, man) is who “opens many locks” (sleeps with many women) is an achiever – whereas a vagina (excuse me, woman) is supposed to achieve “one man only”.
    The analogy doesn’t actually logically support that analogy at all. The assumption goes unquestioned – but because lock&key are so analogous in their base interaction (key goes into lock), this argument is sadly still very powerful.

    The correct way to logically address these fallacies is to point out that they are just restating the assumption in a simplified form. Sadly, that takes someone familiar with formal logic, and might not even work for other listeners because its way more complicated.

    • aim2misbehave

      One comeback I’ve heard is “Oh, but anyone can just shove a key straight into a lock… it actually has to be a certain shape and moved the right way to unlock it.”

      I remember someone who goes back to the lock/key analogy with “If a pencil sharpener can sharpen a lot of pencils it’s probably a good pencil sharpener, but if a pencil’s been in a lot of pencil sharpeners, it’s probably really short and useless.”

      • Jolie

        I thought of one more way of subverting the “every relation takes a piece of your heart” crap (with one of my favourite motivational one-liners):
        If I have an apple and you have an apple and we exchange apples, we both have one apple.
        If I have an idea and you have an idea and we exchange ideas, we both have one idea.

        It’s pretty obvious that relational intimacy and experience function much more like ideas than like apples.

      • Christine

        Pssst… you both have two ideas. I got very confused when I read this at first.

      • Jolie

        yes! I definitely meant two ideas; sorry

      • Fina

        Ironically, if you do that i’ve seen replies like “it’s just an analogy”.

      • Alice

        Hmm, but virgin pencils are useless, so clearly a woman isn’t good for anything but sex. :)

  • Sophie

    I was very lucky when it came to sex education, in the UK sex education is part of the national curriculum and there were strict rules about what the schools have to teach plus my dad was always very open with me. My problems with sex came from me as when I was a teenager I was in denial about my attraction to girls and I ended up putting myself in to a situation where I was raped. I’m not saying the rape was my fault, I know that it wasn’t but the situation in which it happened wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been trying to make myself straight.

    Once I accepted my bisexuality my feelings about sex have become much more positive and there are only three sexual relationships that I regret which are my first relationship which was with the boy who raped me, having sex with someone I knew was in a relationship and a bad relationship where the guy ended up stalking me after I ended it. But even with the regrets I can still see that those people helped make me who I am today just as much as the people who I had positive relationships with. I am only friendly with one of my exes, in fact he’s going to stay with me and my current partner this weekend! I have remained friends with other exes but I found that once I was with someone else they were less interested in being my friend which hurt a lot at the time.

    The only ex I feel I let down was the only girl I’ve ever been involved with, she was my best friend and when we finally admitted that we felt a lot more than friendship for each other I emotionally distanced myself and got into a relationship with a man. She and I remained friends but she never really forgave me for that and eventually the friendship got so toxic that I ended it. I have a lot of regrets about what happened with her and I do feel that is one area where my sex education could have been better. I just had no idea how to have a relationship with another woman and I was scared. I know now that it’s really no different from a straight relationship but back then I was 20, I didn’t know many gay couples and I was really worried that it would go wrong and the friendship would be ruined. Except what I ended up doing ruined the friendship and hurt her and the man I got into the relationship with. I think that there should be a lot more about how to have a healthy relationship and the importance of emotional intimacy taught as part of sex education, as well as more about the different types of sexual relationships. I know that there is much more about that in the current UK curriculum, or at least I know they were trying to introduce that into it not that long ago.

  • Howard

    To these people, women are precious little things – possessions – which need to be taken good care of, and lose all their value once they’re “used up”. This casual objectification of women is pretty disgusting.

  • Snipe

    I heard the flower petal analogy many times when I was a teenager, and it seemed kind of odd to me. I wondered what exactly was being “given away” to the point that you would be depleted or devalued so drastically, since the act of sex isn’t akin to amputation.

    It’s amazing to see the same lesson from another perspective, that these object lessons make women into objects. I bought into it at one point, staying “pure” and all that, but I’ve long since climbed down from that ivory tower. It’s cold and lonely up there.

  • Rubyfruit

    I got the chewing gum one and the lollipop metaphors. All it did as I was leaving my old church was creep me right the hell out hearing a person being described in those terms. But when I was deep into Pentecostalism, it totally made sense that I’d want to preserve my virginity for a marriage that may or may not ever happen because I didn’t want to be the already-been-chewed gum, or the spit-and-lint-covered, half-chewed lollipop that’s been manhandled by a bunch of other people.

    Then again, I wasn’t seen as being even passably pretty, so it was easy to hold onto my virginity (For Why, I ask myself now) since no one was making an offer anyway. So I guess that those comparisons screwed me up anyhow. Because if I was chewing gum or a lollipop, I was the flavor that no one liked or wanted, so I’d languish on the shelf, pushed aside and left in the dust until I withered up and got thrown away.

    But then I was also coming to terms with my not-straight sexuality, and the whole purity thing made that a boatload more complicated than it needed to be.

  • dryingmywings

    I got the ripped tape and ripped up paper heart metaphors. I was a homeschooled, purity culture girl, but was sexually abused by my mom. Too bad there was no metaphor for escape from that.