“Displayed in a Partially Unwrapped Condition”

I recently came upon this from an article by Michael Pearl from a few years back:

Most “Christian” young people are “damaged goods.” Church youth groups are hotbeds of immorality. And I am not limiting my evaluation just to those that have copulated. Would you buy a candy bar that had not been eaten, but the wrapper had been partially removed? What if it had not been handled, just displayed in a partially unwrapped condition? Would you buy the candy bar if it had not been eaten, but just licked? After all, licking by one or more persons would leave the proud, new owner plenty of candy bar to take home for his own.

Michael, please, for the love of all that is good, stop comparing women to objects. Women are not things to be bought and sold! And besides that, a candy bar is something to be consumed. Women aren’tThis paragraph is in many ways incredibly typical of evangelicalism’s emphasis on purity and virginity (and this analogy is just one of many), and it’s also indicative of just how toxic this emphasis is. How can women who have been sexually active not come away from this paragraph feeling that they are dirty and worth less than women with no sexual experience? And what does a girl who was raped, perhaps by her own father, take away from reading these lines? This paragraph is so problematic on so many levels.

Side note #1: Some may point out Michael doesn’t specify that he is talking about women. In fact, he appears to be talking about all people who are sexually active in some form before marriage, men included. To the extent that this is the case, I would argue that applying an analogy of this sort to anyone, female or male, is damaging. I’m not any more okay with men being made to feel like crap for being sexually experienced than I am okay with women being made to feel like crap for the same. However, in practice this sort of analogy isn’t generally applied evenly. One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s fairly expected that a woman may have to “forgive” her husband’s past sexual indiscretions and less expected that men should have to settle for women with a past, in part because men are believed to be more naturally sexual than women, and thus less able to resist sexual temptation.

Side note #2: For those who click through to the article, you’ll notice that Michael inveighs against betrothal and sometimes sounds downright reasonable. However, this article has to be read in context of other things he has written, in which he has described the importance of fathers screening their daughters’ potential suiters and rejecting those who admit to any of a range of “flaws.” Michael takes a more liberal line than many other patriarchal leaders, but his approach should not be excused as completely reasonable. It’s not.

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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.

  • Phillip A

    “Damaged goods” Good God, that almost made me sick. And you just *know* that he’s speaking especially to young women…

  • Karleanne Matthews

    “If God wrote a book of great length and did not choose to give a rigid order for taking a wife, let us not put words in his mouth nor pretend that our words are Scripture.” I wish the Pearls would take this sort of stance regarding what is/isn’t in the Bible and apply it to their views on gender roles and power dynamics!

  • onamission5

    I’ve eaten partially unwrapped candy before. Just break off the exposed part. Voila!

    The difference between me and a candy bar (beyond the obvious) is that I am able to take a shower and to do so without melting. I wouldn’t eat a candy bar that had been dropped in the mud, but I would have sex with a person who’d been muddy once, because showering is a thing.

    I could go on, but I’ve made my point, and my point is thus: analogy fail.

    • Jayn

      You can even combine shower and sex!

      • jhlee

        Or mud and sex!

      • Hat Stealer

        Or sex and candy!

        Really, just anything with sex.

      • Divizna

        Or candy and shower, or candy and mud, and even shower and mud, only the shower won’t be very efficient.

      • The_L1985

        Indeed. Eating muddy food is kinda gross, but toddlers eat mud pies all the time. Unless it’s crawling with pathogens, a little mud won’t harm you; it’s just not going to provide any nutrition.

      • http://noadi.etsy.com/ Sheryl Westleigh

        Thanks, now I have the song Sex and Candy stuck in my head. That’s a flashback to my teenage years.

      • The_L1985


      • onamission5


      • DataSnake

        Or all of the above!

    • Scott_In_OH

      It’s awfully depressing to think about how completely I accepted this analogy growing up (and for quite a while after I was grown). And while it may have been aimed more directly at girls, I took it to heart as a boy, both in the sense that I didn’t want to be a half-eaten candy bar and in the sense that I didn’t want to turn a girl into one. This stuff is simply poisonous.

    • aim2misbehave

      Agreed. I live in California, but I grew up on the Canadian border. And one day a couple months ago one of my friends and I got our hands on a partially unwrapped Aero bar… once we’d stopped squealing like we were 12-year-olds who’d just seen our favorite boy band, we broke off the exposed part and ate the rest. Because you don’t see Aero bars in SoCal every day!

      So I guess the lesson here is to be awesome enough (or Canadian enough?) that nobody cares if you’re partially unwrapped.

  • Monimonika

    Going with the candy bar analogy, what’s stopping someone from eating two or more candy bars (whether new/unwrapped/displayed/licked)?

    • The_L1985

      Eating extra candy bars = polygamy?

      (Also, yay Kurai!)

      • Monimonika

        !! This is the first time I had someone recognize my avatar. *tear of joy*

        Oh, and if the candy bar analogy applies to both women and men, doesn’t that mean they are eating each other when they have se…x…? *disturbing imagery follows*

      • The_L1985

        As I learned from the Internet, there is a fetish for that. A really weird fetish. (Think Astarte/Astaroth from the Hell arc.)

    • Leigha7

      Right? And a lot of times, they’re cheaper if you buy more than one. I’d rather get two for $1 than one for 75 cents.

  • Kellen Connor

    I’m not a candy bar. I’m an everlasting gobstopper.

    • Monimonika

      I can so see myself happily accepting a pre-licked/pre-sucked everlasting gobstopper, carefully rinsing it off in hot water, then popping it into my mouth. Yum.

      My younger sister actually did something similar, but it was with an old dusty German gummy coin she found in-between the car seats (estimated age of candy: 2 years). She rinsed the candy clean and popped it into her mouth. She said it tasted delicious. Ever since, she’s been looking for a way to order authentic German gummy coins and have them shipped to NJ. No luck so far…

      • Kellen Connor

        “You don’t know where that’s been!”
        “Yes, I do. My sink. Where it got clean. Problem solved.”

  • smrnda

    Though I think analogies can provide some value, the problem is they tend to be useless when you compare 2 things that really have nothing in common. People aren’t food – food you eat and excrete in a couple of days, it’s a necessary but disposable commodity. A store might toss out a candy bar because it’s become opened or damaged or expired, but people aren’t disposable. They’ll survive having sex.

    I think that a lot of the problem is that this type of thinking just oozes the objectification and commodification of women.

  • Mel Johansson

    I clicked through to “Dad’s daughter” and was stopped dead by this:

    “The guys come around asking for her hand, but they really want much more. They want the entire twenty or so years you have invested in your precious daughter. They want all the training, the money you sank into dental and medical, and all the clothes and education. They want to reap the harvest that you have so carefully tended and protected for the best part of your life. When that young man comes around asking for your daughter, or maybe just announces that he is taking her, he is making off with the major fruit of your life.”

    I am speechless.

    • luckyducky

      What else, exactly, does he expect? I will indulge a bit in his way of thinking (not that I condone such thinking). I’ll make an analogy where the parent (father) is someone MAKES the chocolate bars that are potentially subject to unwrapping, licking, etc. This person spends a great deal of time working on the recipe, etc., buys the best ingredients and equipment, wraps it in the nicest foil he can afford, etc. Does he really want them to stay in the display case indefinitely. Wouldn’t a true artisan make the chocolate bars to be enjoyed?

      I must not get it… I was raised by someone who put On Children from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran on our wedding program:

      And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.” And he said: Your children are not your children.
      They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
      They come through you but not from you,
      And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
      You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
      For they have their own thoughts.
      You may house their bodies but not their souls,
      For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
      You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
      For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
      You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
      The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
      Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
      For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

    • katiehippie

      All I can say is ewwwwwwwww

    • smrnda

      This is such a warped view of children, as if since you paid $ for them you own them and that they’re *yours.*

      Sorry, kids are your responsibility, but they aren’t property. You don’t ‘give them away’ and men don’t ‘take’ your daughter because she isn’t a thing like your car or washing machine.

    • Saraquill

      That sounds like he’s trying to eye his children in a carnal fashion. I want to douse his brain and mouth in bleach.

    • J_Enigma32

      “They want all the training, the money you sank into dental and medical, and all the clothes and education”

      And the money you sank into the transmission, and the automatic breaking system, and the traction control, and don’t forget about the pain that the brakes were before you had to get the shoes replaced. When people go out looking to buy a car, they look for all of that. And then they give it a ride and decide that they never want to use it again, because now they’ve dirtied it up.

      He’s making it sound like… I dunno, like his daughter is a thing, an object, and nothing more.

      I’m not shocked at how warped this thinking is. At least, not much. It strikes me as probably being the same sort of thinking that men who sell women and children into sexual slavery have. And more than shocking, that’s just flat-out appalling.

  • Ahab

    No one is damaged goods. People have value and dignity, full stop, and whether they’ve had premarital sex has nothing to do with that. Pearl needs to abandon this medieval purity culture nonsense.

    • Ibis3

      People of the middle ages were a lot more practical about sex than is current purity culture. It’s more like upper class Victorian with an unhealthy dollop of Calvinist puritan. Or maybe a Puritan core with a pretty, upper class Victorian shell.

      ETA: Oh, and of course, I forgot about the bronze age foundation where women are still treated as chattel.

  • TLC

    We insulated our children from within; therefore, as they got older, we did not need to insulate them so well without. They have never been houseplants.

    Um, houseplants? Can someone please explain this to me? Does that mean sheltered?

    There is so much of this purity culture that is absurd. The most absurd to me is that you are defiled even if you are TOUCHED ONCE. Forget about kissing or sex; even holding hands is going too far.

    • Miss_Beara

      Sometimes even having a crush on someone makes a person impure! I think that is the most absurd of all. Controlling bodies isn’t enough, they must control minds as well.

      • brbr2424

        Not to mention the challenge of trying not to think about the thing you are not supposed to think about.

      • The_L1985

        Quick! Don’t think about white elephant!!

      • Brightie

        Or the rhinoceros with the teacup!

    • Nancy Shrew

      I think the houseplant analogy is something like “They have never required the care and nurturance that go into maintaining healthy houseplants”. Considering who it’s coming from, shudder.

      • TLC

        Considering how little effort I have to put into my houseplants to make them grow, that is scary indeed! Thanks for the explanation.

      • Kate Monster

        Considering how many houseplants I’ve killed…

      • TLC

        Oh, me too! And the slow, painful deaths are the worst to watch. . . . .

  • MyOwnPerson

    Partially unwrapped? Does that mean that some of the clothes are off? That’s just how I like da’ sex!

    • Saraquill

      Nanny Ogg from Discworld certainly endorses it.

  • ako

    What if it had not been handled, just displayed in a partially unwrapped condition?

    I’ve bought candy that was completely unwrapped, chocolate truffles sitting on trays, bare to the world where anyone can see their sweet, sweet beauty.

    I’ve bought candy in transparent wrappers, which should be every bit as ‘slutty’ as partially unwrapped candy. I’ve bought unwrapped candy in bulk bins, where any passer-by might have been sticking their scoop in. I’ve eaten bare, unwrapped candy sitting in bowls in a room full of people, with absolutely no squeamishness. I’ve eaten the other half of a bitten chocolate bar, after breaking or slicing that part away.

    I’ve never bought a human being, devoured them, and thrown their ‘wrapper’ in the trash. Possibly there’s some important differences there?

    To the extent that this is the case, I would argue that applying an analogy of this sort to anyone, female or male, is damaging.

    Yeah. Women tend to get the worst of the dirty food analogies, and the uneven standard is a problem, but it’s not the biggest problem. No one should feel like their a dirty candy bar, grimy tape, a torn-up rose, a wad of old gum, or some other form of garbage because they had some sort of sexual experience. No one deserves that, and going “But I’m calling the men garbage too!” doesn’t make it okay.

    • Highlander

      I have shared a candy bar with my son on numerous occasions I have also shared them with my wife.

  • Jolie

    Just wanted to share with you my favourite Beatles song, as a hopeful antidote to this bullshit. It’s something I very deeply and personally relate to:

    “There are places I remember
    All my life, though some have changed
    Some forever not for better
    Some have gone and some remain
    All these places have their moments
    With lovers and friends I still can recall
    Some are dead and some are living
    In my life I’ve loved them all

    But of all these friends and lovers
    There is no one compares with you
    And these memories lose their meaning
    When I think of love as something new
    Though I know I’ll never lose affection
    For people and things that went before
    I know I’ll often stop and think about them
    In my life I love you more”.

    Promoting this kind of very damaging purity teachings is aimed at not allowing people to experience exactly *this feeling*. You are NOT ‘damaged goods’- you are a human being with a spiritual path, and with many beautiful people along the way… Believing yourself or anyone else to be ‘damaged’ only prevents you from experiencing it. Our culture very rarely tells us: “Hey, it’s alright to love more than once”, and that’s pretty sad…

    • The_L1985

      Or from Gaia Concert’s “The Rede (An It Harm None)”

      I’ve been blessed with many lovers, and I’d grant the same to you,
      Though I suppose I’d skip a broken heart or two…

    • phantomreader42

      Odd, I’d heard bits of that song somewhere before, didn’t realize it was the Beatles.

  • Alice

    Quote from article:
    “If you saw your preacher walking through the mall, holding hands and rubbing up against a lady that was not his wife, would you call it sin?”

    That charming mental image has been brought to you by Michael Pearl. EWW! Michael, assuming your definition is the same as other people’s definition (never a safe assumption), the last thing I’d be worried about would be their marital status.

    • badgerchild

      What difference does it make whether I call it a sin? Am I supposed to be doing that? I mean, “Judge not…” and all that. Maybe God told him it was OK in his particular case, or there’s some part of Scripture with which I am not familiar, or maybe his wife got a makeover.

      • Sally

        Or it’s his cousin and you misinterpreted his body language because you were jumping to conclusions.

  • Angela

    Ok, lets run with this analogy. So I buy my brand new pristine candy bar and eat it up. Then what? Unfortunately I’ve just signed a lifelong contract not to buy any more candy so I’ll just have to abstain from chocolate forevermore. After all, would you eat a chocolate bar that had been previously eaten and then regurgitated, even if by you? Didn’t think so. So if you expect to have sex with your spouse more than once then the analogy doesn’t hold.

    A more apt analogy would be something that could be used multiple times without diminishing it’s value. Would you drink from a stream that had already been drunk from? Would you live in a house that had previously been lived in? What if there were no previous occupants but the home had been opened to the public to view? Would you buy a piano that had been played by someone else? Obviously these are not perfect analogies because people are not objects and marriage is not a purchase arrangement but it just goes to show that if something’s not a consumable resource it seems a lot less reasonable to demand that it’s been untouched by anyone else.

    • Kate Monster

      Also, you’re going to convert that candy into feces. So there’s that.

  • Vroom vroom

    Would you want to drive a second-hand car?
    Sure, there are some scratches on the seats and the new-car smell is fading, but it can still give you the ride of your life.

    • smrnda

      For some of the most amazing cars ever, you can’t get a new one. If you want a Ford Galaxie 500, or a Chrysler Imperial or a mid-60s Chevy Impala, used is your only choice.

      Of course, anyone serious about cars is determined to restore any sweet ride to mint condition.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I want a Tesla roadster! Of course, I also want a million dollars and a kitten, too :/ I think the kitten’s the only one I’m going to get.

      • Monimonika

        Be happy that you can even get a kitten. I can’t get one because of allergies. I’m a cat-person in a body of one who cannot handle cats. >:,-(

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        :( We had a Siberian kitty (they are hypoallergenic). We got lucky to adopt one from a friend’s cattery that was closing so we didn’t have to pay for her, but looking into getting another Siberian, Balinese, or Siamese kitty for their hypoallergenic properties … those kittens are expensive, even ones that will never be show kitties. We’re looking into purebred rescues now.

        It’s not perfect, of course, if you’re very allergic to cats. But my mom, who is pretty high on the cat allergy scale, could handle the Siberian and stayed at our place without issue. That does just suck, though.

  • AnotherOne

    Lol. Something tells me that my definition of “hotbed of immorality” is far different than Michael’s.

    • Kate Monster

      It’s what I call my truck.*

      *I don’t have a truck. But now I have to buy one, so I can name it this.

  • James Yakura

    Michael [Pearl] takes a more liberal line than many other patriarchal leaders [...]

    Now there’s a horrifying thought.

  • fiona64

    The comparison by religious leaders of young women to partially consumed food is one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen. Elizabeth Smart even referred to an object lesson she got from a religious school teacher about chewing gum when talking about how hard it was for her to think about fleeing her abductor. (One of many sources, here: http://www.lifeaftermormonism.net/forum/topics/elizabeth-smart-speaks-out-against-abstinence-only-educations-mor) . When we teach our youth that their value lies solely in their virginity, we do them a tremendous disservice.

  • aim2misbehave

    *trying to refrain from making dirty comments about being licked and eaten*

    Really, that was not good imagery to choose for that analogy…