Got milk?

“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

A lovely little phrase. I first heard it while reading a Christian dating book (a book that was “accidentally destroyed maliciously,” which is unfortunate, because it was filled with enough awfulness to give me blog material for years) that my mother bought me in high school. I know my dear mother did not read this book before she handed it to me, otherwise she would have maliciously destroyed it herself.

Unfortunately, that deplorable book wasn’t the only place in my life where that phrase popped up. Popular television shows and movies, abstinence-only lectures at school, chapel sermons, and well meaning advice from friends all sent that message–“You’re a cow. Don’t give up your milk or men won’t buy you.”

But my mother taught me better than that. My mother drilled truths into my brain that helped me counter the myriad of lies entangled in that one sentence. Here are those truths:

1. I am not livestock— Let’s start with the most obvious lie, shall we? This phrase implies that I, as a woman, am a farm animal. A farm animal to be exploited for my goods. A farm animal that can be bought or traded for. No thanks.

2. Marriage is not an exchange of goods and sex is not a bargaining chip— After sharing the gem about cows and free milk, the dating book that I had in high school erased all doubt in my mind as to the implications of this phrase. They explained, ever so bluntly, that men only want sex. Women only want commitment. So, marriage is essentially a business deal in which men get a lifetime of free sex and women get a lifetime of commitment.

All too often, I hear Christians (who claim to have a higher view of sex than the worldly one-night-stand-having heathens) cheapen sex by telling women that their bodies are bait for luring a man into marriage. Instead of teaching young women to embrace their own God-given sexuality and to love others, these Christians teach young women to cleverly use their bodies to manipulate men.

3. Men are not one-dimensional— The “Why buy the cow…” phrase is packed with gender implications that limit both men and women. I’ve already discussed some of the restrictions placed on women (though, I could probably go on and on. So much poison loaded into so few words). But let’s talk about men.

Men don’t “just want one thing.” Men are complex human beings. Most men desire sex, companionship, support, friendship, commitment, and love. Many desire a life partner, or even a family.

So, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Because that “cow” is a woman. And that woman has more to offer than sex.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Dani

    As a recipient of that phrase (and other similar – all with livestock, come on!) – I am cheering. Thanks!

    • Sarah Moon

      yeah, I’ve heard it too much. It’s flawed in so many ways.

  • suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}

    that phrase is laden with much sexism and general skeevery. thanks for exposing it.

    • Sarah Moon

      yeah, if my brain weren’t still tired from exams week, I’m sure I could have made this post even longer.

  • Marcus Ames

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a cow’s got to get pregnant before the milk comes. If you’re a cow, and you’ve got milk to give, you’re not a virgin anyway.

    • Sarah Moon

      bahaha! yes. my friend pointed this out to me before. love it.

  • brambonius

    I’m glad I didn’t even understand that sentence. It’s beyond horrible. And as sexist towards men as towards women.

    • Sarah Moon


    • Alise

      You know, I find that almost everything that demeans women demeans men at the same time. You can’t be sexist and not hurt men as well.

      • Sarah Moon

        yes! misogyny and misandry are almost inseparably related.

  • jc

    That statement, to me, is deplorable… tacky…..books, lectures, sermons, etc that compare women to farm animals, and lumping all men into what some desire in life(sex sex sex) is degrading to both sexes and has no Christlike use. There has to be a better analogy to get this same point across….WAIT FOR MARRIAGE PEOPLE….
    By the way….we run a cow/calf operation….and I bet our cows would not want compared to humans….just saying….hehehehehe

    • Sarah Moon

      yes, and when your reasons for waiting for marriage are so flawed, I don’t think it’s going to lead to a healthy relationship! ah, abstinence is not supposed to be manipulative.

  • shan k


  • Kathleen

    Bravo. I always feel offended on the behalf of men when I hear people say this.

    • Sarah Moon

      Indeed. Misogyny and misandry are very closely related.

  • Scott Morizot

    But, but, but, women don’t actually *like* sex! And men don’t get *anything* (except sex) out of marriage!


  • katers


  • Aprille

    Loved this post. Awesome. I’ve always hated that phrase too! I’m really curious to know where you went to college…

    • Sarah Moon

      Grace College, Bowling Green State, now I’m at Oakland University

      • Aprille

        hmmm never heard of it. Read a lot of your archives today. Great stuff.