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.