“Displayed in a Partially Unwrapped Condition”

“Displayed in a Partially Unwrapped Condition” September 8, 2013

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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