The Curse of the Good Girl
The Curse of the Good Girl by Rachel Simmons opens with this:
“Our culture is teaching girls to embrace a version of selfhood that sharply curtails their power and potential. In particular, the pressure to be good, nice, polite, modest, and selfless diminishes girl’s authenticity and PERSONAL authority. The curse of the good girl erects a psychological glass ceiling that begins its destructive sprawl in girlhood and extends across the female lifespan stunting the growth of skills habits essential for becoming a strong woman.
“A survey was conducted in high schools of middle class America about how society expected a good girl to behave. These were the most commonly used adjectives:
blue eyes, little girl, perfect, quite, sheltered, good grades, studies, no opinions on things, well rounded, follower, preppy, has to do everything right, doesn’t show skin, high expectations, honorable, tons of friends, polite, enthusiastic, generous, kind, boyfriend, intelligent, conservative, popular, wealthy, athletic, natural hair, listens, honest, respectful, always busy, organized, flirtatious, skinny, speaks well, follows the rules, doesn’t get mad, healthy, Barbie, confident, perfect attendance, people pleaser.
“The good girl was socially and academically successful, smart and driven. Pretty and kind, but she was also an individual who aimed to please, “people pleaser, no opinions on things”—and didn’t take risks “follows the rules.” She repressed what she really thought, “doesn’t get mad” and did not handle her mistakes with humor, “has to do everything right.” The good girl walked a treacherous line, balancing mixed messages about how far she should go and how strong she should be. She was to be enthusiastic while being modest, smart with no opinions on things, intelligent but a follower, popular but quiet, she would be something…but not too much.”
I don’t know about you, but I was raised to be a good girl. A very good girl. In addition to these ideas, my religious upbringing had a lot to add to the mix. It told me that most of all, to be good, you should be modest, chaste, and virginal. Good girls are virgins. Good girls are chaste. Good girls don’t show cleavage. Good girls only have sex within the confines of marriage. Good girls get married; they don’t stay single. Good girls believe in marriage. Good girls want to have children. Good girls wait until their wedding night. Good girls smile and shine in church callings. Good girls don’t get sexually frustrated. Good girls believe that all blessings they don’t have right now will be given to them in the afterlife. Good girls endure to the end.
According to this definition, I am no longer a good girl. I was, up until three years ago when I decided that I no longer wanted to be a “good” girl. Being a good girl was killing me. It was destroying me. It made me miserable. In fact, it wasn’t me at all. I was bad. I wanted sex. I didn’t want babies. I didn’t want marriage. I had other dreams. I liked showing my cleavage, I had opinions, I voiced my concerns, I decided I no longer wanted to be a people pleaser.
That was hard. That broke my mother’s heart. That threw my world into a whirlwind of strife and unsteadiness I had never known before. At the Counterpoint Conference last October, I was asked to speak on a panel titled, “How Sex Impacts Mormon Women’s Lives.” That, however, didn’t sound quite right to me. Sex isn’t some live being out there waiting to pounce on Mormon women for good or for evil. I kept reading it, “How being a Mormon woman impacts my sexuality.” Because, for many of us, the idea of sex alone is something that opens up a whirlwind of emotions. We see so many portrayals of it. I think we all have a good idea, at least by Hollywood standards, what GOOD sex is supposed to look like, how often it is supposed to happen, and what positions are acceptable, and who we can do it with. That is sex. But what about sexuality? What is that? Our sexuality is the strongest drive after the need for food, and yet, I denied myself ANY part of that drive for thirty years. I never even allowed myself to ask certain questions or discover certain things. Who we are sexually is a large part of who we are as individuals, as human. Sexuality is not a dirty word. When we think of our sexuality, we should not immediately think of a list of what we can do and what we can’t do to remain sinless—like we do with sex. Discovering our sexuality should not be a sin. But, do most LDS women believe that it is?