The Purity Myth

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I teach High School. I see a lot of things every day that I am pretty sure most parents don’t know exist. I would have a hard time imagining it if I wasn’t in the heart of it.
Last week, one of my blossoming 16 year olds (actually, she has already blossomed in a beautiful way–a gorgeous young woman with a body any 25 year old would envy) came in and told me that the health teacher, a 67 year old LDS man, taught the class that any woman who had sex without being married was a prostitute. The exact conversation went something like this:
HEALTH TEACHER: “Now, girls, you know that many of you give into sex because you want a guy to like you. What would you call girls who do that?”
YOUNG WOMAN: “Um, are you trying to say that they are manipulative?”
HEALTH TEACHER: “No, not that. I’m trying to say that there is a certain word for girls who give away sex without being in a solid relationship, without being married.”
YOUNG WOMAN: “I don’t think I know what you mean.” Even though she did know what he meant. The entire class did. One boy shouted out the right answer.
BOY: “Uh, a prostitute?” General laughter ensued.
HEALTH TEACHER: “You said it, I didn’t.”
The young woman came in to talk to me after the class because she was very disturbed. This is not the first time the Health teacher has said inappropriate things, especially to her. A few months ago when someone came in to teach the kids about diseases, this young woman asked a question about mono. The Health teacher said, in front of the class, “Well, if you’d stop kissing all those boys you wouldn’t have to worry about mono.” This man knows nothing about this young girl or her interactions with boys, but he sure likes to pretend that he does. And honestly, it has hurt this girl’s self esteem.
This same girl– incredibly sure of herself, of her intelligence and beauty…perhaps a bit intimidating to most people her age (and maybe her Health teacher?)–had another interesting experience. There was a “Dress for Success” day at school and she came dressed in a pencil skirt, a fitted blouse, and heels. She looked gorgeous, not slutty, not homely, but perfectly lovely. She came in at the end of the day upset by all the things that the male population had commented to her that day. Whistles, catcalls, comments about her being easy.  Again, this girl did look like a beautiful, classy twenty five year old business woman, but should she she have to endure all those comments?
This got me thinking about purity and the myths surrounding that topic.
Here is a quote from a recent article you can find here:
“There is a moral panic in America over young women’s sexuality — and it’s entirely misplaced. Girls “going wild” aren’t damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity — the idea that such a thing even exists — is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active.

So what are young women left with? Abstinence-only education during the day and Girls Gone Wild commercials at night! Whether it’s delivered through a virginity pledge or by a barely dressed tween pop singer writhing across the television screen, the message is the same: A woman’s worth lies in her ability — or her refusal — to be sexual. And we’re teaching American girls that, one way or another, their bodies and their sexuality are what make them valuable. The sexual double standard is alive and well, and it’s irrevocably damaging young women.”

My burning question is isn’t there a better way to deal with women’s sexuality than the two extremes constantly presented? Why can’t we, as a culture, move past the Madonna/Whore cliches?

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58 Responses

  1. mb says:

    Yes, there is a better way but I’ve never seen it successfully presented in a group setting. So I don’t think it could be taught in schools. The young women I’ve known who have been able to create their own path between these two dichotomies are teens who have had been mentored by adult women who have taught them a vision of themselves and their gifts and their worth, discussed with them the thoughtful reasoning behind the admonition to avoid unmarried sex (not the alarmist ones) and been there to help them navigate the challenges of adolescence along the way.

    That’s why thoughtful, focused mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and YW leaders who love and teach individual girls, rather than big groups of kids, are so vital.

    As to our culture being able to see beyond the Madonna/Whore cliche, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The media makes too much money with it to let it go. And right now, media determines the culture of the majority of us.

  2. Caroline says:

    Wow, fantastic post. Is this D’Arcy?

    What a frightening story about that health teacher. It sounds like he is far too aware of this girl’s body. And how incredibly wrong to label all sexually active non-married women as prostitutes. What a gross misconception. I hope students complain to the administration about him.

    I agree that we need to move beyond the Madonna/whore cliche. I absolutely agree with that quote about the danger of teaching young women that their value lies in their bodies and their sexuality.

    That’s one of the reasons I was disappointed that ‘Virtue’ (i.e. chastity) was added to the YW theme. Not that we should entirely ignore the topic, but it just brings even more focus on women’s sexual purity, when I know they already get that over and over again every month. Seems to me like ‘Choice’ ‘Accountability’ and ‘Integrity’ already encompassed chastity issues, and did so in a way that focused on bigger and deeper concepts.

  3. mb says:

    Caroline,

    I wondered about your equating the virtue value with charity so I double checked it.

    In the new insert the guidelines for the value ask the young women to review and reflect on scriptures that cover the following topics:

    Chastiy
    Feasting upon the words of Christ
    Learning to recognize the comfort of the Holy Spirit and follow its guidance
    Focusing on things that enlighten and enrich your life
    Faith
    Humility
    Charity
    Kindness
    Repentance and receiving the atonement of Jesus in your life
    The covenant involved in the sacrament

    And then it asks them to prayerfully read the Book of Mormon

    So, chastity is simply a part of the whole, but not the focus, though I can see how one would think so since previous generations have used the two terms interchangeably. But a more accurate meaning of the word is much, much broader.

    Thanks for bringing it up. I was glad I checked.

  4. mb says:

    oops. I meant “equating the virtue value with chastity”

  5. Caroline says:

    That’s funny, mb. I just read that insert too a day or two ago. And my overwhelming impression was that sexual purity was the distinct underlying (and explicit) theme, regardless of other values they were connecting to it. For instance, when I was reading the repentance section, I was getting the impression that that was there to tell girls that all hope is not lost if they’ve had sex. (And glad I am that they put that repentance section in.)

    I thought it was kind of funny that the only projects they could come up with for ‘virtue’ had to do with journaling. (At least, that’s my recollection.) Makes sense. If the value is really all about chastity (and I could be wrong on that, but that’s my reading) there really aren’t too many other hands on things you can do.

  6. Caroline says:

    Also, the way the new value was introduced in the Church News (Dec 10, 2008) by the First Presidency led me to associate it so closely with chastity.

    “This addition will assist young women in developing high moral standards. We invite parents and leaders to teach the doctrine of chastity and moral purity to help each young woman to be virtuous and worthy to make and keep sacred covenants and receive the ordinances of the temple.”

  7. Angie says:

    mb – I think your comments are so wise, beautiful, and accurate. The mentoring relationship you described is powerful and Godly, and I would feel privileged to ever have that kind of impact on a young woman.

    Re. the value if virtue being equated with virtue – I am a high school counselor, and I cannot say loudly or empatically enough that young people cannot hear the message of chaste living too often. My husband tells me that I need a chaperone to monitor me, because whenever I’m with a teenager, I always talk about delaying sex and avoiding pornography. Young women especially need to hear about chastity, because Satan’s message of immorality is screamed at them blatantly and non-stop.

    And I think this applies to all teenagers, regardless of religion.

  8. Angie says:

    A quick story to illustrate what I’m talking about:

    About ten years ago, I had a week at work that I privately called “Freshman Sex Week.” I had many ninth grade girls that told me
    about being seduced and dropped by twelfth
    grade boys. I had heard so many stories about the sex lives of the students, that I was feeling pretty knowledgeable about teenagers, sexual activity, chastity, etc. Then I had a conversation with a twelfth grade young woman. She was doing a report on AIDS, and she told me, “You have no idea how much we (meaning the students at the high school) are having sex.” I thought about all the stories I’d heard that year, and I said, “I think I do have an idea how much.”. She leaned closer to me, looked me straight in the eye, and said “You have NO IDEA how my h we are having sex.” I never forgot that moment, because I fully believed her. I realized that chastity is so completely under attack, that we who know God’s laws can never preach virtue/chastity enough. Do you know why the church focuses so much on chastity and young women? It’s not to set the young women up for failure in some Madonna/whore construct. It’s to protect them! There is almost no pain as severe as that of breaking the law of chastity, and we all know that women bear the burden of sexual immorality.

    mb has it right: instead of criticizing the focus on chastity, we should form close mentoring relationships with young women to help them navigate the difficult years ahead of them.

  9. Angie says:

    One last comment – any errors in my comments are due to posting from an iPhone. 🙂

  10. amanda says:

    Why do women bear the burden of sexual immorality? Mind if you expand on that? I’m not sure what you meant by that….that deeply worries me. Because men and women should be equally responsible for keeping themselves chaste.

  11. amanda says:

    Also- in response the original health teacher’s definition of a prostitute-it was not only a rude comment, but a wrong one. Prostitutes get paid for sex. Goodness.
    High School sucked. And it was the amount of sex, hormones, and awkward teachers that made it that way. I agree with MB’s first comment-a healthy sexual/gender identity should be taught by thoughtful mothers, aunts, and young women’s leaders. Away from the rude and sarcastic comments of groups of hormonally charged teenagers.

  12. sarah says:

    I agree with mb and amanda (especially about the disturbing/creepy comment that women bear the burden of sexual immorality. That’s just bizarre, and fits right in with the practice of stoning a woman who has been raped and letting her rapist/s go unpunished.)

    We throw words like ‘value’ around so much, and people who don’t have ‘values’ are so often branded as worthless- without value.

    As for me and my daughter, I hope I can instill in her the message that her sexuality does not determine her personal worth, and while I would prefer it that she wait for a long-term relationship to have sex, if she does earlier, it will not diminish her in my eyes. I hope I can teach her that kindness is the most important value.

  13. Jill says:

    One could almost get the impression from some of these comments that it’s ok to be promiscuous–that we put too much emphasis on being chaste. What was that scripture about calling evil good?

  14. sarah says:

    And yet I managed not to be very kind in my comment. I’m sorry.

  15. D'Arcy says:

    Lots of good discussion going on here. Lots to reply to.

    mb: I do think that it is the responsibility of of caring and wise adults to teach young men/women. However, I get stuck on the fact that we preach so much of personal WORTH of a woman IS her VIRGINITY. We do not do this so much with young men. Young men get more praise from fathers and understanding from mothers about being unchaste simply from the fact that they are men. Women are expected to be better and to have MORE worth if they marry as virgins. I think this is simply disturbing and wrong.

    Caroline: Yes! It’s D’Arcy. I think throwing Virtue in there was a bit redundant. I’m all about teaching values, but Virtue has a very “chaste” overtone to it. I tried to ask my students to define virtue (in regards to a character we’re reading about) and most of them looked uncomfortable and thought I wanted them to define someone who avoids sexual activity. Yes, the kids are equating virtue with chastity.

  16. D'Arcy says:

    Lots of good discussion going on here. Lots to reply to.

    mb: I do think that it is the responsibility of of caring and wise adults to teach young men/women. However, I get stuck on the fact that we preach so much of personal WORTH of a woman IS her VIRGINITY. We do not do this so much with young men. Young men get more praise from fathers and understanding from mothers about being unchaste simply from the fact that they are men. Women are expected to be better and to have MORE worth if they marry as virgins. I think this is simply disturbing and wrong.

    Caroline: Yes! It’s D’Arcy. I think throwing Virtue in there was a bit redundant. I’m all about teaching values, but Virtue has a very “chaste” overtone to it. I tried to ask my students to define virtue (in regards to a character we’re reading about) and most of them looked uncomfortable and thought I wanted them to define someone who avoids sexual activity. Yes, the kids are equating virtue with chastity.

  17. D'Arcy says:

    Lots of good discussion going on here. Lots to reply to.

    mb: I do think that it is the responsibility of of caring and wise adults to teach young men/women. However, I get stuck on the fact that we preach so much of personal WORTH of a woman IS her VIRGINITY. We do not do this so much with young men. Young men get more praise from fathers and understanding from mothers about being unchaste simply from the fact that they are men. Women are expected to be better and to have MORE worth if they marry as virgins. I think this is simply disturbing and wrong.

    Caroline: Yes! It’s D’Arcy. I think throwing Virtue in there was a bit redundant. I’m all about teaching values, but Virtue has a very “chaste” overtone to it. I tried to ask my students to define virtue (in regards to a character we’re reading about) and most of them looked uncomfortable and thought I wanted them to define someone who avoids sexual activity. Yes, the kids are equating virtue with chastity.

  18. D'Arcy says:

    Lots of good discussion going on here. Lots to reply to.

    mb: I do think that it is the responsibility of of caring and wise adults to teach young men/women. However, I get stuck on the fact that we preach so much of personal WORTH of a woman IS her VIRGINITY. We do not do this so much with young men. Young men get more praise from fathers and understanding from mothers about being unchaste simply from the fact that they are men. Women are expected to be better and to have MORE worth if they marry as virgins. I think this is simply disturbing and wrong.

    Caroline: Yes! It’s D’Arcy. I think throwing Virtue in there was a bit redundant. I’m all about teaching values, but Virtue has a very “chaste” overtone to it. I tried to ask my students to define virtue (in regards to a character we’re reading about) and most of them looked uncomfortable and thought I wanted them to define someone who avoids sexual activity. Yes, the kids are equating virtue with chastity.

  19. amanda says:

    Do we teach that personal worth is equated with virtue? Or is it taught that if we know our personal worth we will be virtuous?

  20. D'Arcy says:

    Angie: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences here. They sound similar to mine. And yes, I do believe that far too many young people turn to sex as a way to gain acceptance. I am not advocating young girls having sex here, let’s get that straight, I like the idea of waiting until they are older and in mature relationships. However, there is something wrong with the way that it is being taught. Maybe a concentration should be on WORTH and not on CHASTITY in the first place.

  21. D'Arcy says:

    Angie: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences here. They sound similar to mine. And yes, I do believe that far too many young people turn to sex as a way to gain acceptance. I am not advocating young girls having sex here, let’s get that straight, I like the idea of waiting until they are older and in mature relationships. However, there is something wrong with the way that it is being taught. Maybe a concentration should be on WORTH and not on CHASTITY in the first place.

  22. D'Arcy says:

    Angie: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences here. They sound similar to mine. And yes, I do believe that far too many young people turn to sex as a way to gain acceptance. I am not advocating young girls having sex here, let’s get that straight, I like the idea of waiting until they are older and in mature relationships. However, there is something wrong with the way that it is being taught. Maybe a concentration should be on WORTH and not on CHASTITY in the first place.

  23. D'Arcy says:

    Angie: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences here. They sound similar to mine. And yes, I do believe that far too many young people turn to sex as a way to gain acceptance. I am not advocating young girls having sex here, let’s get that straight, I like the idea of waiting until they are older and in mature relationships. However, there is something wrong with the way that it is being taught. Maybe a concentration should be on WORTH and not on CHASTITY in the first place.

  24. D'Arcy says:

    Amanda,
    I think you have hit upon something SO important. I do think that when young people know their personal worth and value that they will tend to be more virtuous in their interactions with people.

    I think there are serious links missing here though. I think, again, that girls just get this message much more than guys. Guys see that their worth and value is in their sports and education and jobs and girls are taught again and again that it is in protecting their virginity. To me this is worrisome. Especially for all the older single adult women out there who are still learning and being taught this and having it in their heads again and again.

  25. D'Arcy says:

    Amanda,
    I think you have hit upon something SO important. I do think that when young people know their personal worth and value that they will tend to be more virtuous in their interactions with people.

    I think there are serious links missing here though. I think, again, that girls just get this message much more than guys. Guys see that their worth and value is in their sports and education and jobs and girls are taught again and again that it is in protecting their virginity. To me this is worrisome. Especially for all the older single adult women out there who are still learning and being taught this and having it in their heads again and again.

  26. D'Arcy says:

    Amanda,
    I think you have hit upon something SO important. I do think that when young people know their personal worth and value that they will tend to be more virtuous in their interactions with people.

    I think there are serious links missing here though. I think, again, that girls just get this message much more than guys. Guys see that their worth and value is in their sports and education and jobs and girls are taught again and again that it is in protecting their virginity. To me this is worrisome. Especially for all the older single adult women out there who are still learning and being taught this and having it in their heads again and again.

  27. D'Arcy says:

    Amanda,
    I think you have hit upon something SO important. I do think that when young people know their personal worth and value that they will tend to be more virtuous in their interactions with people.

    I think there are serious links missing here though. I think, again, that girls just get this message much more than guys. Guys see that their worth and value is in their sports and education and jobs and girls are taught again and again that it is in protecting their virginity. To me this is worrisome. Especially for all the older single adult women out there who are still learning and being taught this and having it in their heads again and again.

  28. Alisa says:

    Having served recently in our YW presidency, I’ve got a lot of ideas based on the current lessons and ways chastity is being taught at church. I think chastity is important to teach to our young women. Absolutely.

    But I think we as adults often forget that there are often strong differences between why young men have sex and why young women have sex. Young men seem to be more in touch with their physical drive, while young women seem more in touch with their emotional drives. Adult women who have come into their full physical sexuality often forget what it was like to be a teenage woman. We tend to judge their sexual actions based on those of adult women or males of all ages. Please forgive the generalizations, but I’ve found this to be true, especially in my life.

    I tried to keep the standards as much as I could when I was a teenager, but I also knew that I wanted to be loved, to feel attractive, to feel that my worth was validated by the young men I dated. When I was kissing them, I was not thinking, “Wow! This feels good, this is what my hormones want.” Instead I was thinking, “He thinks I’m pretty. He thinks I’m sexy. I have value because he’s showing me I can attract a man.” Essentially, I found that I wanted attention and acceptance more than I wanted my own physical pleasure. It wasn’t until after I was married I discovered my own physical pleasure (through a patient partner and much reading up in text books).

    For me, the best YW value to address the chastity issue is Individual Worth. We should teach them that they do not need to give others the power of assigning value to them based on their sex appeal. We should teach them that they do not need the approval of their peers or their boyfriends. That it’s OK to seek their own pleasure when the time is right and they have the education and maturity to own their sexuality. Addressing virtue too much is like asking the young women not to think of a pink elephant. Addressing their individual worth in practical, real-life ways can change their thinking and address many of the chastity issues at their core.

  29. amanda says:

    Alisa-I really like the fact you attribute chastity to Individual worth. Men and women are different, sexually and emotionally, and that shouldn’t be ignored in teaching young men and women about how to maintain chastity.

    I know that boys in the church are directed to Spencer W. Kimball’s pamphlet on sexuality, masturbation, etc. However, I am unsure of what the young men’s programme does exactly to address chastity. I will have to ask my husband what his thoughts on it are.

    I do wonder to some degree if, because of these differences between young men and young women that Alisa mentions, young men are taught to be active in sports, education, and other endeavours because being busy and tired is the best protection they can have for staying chaste. I have know that for many young men, physical work outs are important for them to be able to control not only their actions with regards to women, but their thoughts as well. (Daily trips to the gym were very helpful for my husband while we were engaged). However, I don’t think that missing a trip to the gym excuses any type of sexual misbehaviour.

  30. Starfoxy says:

    This makes me think of some discussions of teen pregnancy (not the same topic but closely related). It is very easy to assume that the difficulties of getting pregnant at 16 or 17 are an obvious deterrent, and that all teen pregnancies are accidental. It is also easy to assume that anyone who would intentionally become pregnant as a teen either doesn’t understand what they are getting themselves into, or are a masochist of some sort. What is less obvious is that for many girls who intentionally become pregnant they don’t feel like they’re giving up college, or great jobs, or a better lifestyle because they didn’t think they were going to have any of that in the first place. The best the ever expected for themselves was a lifetime as a single mother working as a retail clerk at some store, so why not get started now? For those girls who intentionally become pregnant at young ages the thing that they need isn’t education on how difficult or horrible their lives will be, they need alternatives. They need reasons to not get pregnant- reasons like “I won’t be able to play in the championship.” Reasons like “I’ll miss my internship.” Reasons like “I’ll lose my scholarship.”

    I think a similar thing is true of teenage promiscuity- that the best girls can expect in life is to have their social acceptance determined by the degree to which they are sexually available. An intense focus on chastity doesn’t give the girls alternatives, it simply gives them the inverse where their social acceptance is determined by the degree to which they are not sexually available. At that point their value still isn’t determined by how smart, spiritual, or kind they are or by what they can accomplish. Their value is still measured by what they are (not) doing in bed.
    Being obsessed with virginity is just as distracting as being obsessed with sex. The real answer is in alternatives- give them something else by which to measure their value.

  31. Davis says:

    I do not think you understand what the Health teacher was really saying. He was not really looking for the word ‘prostitute’, he was looking for the word ‘w h o r e’. When prostitute was offered, he used them interchangeably.

    Unfortunately, there are still many people around today that feel that if a woman gives away sex before marriage it makes her a wh—.

    Along another line, the reason women bear the burden of sexual immorality is because they are the ones that can get pregnant. The potential life changing events for a woman are much higher than for a man if sexual activity is not done responsibly.

    The reason we need to stress sexual control and abstinence was described almost perfectly by Alisa’s comment when she said:
    “Instead I was thinking, “He thinks I’m pretty. He thinks I’m sexy. I have value because he’s showing me I can attract a man.”

    Young women for the most part have absolutely no idea how misdirected their ideas are – they typically think that the young man is thinking along the same lines. They need to be taught to understand what exactly a young man is thinking and how their ideas are such a complete mismatch.

    They need to be taught that these thoughts are completely and utterly nonsense. In what I would consider the majority of situations where sex is involved, the reason a young girl can attract a young boy is because she has breasts and a vagina. If he likes her and has fun with her, that is a bonus.

    While she is thinking “He thinks I’m pretty. He thinks I’m sexy. I have value because he’s showing me I can attract a man.” The young man is thinking “If I keep letting her think I’m totally in to her, hopefully I can get into her pants”

    Ask any high school boy that is currently sexually active and he will tell you that if it was guaranteed that no one would ever find out he would have sex with any woman. Young, old, cute, ugly, thin, fat, crazy, whatever – especially if you ask about oral sex.

    Virtue is stressed in the Young Men’s programs. The emphasis is different however (I’m not sure if that is good or bad). If you sleep around, you don’t go on a mission – that is what is stressed.

    I do not know the answer to the virgin/whore situation. Unfortunately, it is perpetuated by the media, by men and by women. When a young woman dresses up and looks like a beautiful, classy twenty five year old business woman of course the young men will notice. beautiful, classy twenty five year old business women are what they fantasize about when they go home and masturbate. It is the change that thy notice. The overnight transformation from a ‘girl’ in jeans and a T-shirt to a ‘woman’. If she dressed that way every day, the comments would stop.

    Chastity needs to be taught – to young men and young women. As does respect for each other. The place where we are dropping the ball is not teaching young men and young women about how differently they think about issues (like sex, attraction etc).

  32. Janna says:

    D’Arcy, brilliant analysis of the blatant message to girls in the church that if they don’t keep their legs closed they are damaged goods.

    My hair was on fire after watching the General YW Conference video introducing the new value, “Virtue.” The message was loud and clear from each of the girls’ testimonies, “I am not going to have sex so that I can get married in the temple.” There was no mention whatsoever that one would go to the temple for any other reason than to get married. Or, that one would abstain from sex for any other reason than to make sure they are virginal upon entering the temple for marriage.

    I am upset NOT because I think girls should have sex before marriage or that temple marriage is ridiculous or unnecessary. Rather I am upset that the message gives women who are well into their 30s little motivation to remain chaste when the prospect of temple marriage is slim to none because their sense of chastity is a causal relationship with marriage. At some point, the will to remain chaste will disintegrate and what we are trying to avoid (casual sex) may happen anyway.

    The real reason for remaining chaste has to do with respect for oneself and others – not as an admission ticket to a temple marriage.

  33. Caroline says:

    Janna and Starfoxy, excellent, excellent points.

  34. D'Arcy says:

    Agreed. EXCELLENT points.

  35. D'Arcy says:

    Agreed. EXCELLENT points.

  36. D'Arcy says:

    Agreed. EXCELLENT points.

  37. D'Arcy says:

    Agreed. EXCELLENT points.

  38. Jana says:

    Davis:
    I seriously do not think that all high school boys are simply looking for a vagina. It’s quite possible that many are, but I would be very hesitant to generalize this to _all_ teen boys. I’ve known many who actually wanted to date a girl who had more than that (a mind, opinions, skills, values, etc).

    FWIW, I also don’t think all high school girls are engaging in sexual behaviors simply to get validation for their attractiveness.

    These stereotypes might apply more aptly to an older generation. I don’t see them as applicable to the teens that I’ve known well.

  39. Jana says:

    One more observation on the purity myth:
    Back when I was dating I had several guy friends tell me that they wanted to marry an LDS girl with some sexual experience, simply because then they’d know that she at least *liked* sex and had a healthy sex drive. Has anyone else encountered this? It seems to counter church teachings about the value of virginity.

  40. Mark D. says:

    Some denominations (notably the Catholics) actually have a theology about the body. On average Mormon theology on questions like this reduces to “so and so said so, and he was inspired, so you shouldn’t do it”.

    In the absence of substantive well thought out explanation why one should maintain one standard or another, teachers / parents make them up and the result is often awkward, juvenile, or manipulative. Such are the wages of theology free religious education.

    Introducing the issue of how one will be perceived by others is ought to be strictly secondary. If it is introduced, reducing perception to a negative epithet without explaining why such perceptions (even if unfair) exist is a waste of time.

    As far as the sexual double standard is concerned, short of abandoning chastity altogether, the easiest thing (especially for women) to do is to apply the same social stigma to sexually active males as to sexually active females. If young women with some sense of chastity do not actively avoid young men with such reputations to the degree that many young men do when the roles are flipped, they are perpetuating the double standard by their own actions.

    The main alternative of course is to teach both young men and young women that chastity is a hopelessly out of date ideal with no bearing on the modern world. If it feels good, do it. And so on…

    One last thing that might help is teaching a healthy sense of forgiveness for past indescretions, particularly ones years in the past, where the person has had ample opportunity to repent, instead of permanent second class status, which is horribly unfair.

  41. YvonneS says:

    “Why can’t we, as a culture, move past the Madonna/Who cliches?” This is a good question. The comments have been thoughtful and thought provoking.It is tempting to say that these attitudes are so deeply embedded in our culture that it will take generations for them to change.Yet, attitudes have changed radically in the last 40 years. Unfortuantely the changes have not been toward healthy attitudes.

    Sexual harassment is rampant in our high schools. Little is done about it as most girls won’t talk about their experiences with school authorities for fear they will be shunned or asaulted by their group. Maybe we need to give up coed schools. Adopting uniforms might make a difference. Ultimately though young people in general need role models who are willing to listen to their concerns.They need mentors that they respect and trust to give them accurate information without judging.

  42. jks says:

    I think that teen boys and girls definitely view sex differently. Very few of my high school friends had positive first times. They generally felt like the guy was a jerk.
    Having sex tends to make a girl emotionally vulnerable more than a boy. A boy is far more likely to have sex with a girl who he knows and then never speaks to again, or someone whose name he doesn’t know.
    While I didn’t have sex, I found that it was the same pattern for kissing as for more intimate behavior. Kissing for me meant that I wanted to have a relationship with someone. Unfortunately, it did not always mean the same thing for the boys.
    Our society is trying to teach girls to have the same kind of sexuality as boys, but they are still girls and they end up feeling badly after many sexual encounters. Teen boys are rarely able to be emotionally supportive lovers rather than immature physical ones.
    Our parents generation used the expression “taking advantage of her” for EVERY sexual act, not just rape.
    I think we are kidding ourselves if we think that girls can escape the emotional hurt that being sexually active outside of marriage (especially as a teen girl in teen sex situations)can cause by easing up on the chastity talks.

  43. Davis says:

    “Back when I was dating I had several guy friends tell me that they wanted to marry an LDS girl with some sexual experience, simply because then they’d know that she at least *liked* sex and had a healthy sex drive”.

    From my experience, this is most often expressed by guys who have been or are currently sexually active. They say it for one of two reasons:

    #1. They are looking for a woman that won’t judge them for how much sex they have had.

    #2. They are subtly signaling to the woman they are talking to that if she is willing they are interested in a sexual relationship with her.

    It is actually still a bit startling to me how many married women that comment here are still not in tune with how a teenage boys mind works. Have you not had frank discussions with your husbands? Even young men that are totally chaste and in control contemplate on a daily basis some aspect of sex and how great it would be to do it. Once they start having wet dreams and orgasm on a regular basis it is unavoidable.

    That is another thing that has surprised me. Many of the women I know have never put together the fact that all – and I mean ALL – young men have an orgasm at least every couple of weeks. They are either:
    1 – having sex or oral sex.
    2 – masturbating.
    3 – having wet dreams.
    4 – any combination of the first 3.

    Even the most chaste honorable and stalwart young man orgasms regularly. That can have quite an effect on how sex can permeate your thoughts etc.

    If all young women were having orgasms with regularity from the time they were about 12 on, life on this planet would be drastically different.

  44. D'Arcy says:

    Davis, I fear your generalities about men and teenage boys could be damaging. You are basically saying that ALL men do the things that perhaps you do ALL the time. That ALL men are simply looking for breasts and a vagina, no matter who is attached to it.

    I am disturbed by this comment on so many levels, and it’s not because I haven’t had very very frank sexual conversations with the men in my life. It’s because I have had these discussions. And while I do understand how the male mind works, I am trying to find where your point is truly fitting into this discussion.

    You are saying that ALL men care about getting sex and they’ll do anything and everything to get it. Does that mean you are saying that all men simply treat women like whores? That’s the attitude I feel coming from you and your broad ideas concerning the reasons behind relationships.

    I think there are obviously elements of what you say in many male interactions, but to sum all male behavior up in those terms just seems to go too far.

  45. amelia says:

    your reduction of sex and sexual attraction to nothing but body parts and orgasms is certainly not the way to deal with the angel/whore dilemma, davis. it only serves to reinforce the idea that women are only valuable because of their bodies, which is what the angel/whore dilemma is all about.

    do teenage boys think about sex? yes. do they think about it a lot? yes. do they orgasm frequently? yes. are they attracted to women because they can have sex with them? yes. i don’t deny any of these realities. but to reduce teenage boys to this summary is a disservice to both boys and girls. maybe if we acknowledged sexual realities (including those about girls; they are, after all, sexually curious, too) in a more complex way we would be able to get beyond the stupidity and the harmful simplicity of reducing a woman to either an angelic virgin or a demonic whore. not to mention the equal stupidity of reducing boys to rutting animals with penises for brains.

    as to the health teacher–he should be shot. the stupid bastard. and if i were you, d’arcy, i’d report him to the administration.

  46. amelia says:

    sorry for responding piecemeal here, but i’m not up to constructing a more cohesive response.

    i think jill’s comment:

    “One could almost get the impression from some of these comments that it’s ok to be promiscuous–that we put too much emphasis on being chaste. What was that scripture about calling evil good?”

    is a great example of the angel/whore myth in action. for someone to suggest something other than extreme abstinence as a means of dealing with chastity and sexual instruction is the same as a call for promiscuity is simply ridiculous. and, in my opinion, it embodies the problem. sex is natural and healthy–a normal part of a normal life. and we should teach our children that, in addition to teaching them respect for their bodies and sexual relationships so that they learn the proper context for sex. the kind of extreme approach that emphasizes virginity at all costs only sets people up for psychological problems and sexual frustration.

  47. Jana says:

    Actually, Davis, you’re wrong on several counts. These men that I spoke with about wanting a woman with experience were virgins themselves and were RMs looking for wives and not hookups. Just sayin’. I think what they were expressing was that it’s really scary for a guy who knows that he likes sex (because, as you say, he has experienced orgasms) to marry a girl that he has no clue about her sexual proclivities if she has not already experienced solo or partnered sex. I can understand that fear. I don’t think it has anything to do with guys objectifying women’s bodies, I think it is a natural outgrowth of a culture that doesn’t allow sexual experimentation prior to marriage.

    FWIW, I’ve had plenty of frank discussions with men about their feelings during puberty (puh-leeze, I am no prude and anyone who knows me can attest to that). But I also don’t believe in reducing male behavior to being entirely penis-driven. At least, the men that I know or have known are far more complex than that.

  48. Davis says:

    I said nothing at all about men. I mentioned teen aged boys. I did not say that they didn’t respect women or treated them all like whores. All I said was that young men think very differently due to their experiences, and not enough adults teach their daughters that. No one seems to actually read what I write here, so I will just stop.

  49. Jessawhy says:

    D’Arcy,
    Wonderful post. There is so much here to think about. Mostly, it makes me think that I don’t want to send my children to public schools past, oh, the first grade, but it’s really informative.

    Davis,
    Thanks for your perspective.
    At the risk of a slight threadjack, I’m intrigued by the last bit of your comment.

    “If all young women were having orgasms with regularity from the time they were about 12 on, life on this planet would be drastically different.”

    What do you mean by this? Would women be more assertive? Would it change the power structure between men and women?

  50. Deeply Anonymous For This One says:

    “If all young women were having orgasms with regularity from the time they were about 12 on, life on this planet would be drastically different.”

    How do you know they’re not?

  51. Carol Brown says:

    One of the greatest challenges parents face is helping girls and young women (and boys and young men also) confront the dehumanized, sexualized views of women in the media. We need to talk to our children in age-appropriate terms about beauty and sacred nature of sexuality from an early age. We cannot allow the media to supercede our role as parents in teaching our children about virtue, and chastity, sexuality.

    As a mother, I regret not teaching these concepts more proactively. I underestimated the role of music, movies, television shows, and magazines in defining a youth’s sexual values.

    As a Rape Recovery Center volunteer, I am amazed that many of our youth do not understand what constitutes rape. Since an astonishing number of girls and women are raped in the US (1/4 to 1/3), we also need to teach sexual assault prevention and recovery to our youth.

  52. Mike says:

    And thus we see the benefits of the public education system, a fairly recent invention with modest results.

  53. Nichole says:

    ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2008) — “A new CDC study estimates that one in four (26 percent) young women between the ages of 14 and 19 in the United States – or 3.2 million teenage girls – is infected with at least one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, herpes simplex virus, and trichomoniasis). The study, presented today at the 2008 National STD Prevention Conference, is the first to examine the combined national prevalence of common STDs among adolescent women in the United States, and provides the clearest picture to date of the overall STD burden in adolescent women.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080312084645.htm

    I believe there is strong empirical evidence for concern for both boys and girls. An emphasis on virtue could not be more timely. Considering the flood of direct messages from the world that glorify immorality I believe a direct counter response is clearly merited.

  54. anon says:

    Because its not what we’re teaching the girls, its what is NOT being taught to the boys. They are the ones that promote the madonna/whore complex.

  55. Kiri Close says:

    Super cool and necessary post with awesome comments!

  56. Paul says:

    I appreciate your posts. I was amazed at your candor regarding your own sexuality in a post a month or so ago – no longer available online. I’m sorry that many of the reactions were so stridently unhelpful. We seem unable to discuss rationally alternatives to monogamous marital sexuality. I applaud you for trying.

  57. Kiri Close says:

    This isn’t the best, but, @ times, this article does have its good moments. Think what you will (btw, & as you know, simply type in ‘sex’ on LDS.org).

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=e6737befabc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=e1fa5f74db46c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

  1. May 31, 2009

    […] “The health teacher, a 67 year old LDS man, taught the class that any woman who had sex without be… […]

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