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?