Who Wants a Piece of This?

teen-pregnancy-rates-rise-425ds012810Yikes…It’s gonna be one of those days. I just realized it’s MY turn to blog. Sorry porch pals. Grab a rocking chair, refill that cup of coffee, and let’s gather round now and chat.

Yesterday Jolina posted a poignant blog about girls in bikinis and the value of purity. Because she’s one of the most gracious and open-minded people I know, we engaged in an “off-the-porch” chat about this important topic. This is on my brain this morning, so let’s continue the dialogue here with y’all.

As a teacher and community advocate, I have been disturbed by the model of teaching that Jolina referenced from her own school days (which she too found upsetting). The curriculum in discussion involves a lesson in which a piece of candy is passed around a classroom, tacked to the bottom of a shoe, etc. and then held up for inspection as a filthy piece of unwanted trash as the teacher says: “Would you want a piece of this?”

I have concerns about this method of teaching for many reasons.

First, I have never been in a classroom of teens in which every girl in that room is a virgin, and I think we are wearing blinders if we want to pretend they are. That means, at least one of those girls is being made to feel as if she has no more value in this life than a piece of dirty, unwanted, used candy. What is Christian about that? Nothing.

Second, statistics suggest that 1 in 4 girls wills be sexually assaulted before age 18 (and 1 in 6 boys).

By this account, at least one girl in that classroom will likely have suffered sexual assault or rape, at no fault of her own. Should she be made to feel worthless, filthy, and used…a piece of candy no one will want? I think that would be the worst thing we could do.

I live in Mississippi, a state that has historically taught abstinence-only curriculums in our public schools, including lessons such as this candy one. Despite being one of the most Christian and conservative states, despite decades of abstinence promotion to our teens, our state has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. Whether we like it or not, this approach is not working.

There are many complex issues that lead BOTH boys and girls to become sexually active before marriage, and shaming them will not change those behaviors. It will only push them farther from their faith and put them more at risk of losing their emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.

There is a better way to teach people of both genders to develop a strong sense of self-respect and the ability to develop healthy relationships.

imagesI have a problem with a society that teaches females it is OUR fault when a guy lusts after us. It must be because of how we are dressed, or how we behave, or something WE are doing that is IMPURE. This is only a half-step away from the Taliban insisting women cover completely so as not to “tempt man” to lust. You think those head-to-toe coverings are earning those women more respect? Keeping them pure? Preventing men from assaulting, raping, and abusing them? Think again.



LittleMissSunshinePageant(And no, I am not suggesting we all run around in bikinis nor that our daughters should bump and grind in sequined leotards for dance competitions. I’m saying there is a healthy balance that we can achieve by putting the focus NOT on our bodies.)

It’s time we put the accountability on the men in our communities. They can control their temptations, just as women are expected to do. They too should be held responsible for that high teen pregnancy rate, the statistics of sexual assault and rape, and the number of sexual encounters they have before marriage. There should no longer be a different standard of “purity” for women and we should no longer teach that any person has no more worth than a used, filthy piece of candy.

Instead, let’s teach them they are loved. They are worth more than what they can do with their bodies. And they have a greater God-given purpose in life that only they can know and explore.

Let’s exchange shame for grace, and let’s bring up a healthier generation of teens who both understand and respect their God-given sexuality…so that they can both understand and respect themselves.

What do you think?

Learn more about Julie’s writing at www.juliecantrell.com



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Julie Cantrell

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author at Harper Collins Christian
Julie Cantrell is a tree-hugging organic-farm girl and mother of two who happened into a mid-life adventure as a novelist. She's having fun parenting, writing, teaching, speaking, and living the dream.

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  1. says

    Glad you’re continuing the discussion, Julie!
    I particularly loved these lines:

    “Let’s teach (the girls) they are loved.
    They are worth more than what they can do with their bodies. And they have a greater God-given purpose in life that only they can know and explore.

    Let’s exchange shame for grace.”

    Amen and amen.

    • Julie Cantrell says

      I’ll always vote for grace and love and kindness. Glad we are on the same team. Hugs, sweet Jolina. And thanks for engaging us all in this important conversation. Good stuff to think about and talk about with our friends and our teens. j

  2. Lisa Wingate says

    Amen to everything Jolina just said! It is such a tough issue, but I think we have to be open-eyed.

    The first step in dealing with a problem is always looking at it analytically and realistically, not emotionally. I think we as parents and mentors have to first be realistic about kids and teens, their culture, and what they consider to be normal, acceptable, and even expected behavior in their social circles. Taking some time to be a fly on the wall and really listen to teen conversations, really surf for Fb pages and see what their commenting on and posting can be eye-opening (and horrifying sometimes) but we need to know so that we’re coming at the conversation from an accurate starting place.

    Then we need to have the conversations and not just talk… but listen.

  3. says

    Jesus is such a cool guy! No one can read the bible and not see how much value he placed on women. Any instruction he ever gave was with that value in mind. All of us who have influence over young girls–as mothers, grandmothers, teachers, mentors–would be wise to follow his example. My own grandmother often told me I was her “precious pudding’ gift from God.” And she also followed that statement with a quick wink, “don’t forget to act like it.”

    • Julie Cantrell says

      Exactly, Kellie. Did he shame the woman at the well and tell her no one would want her? Or did he stand up for her against the mob and offer her love, rebuilding her self-worth and THUS her FAITH. There is a gentle, kind, loving way to draw people closer to God. Jesus understood this best. Peace, j

  4. says

    Julie, this is so good.

    (By the way, it is so nice of y’all to have this blog. What a treat for your readers to get to hear from and respond to y’all on a regular basis. Thanks to each of you for the work it takes!)

    You are so right; something is not working. Our culture is no longer a stable place, where everyone knows what’s expected and what to expect. Blaming men and shaming women isn’t working. The answer to this (as well as all other problems) can only be found in Jesus Christ. In him, Tamar the incestress, Rahab the harlot, Ruth from the slumvilles of Moab, Bathsheba the adulteress, and Mary the Blessed all share kinship as those whose pasts paved the way for the King of Kings; they are the only women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. Only by focusing on Jesus can these messes that are our lives make sense. In Him, everything works out beautifully.

    Although we can influence men for good or bad, specifically in how we dress and act around them, men also influence how we dress! I wrote a post about this a while back:


    I know, however, that we really can’t control what others do; so I am so thankful for Jesus and that He really is able to work all things together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose. Our job is to let those sweet girls know: HE FIRST LOVED THEM!

    • Julie Cantrell says

      Great examples, Rebekah and fabulous blog post too. Happy to have you join us here on the SBV porch today.

      • Julie Cantrell says

        I wasn’t able to comment on your blogsite, but I appreciate the way you categorize the “herd” mentality. So many of us are afraid to break away from the herd and to be nonconformists. So much pressure on young people…heck, on all people…to fit a certain mold. Sad stuff. I wish everyone could find the confidence and security to be themselves and not rely on superficial approval to boost their self-esteem. I think there’s a movement now that’s gaining groundswell – anti-airbrushing, Dove campaign, real beauty marketing, etc. it’s about time we focus on the important character traits and not just a person’s dress or body type. Thanks for your input! j

  5. Rachel Hauck says

    Having worked with youth for years, decades, I’ve been around this topic a lot.

    We taught the boys in youth church not to look at girls lustfully and taught the girls not to give them something to look at. We taught them not to defraud one another physically or emotionally.

    Yet we cannot deny men are visual. So there is a responsibility for women to dress “responsibly.” Though the Taliban rules are ridiculous. I agree Julie, those women are no more safe than if they walked down the sidewalk naked.

    But our American society, oversexed in so many ways, encourages women to parade around showing all their goods while almost daring men to “not look.”

    If the Taliban demanding women cover up is an oppression, letting our women go around with midriffs showing as well as ample cleavage is just as oppressive. The cover of Sports Illustrated is porn. Women should be appalled.

    However, no matter what we women do, it is still upon men to respond nobly and rightly!! I think women need to honor men in kind.

    But we’ve lost sight of the differences between men and women in this modern age and we’ve put women on the men’s playing field. We are not men. We don’t think like them no matter how we pretend we do. :)

    I don’t like sexualizing little girls. Or big girls for that matter. Because it automatically sexualizes boys who are dealing with their own hormones as is!

    My hubby stopped taking teen boys to Wet-n-Wild because if they were to honor the women they had to go around staring at their feet the entire time. How is it fair girls get to run around with falling-off bikinis but expect our young men not to look or lust?

    I’m totally with you that both sexes need to get in touch with God’s heart and design for sexuality. And men are created men and women as women, both with a design for the whole of creation. We have a roll to play!! :)

    I love Song of Solomon 2: 14-15. “Catch the foxes that spoil the vine.” The lies about sexuality and who we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to look like, etc.

    Get that from the heart of God!

    Great post, Julie.


    • Julie Cantrell says

      Excellent points, Rachel. It is such a powerful role in life to have that direct experience working with teens. Great opportunity to make a real difference in the world. I’m sure they all feel grateful for the relationship you build with them.

  6. says

    Julie, you’ve done a great work here in this continuing discussion. So important. Your words, so profound. There are no throw away people in the eyes of Jesus.

    I love what our visitor Rebecca said, “The answer to this (as well as all other problems) can only be found in Jesus Christ. In him, Tamar the incestress, Rahab the harlot, Ruth from the slumvilles of Moab, Bathsheba the adulteress, and Mary the Blessed all share kinship as those whose pasts paved the way for the King of Kings; they are the only women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. Only by focusing on Jesus can these messes that are our lives make sense. In Him, everything works out beautifully.”


  7. Debi says

    Well,you asked what do you think……so here I go.
    First, I agree with you that the candy bar on the floor demonstration is not the way to get the idea across that purity is important
    Second, I agree with you that men have a responsibility to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

    That being said, as Christian’s trying to edify one another it is important to note that as Jolina was observing the distasteful behavior and verbalized thoughts of the men that walked by, her concern was for the young girls that she loved. It is our job to protect our daughters so part of us rises up when we observe those things. Fear, anger(righteous, I might add), and the motherly instinct to protect our daughters. With that thought comes the God given desire to train our daughters and other young women in how to walk in godliness.

    I think many of the discussions on this topic get off base when they focus on who do we blame. It is not a discussion on blame that should ensue. Our focus should be on who this Lord Jesus whom we serve is and as we nurture that relationship by spending time talking to Him and listening to Him, reading His word and loving Him, our focus will begin to become clear. We want to honor Jesus with modest dress that protects us and our brothers in Christ(the wolves are always going to be out there, we can’t change them , only Jesus can). We as woman do have a responsibility before the Lord as do the men, not to cause our brother to stumble, and this is only one way of many that we do that.

    Honoring Our Lord Jesus with the way we dress is just one way to show our love to Him and to our brothers.
    We live in a fallen world and with that said we may dress in a berka and still suffer sexual violence against us.
    You are so right that Jesus loves us and when we belong to Him we are covered in His righteousness and there is no condemnation, but then He lovingly teaches us as we submit to Him just how to walk out a victorious, pure life In Him!

  8. Julie Cantrell says

    Hi Debi, Thanks for joining our discussion and sharing your thoughts. It’s so brave to be honest, open, and public about what we believe,and I admire your courage. And you’ve certainly touched on that primal instinct we have as mothers to protect our little ones. I’ve been working on a new book about human trafficking that has shown me all too well the threats in the world — the wolves, as you call them. It’s scary, and sad, and sick…and if I allow myself to focus on it, I get overwhelmed with fear for my children.So I find the good and remind myself that despite the slices of evil around us, most people are incredibly good at heart and want only to love and be loved. My heart breaks if I dare stop believing that to be true. Hugs and peace and thanks again for joining our chat. Cheers, j

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