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.
I 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.
(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