Exposing the abstinence agenda: a review of “The Purity Myth”

I got my copy of Jessica Valenti’s newest book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women last week. If the editor-in-chief of Feministing continues to crank out books at this pace, I’m going to suspect that she harbors a secret Calvinist work ethic. Four books in two years is a remarkable achievement.

The Obama Administration offers hope that the long national embarrassment known as the abstinence-only movement is soon to be finished. Early signs are that funding for more comprehensive sex education will eventually come through, and that government support for the “purity movement” — a hallmark of the Bush years — is at long last coming to an end (though not rapidly enough for many of us.) Jessica’s timely, accessible book looks at the damage wrought by the “purity myth” and at the noxious agenda which hides behind the cry that “True Love Waits.” Her book went to press too early to include the most recent findings on the failures of the abstinence movement, which is a pity; all the best research indicates that a focus on “purity” has been an unmitigated disaster, leading to a spike rather than in a decline in unplanned pregnancies among American teenagers.

In The Purity Myth, Valenti employs the same accessible, conversational style — punctuated by hilarious asides and personal anecdotes — that characterized her first book, Full Frontal Feminism. As several hundred of my students have told me since I first started assigning FFF a year and a half ago, that style works to engage them and to challenge them in a way that a more formally-written text would not. This is not to suggest that my students are incapable of wrestling with books written in academic prose — but when it comes to a subject as personal as contemporary sexual ethics, a breezy conversational tone lends considerable legitimacy to the argument being made. And that tone and that legitimacy are on full display once again in this wonderful book.

The Purity Myth has many strengths, but perhaps the central theme of the text is the thorough and devastating debunking of the notion that a woman’s worth is in any way connected to the amount of sexual experience she has had. For teen girls, bombarded as they are by the twin lies of the abstinence movement and the crass, pornified “Girls Gone Wild” media culture, there’s a desperate need for sound, sensible, compassionate messages that emphasize the simple message that a woman’s sexuality belongs, in the end, to her and to her alone. It is not the property of a father or a future husband (Valenti’s take on “purity balls”, where Dads “date” their daughters and pledge to safeguard their purity, is chilling — particularly for me as a first-time papa to a baby girl). It is not the property of the culture, it is not the property of predatory boys, it is hers.

Valenti offers a hilarious and thorough debunking of the “sex will ruin your life” narrative peddled by most of the abstinence crowd; there’s a wonderful section about the way in which the religious right misuses the hormone oxytocin, by suggesting that this famous “love chemical” will lose its impact if it is aroused or released prior to marriage. One of the ugliest things we do to young women in our culture is teach them — in the guise of concern for their well-being — that one single “mistake” will equal a lifetime of regret. The abstinence movement hammers home a message that women are uniquely vulnerable, and that this vulnerability is less rooted in their capacity to be impregnated and more in their unique feminine psychology, prone as it is to devastation. (I like to call this the “Miss Haversham Myth”, after the character in Great Expectations; I write about it at length in this post.) Valenti makes the case that the promulgation of this myth is less about protecting women and more about fighting a rear guard action against feminism. The fact is, as Valenti makes clear, every single major public proponent of the abstinence movement is funded by or works closely with organizations with explicitly anti-feminist agendas. (Can you name one prominent abstinence advocate who favors paid family leave or abortion rights? Didn’t think so.)

But though the book would be valuable alone for its expose of the abstinence movement, The Purity Myth also touches on the way in which the movement offers a distorted, toxic vision of both men and women. She quotes Michael Kimmel and Bob Jensen (of Guyland and Getting Off fame) at length, noting the ways in which the abstinence movement’s framing of male sexuality as predatory and uncontrollable (and thus women’s responsibility to manage) does violence to men and women alike — though the worst injuries are invariably suffered by women. Jessica writes:

It’s because I care so much for the men in my life that I advocate a re-thinking of masculinity. It’s also because I want a better world for women. Because as long as men are disconnected from women, as long as they’re taught that we’re what not to be, and as long as they believe that the only way to define themselves is through women’s bodies and sexuality, the purity myth will live on.

The best part of The Purity Myth comes in the conclusion, in which Jessica Valenti offers a ringing new vision of feminist sexuality and agency. Quoting at length:

Teaching sex as a moral, responsible act — not to be taken lightly, but also not to be used as a fodder for criticism — has the potential to create real change in young women’s lives. By doing so, we’d be giving young women much needed space to take responsibility for their sexuality. For example, think of the common excuse that young people use when they’ve had unprotected sex: “It just happened.” In these instances, sex is framed not as a deliberate choice, but rather something that just occurred, thus freeing young people — especially young women — from the judgment that’s heaped upon those who actively choose sex. The lack of protection, in fact, “proves” that the encounter wasn’t premeditated; this allows the participants to absolve themselves of guilt. But if having sex is a morally neutral — or positive — act, young women will start making better and healthier decisions, because they’ll feel justified in making them.

Bold emphasis mine. Years and years of working with adolescents leaves me with not a shred of doubt about the basic common sense of that last line.

The abstinence movement has one vision for our little sisters and our daughters. It is a vision rooted less in a respect for their agency and autonomy and more in a twisted theology of the body, a teaching that suggests that biology is destiny and that a woman’s truest worth is inextricably linked with her pre-marital virginity and her post-marital fecundity. It is a vision straight out of a Margaret Atwood novel, but it is no fantasy. It is a worldview rooted in a mistrust of women’s agency and a hatred for women’s power, a worldview in which sacrificial service to fathers and husbands is reframed as liberation and fulfillment. From a Christian standpoint, it is a perversion of the Gospel; from a political standpoint, it is reactionary and dangerous and fundamentally anti-modern. Jessica Valenti’s powerful, broad-ranging treatise is an accessible and important polemic in the struggle against what I can only describe as a malevolent vision of humanity and sexuality.

I know some young people in my life who are getting The Purity Myth this year for their birthdays.

38 thoughts on “Exposing the abstinence agenda: a review of “The Purity Myth”

  1. I understand and agree with your criticism of one-sided “purity balls” and of the usual gender stereotypes that many conservatives have on these issues, but it’s fallacious to say that the abstinence message does more harm than good. Much has been in the news lately about combatting the AIDS crisis in Africa. UNAIDS asked for a scientific review on condoms and AIDS, and it was found that AIDS cases had increased in nations where condoms were emphasized as the main weapon against HIV transmission. In contrast, the anti-AIDS campaign in Uganda did mention condoms but emphasized abstinence, and over ten years the level of HIV infection rates decreased from approximately 15% to about 5%.

    Again, this is separate from your legitimate complaints about casting men as sexual predators who simply can’t be expected to control themselves and women as helpless waifs who agree to sex only to be popular with men. Such pigeon-holing only muddies the waters of the issue.

  2. This phenomena is especially true in very religious cultures. The roots of the abstinence-only cause are not to “protect” women from devastation, but to control women’s lives and choices through their sexuality; playing on psychology to reinforce the message that women’s worth is absolutely dependent on their ability to please men by remaining untainted. It’s really quite sick if you think about it, not to mention the ultimate form of oppression.

  3. bmmg39, I can’t think of anyone who critiques the mention of abstinence as an option to protect yourself from AIDS and pregnancy. It’s abstinence only education that is a problem. Uganda’s a case in point. Their campaign urges people to 1)be Abstinent 2)if you do have sex Be faithful and 3)use Condoms (always a good idea, but also mitigates failure on point 2). This three-fold prescription for respectful sexual behavior is considered to be as easy as “ABC”. And yet over here, abstinence-only advocates will actually argue that teenagers can’t handle that much complexity. Please. How much good do you think was done by religious campaigns that insisted on abstinence while telling people that condoms wouldn’t work at all? Uganda was successful at reducing AIDS infections because they recognized that there are multiple strategies for sexual safety, and tried to make people aware of them all so they can make good choices.

  4. There are two different ways to look at the “purity myth” as damaging:

    1) it’s damaging because it has been applied primarily to females as a means of social control.

    2) it’s damaging because the premise of waiting until marriage to have sex is stupid and harmful.

    If we’re talking about the former only, which has been proven true time and time again, I’m all with Hugo and the author of this book. But I haven’t read the whole book, and it strikes me that America has far less an “obsession” with virginity than many other cultures and time periods.

    I would be interested in hearing about how, why, and to what extent #2 is considered valid, particularly because I’m one of a very small group of people I know who actually stuck to those silly “True Love Waits” pledges signed in 8th grade Youth Group (which, I will agree, is an AWFUL thing to do to a 14-year-old, because far too many people are pressured into signing something when they cannot possibly fathom its implications for the future…and then the vast majority break their oath, and now oaths mean nothing).

  5. There’s nothing wrong with waiting until you’re married, Patrick; no one is interested in making sex obligatory beforehand. But what is wrong is suggesting, on theological or psychological or cultural grounds, that heterosexual marriage is the only proper place for genital sexual activity. For those who wish to have it be so, that’s fine — but of course, healthy, vibrant, life-affirming sex is possible in a variety of permutations and relationships. Heterosexual marriage is only one such relationship, one such permutation.

    The onus, it seems to me, is on those who think one ought to wait to explain why — and to do so in language that avoids completely the kind of problem you point out in your category #1. That isn’t done very often, and it’s never done very well.

  6. I find America’s obsession with virginity to be much like its obsession with the 1950s. And just about as deluded on the reality of both subjects. JMO.

  7. “that emphasize the simple message that a woman’s sexuality belongs, in the end, to her and to her alone. . .It is not the property of the culture, it is not the property of predatory boys, it is hers.”

    I’m a little surprised that the anabaptist in you would allow such a sentence to be written. Does it not all, in the end, belong to the Lord, and do we not all, in the end, belong to each other as fellow disciples along the way?

  8. Dan, we do indeed belong to God. But pleasure and delight and agency are God’s gifts so that we might delight in His creation — when we use those gifts exploitatively, or when we demand that others give us what we imagine is our due, we dishonor those gifts.

    But this reminds me of a post I’m meaning to write — about how reading Romans 12, more than any other passage in the Bible, helped me to come to a radically inclusive, progressive Christian ethic. In the meantime, see this archive of mine:

    http://hugoschwyzer.net/category/sexual-ethics-and-christian-faith-series/

  9. The willingness of CT to put up these posts has occasionally been denounced by philosophers with a somewhat more cloistered vision of what philosophical discussion should involve than ours

    Patrick, I’ve known some people who did wait until after they were married, and in a couple of cases, it resulted in some unexpected and jarring revelations about sexual incompatibility. In one case, the couple was able to work through this, but it added a lot of stress and strain to the already difficult adjustment to marriage. In the other case it was one (but not the only) reason the marriage didn’t work out. Of course we shouldn’t tell people it’s “stupid” to wait until marriage, but we shouldn’t deny that such a strategy has risks and the potential for a heartbreaking downside.

    Lisa: word. Someone smart needs to write a book about the hows and the whys of the weird hold a particular (and historically dubious) vision of middle-class life in the 1950′s life has on our society.

    I’m not saying this warning should (or shouldn’t) be part of sex education, but it’s a real issue that ought not be swept under the rug when discussing the different costs and benefits to different approaches to human sexuality.

  10. “as long as they believe that the only way to define themselves is through women’s bodies and sexuality, the purity myth will live on.”

    I’m not sure that’s a necessary consequence.

    If there’s one thing I really dislike it’s “slut shaming” and the opposite social pressure that exist for men. Partly due to my feminst-shamed education and some personality issues I was a true late bloomer and am very much aware of the competitive pressures of the “stud myth” that comes on top of the general hornyness and insecurity of a young adult. But I would lie if I wouldn’t admit that it wasn’t before I was successful with women that I developed a confidence that would allow me to take a step back and look at this phenomenon. I am very doubtful young men will ever find a way to define themselves that is independent of their competition for female attention, just as young women are defining their ego to a degree through their success in attraction male attention.

    I think it’s fundamentally wrong to shame anyone for this and create behavioral myths like the one under discussion here. But I think the dynamics are at least partly independent of political pressures and social myths. Changing politics and customs is really only a first step…

  11. Thanks for the reply Hugo. I’m going to look around and see if there’s any Christian teaching on “mandatory” pre-marital abstinence that manages to completely avoid problem #1. As you say, I doubt such a thing exists. But I’d be interested in seeing if such a thing is possible.

    Good post, and I think I will look into the book.

  12. Thanks for the reply Hugo. I’m going to look around and see if there’s any Christian teaching on “mandatory” pre-marital abstinence that manages to completely avoid problem #1. As you say, I doubt such a thing exists. But I’d be interested in seeing if such a thing is possible.

    Good post, and I think I will look into the book.

  13. Patrick:
    I was raised in a church with the belief that sex before marriage was wrong. I don’t currently subscribe to that belief, but I think I was fortunate in that the reasons I was given (at least in my view) were gender-neutral and avoided #1 in your earlier post. I heard things along the lines of, “Engaging in sexual intimacy with another person makes you emotionally vulnerable, and it’s best to be that vulnerable only with someone whom you trust and with whom you are in a committed relationship [meaning marriage],” or “Your sexuality is a gift from God. You should only share this special gift with someone with whom you are in a committed relationship.” Although I don’t believe sexual activity before marriage is wrong, I also don’t think these arguments are totally without merit, except to the extent that they exclude gay individuals.

  14. Purity is an awfully legalistic concept on which to base morality, sexual or otherwise. Purity is self-focused, defining one’s goodness over-against some impure other. It easily lends itself to reinforcing existing power imbalances through social stigma, a fault for which Jesus often targeted the Pharisees. The dualism inherent in purity-thinking is always in tension with the “both/and” nature of God expressed in the doctrines of Incarnation and Trinity. A Christian sexual ethic has more to do with mutual respect and love.

  15. but it’s fallacious to say that the abstinence message does more harm than good

    “The abstinence message”, as taught in the US abstinence-only movement, certainly does do more harm than good. How is a person who was sexually abused as a child supposed to feel about being compared to a lollipop somebody else already licked?

  16. How is a person who was sexually abused as a child supposed to feel about being compared to a lollipop somebody else already licked?

    Mythago:

    Arguments don’t work that way. I’m no fan of the abstinence-only movement by any means, but it’s fallacious to cite one example of something you (and I) judge to be negative about the movement and conclude therefore it does more harm than good.

  17. Gigi, you sound like you’re pissed off about the other thread, but this isn’t an argument that “abstinence-only education relies on dumb lollipop analogies, therefore it does more harm than good.” The lollipop thing is an example of how abstinence-only programs in the US confuse sexual restraint and maturity with purity, that is, the notion that sex irrevocably dirties and taints people (really, women) who engage in it.

    There is no evidence that abstinence-only programs are effective, but there is credible evidence that they are not effective. In the absence of anything credible to suggest they do “good”, I think it’s fair to say that teaching teens that premartial sex = YOU ARE DIRTY 4EVR probably constitutes doing more harm than good.

  18. BMMG39,

    Right. I have lived in an African country, and there was a hell of a lot of casual sex going on. I think that including condoms as a harm-reduction measure, coupled with an emphasis on fidelity, not having casual sex, not sleeping with prostitutes, monogamy, etc. can do a lot of good. Harm reduction makes sense, even if you think that premarital sex and condoms are both immoral. I suspect that Mr. Schwyzer’s view on chickens is something like “Don’t kill them for food, but if you MUST kill them for food, then at least don’t abuse or deform them beforehand.” Even for a conservative Catholic, or for a semi-conservative christian like myself, the same arguments should hold true with regard to condoms, at least in Africa. That said, an effort to address teenage pregnancy and STDs that focuses ENTIRELY on condoms, totally ignores behavior change, and treats casual sex as a given, is going to do more harm than good. The evidence you cite bears out this point, I think.

    Mythago, I know you dislike the term ‘casual sex’, and I take that under advisement, but I think I am using it in a commonly intelligible sense here, and it’s the best term I can think of for my expression. Abstinence-only programs are dumb, but the ‘condoms are the answer to all our needs’ is equally harmful- just as the ‘insecticide is the answer to all our agricultural needs’ was in the 1950s.

    I also don’t think we should dismiss ‘purity’ entirely. I do think, however, that the definition of keeping oneself pure is going to vary somewhat for different people- different people have different sacrifices that they want to make for God and for their conscience, and that’s perfectly all right. For some people that sacrifice might be abstaining from sex entirely, for others abstaining before marriage, or abstaining from casual sex, or abstaining from self-stimulation, or from pornography, or from uneccessary material consumption, or even from some kinds of foods. I don’t watch pornography, ever, and I’d certainly feel horribly impure if I ever did (I do fail with regard to some other forms of purity, and I need to work on those).

  19. Hugo – thanks for the reply. And in the spirit of your earlier post regarding the aims of this blog, and thus not attempting to push it in directions you’re not interested in going, I’m not going to try to argue too much. But here’s what I was getting it. I did youth ministry for 15 years, I am the father of two daughters. I have no interest in any purity message that implies any girl’s/woman’s virginity ‘belongs’ to any man, be it me as father or another as future husband. I do, however, have an interest in raising up my daughters, and the young women who I have lead, to see that their sexuality falls under the rubric of discipleship – it, like all things, belongs to the Lord. (on a side note, I have an equal interest in sharing this same message with the young boys I have led). And, in spite of your belief that what “is wrong is suggesting, on theological. . .grounds that heterosexual marriage is the only proper place for genital sexual activity,” I and many, many others would disagree with you. I know your hermeneutic differs from mine, and thus we approach Texts differently, but I would hope you could at least understand that there is a theological center that would, in fact, read the Texts to say that very thing. I know you reject that interpretation, but I think you go too far when you then place any who DO follow that interpretation under the rubric of “control and property.” Many of us desire “purity” for our daughters and sons not out of ownership or control or desire to take away their pleasure; we impart ideals of purity because we believe our God is a pure God who desire purity and fidelity for all his children.

    In the end, I’m not trying to argue with you; I just felt like you lumped all of us who promote abstinence outside of marriage into the Dobson crowd, or the Puritan crowd, and while those people seem to get the most press, they certainly don’t represent everybody who seeks to live as a faithful disciple, living under the Word as honestly as we know how.

  20. “Harm reduction makes sense, even if you think that premarital sex and condoms are both immoral.”

    Neither condoms or pre-marital sex are immoral. I also incidentally detest the phrase “pre-marital” sex because it implies that all sex that occurs outside of marriage is just a precursor to sex within marriage.

    Not everyone has the desire to marry, nor will every person on this planet marry. The fact that we will not all marry is not one which needs to change. The fact that many of us choose to have sex without being married does not need to change either.

  21. “How is a person who was sexually abused as a child supposed to feel about being compared to a lollipop somebody else already licked?”

    Thank you.

  22. “I do, however, have an interest in raising up my daughters, and the young women who I have lead, to see that their sexuality falls under the rubric of discipleship – it, like all things, belongs to the Lord.”

    I’m happy that you don’t want girls to be taught that their sexuality belongs to their fathers. However, arguing that their sexuality belongs to “the Lord” is just as equally creepy. That type of attitude towards young girls is also positively known to lead to just as much abuse of females as the idea that our bodies belong to a man or men in general.

  23. Faith,

    I’ve commented on my view of condoms at my blog, I’m not going to repeat the arguments here. While I think they’re morally problematic, I think they have a valid use in terms of harm reduction. As for premarital sex, I don’t think that procreative marriage is the only licit context for sexual intercourse- but I think that all licit sexual relationships should strive towards, or at least be open to developing into, procreative marriage eventually. Casual sex is, flatly, immoral. (And yes, gays cannot procreate biologically, but I support extending civil marriage to gays as well so that they can have a moral ideal the same way that straight people do.)

    Christians believe that everything about us belongs to God, body and soul- we belong to him as property, unquestionably, and the NT uses explicit serfdom/slavery imagery to make this point. Your can argue against Dan W.’s argument on many grounds, but the ‘this is MY body, i can do what i want with it’ is unlikely to convince Christians, liberal of conservative. “Your body is not your own, for you were bought as a price.”

  24. DanW, you and I do read Scripture differently — but indeed, I do recognize the nuance to which you refer. Many of my good friends at Christians for Biblical Equality and in the Mennonite tradition remain committed to the “no genital sexuality outside a marriage between a man and a woman” teaching. I know that many of those same people are radically committed to gender justice, and are working hard to reconcile a sexually conservative ethic with a progressive commitment to social justice. They deserve better than to be lumped up in with the Dr. Dobsons and Richard Lands of the world.

    But as Anabaptists also work for justice without expecting everyone else to live to their same degree of purity. We’re not Calvinists, for heaven’s sake, trying to make a new Geneva!

  25. “but the ‘this is MY body, i can do what i want with it’ is unlikely to convince Christians, liberal of conservative. “Your body is not your own, for you were bought as a price.””

    Which has a lot to do with why I’m not Christian and why I tend to avoid them like the plague itself. Hugo here is one of the few Christians I’ve encountered who I think I could actually handle, and perhaps even enjoy being around.

    If my body belongs to anyone, it absolutely does belong to me. I will use it as I see fit, in whatever way I see fit. If I want to have sex with a man, I will have sex with a man. If I want to have sex with a woman, I will have sex with a woman. I have also had a tubal ligation, so I, for all intents and purposes, can not get pregnant. Although, should I get pregnant, I will have an abortion. No ifs, no ands, no buts.

    I also do not intend to encourage either of my children to marry. I will support them if they make that choice, but I also almost hope that they do not as I have serious misgivings of the institution of marriage. I don’t support the institution and don’t particularly believe in it although I honor other people’s right to engage in it. Marriage has historically been little more than a means for men to own and control women and children. As someone with Buddhist leanings, it also seems to me to be one of the most ultimate forms of attachment.

    So, you are free to keep preaching your misogyny. And I am free to keep ignoring it and to keep living my life as I please.

  26. “bmmg39, I can’t think of anyone who critiques the mention of abstinence as an option to protect yourself from AIDS and pregnancy. It’s abstinence only education that is a problem. Uganda’s a case in point.”

    My point was that abstinence is EMPHASIZED in Uganda, and that’s where we’ve seen the most success. In countries where something else was emphasized, we haven’t seen such success.

    Mythago: “How is a person who was sexually abused as a child supposed to feel about being compared to a lollipop somebody else already licked?”

    Mythago, I’m not part of any particular movement on this, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any such message from pro-chastity organizations. Can you please provide an example in which people who were sexually victimized are treated like licked lollipops?

    “There is no evidence that abstinence-only programs are effective, but there is credible evidence that they are NOT effective.”

    Not really. The mainstream media reported what you are claiming a few months ago, based upon a study on teenage sexual behavior, but they had to stand on their heads to spin it as though there’s no use in promoting the abstinence message, when it in fact has quite a positive impact:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123120095259855597.html

    Of course, the media have their Narratives on many issues, and the one on this one is that teenagers can’t control themselves and the religious right is causing everybody to contract AIDS. Any evidence suggesting the opposite will be ignored.

  27. Can you please provide an example in which people who were sexually victimized are treated like licked lollipops?

    I’m sticking my nose in here, and Mythago of course can correct me if I’m wrong, but the abstinence-only crowd uses analogies where they compare a sexually active young woman to a lollipop that has been licked – they ask, would another person want to come along and ALSO lick that lollipop after someone else? In which case, anyone who had unwelcome sexual activity forced on her is also being swept up in this rather insensitive imagery.

    You’re sort of reworking Mythago’s words, these victims aren’t being treated like licked lollipops. They’re being compared to them, as she noted.

  28. If they’re using this lollipop analogy only to describe sexually active young WOMEN, then that’s sexist and despicable. (If they’re using it to describe everybody, it’s less sexist but probably still unnecessary.) But my question pertained specifically to people sexually victimized, and the abstinence crowd saying, “We don’t care if the sex that involved you was consensual or not; if someone molested you, you’re still like a used lollipop.” That’s the statement of which I would like to see evidence.

  29. bmmg, put yourself in the mind of a girl who was molested by someone. You’re sitting there in health class in 8th grade and the teacher uses the lollipop example as a reason for abstaining from sex. What is the very first thing that goes through your mind?

    Your demands for “evidence” for specific statements are annoying in light of the obvious gut-sucker-punch that 8th grade girl would feel.

  30. But I would lie if I wouldn’t admit that it wasn’t before I was successful with women that I developed a confidence that would allow me to take a step back and look at this phenomenon. I am very doubtful young men will ever find a way to define themselves that is independent of their competition for female attention, just as young women are defining their ego to a degree through their success in attraction male attention.

    Sam, my best guess is that we can handle the competition for limb-locking. Anyone can get laid. One just has to lower one’s standards. 8-*

    The real issue is whether we can define ourselves as men and women without denigrating one another.

    The Purity Ball phenomenon is based in defining the sexuality of women primarily as male property, with men as benevolent masters. No, really.

  31. b: “Your demands for ‘evidence’ for specific statements are annoying in light of the obvious gut-sucker-punch that 8th grade girl would feel.”

    Mythago seemed to assert that everyone who preaches abstinence either predominantly or completely uses analogies like the “licked lollipop” example. If such a large group of people are going to be accused of something, I don’t think asking for backup is at all unreasonable. How do you know they’re not distinguishing those who enter into sex consensually from those who were molested? (Again, not that the “lollipop” analogy needs to be applied to anyone, but my question remains.)

  32. Re: How do you know they’re not distinguishing those who enter into sex consensually from those who were molested?

    St. Augustine, among others, certainly made that distinction. see his discussion of the virgin martyrs in the early chapters of the “City of God.”

  33. bmmg, when an abstinence program treats people (really, women) who have had premarital sex as gross, contaminated and not worthy of anyone else touching them, like they were a used lollipop, what could the program possibly offer victims of abuse? “Here’s a used sucker somebody else licked. But they were FORCED to lick it, so it’s just as yummy as if it were fresh”. Uh…

  34. “what could the program possibly offer victims of abuse?”

    Absolutely nothing other than more shame and psychological damage.

    Re: comparing women who have had consensual sex to a used lollipop or piece of used tape that’s dirty and won’t stick anymore.

    I have had sex with quite a fair amount of people. I am not dirty. I am not impure. I am not without virtue. I will not be shamed into submission by anyone who wishes me to believe that I am. And if anyone tries to teach this foulness to my children, they are going to have one pissed off mother on their hands.

  35. I am a mother and a future ob/gyn. I was volunteering today at a health fair, distributing condoms and passing out literature on teen pregnancy, HIV, STDs, fertility awareness and birth control options.

    A woman told me “Only two things work: abstinence and then marriage.” I said “That make work for 2%, but the 98% of us want information about birth control.”

    Seriously, even people who marry as virgins may want to limit their childbearing. I knew a couple who say they were abstinent until marriage. They have two lovely daughters, and the mom takes the birth control pill continuously now and works quite happily. And, the vast majority of us do want to have non procreative sex. I have heard 98% of women practice some form of birth control at some point in their reproductive years.

  36. Oh, and I forgot to say:

    She came back and handed me a card that says “Jesus Christ Loves You”. I’m sure he does.

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