(ok, posted in the afternoon MST, but who could resist a title like that!)
A lot of wards/branches landed on the “Keeping the Law of Chastity” lesson yesterday in RS/PH and from online reports, it went interestingly.
So what did Sex Education for Mormon Adults look like in many wards? Well via twitter….
Some people were less than impressed:
Stop 👏 using 👏 virtue 👏 as 👏 a 👏 synonym 👏 for 👏 chastity. #churchtweets
— Eliza Nevin (@EtotheNev) September 13, 2015
Others wanted more pictures:
And some people were excited to get it on:
Teaching RS today 🎉🎉🎉 Helllllooo Law of Chastity! 💙
— Al (Fox) Carraway (@22AlFox) September 13, 2015
Even the BCC twitter feed got in on the action:
Like when that woman touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and he could feel the chastity had gone out of him? #VirtueNotChastity
— By Common Consent (@ByCommonConsent) September 13, 2015
Joking aside, you can tell just from these tweets (and the many responses therein) this lesson was a scary one to teach and, for many, a difficult one in it’s a execution. Why? Let’s look at the makeup of the lesson. You begin with a story about a girl with a white dress who wants to go to a compromising location but before she is to go is told by her parents to go into the smokehouse for a slab of bacon. This clever ploy is to teach that “you can’t go into the smokehouse without absorbing some of the influence there. We think you are smart enough not to go into a place where you would come out any less beautiful and clean than when you went in.”
And then the story ends. Well, what if she hadn’t known and went there? Would she still be dirty? This is especially important as the conversation quickly can turn to a discussion on porn usage, and there are going to be many inadvertent inappropriate viewings online as we go through out life. But especially there nothing about the fact that could always be made clean again. Ok, well, if you go further in the lesson, almost to the end, there are a few paragraphs how you can be clean again, but it’s almost drowned out by the don’t ever do it. Prepare so you don’t have to repair, which is super important, but not enough to drown out the Atonement part. (And in our ward, we got caught up in the first part of the lesson so we didn’t really get to the last part).
The lesson chugs on after this story to go right into quoting from Moroni 9:9. As has been said before, just because a scripture is searchable by the words “chastity and virtue” doesn’t make it a good scripture to use in discussions especially with youth. Unless it’s carefully couched in terms of consent or terms of careful scriptural exegesis taking into account Moroni’s male and cultural lens. What do I mean?
When women talk about chastity, it’s about not consenting to unchaste acts, not granting access to one’s sexuality outside of marriage. If you re-read Moroni 9:9 with “consent” instead of “virtue,” it suddenly makes a lot more sense: “9 For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is THEIR CONSENT.”
How we talk about female chastity from a male perspective means girls don’t grant access to their babymakers until babymaking is permitted. If their babymakers have been accessed (whether the girl gave consent or not) then paternity is brought into question. This is really just an issue because of property rights passing to one’s offspring. It’s a moot point if we are Christian enough to grant paternal rights to adoptive fathers (which we are). Girls should not be considered unvirtuous if they don’t consent. That seems obvious. It’s not consistent with scriptures which were written by men steeped in a male perspective of chastity that was about paternity issues, not about female choice and a woman’s right to say no.
What’s objectionable is not that they lost their hymen, but that they were forced against their will, they were raped. Their virtue cannot be taken, it can only be given away, and when given at the point of a gun or through other coercive means, it’s rape, it’s not being unchaste. This should be evident to anyone who reads it; it’s kind of an obvious point. Most women will immediately realize that if there is no consent, there is no loss of virtue by the woman, and that a man who forces or coerces a woman, robbing her of consent, is committing a heinous crime against her. But that doesn’t mean she is at fault.
Clearly there are various levels of coercion. Consent while under alcohol may constitute diminished capacity to consent, for example. We should be careful not to make choices that diminish our ability to consent or to withhold consent. But that doesn’t mean that women are unchaste if they don’t consent.
None of our manuals make this clear, and far too many times I have heard a teacher or class commenter insinuate that a woman was “asking for it” based on how she was dressed or based on walking into the smokehouse or whatever analogy we want to use. It’s beyond time that we get our language right on this topic, to protect our women from victim blaming and to protect our men from violating a woman’s consent.
For those who have not had this lesson yet, please feel free to use any of these ideas when similar problematic ideas are brought up. This lesson is a minefield, but it doesn’t have to be. And can we please stop using Moroni 9:9 as the “chastity and virtue” scripture in these discussions because for anyone who has been sexually abused or even raped, and who’ve been taught to be a “guardian of their virtue”
nigh unto death (thank goodness that’s no longer the case) as the most important thing ever, how can it not be anything other than more harmful?