The Inadvertent Objectification of Women in the Church

I’m finding it hard to piece together the words and emotions I wish to convey on this topic. Mostly, because it’s difficult for me to explain but also because it is painful.

The way women are viewed in the church is something I think about continuously. I am aware of my womanhood and the effect that has on my existence. Unfortunately, a lot of the effects I feel are due to others’ perceptions of womanhood. Since the LDS church plays a large role in my life, the way I feel viewed by the church community is often at the forefront of these thoughts.

When I was younger I thought I was cherished. I was a beautiful daughter of God. When I grew older, I began to recognize the grimy undertones of what this meant. It didn’t mean being valued; it meant being admired. It meant being looked at as virtuous and lovely. The emphasis of my being seemed to be how I was viewed, not how I was. And that’s not to say that I have never been valued in other ways by the church, but the way I am perceived seems to be something I am unable to escape.

From a young age, we teach girls to dress modestly. The emphasis is placed on hemlines, rather than attitudes. And when we start teaching this, we start teaching young LDS girls that they are objects. We don’t do it on purpose, in fact, it’s likely the exact opposite of what’s intended. But as soon as we place marks on what should or needs to be covered, we view the female body as a object to protect rather than a vessel for spiritual beings.

In September, the youth of the church had lessons each Sunday on various commandments. All of these lessons are essentially the same, except one each. One Sunday in September, the young men learned about how to avoid pornography, while the young women were taught how to guard their virtue. First off, young women need to be taught about the avoidance of pornography and young men should learn about virtue. The fact that neither manual presents both lessons is unfortunate.

Second, the language used in just the lesson titles are highly concerning. By teaching young women that their virtue is something to guard, we are telling them that there are people out to take or harm it and they are responsible to protect themselves. And even worse, we are teaching that their virtue is entirely dependent on sexual purity, despite virtue being a much larger concept. And with this, we once again objectify women. We tell them their virtue is dependent on purity, and that is something that is going to be taken by someone else. They are taught to guard virtue, rather than be virtuous. And perhaps the most harmful outcome of this word choice, is that it inadvertently tells young women that any use of their body by another without consent, is due to an inability to guard themselves.

These lessons are ones that sting into adulthood, marking women with shame and guilt. They are lessons I am just now starting to reprove. We need to change our dialogue when it comes to teaching and discussing women both in the church, and altogether. We need to rid our rhetoric of both benevolent and hostile sexism. Do not refer to women as beautiful daughters of God unless you are also complimenting non-physical features or you are willing to pay the same compliment to His sons. Hold men accountable for their actions in regards to sexual encounters. Quit telling them that their righteousness will be rewarded with a “hot wife.” Stop regarding women as sexual gatekeepers. Do not teach young girls that their bodies are objects to cover up in order to provide physical and spiritual protection. Do not teach them their chastity or virtue is something to guard.

Teach women that their bodies are divine vessels for their spirits. Teach them that their virtue is more than what they have done with their bodies. Compliment women on things other than their physical appearance. Define modesty as an attitude rather than a way of dressing.

Women are feeling devalued. To those women who do not feel this way, listen to those of us that do. Both men and women, listen, believe, and change your behaviors that contribute to this objectification. The only way we can change this rhetoric and attitude is by making the conscious decision to do so.

 

Comments

  1. We’ve completely twisted modesty and shame, and utterly scrambled virtue. Anciently, modesty related to being appropriate for the occasion and referred to dress and behavior. I.e. swimsuits at the beach are modest, being appropriate, but not for a dinner party. Virtue encompassed what were considered “manly” qualities of temperance, justice, courage, prudence. Women were praised for their modesty (being appropriate and temperate, often signified by their judicious household management and their ability to work wool) and their chastity (women’s chastity is always a concern to the male power structure).

    I’ve been very troubled at the inclusion of “virtue” as a young woman value, when what they really mean is chastity.

    And boys really need to be examining their behavior and comportment for modesty and virtue.

  2. wreddyornot says:

    Read your piece, mostly agree, and always try to listen and to learn. I appreciate your new, young voice at BCC. I myself try my best to apply what you are conveying, although my opportunities are more and more limited these days. I’m 69 years old and a white male and have been reading BCC postings for a long, long time. I don’t often comment, but sometimes I do. Still, I don’t understand how we, as members, can ever truly treat people equitably when the church is governed mostly by old, white patriarchs (and, as indicated, I’m an old white man). It’s so obvious that there’s not equality for women and that seems to me to contribute to the scenario you paint. Do you see the issue of equality in the church differently in the context of the objectification of women in the church?

  3. The problem is whenever I bring up these concerns to local leaders, I’m shot down with “this is what the prophets and leaders have taught.”

    And they’re right. This is a systematic problem that needs to be addressed at every single level.

  4. nobody, really says:

    I had a good friend in college. She’d been molested by her uncle at an early age.

    When she turned 12 and entered Young Women, she learned that her virtue was gone. She hadn’t guarded her virtue, and that was that. She was the piece of chewed gum. She was the batch of brownies with just a little dog poop in it. She was the board full of nail holes. She was the goalie who hadn’t blocked the shot, and she would ride the bench for the rest of the season. And every time her children jumped into her arms, she would be filled with regret. She had a forgotten wedge lodged in her tree trunk. The photo in front of the temple would never include her. Maybe God still loved her, but only because He had to. She certainly wasn’t high on His Christmas card list. Johnny Lingo would never bring cows to her father.

    I lost touch with her when she was admitted to inpatient psychiatric care two states away. Her mom was too ashamed to give me any contact information.

    I’ve been more careful with my daughter. She’s strong, she wears pants to church when she wants to wear pants to church, and she’s (hopefully) learned that just because someone is in a leadership position, it doesn’t mean they are always correct. Church leaders only have the authority we choose to give them. And when church leaders fail in their duty of care, we can tell them, and we can choose not to attend. Or, better yet, we can choose to attend and understand that the YW president may not have our back.

    My daughter and I learned (outside the church) that virtue might be built by volunteering at various cultural events. It might include learning new things, like physics, chemistry, math, and public speaking. It might be living like our friend who marched with the communists in the 60s and now volunteers at a women’s shelter. It might be building strength like our Jewish friend who was a childhood survivor of the Holocaust, who valued her family over everything else in life. It might be telling fairy tales to a new friend who feels lost, scared, and alone. Virtue could even be built by practicing and playing a brass musical instrument, even when the YW president insists you should really learn to play piano instead. Virtue is about doing hard things, setting goals and achieving them, and growing to be a strong person with admirable qualities.

  5. Great observations, Amber. I think you are completely correct when you say “we are teaching that their virtue is entirely dependent on sexual purity, despite virtue being a much larger concept.” I see this as a huge problem in LDS discourse. And it is not just with “virtue.” We have done much the same thing with “morality,” “honor,” “faithfulness,” “purity,” “modesty,” “standards,” and a host of other words. And the result has been pervasive and insidious. A great many Latter-day Saints believe that, as long as one does not have sex outside of marriage, they are virtuous, moral, pure, and all the rest. And as long as they don’t dress in ways that might make somebody else want to have sex outside of marriage, they are “modest.” This makes a whole lot of other things that those terms denote in a sort of “at least it’s not as bad as sex” limbo.

    It also wreaks havoc on the way that we read the scriptures. Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament talk much about sex. When Old Testament prophets talk about virtue, they are more than likely talking about the way that society treats the poorest and most vulnerable among them. When Christ talks about virtue and morality, he is usually talking about the way that we treat other people. But because we are so conditioned to read nearly all ethical positives extremely narrowly, we often read a passage like “add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge” (2 Pet: 1) and think that this is somehow about sex.

  6. Amber,

    Thank you for this. It’s so true. We have so much trouble with questions of sex and gender as a church. My parents, and I am very grateful for this, always made it abundantly clear that victims of abuse are not tainted or impure in ANY way. And because one or both of them always had leadership callings, they were vocal about making sure it was clear to everybody else too. I’ve since learned this is not a universal experience.

    But the other problem I have is we often aim these “guarding virtue” talks at teenage girls. And the idea that a sexual encounter is only a sin when it is consensual is all well and good except that when we are speaking of children, consent is dicey. I mean, if I’m honest, considering systemic unequal power dynamics between men and women, I think female consent is dicey anyway.

    I knew girls who had believed they’d “sinned,” confessed to their bishops, and were disciplined accordingly, but viewing the details as a thirty-five year old woman, that is clearly NOT what happened. Rape isn’t just rape if you’re screaming and pleading with your rapist to stop. If you’re sixteen, and he is eighteen and you have been dating for a while, and he attempts a sexual encounter you don’t want and you’ve said, “No, no, no, no.” But he keeps asking and keeps going and you give up or decide you don’t have a choice, or you don’t want to hurt him or to end the relationship, um, not consent. Not by a long shot. “I should have screamed/fought back/said no just one more time/realized he wasn’t worth it and ran away,” doesn’t cut it for me anymore.

    Here’s the thing: most of the sexually active teenage girls I know (and I know quite a few through my job) didn’t WANT a sexual relationship with their boyfriends, at least not then. They felt pressured into it. THAT IS NOT CONSENT. But the whole “guardians of virtue” narrative (present in lots of cultures) tells them not only that not wanting but being pressured into sex is EXACTLY what female consent looks like but ALSO that they shoulder most of the blame.

    It’s beyond reprehensible. It’s a damaging and sinful narrative that is abusive to women, for which I sincerely hope God will hold us accountable one day. it has ruined lives. It ruins lives every day.

  7. We should probably simply admit that men, masculinity, and patriarchy are the reasons the toxic reasons the world is an evil, hellish place.
    I agree with Leona; in a world (and church) where patriarchy has been internalized, females have no ability to provide consent. all sexual interaction is founded on cohersion. The notion of Mens rea is a fallacy. Ultimately, Mormonism is simply the most modern evolution of spiritually enforced sexual violence, rooted in the celestial kingdom.
    And we willingly ship our daughters to be brainwashed every week under the guise of worship.
    Marianne, boys need to be eliminated from the system and conversation entirely, rather than simply “examine” themselves. Patriarchical tendencies based on gender socialization are internalized, biases and ignorance is pervasive and cannot be rooted out, as demonstrated by wreddyornot.
    God won’t hold US accountable. The divine will hold MEN responsible. #yesallmen

  8. Not a Cougar says:

    Leona, I agree with much of what you said. Virtue cannot be take away through an act of sexual assault anymore than a person can be guilty of murder by being a murder victim. I have worked closely with victims of sexual assault. The impacts are devastating and long-lasting, and the Church leadership can and should do more to help victims and to help prevent sexual assault. Please, do not muddy the waters by twisting the definition of consent. Feeling bad for not having sex, being pressured into sex, or having sex so that your partner will not break up with you does not mean that the person was sexually assaulted. I’m sorry, but to me, conflating those situations with the experiences of those who had absolutely no choice in the matter (whether that lack of choice was caused by force, intoxication, age, threats, or other inability to consent) is belittling to the latter and potentially and unnecessarily traumatizing to the former.

    Having said that, I recognize the deep shame in our Church culture that comes with the Law of Chastity, and that, for many, reluctant sexual encounters leave deep and lasting emotional scars. For someone who reluctantly has sex (but is not otherwise compelled), does that mean he or she is broken, irredeemable, a chewed piece of gum, unworthy of ever being sealed in the temple? Of course not. Maybe some in our Church think that way (hence those reprehensible parables about holes in the wood, etc.), but I’m confident in the Savior’s promise of forgiveness. I do think repentance of some kind is in order. I also don’t think that that repentance process should look at all like that for someone who repeatedly and willingly has sex outside of marriage, and certainly not like that for someone who takes advantage of others’ emotional weakness to have sex. Unfortunately, with leadership roulette, and a lack of consistent training (to the membership, not just local leaders) and standards from Church leadership, you can never be sure what will happen.

    Now, trying to turn my post towards the main article, having seen a few of these types articles on BCC, I sometimes feel like I was in the only Young Men’s program in the history of the Church that ever taught that we were absolutely responsible for our actions, and that it wasn’t up to the young women in our lives to police our behavior. Was our program seriously the only one that ever discussed the Savior’s teachings about lusting after others and committing adultery in your heart?

    I’m also using the last two paragraphs of the main article as my own personal checklist. Reading through it, my immediate thought was, “Lord, is it I?”

  9. I agree with this post completely. I don’t want to hijack the discussion, but as a male, I’ve learned that these ways we objectify women causes serious problems for men, as well as women in the ways you’ve mentioned. We men are taught to fear women, especially women as sexual beings (which is why men aren’t supposed to be alone with a woman they’re not married to). Women are “dangerous”. Yet at the same time we’re taught that women represent, as you’ve said, an object to be awarded to us men, the “hot wife” reward. We both fear women and feel they “owe” it to us. It’s an insidious, destructive approach that damages us all.

  10. Hi Not a Cougar,
    I understand your point of view. I have worked closely with people who have suffered along a spectrum of sexual trauma, including assault. My intent was not to diminish the brutal trauma of being sexually assaulted. Nonetheless, and for the record, coerced sex is not consensual sex. To claim this statement is somehow traumatizing to the victims of assault you describe is, for me, akin to saying, “Don’t tell someone whose arm is broken he’s injured; it minimizes the injuries of those who’ve lost limbs.”

  11. I’m sorry, but the comment by Casey is not only wrong, it’s extremely offensive! Get rid of men, period? The world is a hellhole because of men and men alone? God will judge just men, yes #yesallmen?? That attitude is just as toxic as that of placing the burden of morality and purity on women alone. I fully agree that the way virtue, modest, chastity, and the like have not been taught in a clear manner. Anyone who truly studies the gospel and focuses on the doctrines of Christ ventually comes to understand that the responsibility for our actions and our thoughts are ours and ours alone. We will not be judged for the actions of another, and we cannot escape the consequences of our own choices by looking or blaming at the actions of another. Our relationship with christ has to become a personal one on one relationship which no one else can stand in as proxy for.

  12. I was one of those girls (30 years ago) that Leona described. Teenage Mormon girl dating a boy several years older than her who is pressured into a sexual relationship even though I said No, no, no, no every step of the way. The boy wasn’t evil. He was just a kid. But he didn’t see my point of view or my needs (I was very aware that I wasn’t emotionally ready for a sexual relationship even outside of my Mormonism (I was also inactive at the time)) as being of any importance at all. If anything, he saw my needs/thoughts as something he had the right to change to his way of thinking.

    The thing that is super sad to me looking back (I grew up, hit all the important Mormon milestones, and became a happy progressive about 10 years ago – this really was long, long ago) is that I would have these endless talks in my head about him and the situation. About how much I loved him and how much I wanted him to love me. But I’d also war between being aware of what I wanted in the relationship and not feeling like I had the right to make him accept my way of thinking. I was very, very conscious (part of my internal dialogue) that his feelings and wants trumped my own. I had no right or ability as a girl to stand up to him. I believed this down to my center. I said no, but I didn’t have the right to say no at the same time (again, I was consciously aware of this). He had all the power and all the rights.

    And I learned that idea from the church. Maybe it also came from the culture of the 1980s and my family (my mom had a career and was flogged for it regularly at RS. She certainly was no wimp), but it was primarily at church. In my entire life I don’t know that I’ve seen an LDS woman stand up to a man in power above her, tell him he is wrong, and have him give in to her way of thinking. Not ever. Not even as an adult. Certainly not about anything truly, deeply important (as this relationship with the boy was to me.) So expecting my 16 year old self to do something that simply didn’t exist in my world was unrealistic. That girl deserved comfort, not a call to repentance. She needed listening to so that future girls wouldn’t grow up thinking the same thing.

    And in a situation where one party holds 100% of the power, there is no consent.

  13. pconnornc says:

    I agree that we have much progress to make in weeding out what are worldly differences between the sexes and divine differences. I hope discussions like this help us to collectively move forward.

    My experience in lessons w/ YW is that yes, hemlines is PART of what is taught re: modesty, but I see the emphasis on attitudes and principles. Many teachers need to improve, perhaps some people hear what they want – but I believe there is value in talking about all aspects of modesty. It is similar to teaching about tithing – we can get bogged down in the dollar calculations and miss the real principles.

    I would imagine that there is practical purpose for the differences in the lessons for the YW & YM that particular Sunday. I had a bishop tell me one time that every priest in his quorum was struggling w/ pornography, while no laurel was struggling. It is not exclusively a male problem, but it is dominantly a male problem. Similarly when I go to high schools, malls, movie theaters and other locations, it is clear to me that the sexualization of how YW dress is a much bigger problem for them than for the YM. Our YW live in a world where sexualization is injected into the dress in even the youngest of ads. If the Lord is going to counter that, He has to start someplace. If we believe that sorrow comes from breaking the law of chastity, and that our attitudes are at the inception of those activities, those things that represent our attitudes probably should be addressed.

    This discussion is good – and highlights attitudes and approaches that need to be improved. I just hope we don’t toss the baby out w/ the bathwater.

  14. Not a Cougar says:

    Leona, thanks for the reply, and I know you mean no offense to sexual assault victims. I agree sexual activity exists along a spectrum of consent, and, no, I do not think your statements are likely to be traumatic to sexual assault victims (and it’s not what I meant). However, I find your statement about people who engage in coerced sex (I assume you take “coercion” to mean use of guilt or shame, not threats or use of bodily force) versus sexual assault victims to be something like, “I’m very sorry you broke your arm. Unfortunately, the only authorized course of treatment is to cut it off, and give you a prosthetic.” We’re simply going to have to agree to disagree on this topic.

  15. Yes, this discussion is good. I’m female and have heard from Mormon males that women don’t understand how constant and intense their drive is biologically to have sex–and it had to be that way for the human species to multiply and replenish this earth. How men are more aroused visually than women.
    In Orthodox Jewish communities, the sexes are separated at puberty. The Muslims cover their women from head to toe. So the Mormons aren’t the only ones weird about sexuality. But in all these cultures, males are predominately the medical doctors. Somehow these men have been able to examine female bodies for centuries without going crazy and having sex with every single one of them. Clothing catalogs mailed to any household have model women and men in shown wearing only undergarments. Are boys and men aroused simply by a JC Penny catalog photo of a woman modeling a bra? It seems that all the rules we have in religions or cultures have to do with women being so sexually tempting to men that females need to be contained. Like keeping candy way up on the top shelf out of a child’s reach. So men, tell me, growing up as a boy and into adulthood and even old age, how difficult was it to see women as people and not always as someone you could potentially have sex with but shouldn’t? And it sounds like it’s ALL women–not just certain attractive ones.
    And what about tribal native cultures, say in the Amazon, where women are traditionally naked from the waist up? What about their boys and men? Are they just always aroused or do they not notice because they’re used to it? Really, I’m asking because I’d like to understand what it’s like being a male. I’m tired of the issue of sex always getting in the way of what should be, normal, no big deal, interactions with one another.

  16. p.s. If it truly is more difficult for men, then I’ll be the first to promote burkas because I’m helpful and nice. Otherwise, I’ll just consider this issue a fallen world problem and hope for normal relations between the sexes in the hereafter and eternally.

  17. Mez, yes, many men are/were aroused by looking at women wearing bras in a catalog. The old Sears catalog was reknowned for this influence on teen boys back in the day.

    Denying that men are stimulated more by visual input than women is denying biology. Denying that men are the vast majority of porn users is denying reality.

    Men are ultimately responsible for their own behavior, but to deny that a woman’s appearance has no basic influence on men’s instinctive sexual response is politically correct nonsense.

    Please note the attendees at recent women’s right to go topless events …. mostly men with cameras from what I’ve seen in the press.

    I can (and do) choose not to look at porn or ogle women. I choose not to sexually harass women. I make that choice and all men can. Still, we live in an age where very revealing clothing has an unequal impact on men versus women.

  18. Two downstream impacts of this objectifying culture that I haven’t seen mentioned yet in the comments that I think are worth mentioning: 1) mission culture, and 2) sexuality in marriage.

    With regard to mission culture, in my experience, many of the elders did not view the sisters with equal respect for a variety of reasons: 1) women were a temptation, not colleagues, so sisters were a distraction, 2) women were future prizes, not colleagues, so sisters who wanted to be treated equally or taken seriously weren’t acting like “girls” or weren’t attractive.

    With regard to sexuality in marriage, when you beat into YW’s heads that male sexuality is scary and constant and that YW have to fight boys and their icky urges off until marriage, then after marriage these exact same women are suddenly supposed to be ready to rock and roll, that’s not likely to happen without sexual hangups. This is a problem in all conservative religions where girls are given this male-centric rhetoric, and it often results in unsatisfying marital relations for both men and women.

  19. The fact that these kinds of things have been able to occur and continue in the Church is why I can no longer associate myself with it, because it is so clearly not lead by our omniscient God. “The Church is perfect, but the people aren’t” just doesn’t cut it for me in cases like this—this goes beyond a few imperfect leaders accidentally saying some misleading things. These implications, insensitivities, and inconsistencies mirror those of the Conservative, 20th-century America (as do so many aspects of the Church), rather than exemplifying a people with special access to the God and His eternal wisdom.

  20. I’m so sorry to hear of your pain, and that this is something you think about continuously. The grimy undertones, teaching young women they are objects, causing them shame, guilt, hostile sexism, feeling devalued…really?

  21. wreddyornot says:

    It goes all the way back to insisting that God is Him, doesn’t it? Imbalance causes the objectification of the lesser, right? It’s nothing new, and that’s why it is such a persistent problem. It’s been accepted and adapted and solidified. Question is, will men, Mormon and otherwise, confess to sins of superiority, humble themselves, and repent in large enough numbers and in important enough positions of power to make a difference? I, for one, see men primarily at fault in the objectification of women, and it’s only inadvertent because it’s become so predominant throughout the ages. But it also seems many craven Mormon women support crass men in promoting their superiority.

  22. “Are boys and men aroused simply by a JC Penny catalog photo of a woman modeling a bra?” Those catalogs are widely distributed in prisons and jails… you know why.

    Just because you felt “pressure” doesn’t mean you didn’t consent. If he asks, and you say ‘Yes’ then you consented. It doesn’t matter if you said yes because he’s asked 15 times before, or because you’re afraid he’ll break up with you. He asked (which what we should be teaching them to do!!) and you said yes?? You consented.

    There is a LOT that can get better about modesty (attitude over dresscode!) and helping girls KNOW that their virtue can’t be “taken” by a rapist, sleazy uncle/brother/teacher/whoever. Being victimized doesn’t make you dirty or unclean.

  23. I did not know about the Sears catalog. Thank you, jb. So how do males manage going to the beach and swimming pools? I’m still curious about doctors and tribal cultures. Since males are biologically more visually stimulated, isn’t it reasonable that females be aware about dressing modestly to avoid being objectified? ( Every mother with a teenage daughter tells her not to wear short shorts. My daughter wore them to the grocery store one day and came home really freaked out because a guy kept looking at her legs and followed her outside. She never wore them again.)
    What is wrong is telling guys they’ll get a “hot wife” as a reward. That portrays women as objects
    like a trophy. And telling females their chastity or virtue can be taken or given. It can’t. Virginity is not synonymous with chastity or virtue

  24. It never occurred to me that those catalogs are passed around in prisons. Adult magazines but not
    the JC Penny catalog. I guess I’m pretty sheltered. Well, ask and learn!

  25. Jaxjensen, just because someone hands you their wallet doesn’t mean you didn’t steal it. It depends on whether and what kind of coercion was being applied to the situation that led to that. Same with consent. “Asking 15 times” might not constitute coercion, but abusive spouses and others have many coercive tools at their disposal.

    Sister Haslam, I welcome you to the BCC family by the usual sign.

  26. A while back I was reading up on St. Augustine. He pointed out that reproduction can only occur through male lust. For procreation to occur, a male MUST be aroused at some point.

    He equated male lust with the original sin. We are all born from a lustful male. The woman needs to be there but her state of mind is not important nor is her acquiescence necessary in the process. This is for the survival of the species. It is not necessarily comfortable for women. (These are important for her health and happiness,) Procreation is a categorical imperative since it must happen, without fail.

    This is the root of the problem: how do we keep male lust from doing damage while letting it do what it is supposed to do, i.e. bring babies into the world? Of course education is essential in this process. But most men and women are living fully unconscious lives, who do not think or evaluate their own actions and motives. How do you teach consciousness? I mean there are thirty some odd percent of people who approve of our elected leader who gropes and objectifies women and is an unreconstructed philanderer. How could you possibly educate a man like that especially when it seems like society approves of his behavior? How many young males look to that example and dismiss “education” as just more political correct-ness? This is the age for males to recapture the power of the past and advance male privilege once again.

    The way the Church is dealing with the problem of male lust is certainly not optimal, What we need is a whole year of classes for the fourteen year-olds on becoming conscious of their sexuality. We would teach about the essential nature of male lust, that it is a good thing which must be controlled. We would teach how male privilege is a byproduct of male lust. We would teach that our bodies are not to be feared. That our carnal desire is a good and necessary thing to be used properly and not something to be repressed and subjugated like a wild beast. (Maybe it is?)

    So I see the problem’s solution is long term. Nice and reliable men have a reproductive edge in an age where reproductive choice is available, After many generations, between 10 and 100, good men will become genetically dominant, In the mean time education is paramount, and not just one lesson a year. It should be at least a whole year’s worth. The answer is not to sing hymns when temptation is neigh.

    So, after long time passing, when I see a pretty girl and I feel the tug of male lust, I think that all is right, that I am responding as God intended. I also know that her physical safety and reproductive choices are sacrosanct. I also am aware that my male lust is trying to objectify this woman in so many ways that I must be on guard against the objectification.

    (I am not saying that women do not have lust. For healthy relationships between men and women it must be fully developed. It is only that female lust is not necessary for the categorical imperative of reproduction. Maybe it should be.)

  27. jaxjensen says:

    Cynthia, I can see situations were asking could be coercive. It isn’t always a pure question/request. Much like blackmail is different than asking for money, there could be other elements involved. Duress is a real thing.

    I didn’t have that train of thought though the first time I read the comment. To me it simply referred to the asking and the persons desire not to be dumped, or simply to get the asking to stop. Those situations aren’t coercive. But if a person were ‘asking’ also has more ” coercive tools” than I can agree with that.

    The scenario I saw in my mind was something like guy asks at the beginning of a date, “Want to get a room together tonight?” and she says no. Then as they finish up whatever activity they were doing he asks again, “sure you don’t want to spend the night with me?” She says no and he takes her home. And after a few dates like this, and several no answers, the girl finally thinks “he’s going to just keep asking, and I really like him and don’t want him to stop seeing me, and I don’t want to hurt his feelings or have him think I don’t like him, so I guess I better relent and get a room with him for the night.” She has given consent in my mind.

    “he attempts a sexual encounter you don’t want and you’ve said, “No, no, no, no.” But he keeps asking and keeps going and you give up or decide you don’t have a choice, or you don’t want to hurt him or to end the relationship, um, not consent.” The scenario above fits this description. The girl has NOT been sexually assaulted/abused/harassed. He did his best to get positive consent, and she gave it.

  28. jaxjensen,
    If the two people in the scenario above were mature adults, then, at minimum, I would find it extremely upsetting that the man felt he could keep after the woman for sex when she clearly doesn’t want to and that the woman, for reasons I think we would all do well to reflect on, did not leave. It’s rather sad commentary on the way male entitlement works.

    But if she is sixteen? I think the bar for establishing consent, particularly in an ecclesiastical context, must be extraordinarily high. And if this sixteen year old understands her worth to be intrinsically tied to the way men view her, if she’s internalized the lessons Amber describes, if she’s a lot like the sixteen year-old who ReTx was, then, if you want to call it consent, fine. But I disagree. Emphatically.

    Moreover, if a sixteen year-old girl comes to her bishop to confess, there are two things I would want that bishop to know:

    1. That because of the “guardians of virtue” narratives prevalent in our culture, the young woman may have an extremely distorted idea of consent.
    2. Because of those narratives, she may not know how to articulate what happened in terms that sound anything to him like less than full consent. She may not even be able to articulate this to herself.

    Also, to all the men reading, please understand or at least consider that your privilege allows you to look at consent from a very different perspective than many women have the luxury of viewing it.

  29. The discussion around coercion reminds me of something a (terrible) comedian says about his conversation with his son. He says he would not encourage rape but he also isn’t raising his son to be a “quitter.” IOW, don’t take no for an answer.

  30. “He did his best to get positive consent, and she gave it.”

    I’m going to correct this. “He did his best to get positive consent while ignoring the multiple times she denied consent, and she only gave it when she realized no other options existed.” And even then her ‘consent’ was less ‘Yes! Let’s have sex! And more decreasing the level of her objections.

    I’m going to agree with Leona’s comment. If you have never been in a position where your ability to exercise your free will and rights didn’t exist (even if that is only in your own head or tied to competing values), then it’s going to be hard to sympathize when it comes to consent vs. non-consent. Lucky you.

    The age and life experience of the girl does make a huge difference as well. None of this would have ever happen to me in my 30s, 40s. I learned in my 20s to steer clear of men who didn’t listen to me.

  31. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Cynthia, welcoming Amber to the BCC family “by the usual sign” – – FTW! Well played. Bravo.

    By the way, in much agreement with the OP. It’s tricky to sort through how all this gets operationalized, as some of the comments indicate. I find one of the biggest challenges is that I tend to get more exorcised about this issue than my female spouse, and/or other women leaders. What are the best practices for dealing with this endemic objectification when many of the women involved don’t see it?

  32. An interesting and thoughtful post, thank you. Here are my thoughts:

    1. I’m waiting for a post on the evils of the objectification of men (which I believe is far more prevalent than appears at first glance). Objectification is wrong because it denies the whole soul, it takes a portion or attribute of a physical body and proclaims that single aspect as all-important.

    2. Jeffrey Holland taught: “The body is an essential part of the soul…. In exploiting the body of another—which means exploiting his or her soul—one desecrates the Atonement of Christ, which saved that soul and which makes possible the gift of eternal life.” I think artists have struggled to express the sanctity of the human body and soul. I think prophets have struggled to convey that message. LDS culture and teachings has been less than successful in doing so.

    3. I don’t believe we should teach anyone that their libido is overpowering and all-pervasive. That is nonsense. Both genders should be taught that one duty we have in this life is to learn to control the impulses we are confronted with. The law of chastity is something one learns to keep fully over time. It is not a systematic dress code. Chastity ultimately is a clear vision of human potential and the ability to experience edifying relationships with others, including a relationship with Deity. Atonement makes living growing into the fullness of the law of chastity possible.

    4. Concerns about objectification are nothing new. This is an old, old problem which needs to be challenged anew by each general of thoughtful Latter-day Saints. Victor L. Brown, who called the problem “fragmentation,” wrote “Fragmentation enables its users to counterfeit intimacy. . . . If we relate to each other in fragments, at best we miss full relationships. At worst, we manipulate and exploit others for our gratification.”

  33. The idea that men are inherently more vulnerable to sexual temptation than women is a steaming pile. It’s a lie. It’s a bad excuse. Don’t believe it.

  34. Great post, Amber. I agree with you that these harmful aspects of our teaching are unintentional, that they don’t reflect our core doctrines, and that we can fix them.

  35. AnonForSubjectMatter says:

    I told a man several times over a few dates that I would not have sex with him. He respected this for the first two. On the third, I repeated this again, additionally asking him to confirm that he heard me and he was okay with that. He did so. Within twenty minutes, he penetrated me anyway, and I told him no, and he continued until I stopped saying no. There were no threats. There was no force. I eventually gave up. According to more than one voice on this thread, this was me giving consent.
    The dude had a minimum of sixty pounds on me, was an athlete, and was lying on top of me. It sure as all the curses in the world didn’t feel like consent to me. But sure. If I just stopped saying no, it wasn’t assault.

  36. 1. That because of the “guardians of virtue” narratives prevalent in our culture, the young woman may have an extremely distorted idea of consent.
    2. Because of those narratives, she may not know how to articulate what happened in terms that sound anything to him like less than full consent. She may not even be able to articulate this to herself.

    I agree

    ““He did his best to get positive consent while ignoring the multiple times she denied consent, and she only gave it when she realized no other options existed.” She had plenty of them. Stop seeing him. Dump HIM because he keeps asking for something you aren’t going to give. He did not force himself on her, he ASKED! Unlike what AnonForSubjectMatter said, it is NOT consent if she simply stops saying no. That is assault! “he penetrated me anyway, and I told him no, and he continued…” That isn’t at all similar to the scenario I put forth.

    A man doesn’t assault you by asking for consent. What else is he supposed to do? Have none of us ever had a change of heart? You wouldn’t want to sleep with someone on the first date, but maybe after a few more than you were more willing for more physicality?? In no way is a man out of line by asking if you’d like to be more physical. After more time spent together those emotions and desires change, and so it seems like the right thing to do to gauge your (potential) partners level of interest before moving forward. If your date does that, and you say yes, then you consented. If there is more there, like AnonForSubjectMatter recounted, then consent might be suspect.

    I think everyone agrees that performing some sexual act without getting consent is horribly wrong. But now some are trying to say it is wrong to even seek consent? And that a man asking for consent somehow destroys her ability to give consent, because asking puts too great a pressure on a woman? How the **** is a guy supposed to woo a woman exactly? How does he get consent without asking? If she says ‘no’ on one date, he can’t ask on any additional one, because with the additional time and experiences together she couldn’t have changed her mind? Ridiculousness.

  37. AnonForSubjectMatter says:

    Is it really so ridiculous? He or she asks (which is not assault, and seriously dude, I really don’t think anyone said it is), his or her partner says no. The primary party does not pursue. The secondary party, should they change their mind, goes to the primary party and tells them they changed their mind and asks if the primary party is still interested. It’s not rocket science. Don’t twist “begging and pleading and cajoling and guilting and prodding and nagging” into “asking for consent once”. People have used the word coercion here to describe the first. You jumped to the second. You appear more than intelligent enough to tell the difference.

  38. jaxjensen says:

    If he is asking/begging/pleading/nagging and does nothing else until you say yes, then you consented. Not assault. If you don’t like the asking/begging/nagging/etc, then stop seeing/dating this person. Now this could happen outside of dating too. If they are a co-worker or classmate that you aren’t dating stops you in the hall/elevator and is day after day begging/pleading/nagging for a date, then get someone else involved (HR?), but you still weren’t assaulted. He’s being an annoying prick, we all deal with them.

    “The primary party does not pursue. The secondary party, should they change their mind, goes to the primary party and tells them they changed their mind and asks if the primary party is still interested.”

    that’s what I described as ridiculous: ” If she says ‘no’ on one date, he can’t ask on any additional one”?

    Good luck guys… you have ONE chance to ask for a date/kiss/sex/whatever, and if she turns you down then you don’t get to ask again, otherwise it’s “assault” and her consent isn’t real. You’ll have to just wait for her to tell you she’s changed her mind.

  39. AnonForSubjectMatter says:

    “He did not force himself on her, he ASKED!”

    I genuinely believe that the man from my encounter believed he was “asking”, just doing so physically. Let me be clear, he’d stop for 30 seconds to a full minute after I’d say no, and then try again. Again. Much bigger than me, lying on top of me. I came away with no bruises, no scratches. It definitely hurt, though.

    I’ve met a lot of men in my life who believe that they can ask for consent physically, and if they don’t get a yes, it just means they should try again later. These are connected problems – wheedling and begging and not accepting a no verbally, and pushing and not acknowledging a no with physical actions. There is good reason to not accept the verbal version of pressuring people into sex.

  40. AnonForSubjectMatter says:

    “You’ll have to just wait for her to tell you she’s changed her mind.” Uh. Yeah. That’s how consent works. It’s frankly disturbing that you consider that such an imposition on your dating desires.

  41. Paul Ritchey says:

    JKC:

    The idea that men are inherently more vulnerable to sexual temptation is a virtual genetic certainly, no?

    Reproduction is metabolically cheap for men, and metabolically expensive for women. Sex causes reproduction. Thus, women (and females across animalia) are observably more careful with sex than men (and males).

    Some research suggests there’s an interaction between biology and culture here, but come on: “a lie?”

  42. Paul Ritchey – “The idea that men are inherently more vulnerable to sexual temptation is a virtual genetic certainly, no? ”

    No. They are perceived as more vulnerable because they’re raised in a patriarchal society that revolves around men being superior and women the afterthought/lesser. See also, “Correlation does not mean causation”. It’s also the reason we get everything from “he’ll die if he doesn’t have sex” through “it’s not pressure if I just keep asking”. Any parent being nagged by a toddler will tell you that asking after repeated no is pressure.

    To the post – I’m glad we’ve had less “#notall” comments. I’m glad there are some who didn’t get this in YM/YW; I’m one of them. But that’s not the point of the post. If we have at least some (and we have way more than some) getting these messages, then we have a problem that needs to be addressed. That’s the whole point of this (and many other) posts.

  43. “If he is asking/begging/pleading/nagging and does nothing else until you say yes, then you consented. Not assault. If you don’t like the asking/begging/nagging/etc, then stop seeing/dating this person.”

    Jax – I agree it is not rape nor is it assault similar in degree to rape. But neither is it consent. And what you don’t seem to understand is the power of coercion or how helpless a teenage girl can feel. Your presentation makes everything so much simpler and straight forward than it actually is. “They should just lave” is what all kinds of unhelpful people say to abused wives too. (And they aren’t wrong. They just aren’t right or helpful or kind either.)

  44. AnonForSubjectMatter says:

    Well said, ReTx. I could have done more to clearly acknowledge that I don’t think it’s assault. It’s related to assaulting behaviors, including coercion and not respecting a no.

  45. Clearly the concept of consent is perceived differently for most men than it is for most women, else why all the #metoo posts on social media? I agree with Frank Pellett, we have a culture that encourages male dominance and power in relationships. And power is behind most of the problems we see with assault, harassment, or the idea of wearing down someone’s objections until they think they have no other choice. And we now have the example of a serial abuser sitting in the White House, who apparently feels no shame for his abuse of power in his relationships with the opposite sex, so go figure how many men out there are taking note and thinking, “If he can do it, why can’t I?”

    What’s even more bizarre is that we totally mask this concept of the power imbalance by teaching our young men that they are to be fearful of women and girls because they just won’t be able to help themselves if a woman dresses immodestly. So combine the two, and you start to see just how messed up things can get. “I can’t help myself, so I overpowered her.”

    I don’t know all the things we can do to correct this, but as long as we let our culture drive our church policies, we are going to have issues. Setting aside the male-only priesthood, how many other things could we do differently that could help lessen the inequalities? Include women in church courts, include more women in our church councils at all levels, and let women have more voice in the lessons we teach our young men and adult men? That’s a start, but there is a lot more.

  46. Just my little thought on this without having read all of the comments – I have been a young women’s president and have had two daughters go through young women, part of the time while I was one of their leaders. It was very helpful to have teenage daughters while I was the young women’s president so that I could see this better from the young women’s perspective. I think it is helpful to discuss these concerns with the young women leaders in advance, just to give them a broader perspective and discuss the impact these lessons can have on them. The young women’s presidency has a real opportunity to change the tone of these discussions. I recently had a conversation with my daughter’s young women’s president and she shared with me that she had asked for suggestions in a class presidency for topics to discuss during standards week and my daughter suggested “Education”.

  47. Great post! Interesting blog post here which touches on some of these topics as well: https://ourjourneytobecome.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/destigmatizing-conversations-on-sexuality-for-lds-youth-parents/

  48. jaxjensen says:

    Asking “physically” isn’t asking. It’s harassment or worse. And asking every thirty seconds isn’t acceptable either. That’s not okay. I’m not going to defend the man you were with AnonForSubjectMatter. He’s a creep. I think you clearly were assaulted and nobody has argued otherwise. Your situation doesn’t fit the scenario that I’ve been commenting on though.

    I commented originally because a statement was made that it isn’t consent when a man/boy asks and a woman/girl says yes because she doesn’t “want to hurt him or to end the relationship.” I think this is false. Or at least usually false. If there are other factors involved then perhaps might not be. But those factors weren’t discussed in the original statement. It was given as it’s own truth, and I think that it is wrong. On face value I think that if a man asks (verbally) and a woman says yes (verbally) then she has consented.

  49. A Fellow Traveler Along the Path says:

    jaxjensen– You seem to be an embodiment of why I refused to date Mormon boys when I was in high school, despite pressure from my mom. And since we were “strongly discouraged” from any dating outside the Church, it meant I went on precious few dates until I went to college. When I started dating non-members there, I found a plethora of men for whom “no means no” and would happily (and uncomplainingly) wait forever until I let them know I changed my mind about dating/kissing/sex/whatever. It wasn’t until 15 years or so later my mom told me she had the exact same problems trying to date Mormon boys when she was in high school that I had, and she is 30 years older than I am.

    The original post describes the objectification of women by church doctrine and teaching as “inadvertent,” as if it’s a bug, not an planned feature. I have to disagree. Because the teachings that underlie it are so pervasive both geographically (I’ve lived in various places on both coasts and my mother grew up deep in the heart of the Jello Belt) and through time (stretching 80 years for which I have I have eyewitness testimony), it’s definitely a planned and deliberately perpetuated feature of Mormonism.

  50. One of the underlying themes of the pain expressed in the OP, and found in our church community which objectifies women, is how little is known in our public discourse about women. It’s common to not be listened to and thus we have no voice, so it’s not surprising that we seem to be such a mystery. Even to ourselves, in so many cases. (Such as a 19 year old, with a much older and/or more powerful man, not fully understanding the dynamics in play.)

    Men also cannot understand when consent happens or how it happens when they don’t see the woman as a person. They instead see her more as a piece of prescient meat of the female variety, and her individual personhood isn’t meaningful to them, and the nuances of consent are unfathomable. It’s not as hard when you’re able to see women to whom you’re attracted as a person equally valuable as you see yourself. I didn’t fully see this dynamic as possible myself until I met a man who was evolved enough to be at ease in the locker room of young female athletes, who were looked upon by him as friends and buddies.

    I chuckle (because it hurts less) at the idea that men are more aroused, more easily aroused, more visually aroused, or what have you, than women. As a woman, I can tell you this isn’t true, but I know so many women who believe what they’re told about themselves (often by men, who have no way of knowing), and never come to know what they really are like. Also, a woman conversant with her own individual libido can be a scary thing to a patriarchal guy.

    I guess we’ll keep having this conversation ad nauseam, as long as there are men around who are handicapped by their entitlement. Which entitlement, I must agree, is a perpetuated feature of Mormonism.

  51. The $64,000 Answer says:

    I don’t often stop by at this site, and comment still more rarely. But then I saw the series of interventions by jaxjensen, that started appallingly and rapidly became worse.

    I’m not LDS, and am not sure whether Mr Jensen is either. But the sexual ethic he champions is indicative, I believe, of what in some respects is the unintended consequence of the “consent doctrine.” Legally, the distinction between rape or sexual assault and licit sexual activity is, indeed, consent. The law is largely silent on how that consent is obtained, so long as actual menace is not involved.

    And therein lies the problem. For Mr Jensen, “pressure”, “begging,” “pleading” and “nagging,” repeated ad nauseam are all legitimate means of achieving his object, which is the extortion of a “yes” that will not bring down upon him the weight of the criminal law. Nowhere in his frame of reference is the smallest thought for what is best for the woman or girl who is his target. She, it seems, is to look out for herself. Her physical and mental well-being, her dignity, and indeed her soul: why should these be any concern of Mr Jensen’s stalker-like suitor? Let the former pursue his interests by all legal means; the latter, if she fails to defend hers, has no one but herself to blame.

    There’s something very ugly here. The first element is Mr Jensen’s assumption that no woman has the right to reject him and have that rejection accepted as definitive. He considers himself perfectly entitled to ignore her, because the mere possibility that his advances are and always will be odious to her is intolerable to him. If she does not give him her body upon his demanding it, it is merely because she has had insufficient opportunity to understand that she is making a mistake in denying it to him. Lost in this schema of his is the consideration that no woman is under any obligation to come up with an innumerable and endlessly repeated variety of rejections until she hits upon the magic formula, whatever it is, that he will graciously condescend to accept.

    The other disgraceful component is the logic of the marketplace transposed to that of the intimate relationship. Mr Jensen seeks to drive a hard bargain: one that will benefit him completely. If his gain is her loss, so much the worse for her.

    Mr Jensen’s philosophy is very common. It is responsible in no small measure for the “#metoo” social-media campaign that is currently in progress, the pain-filled stories connected to which are in innumerable cases the product of applied Jensenism. I have encountered it in many places, and spoken with many of its human casualties. But I did not expect to see it advanced so nakedly and unapologetically here.

  52. jaxjensen says:

    The $64,000 Answer … that doesn’t sound at all like how I treat women personally, nor how I purpose that they should be treated. You’d think that if BCC had any policy against making unfounded personal attacks they would censor such drivel.

    I can’t imagine the innumerable reasons that a person chooses to have a sexual relationship with another. The only person I’ve ever been with is my wife, and I’m sure our reasoning and experiences differ greatly from those of every one else. But when a man or woman chooses to have sex with another person for the hypothetically stated reason of not wanting to hurt the other persons feelings or to keep the relationship intact (not get dumped), then that person HAS willfully consented. I am sure there are plenty of additional pressures that could be applied that would invalidate such consent, but those were missing from the hypothetical. That statement as given, without additional qualifiers, is false IMO.

    I’m truly sorry for you all who have a personal experience or anecdotal story where you think this statement is true. The one shared by AnonForSubjectMatter is horrendous. But it falls outside of the parameters of the hypothetical. The series of events described aren’t even close to the hypothetical.

    And yes, “She, it seems, is to look out for herself.” This is also true. She shouldn’t have to, but life is full of any number of abusers, perverts, or attackers who aren’t going to do it. That is why we universally despise them, is it not? I do anyway, not matter what incendiary or derogatory language is used to describe me here and make me out to be the threat. Ideally her “partner” will look out for her too, but since you can’t tell who is and who isn’t a threat everyone ought to look out for themselves.

    If a perma got on here a posted how women can/should always place their trust in their dates/acquaintences to look out for their interests, rather than looking out for their own, these comments would explode with people calling that perma a moron who is putting women at risk by telling them not to protect themselves and for telling them it is always okay to trust men to do it for them. Would any one of you get on here and say, “Girls, don’t worry. Your guy will always look after you. No need to look out for yourself.” Of course not. So, women, please look out for yourselves. Please don’t trust a man to do that for you. Stay safe!

    Incidentally, any else here ever stepped into a fight to protect a woman they didn’t know from someone attacking her? I have. Ever put your own safety in danger like that for a woman? Or is defending women something you only do with a keyboard?

  53. Wondering says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful response, 64K. It’s interesting to see the reply from jax, who seems to considers himself one of the “good guys” and doesn’t seem to realize how our societal system of abuse and harassment depends on “good guys” like him.

  54. Paul Ritchey says:

    Frank Pellett:

    I did not suggest that a biological predisposition justifies any behaviors at all. I merely said I think it’s a bit silly to make an absolute claim that men and women have precisely the same predisposition to sexual temptation. That seems both unsupported by any evidence (do you have any?) and contrary to existing evidence (including an elaborate history of male sexual domination and misbehavior, the genetic evidence I suggest above, and the very fact that we’re having this discussion about men and not about women).

    The point is that they are not equal, even prior to social forces: men have more sexual partners than women, have sex more often than women, and are far, far more likely to commit sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape than women, in part (but not wholly) because of physiological and psychological differences between the sexes. That is emphatically not a justification, but it is an explanation. It matters because, if we are to use culture to prevent sexual misbehavior, we should understand whence the problem comes. That certainly involves coming to blows with the social institutions that have grown up to reinforce the male ability to dominate sexually, but to pretend that culture somehow invented this out of thin air is to be fundamentally mistaken (and also is to misunderstand how culture works).

    If the difference is merely cultural, as you suggest, why do we observe the sexual domination of women by men across virtually all human cultures, through all of known history? Have most cultures, and some of those independently, arrived at the patriarchy by convergent social regression? Given the apparent biological evidence, I have a hard time swallowing this latter, more complicated explanation.

  55. 64K Question is welcome on my screens anytime. He cuts through jax’s nonsense with exactly the right mix of muscle, mind, and spirit.

  56. “But when a man or woman chooses to have sex with another person for the hypothetically stated reason of not wanting to hurt the other persons feelings or to keep the relationship intact (not get dumped), then that person HAS willfully consented.”

    Here we go again. Your hypothetical is so ridiculously simple that it makes no sense. Think about it. Under what situation would a healthy, adult woman decide to have sex with a man against her own desires, values and will because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings or lose him? A healthy, adult woman WOULD NOT DO THIS. Which means there is always something else going on. Perhaps she isn’t an adult. Perhaps she’s got a life time of trauma inside her. Perhaps she’s been systematically taught some really incorrect things about herself and men.

    I absolutely agree woman should take steps to protect themselves. As a 20-something, that is exactly what I did. But a child? You really want to put that on a child? And where is the child supposed to be learning to do this? Clearly not at church.

    Why not start with teaching both young women and young men to both protect themselves and to respect every aspect of themselves and the people around them? Why not give them a clear understanding of consent as a way to do that? Why not put the guilt on the boy who nagged/pressured/guilted rather than on the girl who consented against her own will?

  57. The $64,000 Answer says:

    “Why not put the guilt on the boy who nagged/pressured/guilted rather than on the girl who consented against her own will?”

    That is, indeed, the question Mr Jensen is unwilling even to contemplate, much less to answer. I started off aghast at his views of young women. On reflection, I’m still more disturbed at what he seems to believe of young men. They, it would appear, are in his opinion so inherently amoral, so incapable of guiding their actions according to the most basic code of ethics, that asking them (indeed, positively requiring them) to take the welfare of anybody other than themselves into consideration is a waste of time and breath. Instead we must compel each woman and girl “to look out for herself”—with the added bonus that we get to stigmatize her whenever, through exhaustion, fear or simply the all-too-common “freeze” response, she fails in her attempts to do so.

    I commend Mr Jensen for “stepp[ing] into a fight to protect a woman [he] didn’t know from someone attacking her.” That was a brave and a generous thing to do. What he does not appear to understand is that if the ideas he has so passionately championed here were less prevalent, the number of times he might be called upon to use his fists in this way might also be materially fewer.

  58. jaxjensen – the opposite of “she is always to look after herself” is not “women should always place their trust in men” Both are missing mens’ responsibility for their own actions. The ones who don’t let “no” mean anything other than “not right this second, because I’m being coy to entice you”. Repeated asking until the other person breaks down and assents is like subjecting someone to water torture until they break down and agree to talk. You can’t jump out of the bamboo and say “aha, they agreed!”

    And for this – “Good luck guys… you have ONE chance to ask for a date/kiss/sex/whatever, and if she turns you down then you don’t get to ask again, otherwise it’s “assault” and her consent isn’t real. You’ll have to just wait for her to tell you she’s changed her mind.”

    Yep. move on. Suck it up, buttercup. No one should ever be in a relationship where someone is settling into “well I guess there’s no other choice but to give in” That’s how people end up stuck in abusive relationships, of which I have first hand experience.

  59. A Fellow Traveler Along the Path says:

    64K Answer– I truly hope we all will be able to read more of your comments in the future. I found what you wrote to be quite insightful and to the point, completely without “personal attacks… incendiary or derogatory language.”

  60. jaxjensen says:

    ReTx: it isn’t “my” hypothetical. It is the hypothetical set forth to which I was responding. And it was ridiculously simple and absent other factors like age/history/education. And lacking those items, as I’ve pointed out, the hypothetical and the associated statement were false. And as I’ve said repeatedly above, those factors matter and would influence whether consent was coerced or given under duress. You are assuming other factors that weren’t given, while I am not. I’ve dealt with the hypothetical as given. The only matter of substance hypothetically given was that the woman chose to have sex because she did not want to hurt his feelings or to avoid being dumped. So responding to the hypothetical given, and staying within it’s parameters, I responded. I find that ridiculous too, but those were the parameters THAT SOMEONE ELSE CHOSE. I didn’t set them, nor find them convincing… WHICH IS WHY I THINK THE STATEMENT WAS FALSE.

    The question was not given as “If a woman chooses to have sex with a man, under what conditions could her consent be coerced?” That question should then elicit the responses of being under age, history of abuse, etc. But this wasn’t how it was stated. It was stated as true that she made her choice to avoid hurting him and/or to avoid being dumped. And if those are true, as the hypothetical set forth demands we assume, then she consented. Just because you don’t find the hypothetical scenario convincing or representative of real life, doesn’t mean you adjust the facts that are given. You don’t simply say, “Well, I don’t like that situation presented to me, so I’ll change the given facts. I’ll just adjuste her age and give her a history of grooming. Then I’ll give an answer to a question nobody is asking and insult and degrade anybody who answers differently.”

    Obviously you CAN do that, since you and others have done so. It just makes you an intellectually dishonest POS.

    And I’m ‘Wondering’ when diatribes full of unjustified extrapolations and incorrect assumptions became “thoughtful responses”. How sadly pathetic that those are “welcome on my screens anytime”

  61. Paul Ritchey says:

    Can we all cut the ad hominem and get to the merits here? I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had.

  62. jaxjensen,

    I don’t suppose this will matter to you, but in the original “ridiculously simple” scenario I proposed (fifth comment on the thread, I believe), I made it clear that the girl in question was sixteen. I also made clear that this scenario occurs in the context of a culture that gives damaging messages to women about what consent should look like.

    Finally, please understand that this scenario isn’t hypothetical for me. I’m currently mentoring three young women whose narratives match the scenario I describe (except one of the young ladies was fifteen). They are, respectively, a former foster youth, a victim of child abuse, and a runaway. But it shouldn’t -matter- what their history was in the context of the scenario I laid out, unless maybe you’re her bishop or the judge. The response to reading she said no, she didn’t want to but felt she had to, regardless of our understanding of her age, background, or history ought to be, “Something is horribly wrong there.”

  63. “…I didn’t set them, nor find them convincing…”

    Then why not argue the situation was ridiculously unrealistic rather than argue the woman gave consent?

    You don’t have to answer that. At the point where you are calling me (a person who actually experienced the situation under discussion) an intellectually dishonest POS (which I assume stands for Piece of That-which-the-dog-leaves-all-over-the-lawn), I give up the conversation as useless.

  64. ReTx,

    I should follow your example and bow out. But before I do, I want to say, I wish I could give 16-year-old you a hug, listen to her, tell her that I was so sorry this happened to her.

    Much love and respect to her and the woman she became.

  65. Here we are yet again with a man dominating the conversation that was started by and is about women. This is very tangentially related but I am thinking about it in the context of this thread so I will share. I recently shared with my bishop some of my concerns about the subservience of women in the temple. He had never considered it and had a hard time seeing it even when I laid it out. He took my concerns to the temple president and then came back to me and told me that he had had one of the most spiritual experiences of his life discussing my concerns with the temple president, but that the temple president had advised him that what they were talking about was so sacred that he shouldn’t share it with me. My bishop couldn’t see the irony. at all. That is the culture we are in, but it goes beyond culture. That is the doctrine and theology too. I agree with Fellow Traveler above, that this is a planned feature, not a bug. That jaxjensen can’t even see how he is doing it in his insistence in dominating this very thread is a perfect example.

  66. Amanda 2.0 says:

    If I squinted my eyes very narrowly, I could perhaps maybe possibly see a teeny tiny bit of validity in what jaxjensen is saying. But in order to do so I would have to ignore all context, both for the individual story and the cultural story. Issues of sex and coercion and consent necessarily have to factor in power differentials, size differentials, past history, and the culture that inevitably produces numerous #metoo stories for every female. How many women, when they get unwanted sexual attention, laugh it off? I do all the time. Not because I think it’s funny but because I am afraid. It’s the same context that applies to when men coerce sex from women – there is a history and a context there that cannot be discounted. And jaxjensen is discounting the very relevant context in his ideas about what constitutes consent.

  67. The $64,000 Answer says:

    “In my entire life I don’t know that I’ve seen an LDS woman stand up to a man in power above her, tell him he is wrong, and have him give in to her way of thinking. Not ever. Not even as an adult.”

    I can’t say that in my own Catholic Church I’ve seen very much of this either. Once or twice, perhaps, but it’s very far from the norm. That fact, I believe, accounts for some of the definitional cross-purposes that have emerged on this thread. On the one hand, we have a paradigm in which sexual consent (even “positive consent”) looks like this:-

    “’he attempts a sexual encounter you don’t want and you’ve said, ‘No, no, no, no.’ But he keeps asking and keeps going and you give up or decide you don’t have a choice, or you don’t want to hurt him or to end the relationship’….The girl has NOT been sexually assaulted/abused/harassed. He did his best to get positive consent, and she gave it.”

    That is, as I say, an extremely common view among men of what constitutes consent. It also is, in most places, how the criminal law sees it. And it may not be coincidental—indeed, it almost certainly isn’t—that this part of the criminal law was drafted predominantly or exclusively by male legislators.

    But there is another way of imagining what consent looks like, and that is one in which it is **safe** — not just physically, but socially, economically and even emotionally—to say “no.” In other words, a truly free choice is one in which it is possible to withhold consent without being made to suffer adverse consequences for it. If I say “yes” because I know the other party will sulk, nag, beg, emotionally blackmail me, or drop me like a hot potato, I may have consented according to the minimal dictates of the jurisdiction in which I live. But in every other sense, my consent has been extorted from me. It goes without saying, or ought to, that the intimate encounter that follows, even if it’s not punishable as rape, is very likely going to feel to me sufficiently rape-like for that not to seem like a huge difference. And the knowledge that the person who, metaphorically or physically, drove me into a corner so that he could gratify his own wishes is completely indifferent to what I wanted in this encounter—because, if he were paying due regard to my wishes, it wouldn’t be happening—can only reinforce that perception.

    This is an understanding of consent that is more likely to resonate with women (although, of course, not exclusively with them). But neither in the LDS nor the Catholic Churches do women’s perspectives and experiences define the parameters of what is considered sexual consent: or anything else, for that matter. That job is reserved for men.

    As I’ve written here in the past, I do not consider myself a feminist, and nobody who knows me has ever described me as such. I don’t believe that women are inherently more moral than men or, when given access to power, are less likely to exercise it as self-interestedly as men do. But when one looks at an ecclesiastical establishment where norms for both sexes are defined from above, but only one ever gets to do the defining, it’s possible only to say, to borrow Leona’s phrase, “Something is horribly wrong there.”

  68. AnonForSubjectMatter says:

    “And yes, “She, it seems, is to look out for herself.” This is also true. She shouldn’t have to, but life is full of any number of abusers, perverts, or attackers who aren’t going to do it. That is why we universally despise them, is it not? I do anyway, not matter what incendiary or derogatory language is used to describe me here and make me out to be the threat. Ideally her “partner” will look out for her too, but since you can’t tell who is and who isn’t a threat everyone ought to look out for themselves.”
    Do we universally despise them? The man from my story is good friends with some close colleagues. He’s well-liked by a lot of people I respect. I still see him twice a week because we share a class. What you’re proposing is that women lower their trust in men – all men – significantly. Such limitations would hamper dating far more than waiting for a girl to change her mind about dating or kissing or sex ever could.

  69. Thanks Leona!

    I went for a walk after writing my last post to brood about why exactly Jax was getting to me. Why did I care exactly what he thought or why he couldn’t see my arguments? And I realized something that feels important enough to the conversation that I am going to share it.

    Here’s very specifically what got me all stewed up:

    “Just because you felt “pressure” doesn’t mean you didn’t consent.”

    “To me it simply referred to the asking and the persons desire not to be dumped, or simply to get the asking to stop. Those situations aren’t coercive.”

    “She had plenty of them (ways to protect herself). Stop seeing him. Dump HIM because he keeps asking for something you aren’t going to give. He did not force himself on her, he ASKED!”

    “On face value I think that if a man asks (verbally) and a woman says yes (verbally) then she has consented.”

    “But when a man or woman chooses to have sex with another person for the hypothetically stated reason of not wanting to hurt the other persons feelings or to keep the relationship intact (not get dumped), then that person HAS willfully consented.”

    The reason I found that all so gut-wrenchingly upsetting is because this is exactly how my bishop looked at me when as an 18 year-old I sat in his office working through a repentance process. I don’t blame him for that (he was honestly a wonderful man, the best bishop I’ve ever had) because it was also what I deeply believed about myself. I had consented. I had traded my pearls of virtue for something else I wanted (the relationship, the boy, to get rid of the pressure from him). I was weak. I was a sinner. I failed in one of the most important things God would ever ask or me.

    It would take me another 10-15 years to figure out my thought process were totally wrong.

    I was not weak. I was not any more a sinner than every other 16 year-old trying to navigate the world and fill my emotional needs. I was a child totally unprepared to deal with being manipulated. A girl with a cart full of learned baggage about men and women that made me easy to manipulate.

    The Bishop should have seen that (he should have been trained to see it!). Jax should see that because it is so obvious (which I admit might be unfair to him). The church should be able to see that and change its approach so that the church itself isn’t part of creating the situation.

    And none of them ever do. Even when multiple women tell their stories over and over again.

  70. Amanda 2.0 says:

    $64,000 – your last response was so well articulated. The 5th paragraph, about how the encounter feels from the female perspective, is so spot on for me.
    Also, I am a feminist and I don’t believe that women are more moral than men. That is generally a trope of conservative patriarchy not of feminists.

  71. AnonForSubjectMatter says:

    64K: Seconding Amanda 2.0’s voice here.

    ReTx: Love to you.

    Amanda: “I recently shared with my bishop some of my concerns about the subservience of women in the temple. He had never considered it and had a hard time seeing it even when I laid it out.”
    My thoughts on male and femaleness (which were my reasons for doubting bigger things) were too fragile to share with church leadership and risk this exact treatment. Male blindness to women’s issues is so excruciatingly real in the church in particular. That’s how they lost me.

  72. Amanda 2.0 noted, “How many women, when they get unwanted sexual attention, laugh it off? I do all the time. Not because I think it’s funny but because I am afraid.”

    The catcalls mostly ceased once I was no longer a young woman, but they are not something I miss at all. I did not find them flattering; rather, I experienced them as a reminder that I was alone in a public place with few defenses if some large adult male were to approach me. And I’m not rewriting my story in light of the recent discussions and I’m not of an anxious temperament, but I do remember that visceral feeling of fear.

    That fear is not likely something that most males opining here have ever experienced. If the men I know have stories about fearing for their safety, it’s usually associated with outdoor adventures or missionary service in a third-world country, not with the regular every day experience of existing in our culture.

  73. “The idea that men are inherently more vulnerable to sexual temptation is a virtual genetic certainly, no?”

    No.

  74. Lots of comments while I was away… Where was I? At a sexual assault survivors group that I attend and support every Friday. So please don’t imagine that this topic is foreign to me or that I haven’t heard these tales and seen the heartache.

    I’m still a bit mystified that I’m being portrayed as the sexual predator. I heard a slightly humorous mantra as a kid that I’ve always tried to follow: Never say anything to a woman that you wouldn’t want a man in prison to say (or do) to you. So I don’t catcall women. I don’t whistle at them. I don’t call them cutie/sweetie/gorgeous unless “they” are my wife or daughters. I don’t proposition them for inappropriate encounters. I’ve stepped up numerous times and told other men to knock that **** off. I’ve stepped into a fight to protect a strange woman who I witnessed getting beat in her car.

    I know there are times when asking might not be an innocent request and that “consent” was pressured. I don’t believe that is the “rule” though. I think those are exceptions. Despite the weekly group I attend I still think the rule is that most men are good. Most men will do as I’ve done. I do, truly, feel sorry for you who read the hypothetical given and instantly assume all the negatives against the man. The circumstances that must have lead to that instant assumption of negativity against men were probably painful and horrible. I feel sorry about that for you. But that doesn’t mean all men are trying to get their way without a woman’s feelings. I suggest that the fact that the man would ask suggests he does care, otherwise he might just take like other men have before.

    So I read a hypothetical and think the best of the people, not the worst. That doesn’t mean all hypotheticals should be viewed in the negative. Given the hypothetical given, there are plenty of additional facts that could make it so that consent wasn’t real, and plenty of them where consent was really obtained. I feel bad that for Leona these aren’t hypotheticals. I don’t and won’t make any judgement about specifics that I don’t know. I totally agree that we have lots of negative message about consent in our culture.

  75. AnonForSubjectMatter says:

    Jax: “Despite the weekly group I attend I still think the rule is that most men are good. Most men will do as I’ve done.”

    But what happened to: “since you can’t tell who is and who isn’t a threat everyone ought to look out for themselves”?

    I was like you. I thought that since most men are good, since this man seemed normal, that the man in my story couldn’t possibly ignore an unambiguous “no”. I thought he was at least good enough for that. I haven’t told anyone who knows him what happened – I doubt they’d believe me, given that he’s just a normal, non-creepy, non-trench-coat-wearing dude. If I accused him of assault, he would believe himself to be falsely accused. Do you see what I’m getting at here? I don’t know that most men are good. I do know that most men believe they are good.

    The few friends I have told asked me why I went on more than one date with him, if he was ever pushy. They reminded me that if I hadn’t gone on the third, it wouldn’t have happened. Oh, how I’m aware that that’s true. Why? It’s because I believed that he was one of your most men who are good.

    You’re bothered by a lack of trust in men but think women should look out for themselves. These are considerably more incompatible than you appear to think. If I had trusted men less, I might have looked out for myself better. I can’t tell you how deeply I regret that I believed that a normal man who believes himself to be good, who is friends with my friends, would listen to what I wanted.

  76. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Mr Jensen:-

    Permit me to address you directly. I can well imagine that you are feeling put on the spot and, given that we’ve all engaged on this thread in what professional diplomats euphemistically describe as “a full and frank exchange of views,” that’s entirely understandable. The object here isn’t to pillory any individual man, far less men in general. Being one myself, I would not lend myself to any such stigmatizing or broad-brush endeavor. The doctrine of collective guilt is no more acceptable in the case of sex than it is in the case of race or ethnicity.

    I also congratulate you for your outreach work with victims of sexual violence, It’s rare that anyone can be troubled even to raise his or her eyes to notice their existence, far less volunteer his or her time and talents on their behalf. Your willingness to do so ought not to be taken for granted—and it is not, at any rate, by me.

    However, there is a larger issue here than the unimpeachability of your own personal conduct, which I do not question. It is that, as you must surely know from your involvement in this area, the overwhelming majority of rapes, sexual assaults, or acts of sexual coercion are perpetrated by people who firmly believe that they are “good.” They would be, and are, horrified when anyone suggests otherwise. Many of them will say that they never meant to hurt or harm anybody, and in a large proportion of cases, I dare say that they are sincere when they say so.

    But the fact of the matter is that they do. They wreak dreadful harm. Sometimes what they perpetrate is actual rape, legally defined (though not in their eyes). More often still, their conduct is formally legal, but objectively coercive, in ways to which they remain blind. In many respects these latter cases are harder for the victim to bear. When it’s a case of out-and-out forcible rape, however ghastly the experience, one doesn’t have to second-guess oneself about what has happened. One was forced; one was drugged; one was beaten; one was terrorized into compliance.

    But when it’s a situation in which the perpetrator pushes all the way up to the very threshold of illegality, but doesn’t cross it, the victim doesn’t even have that level of clarity. She (let’s say for the purposes of this discussion that it’s a “she”) knows she didn’t want what is proposed to her. She’s said so many times, although if she were truly respected, she ought truly have to say so only once. This is not going to be a pleasurable or fulfilling experience for her. If her wishes were the only ones to be taken into consideration, it would not be happening. But because the costs of continuing to have to fend off the perpetrator (a term I am using in the moral rather than the legal sense) eventually become more than she can sustain indefinitely, she complies. What ensues, for the overwhelming majority of women placed in this situation, is an encounter that feels exactly like rape, whatever the courts or the Church may have to say about it.

    That is the real consequence of the consent standard you have been defending here. Is it really so impossible to see that when you say “the fact that the man would ask suggests he does care, otherwise he might just take like other men have before” sets the bar appallingly low as a measure of how one human being ought to treat another? Moreover, can you be indifferent when women say—as they have done on this very thread, and have been saying countless times and in countless ways in other venues, “When people act in this way, they hurt us horribly. We want it to stop”?

    When you do so, you are in fact suggesting one of two things. The first is that you don’t believe them when they say that this is damaging to them. The second is that you don’t care if it is. You have stated what you consider a defensible standard of consent to be; if your sisters tell you that is one that has ruinous effects upon them, that is not your concern. They ought not to be so sensitive, and they have only themselves to blame for being unreasonable.

    I earnestly hope that the second of these is not the case. But even if it is the first, what that in turn says to these women is that when they speak, even about the most personal and painful aspects of their lives, you’re not listening. Once again, your perspective is definitive and will prevail; theirs may be set aside as insignificant.

    And that is when, in your Church and mine, people start heading for the exits.

  77. it's a series of tubes says:

    Mr. Answer, I suspect you speak with a British or British-derived accent. Even if that is not the case, visualizing them being spoken in such an accent makes them even more awesome.

    Thanks again for your contributions on this thread, and for elevating the level of our discourse.

  78. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Neither British nor British-derived, IST, and my accent could generously be described as “uncouth.” But I do thank you for your generous words.

  79. jaxjensen says:

    64K “overwhelming majority of rapes, sexual assaults, or acts of sexual coercion are perpetrated by people who firmly believe that they are “good.” I’ll buy that. But you are ignoring the other percentage of the population. Will you also concede that not all people who think they are good commit rapes sexual assaults, or acts of sexual coercion?

    Yes, some people who have been assaulted/raped/etc had it happen by somebody who asked repeatedly (or the asking was laden with threat and not really a request). So in those cases the statement would be true. But not everybody who asks a 3rd/4th/5th time commits an assault, has bad intentions, or doesn’t care about his partner. In those cases the hypothetical is false. And I think many more men are NOT rapists than are. How many happy marriages never would have happened if a man doesn’t ask a 2nd time for a 1st date?

    The theoretical stated originally by Leona, that claimed that the consent wasn’t real, is 100% applicable to cases where the male doesn’t recognize the personhood of the female and proceeds to assault her. But the hypothetical covered all men (and women), and not all men are that way. Some of us aren’t creeps or rapists. And there ARE 16 year old girls who consent to sex with 18 year old boys. Some, as Leona is a witness to, are assaulted by their partners, and that is tragic. Others are not. And those others provide the “false” to the theoretical. Those victims need to be believed and cared for. But that doesn’t mean the entire universe should be viewed from the prism of the victim. And therefore the universe covering theoretical is false. It is not true that simply because a girl said yes because she was afraid of being dumped that her consent wasn’t real. Sometimes that is the case, as Leona can attest, but not always. Those “not always” cases have been ignored and dismissed in this discussion. Believe me, I truly wish there were NO cases in which it were true. It is heart wrenching. Nobody should ever dismiss or ignore those who have been assaulted, but neither should we assume the worst of all mankind because some percentage are either criminal or oblivious to the harm they cause.

    Is that not a fair way to look at things?

  80. jaxjensen says:

    “You’re bothered by a lack of trust in men but think women should look out for themselves. These are considerably more incompatible than you appear to think.” I trust most people and think everyone should look out for themselves. I try to smile big, include outsiders, and show respect and yet still carry a concealed firearm (for the off chance I find some dude beating his girlfriend again – not as young as I once was you know).

  81. JaxJensen,

    Your inability to control yourself here (calling someone a POS) and your express need to reply to every comment, continually justify yourself, etc. demonstrate, indeed, your persistence, which, I would wager, has already pushed the limits of many here. You seem to exhibit the same behavior in question (which many people have pointed out, and which you cannot see for yourself).

    Give a man a rope . . . and he might not only hang his own argument, but introduce a gun to the mix.

    Maybe it’s time for you to move on?

  82. I am very impressed with how you stated this. I am the Young Womens President in my ward and this bothers me also. I want the girls to know they are loved and are not objects. Thank you for this!

  83. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Mr Jensen:-

    Oh, I’ll happily stipulate that the number of non-perpetrators (again using that term in its moral rather than legal sense) is larger than that of perpetrators. How much larger, it’s very hard to say. I don’t know how many victims of sexual violence or coercion there are, nor does anybody else. But we know it’s a heck of a lot. And all those people are being victimized by somebody.

    The non-perpetrators, in any event, are something of a red herring in this discussion. Our concern is with diminishing the number of those who do offend in this way, and the degree of human devastation they cause. That harm, moreover, is in the control neither of the victim nor the perpetrator. It’s impossible to say how much damage a given act of sexual assault or coercion will cause, which is why it’s so important to avoid all of them.

    In that context, I note that your perspective remains firmly fixed on the young man in this scenario, and what is “fair” to him. Can’t he be allowed a third, fourth or fifth try to get a young woman to go to bed with him, her expressed reluctance notwithstanding? (Further upthread, you maintained that he does not trespass upon the rules of consent even if he goes back fifteen times; that we’re now talking about something between a third and a fifth of that number indicates that we are making some progress in bridging the gap between us.)

    Please try to put yourself in the shoes of a young woman in this scenario, and to consider what is fair to her. The starting point in that exercise in empathy is a recognition of the acute sense of physical and sexual vulnerability that most women feel. This, I concede, is something that’s difficult for we men to wrap our heads around. But if you or I should find ourselves in a sticky situation, we have a fall-back position: the ability to use physical force to get ourselves out of it. That may not, of course, actually work should we have to rely upon it: we often over-estimate our skills in self-defense. But the possibility exists, should all else fail.

    For the great majority of women, though, that’s not an available option. Should they be confronted with a much larger and more powerful individual who is adamantly refusing to take “no” for an answer, they’re in a most precarious situation. If a woman or girl can’t talk her way out of it, there is no plan “B” for her. And that raises the acute question of how ugly he’s likely to turn if he’s met with a “No!” one more time. The number of men who don’t handle rejection well is not small. It may end simply with a display of rhetorical anger and the hurling of insults—slut, dyke, tease—which is upsetting enough in itself. In many circumstances that’s the best-case scenario. But it may produce a worse reaction yet. If you’re a slightly-built sixteen- or seventeen-year-old girl confronted with a much bigger young man who you have already tried and failed on several occasions to get to go away and leave you alone, how safe do you feel, as he visibly seethes in front of you, about saying something that he may well take as the final provocation? And how insulting and belittling is it if, when with sweating palms, a heart that’s racing for all the wrong reasons and a dry mouth, you shrink from playing Russian roulette in this way, an older man appears long after you have endured a vile experience that you never wanted to assure you that you gave “positive consent” to something that you would gladly use battery acid to scorch out of your memory, if that were possible?

    Now to be sure, the young man in this scenario may never have turned violent. He might finally have accepted her “no” at the—how many is it again?—fifth, or fifteenth, or fiftieth time of asking, and gone away with a good grace. But if he’s the kind of conscienceless creep who has manoeuvred his target into this situation in the first place, that’s not a safe assumption for her to make.

    To be honest, I’m finding it impossible to understand why, in your world-view, a young man cannot simply say upon receiving the first rejection: “OK; I understand. Thanks for being straight with me. Best of luck.” To be sure, if he does so, he will never get to have sex with her, or even go on a date with her. But is that such a catastrophe? Will his life come crashing down in ruins around him if he does so, with nothing but a lonely cardboard box on Skid Row to which to look forward? Is he condemned thereby to a life of monastic celibacy? Or is there, perhaps, the remotest possibility that the next young woman, or the one after that, with whom he strikes up a conversation might say to him, freely and enthusiastically, “Yes, I’d be delighted. Saturday at eight? Meet me outside the ‘bus station.”

    More to the point, why would you wish to subject a young woman to such a harrowing ordeal merely to relieve him of the necessity of seeking out a girl who actually wants him?

  84. jaxjensen – “How many happy marriages never would have happened if a man doesn’t ask a 2nd time for a 1st date?”

    How many happy marriages never would have happened if a man doesn’t have a current temple recommend?

    How many happy marriages never would have happened if a man doesn’t have 10 cows to trade?

    How many happy marriages never would have happened if a woman’s father doesn’t have enough to pay a dowry?

    How many happy marriages never would have happened if the man hadn’t kidnapped her in a raid?

    Despite the romanticism, there is no such things as “soul mates”, where if someone gets it wrong there’s a domino effect of a whole string of people also without their “intended”. No one “deserves” access to another person, no matter what their relationship. Even a husband pressuring their wife into something by continually asking until she gives up is unacceptable. Should he give up? No, they should actually talk together about it. If a man wants to ask a woman out and gets no, he can certainly ask why, but should be accepting of any response she gives, including no response at all.

  85. jaxjensen says:

    64K, I’d have to go check, but that might have been the first post where I concentrated on the male. In most I focused on the girl and that it is consent if she makes her choice based solely (because that is what the hypothetical stipulated) because she didn’t want to be dumped or didn’t want to hurt him. I do think about them. A lot. It hurts that they’d feel they “have no other choice” but to consent. It isn’t true, they have other choices, but they can’t see them and so they might as well not exist for them. They don’t know that there are countless people who would help them, shelter them, protect them. Feeling that alone and trapped is tragic and I wish I could do more to help.

    Frank, no body deserves access to another person. That is why we’ve been talking about ASKING for consent. And if a man gets a no on day one, but asks again a week later, what is wrong with that? There is nothing predatory about inquiring a 2/3/4 time as long as the inquiry itself is respectful and innocent. Sometimes that 2/3/4 is done by a predator, but that doesn’t make it wrong for the innocent to do it either.

  86. $64,000 – you have a remarkable understanding of the female perspective. I say that with all sincerity. I would love to know how you have educated yourself. Legitimately.

  87. The $64,000 Answer says:

    I got my education, A, the same way many other posters on this thread got theirs.

  88. “There is nothing predatory about inquiring a 2/3/4 time as long as the inquiry itself is respectful and innocent. Sometimes that 2/3/4 is done by a predator, but that doesn’t make it wrong for the innocent to do it either.”

    It is wrong. Full stop. It is disrespectful; it is assuming that you have a right to a woman’s time or affection when she has explicitly said “no.” Mormon theology teaches that “all things must needs be a compound in one.” That means that if a woman’s “yes” is to be meaningful, her “no” must also be meaningful. The first time.

  89. What a fascinating discussion. Here is a useful analogy from a video about consent: imagine you would like to offer the young lady a beverage. She declines. You say, that is totally fine, just let me know if you get thirsty.

    Alternatively, you keep trying to get her to drink a beverage. She says she’s not thirsty but you are sure she is. Or will be. Or maybe she just doesn’t realize it. You know best. She should just trust you. Why won’t she say Yes? You’ll keep trying, just in case.

    If you think the second person is rude and inconsiderate, then consider how much worse it is when we are talking about the supremely vulnerable act of sex. It isn’t cute or funny to keep asking. It is reducing the woman to an object. Which is the whole point of this post. When you treat a woman like a person, you realize she is fully capable of asking for a drink if she wants one.

  90. Given how much everyone in the church loves Disney movies, perhaps the problem isn’t the church, but Disney. Go watch Cracked’s “Disney Princes Set Unhealthy Expectations For Boys” and ponder if that’s the real problem.

  91. Thank you for trying to vocalize this issue. I am 62, discovered and joined the Church when I was 32, single, with a 3-year old son, and still single. I have tried many times to explain these same thoughts and concerns but I believe I have failed at getting my point across. I can’t tell you how much it concerns me that my three granddaughters might hear that “lesson” comparing their bodies to chewing gum. I have great faith in my son and DIL to instill a much greater vision of virtue and what a virtuous woman actually is – that their worth is so much greater than their body or looks. This is a very important issue and I hope the conversation continues. Thank you again, I feel so much better just knowing I am not alone in my thinking.

  92. I think that this is definitely an important topic to talk about and I agree with some of the points youve made, but I think that you did misquote doctrine at one point, which I’d like to point out. When you talk about virtue and guarding virtue, you said that “it inadvertently tells young women that any use of their body by another without consent, is due to an inability to guard themselves”. I searched less.org and could not find the quote that I was trying to find, so I cannot provide a direct quote; but, as I assume that you are talking about victims of sexual abuse being taught that the sexual abuse was caused by their inability to guard their virtue, I am very certain that that is not what is taught in the LDS church. As a member myself, I have been taught that virtue is not something that can be taken away from us. The only way to lose your virtue is to give it away yourself. I distinctly remember a quote (that I currently cannot find) from a lesson one Sunday that said that our virtue cannot be taken from us. It is something that we must give away. I also distinctly remember a quote from he same lesson that says that the church does not place any kind of blame on victims of sexual abuse for what has happened to them. The use of one’s body without their consent does not result in that person having lost heir virue, since they had no choice in the matter. Something that would result in a loss of virtue is if one were to willingly have sex with another outside the bonds of marriage. And it is also LDS Doctrine that virtue is not just sexual purity. It is more than that and it is unfortunate if anyone has taught that it is only about sexual purity, because it is not. “Virtue “is a pattern of thought and behavior based on his moral standards.” It encompasses chastity and moral purity. Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind.” (lds.org) Virtue certainly includes chastity, but chastity is not all that is included in virtue. Virtue also includes things such as trying to keep our thoughts clean.
    In regards to what you have said about modesty: if a woman receives unwanted attention because of the way she is dressed, you are correct that it is not her fault. We are all responsible for our own actions, and a woman being dressed a certain way does not excuse a harasser from accountability for their own actions. However, that does not mean that modesty is not important. Because of different brain wiring between men and women, men are more sexually minded. Because of this, seeing a woman in a sexually provocative or revealing outfit, is just going to add to their sexual thoughts and give them a greater desire to do something sexual. This still doesn’t make any kind of harassment or sexual abuse the woman’s fault. My personal interpretation of this is this: we are all responsible for our own actions, no matter what those around are doing, saying, thinking, or how they are dressed. However, I think that deliberately dressing immodestly or in a sexually provaking way is similar to something like putting water in front of a dehydrated person and telling them not to drink it. My analogy is imperfect, but I think it conveys my point. I think that dressing modestly is a way to show respect to the young men of the church and all men in general. The young men are (or at least should be) making an effort to keep themselves pure, just as the young women are. By dressing modestly, we are showing respect to them by not trying to sexually provoke or tempt them. I will repeat that they are still responsible their own actions, no matter how the young women are dressed. There are some people that don’t dress in a sexually provocative or revealing way for the attention. Rather, they dress in that way because it is the most comfortable for them. Even though they are not intending to, it is going to make the men around them more sexually minded and provoked. Men are more sexually minded than women. That is a scientific fact. I think that choosing to dress modestly is a way to show respect for those men are trying to keep themselves and their thoughts pure. I think that is also a way to encourage those around us to try to keep themselves and their thoughts pure. That is my take on modesty. I am not saying that that is the church’s doctrine on modesty. However I think that my view is not necessarily incorrect and definitely increases my faithfulness to the commandment of modesty.
    In accordance with the mood of your article, however, I do think that there is more emphasis placed on teaching the young women modesty than there is on teaching the young men modesty. I would like to point out that even though it is not emphasized to the young men as much as it is to the young women, the young men are still taught to be modest. However, I have personally observed that the young men are more modest than the young women overall. (On a side note, I think that one of the main reasons for this is fashion trends for men vs women. Men’s fashion trends are generally more modest than women’s.) Also, this is not an excuse for young men to dress immodestly, but women are less sexually minded so an immodest outfit on a man is not as sexually provoking to a woman as an immodest outfit on a woman is to a man. I am not saying that modesty is more important for young women than young men, but I am explaining why modesty might be taught to young women more.
    To address your comment that young men are told that their righteousness will be rewarded with a “hot wife”: that is definitely not doctrine and it is unfortunate is anyone in the church has ever taught it as doctrine. I know that among the youth at my church, we also say that our righteousness will be rewarded with a “cuter husband”. It’s done in a completely joking manner, as we all know that that is not necessarily true. However, that does not excuse the objectification that it invites. I think we all know that our righteousness will be rewarded with the blessings that God needs us to receive, whether that blessing is health, monetery success, or finding or eternal companion. Our righteousness is rewarded with blessings and we all receive different blessing at different times.
    I certainly agree that women are objectified, but I do not think that it is the fault of the church. I think that, up until very recently, popular culture has focused heavily on women as objects and has therefore objectified them. I think that, too often, church members buy into this objectification and objectify the women of the church. I do not, however, believe that the church encourages objectification of women in any way.
    As you might wonder next: “What about he whole Mormon housewife thing?” While I don’t think that that is an objectification of women, it is a similar topic that I would like to address. Many see being a housewife as a sign of disempowerment among women. However, as we are taught in church, children are one of God’s most sacred creations and it is a sacred and divine calling to nuture and raise these children. In the eyes of this truth, being a housewife is not female disempowerment. It is a divine calling that is more important than any job, money, or fame. It is the culture outside of the church that has taught us that being a housewife/stay-at-home mom is female disempowerment. The culture outside of the church does not see children as being as important and therefore ranks jobs, money, and fame above them. I am not saying that world believes that children are unimportant. But rather, that they do not expressly believe that children are important, as the church does.
    I would like to say that I loved what you said about modesty as an attitude. While I believe (and is the doctrine of the church) that modesty is not just an attitude, but also how you are physically dressed; I really like how you included attitude in this. Maybe you are familiar with the phrase “as a man thinketh, he doeth”? I believe it is a scripture, but I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, our actions are guided by our thoughts. There is a scripture that says something along the lines of if a man coveteth a woman in his heart and wants to commit adultery with her, it is as good as done. That is, of course, a very loose paraphrase and not a direct quote; but he principle still stands. Even if we do not commit sin, if we are inviting those ainful thoughts into our minds and desiring to do those sins, it’s sort of like we’ve already done them. So attitude definitely is important. If we are physically dressed in a modest outfit, but we are just constantly thinking “I wish I were in an immodest outfit”, it’s basically as good as done.
    I really liked your post and I think that objectification is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed; but as I read your post, I feel like you were putting a lot of the blame of objectification on the church and it’s doctrine which is incorrect. The church and it’s doctrine does not promote objecation of anyone, even if some individual members do. When people say “look at those beautiful daughters of God”, they are not just talking about outer beauty. They mean inner beauty too. And do not say it as an objectification. They say it as a compliment. I think it’s very unfortunate that you and other women (both of and not of the church) have felt and might still feel objectified and I’m very sorry that you have had to go through that; but I do stand by everything that I have said in this comment.

  93. Liesel – aside from the great length of your reply (which should have been a post somewhere on it’s own), you’ve missed an opportunity to listen.

    You go through a whole list of things used to dismiss concerns:
    – “the Church doesn’t really teach that” (your feelings don’t count)
    – “I was never taught that” (your experience doesn’t count)
    – “what you are wearing doesn’t have anything to do with modesty, but men are wired to be sexual” (so it’s not all their fault, the poor dears, cover those porn shoulders!)
    – “but the men are taught modesty too” (completely missing the power dynamics and objectification inherently taught)
    – “they’re just joking” (flat dismissing the effect of such “jokes” about getting “hot spouse”)
    – “. . . but we know we get material rewards for out righteousness” (giving the lie to the previous)
    – “it’s the culture, not the Church” (again dismissing the the post)
    – “being a housewife is a divine calling” (wow, she did it, she missed the barn)
    – “we should watch our thoughts, of course, but it only really applies to your outfit, which is just as bad as the boys wanting to do things)

    and last you hit the #1 answer – “it’s not the Church, it’s the people”

    So yeah, a very, very long and predictable diatribe that should really be it’s own post. At the least you should have picked one thing at a time to comment on and discuss.

  94. Frank – you definitely are right in some of your response, but you also misquoted or misinterpreted some of what I said. It’s also possible that I wasn’t clear enough, which is why I am correcting it now. If I don’t address a point younaddressed, it’s because you are correct or correct enough in your addressing of it.
    “‘What you are wearing doesn’t have anything to do with modesty, but men are wired to be sexual’ (so it’s not all their fault, the poor dears, cover those port shoulders!)”
    First of all, I think the way you paraphrased that very misleading because I said the thing about modesty several paragraphs below when I talked about sexual wiring.
    Secondly, I did not say that what we are wearing doesn’t have anything to do with modesty. I’m sorry if I implied that when I agreed about modesty being an attitude. What we are wearing is part of modesty, but not all of it. Modesty is also our attitude.
    Third, let me repeat what I have said several times in that comment: EVERYONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS. The point that I made, or at least was trying to make, is that knowing that sexual lyrics provocative or revealing outfits are sexual lyrics provoking to men, I think hat we should maintain modesty out of respect to men who choose to not have sexual outside of marriage (which mostly applies to (young) men in the church, as I don’t know of a lot outside the church that have this standard – not to say that there aren’t any). If a men chooses to commit any kind of sexual act because of the way is woman is dressed, it is not the woman’s fault at all. It is the man’s fault because he is he one in charge of his own actions.
    “‘But men are taught modesty too’ (completely missing the power dynamics and objectification inherently taught”
    I do recognize that there is still objectification, but I wanted to make sure that no one was under the impression that it was only young women who were being taught modesty. The young men are taught it too. (And while I am on that subject, young men are not the only ones who have lessons about pornography. They are given to the young women too.)
    “‘… but we know we get material rewards for our righteousness’ (giving the lie to the previous)”
    That is NOT what I said. I said that we are rewarded for our righteousness. I also said that the reward MIGHT be a material reward, not that it WILL. I acknowledge the fact you pointed out that I usedon’t this point as a justification for the joking about a hot spouse. You are right on that point. But I did NOT say that we will receive material rewards for our righteousness.
    “‘being a housewife is a divine calling’ (wow, she did it, she missed the barn)”
    First of all, I know that being a housewife was not what this post was on, but as I said I felt it was related and I wanted to address that. I’d also like to quickly say that while that was not an exact quote, I feel like it was accurate paraphrasing. I really don’t know how else to respond to this one.
    “‘we should watch our thoughts, of course, but it only really applies to your outfit, which is just as bad as the boys wanting to do things)”
    That is not at all what I said. That is a very loose and incorrect paraphrasing of what I said. We should watch our thoughts. Our thoughts are important. Let me talk about what I think you are trying to address. In regards to being modest, our thoughts affect only us as our thoughts are internalized and internalized things cannot affect other people unless we express them externally in some way. So if we are being modest in our physical appearance, but not in our thoughts and are not externalities our thoughts at all, it affects only us. When we are physical dressed immodestly, it may affect other people because our external actions are viewable by other people. I am not going to judge on how bad or good dressing I modestly is in comparison to guys wanting sex. I am, however, going to restate myself from earlier: knowing that wearing sexually provocative or revealing outfits causes men to have sexual thoughts and then still wearing those outfits is something that I think shows a lack of respect to men who are trying to stay sexually pure (and by sexually pure, I mean not having sexual outside of marriage. Just as a clarification).
    “and last you hit the #1 answer – ‘it’s not the church, it’s the people'”
    Yes, that answer is repeated a lot. But, going off of official church doctrine and those who are authorized (which is not exactly the word I was looking for) to speak for the whole church (hose individuals would be prophets, seers, and revelators), the church does not teach female objectification or, which was my main point, that sexual abuse or harassment is the fault of the victim. Those in the church who do teach that are not accurately representing the church and its doctrine.
    If you have any other comments, I would love to have a civil conversation with you, Frank.

    Amanda-
    You talked about how your bishop or stake president (I don’t remember which you said, I’m so sorry) had a discussion with the temple person (I belive you said temple president, but I don’t quite remember), but the temple president (I’m just going to say temple president for now) asked your bishop (I’m just going to say bishop for now) not to share the conversation with you because of its sacredness. I don’t know if this is what you were implying and I do not know your specific situation, but: he wasn’t asked to not share it with you because you’re a woman or just because you’re you. It was a sacred conversation that was not meant to be shared with others, not just you or women.
    I think the fact that your bishop took your issue to the temple president and that they had a discussion about it shows that the church respects women as actual human beings, not objects. You had a concern that you took to your bishop and he respected you by taking it to the temple president and the temple president respected you by taking the time to discuss it. The fact that he was asked not to share the conversation with you is not because he objectified you, He did not objectification you.
    Again, I don’t know your specific situation. Maybe there’s some specific detail I don’t know that shows that you actually were objectified as a woman and that I am totally wrong. Nut with what you wrote, that is my response.

  95. After reading all the comments in this thread, I’d like to say this, as my personal opinion:
    I think that most men believe that most women aren’t necessarily opposed to having sex outside of marriage. I don’t think this is the man or the woman’s fault. I think that this has been caused because it’s the assumption in popular culture.
    Unless the woman expressly tells the man (either on her own or in response to some kind of question by the man) that she will not have sex outside of marriage (Mormons are taught to not have sexuality outside of marriage), the man will most likely assume that she is not necessarily opposed to it. I will come back to this point later.
    Not having sex outside of marriage is what we call a standard in the Mormon church. I believe that when you are in a good, healthy relationship with someone, they should respect your standards and help you to keep them. This shows that they care about you and you should not be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t care about you. (There are, of course, exceptions to this. Such as if your standard is harmful to yourself or others (like, for example, if you like to cut yourself). In this case, they can be supportive of you as a person while trying to get you help. However, I don’t believe that not having sex outside of marriage is something that is harmful to yourself or others. So, therefore, I don’t think that it’s a standard that should not be respected.)
    If you have told the person that you are in a relationship with that it is your standard to not have sex outside of marriage and they keep pressuring you to have sex with them, that is disrespectful to you and I personally believe that it’s anot unhealthy relationship that you should end. This goes for both men and women. Women, although I don’t think it’s as common, can totalay be disrespectful of men and their standards. It’s not just men who disrespect their partner’s standards.
    If you have not told your partner that you are opposed to having sex outside of marriage and you have not asked them to stop asking you to have sex and if they are doing it in a respectful manner (i. e. treating you like an actual person and not nagging or anything), I think it’s reasonable. As far as they know, they are not doing anything wrong. I think that a conversation between the two of you definitely needs to be had at that point.
    Addressing the analogy about offering the woman a drink and how not objectifying her would be to realize that she can ask for her own drink if she wants it: that is totally true. But there are some women that are just shy and will never make the first move. I think that as long as the man is respectful and not nagging about it, it is reasonable to ask multiple tImes. I also think that it shouldn’t be too frequently and that if the woman keeps saying no, the man either needs to stop asking or have a conversation with the woman about why she keeps saying no. And by a conversation, I don’t mean one where the man tries to convince the woman that she should sex with him. I mean one where the woman explains why she keeps saying no so that the man can understand and respond appropriately (i. e. if the woman says that she keeps saying no because she is opposed to having sex outside of marriage, the man should stop asking. The man should always respond in a respectful way and the woman should also treat the man with respect when explaining her reasoning).
    That’s my response to all the comments about what is and isn’t consent.

  96. I also noticed that there was age and emotional fragilenesss discussed a spartan of consent.
    In my personal opinion, I think that the Mormon doctrine about not having sex outside of marriage is a good thing because pressuring and lack of consent is less likely to occur within marriage (in my personal opinion). So if you have somewhere to definitively draw the line, I think it helps you to avoid unfortunate sexual encounters that, while they may not legally be rape or something similar, may feel like a traumatizing situation where you had no consent. I’m not saying that situations like this don’t happen between married couples, because it does happen. I’m saying that I believe that it happen less often between married couples.

  97. I didn’t think she missed the post at all. I felt she respectfully shared her viewpoints. To disagree mildly does not erase the other person’s feelings or perceptions.

  98. I believe that I have been taught that the attitudes of respect and modesty and chastity include NOT focusing on physical affection and sharing affection in ways that are mutually respectful and not just lustful-while-drawing-A-line. I’m 67–I think it’s great that girls are able to engage in many more activities and therefore do different things with each other and with guys. I believe that an emphasis on developing Personhood is as vital as Modesty. My girls and granddaughters have grown up in a world, including an LDS world, where opinions are valued, personalities are valued. I think some families and wards do a better job of encouraging healthy interactions and finding great activities. Still, I know we are all flawed and do not experience healthy and inspiring interactions at time. We can teach our kids and ward members to care about themselves and pray for suitable friends.

  99. Brian Taylor says:

    Well said. I hope your message spreads and we get better at this as a religious community.

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