Thursday, March 08, 2012

13 Articles of Healthy Chastity

There's a lot of reading to do on this topic, but I think it's one worth looking at considering the ages of your daughters at home or the young women in your stewardship. A friend of mine follows this blog and sent me the comments that followed this initial post. I think the topic of sexuality and sex education in the church is an important one that is often overlooked. You hear all kinds of weird stories about girls that get married and know absolutely nothing about sex, and then you read some of these comments about women who felt guilty and ashamed for much of their young adult lives because of what they are taught.

I would like to end with a list of Thirteen suggestions for helping Mormon women have more sex-positive experiences:
  1. Overhaul the YW manuals, specifically emphasize chastity, virtue, and modesty as positive powerful choices, affirm the sacred nature of our bodies and our respect for God.
  2.  Remove the defensive fear-based vignettes, change emphasis from ‘camel-nose-rape-one-slip-n-you’re-toast to the healing power of the Atonement.
  3. Ask Youth leaders/teachers specifically to avoid object lessons that demean our divine nature or compare young women to objects (wilted flowers, tainted food, chewed up gum, battered wood, cabbages or licked cake).
  4. Stop talking about modestly as anything other than a sign of self respect. Make boys guardians of their own virtue, girls have no stewardship over boys thoughts or actions.
  5. Ask teachers not to have activities emphasizing outward appearance (like make overs and fashion shows) because teaching girls they must always be “modestly hot” in order to attract a husband is still teaching the false illusory power of attracting male attention with our bodies.
  6. Root out references to the myth of male weakness. Emphasize that men can control themselves.
  7. Include nuance in discussions about sex thoughts, sex discussions, sexual desire, and porn. Our Young Women will think about sex, they will see porn, they will feel desire, they need to talk about sex with reliable adults, they need tools, not blanket prohibitions and condemnation.
  8. Include lessons on physical sexual and emotional abuse, and unrighteous dominion.
  9. Empower girls to listen to personal revelation.
  10. Emphasize that girls who are raped and abused are not responsible for their abuse. That there is no loss of chastity or virtue.
  11. Train bishops on what date/acquaintance rape looks like. On my small blog alone, I can think of dozens of women who were called to repentance after being raped.
  12. Encourage parents to have ongoing explicit age-appropriate discussions with their children about sex. It is vital that we lift the veil of silence and discomfort. Many Mormon parents are naively worried that they will give their children ideas, or somehow corrupt them with facts. The fact is that children are surrounded by sex, lots of bad information, and tons of sexually explicit materials. But it is a proven fact that the more reliable factual knowledge kids have about sex, the more they talk to their parents about sex, the less likely they are to engage in it. It may be too much to ask, but I dream of a day when the church provides parents with age appropriate manuals for a comprehensive factual approach to sex-education that uses words like penis and vagina and sex.
  13. I am going to introduce my final and perhaps most pressing suggestion with another comment from fMh by AJ:
Sexual abuse in my childhood had spurred in me an odd fascination with sex, leading to experimentation with masturbation and pornography. These issues were never addressed directly in YW. Everything I knew about the church’s stance on these issues came from reading the priesthood session talks in the conference ensigns. I felt such deep shame–not only was I a sinner, I was sinning in a way only boys were supposed to sin.
Talking to bishops was awkward at best, harmful at worst. I was asked such inappropriate questions as “did you orgasm?” and was even manipulated and seduced into a physical relationship with one of my bishops. More often the issues I faced when trying to confess these transgressions was embarrassment–more on the part of the bishop than myself.
These men intended to help me would turn bright red and stutter that I should just stop these behaviors. They were too embarrassed to provide real support.
Now–I think bishops are in general very good men trying hard to do God’s work. But I was very, very deeply hurt by the actions of some of the bishops I worked with as a teen.
The amount of pain and confusion caused by the bishop who developed a physically romantic relationship with me is immeasurable and ongoing. I believe he was essentially a good man who just made some very, very bad mistakes. He’s received his punishment and forgiveness and he continues to takes steps to ensure that he never hurts anyone that way again.
But after what I endured at his hands I feel it is absolutely 100% inappropriate for YW to be taught that they must discuss sexual transgressions with an untrained older man in order to obtain the Lord’s forgiveness. I won’t pass on that teaching to my daughters, and you can bet I’ll never be turning to a priesthood leader for counsel regarding my sexuality again. (This link is where the above list comes from. Don't waste your time reading the comments on this particular post. Rather, read the comments that come from the subsequent post if you want to see what I talk about the things that are skewed within the lessons that are being taught in the church:
I in no way want this to be misconstrued into thinking that I somehow have a problem with the Law of Chastity. I don't think it is archaic. I don't think it is an impossible standard. I do think that because we live in a world where sex and sexuality is constantly bombarding us... where we have to live inside our own heads that don't let us forget that we naturally have desires and inclinations... that we can set this topic aside and hope that young women are taught by someone else, or that they will naturally figure it all out without being traumatized by some of the stories and object lessons that they hear.

Of course, not everyone will be scarred by the way they learned about the Law of Chastity and sex. I certainly don't think I was. But I do remember when the newer edition of the For the Strength of Youth came out and I was aghast about the new rule that we were not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts and dresses. My mom had never allowed me to wear spaghetti strap shirts, but I was used to wearing shirts that had two or three inch (wide) straps. I remember complaing that, "No guy is going to be turned on by my SHOULDER! Really! My shoulder?!"


  1. Sing it out, sister! I didn't know you were a FMH reader.

    I agree with all of them, especially number 13. No more grown men asking adolescent girls about masturbation and sex behind close doors.

    "...the false illusory power of attracting male attention with our bodies." Could use some clarification.

  2. I always said that as a teen about shoulders... seriously, oooh check out my shoulder, bet you want me now eh? ha, how ridiculous.

    Thanks for the post, I teach YW and these are some great reminders.


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