Girl In Translation
Black No MoreIf Living Color was a book written in 1933, it would be almost this comical.
- By Laura P
- 15 March, 2013
- 8 Comments
Once upon a time there was a woman with a brand new watch. She used to love to go swimming, but would never take her watch off when she jumped into the pool. Friends and family used to warn her “you really shouldn’t jump in the pool with your watch on.” But alas, she didn’t pay them any mind and kept right on jumping in the pool while wearing her watch.
Until one day. She looked down at her watch and guess what? It stopped working.
Pop quiz: what do you think this story is a metaphor for? If you guessed “a warning about the dangers of premarital sex” you’re RIGHT! 10 gold stars for you!
Yes folks, this was a story I heard during Sunday School when I was a teenager attending a Pentecostal church.
I remember having soooo many questions:
Why does she need to know what time it is while in the pool?
What does the broken watch symbolize? Malfunctioning genatalia?
Does this youth leader understand what a metaphor is?
And the biggest question of all (that I have whenever I hear lectures about staying pure): Why do these stories ALWAYS focus on the decisions women make?
Rewind to middle school. I attended a conservative Southern Baptist school, and we heard regular lectures on “purity”. What always perplexed me were the mandates that women not “dress in a way that causes their Christian brothers to stumble in their walk with God”. Even in my simple pre-teen brain, that made absolutely NO SENSE. Why was I given the sole responsibility of my brothers’ “walk with God?” How is that fair?
And so it went throughout my teens: conversations about the need for purity followed the STRICTEST of gender norms. Sex was always a phenomenon that seemed to “happen” to women. The “sin” of sexual activity was framed as the man “defiling” the woman, instead of respecting her and keeping his hands (among other things) to himself. Now granted, men were cautioned as well about staying pure, but the message I received (and internalized for a long time) was that women’s purity is of the UTMOST importance, whereas men’s purity seemed to be an afterthought, or dismissed because, of course, men are “visual creatures” who “can’t help themselves”, blah blah blah.
But what if we had a conversation about sexuality that took out implied gender norms forced upon us by society? What would that conversation look like? What if the church didn’t push the notion on young people that sex is something that *men* do to *women*?
How would that change the conversation? How young people viewed, and ultimately took control of, their own sexuality? Why do women still bear the sole responsibility of the Keepers of All Things Pure? When the conversation is constantly framed within the bounds of gender norms, how can we really have an honest conversation about sexuality? Constantly telling women that their sexuality is something they need to “guard” from being “defiled” has lasting consequences on their understanding of their own self-worth. It contributes to the dangerous notion that women are nothing more than objects that exist only for the pleasure of men.
Why are many in the church so afraid of teaching young people to take control of their sexuality? Why are we afraid of viewing it as something that two people engage in together? By reinforcing the tired narrative that men are “visual” creatures and react to what they see in women, we only do more to further this learned gender norm. What if we held men accountable for their behavior in the same way we attempt to hold women?
When we teach young girls that their clothing could possibly cause their fellow Christian brothers to “stumble in their Christian faith”, the message this sends is that men and boys never need to be held accountable for their actions or thoughts. Not to mention teaching women and girls to be ashamed of their bodies.
So what does a frank and informative discussion about sexuality between men and women without the constraints of gender norms even look like? How do we move forward in educating young people about being responsible in their decision without reducing boys to lustful, impulse driven simpletons and girls to chaste bearers of all things pure?
Do you have examples of a healthy approach to sexuality within the church?