Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pure Freedom?

As part of my ongoing monitoring of the political and religious right, I listen to Focus on the Family's Weekend Edition on the radio. One of their ongoing themes is sexual abstinence before marriage -- actually sexual abstinence for everyone not currently married: those widowed, divorced, as well as those never-married people.

All of their "sexual purity" segments are directed toward girls and women only; boys and men are never urged to maintain their "purity". While the choice to refrain from non-marital sex is surely one that anyone should be free to make, I find the reference to abstinence as "purity" and the sexual double standard of directing this advice to females only to be disturbing and offensive.

First of all, a person's value is not predicated on how and when they express their sexuality. To view sexual inexperience before marriage is "purity" implies that a person who chooses differently is of lesser worth, to be "tainted". A person's character is better judged by how they treat others, not by how strictly they regulate their sexual urges.

Secondly, if fundamentalists are so keen to protect the sexual inexperience of their women, they might want to avoid being hypocrites and direct abstinence messages to boys and men as well. You know, what's good for the goose is good for the gander and all that.

Of course, I don't believe in abstinence for all uinmarried people, but if they're going to preach a philosophy, the first thing they need to do is be consistent about it.

In their latest "purity" propaganda segment, there was an extremely bizarre interview with a woman named Dannah Gresh, who leads a "purity" organization for girls called "Pure Freedom" (Note me rolling my eyes at this oxymoron).

Gresh stated that she'd been a Christian since a young age, but that as a teen, she "gave what I was supposed to give my husband on my wedding night to a man I would never marry", and that this single, never-repeated act caused her ten years of grief and psychological torment.

In other words, she was human and did something normal and natural that millions of teens have done before and since. And because of the repressive fundamentalist environment she grew up in, she wasted a decade beating herself up about it.

In Gresh's own words:

As a young married woman and a new mom, I was driving down the highway listening to the familiar voice of Dr. James Dobson. Suddenly, the host asked his guest, "What is the most common question a young girl will ask her mom about sex?" Without delay the woman responded, "Mom, did you wait?"

I pulled my minivan to the side of the highway and allowed ten years of tremendous denial and grief to engulf me. My heart's desire was, is and always will be to live a lifestyle of purity, but in high school I detoured from that pursuit long enough to get tangled up by lust. Like no other sin, moments of unbridled passion had intertwined my life painfully into another's.

That evening, it took me three hours to tell my husband in the darkness of my bedroom. Satan had me cornered into a prison of blackmail until the very moment that my lips uttered my long-awaited confession. Oh, how I wish I had done that sooner. Christ's forgiveness finally verbalized in the midst of my husband's warm familiar embrace suddenly began to heal the deep tear in my heart.

Again, if one chooses to believe that one should be abstinent outside of marriage, that's their choice, but to respond as she did says more about the dangers of sexual repression than it does about "sin". A more healthy response to someone who believe in abstinence would have been to feel regret about not acting according to one's beliefs, then to move on and try not to repeat it. After all, she just got laid -- she didn't kill someone!

Gresh believed she needed to be "forgiven" to be able to let it go of her one, long-ago 'mistake'. I'd say she needed counseling to relieve her of the unhealthy repressive sexual attitudes and guilt she grew up with in order to let go of the obsession and move on. Indeed, if she had, she'd not have had to wait ten years into her marriage to tell her husband she'd not been a virgin on her wedding night, as she'd have known she had nothing whatsoever to be ashamed with.

Her organization "Pure Freedom" is to bring the warped message of judging one's self worth, one's "purity", by remaining virgins until marriage to pre-teen and teen girls. If I had a daughter, I'd not let her anywhere near this neurotic and deeply-conflicted woman's organization, Rather, I'd teach her that her self-worth was inherent and did not hinge on how and when she decided to express her sexuality.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if her husband was 'pure' before they got married? Somehow I doubt it.

I knew the son of someone very high up on the Focus on the Family patriarchy, and the hypocrisy was astounding. He refused to tell anyone who his father was, had 3 abortions (his nickname was Mr. Fertile), slapped his girlfriend around, and had an interracial child from a one-night-stand. He also calls his kid (and the mother of his child) unmentionable racist names.

Interestingly enough, for people that are so pro-life and focused on everyone's family but their own, they keep that kid on the hush-hush, and it's become a secret that even the son refuses to admit to. They sneak the kid in for monthly 'family time'.

Why don't they focus on their own damn family?