Chewed Up Piece of Gum

I wrote about Elizabeth Smart’s comments for Pith, but then they found those women in that house in Cleveland, so I’m having a hard time shaking it. What kinds of assholes would tell girls that suffer unimaginable sexual abuse that they’re like a chewed up piece of gum or like a cup that’s been spit in by everyone?

I mean, it’s not true that having lots of consensual sex with people somehow “ruins” you, but at least the pleasure of it makes the message somewhat difficult to believe. But when a terrible thing is happening to you, it’s not surprising that the words that tell you that you deserve this terrible thing keep ringing in your head.

It’s hard not to believe, at some point, that our culture loathes women. (I had thought that, if enough people pointed out how our culture is set up to fuck women over, that people who genuinely didn’t want to fuck women over would band together and change the culture. And, in some ways, that’s happening, but very slowly. In other ways, what’s happened is that the culture of loathing has just opened itself up to include men in its loathing.)

Terrible things happen to children. Everyone who’s involved in the lives of children knows this. We all hear stories or read the news or whatever.  Which makes it more deeply fucked up that we’re sticking with a mode of sex education that pushes a standard of purity–that even if we accept it as a good thing, which I don’t–many, many people can’t meet, though no fault of their own.

And that’s the part I can’t shake. In order to teach abstinence-only education with the gum example or the lollypop example or the spit in the cup example when you are standing in a room where you simply must know that every 7th kid is either currently or is going to be forced into nonconsensual sexual activity at some point, is fucked up. Telling kids it’s best to wait until you’re emotionally and physically ready for the repercussions? Fine. Telling kids that they get to decide how much they want to do and how far they want to go every single time and that just because they’ve done something once with someone doesn’t mean they have to do it again if they don’t want to or that they have to do it with anyone else? Necessary. I have no problems with encouraging kids to not have sex, if for some reason, that’s important to the community to do.

But I am grossed out by how fucked up it is to realize that all the “you should wait” lectures in the world aren’t very effective and so you just open yourself up to all the fucked up shit you ever heard about how dirty and ruinous sex is and let it pour through you onto those kids. When you know how damaging it is.

I don’t know. It just makes me sad. Such terrible things go on in the world and we too rarely don’t add to the mess.

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7 thoughts on “Chewed Up Piece of Gum

  1. And notice how you don’t see these messages aimed at the male youth in our culture.

    All I can think from the news last night from Cleveland is how many other basements have girls chained up? And while it gives me hope that Tabitha Tudors is still alive somewhere – 10 years since she disappeared – it reignites my anger toward Deb Faulkner and the other powers that be in our Nashville Metro Police Force who dropped the ball all because she was from East Nashville – not the hip East Nashville of today, mind you – but the East Nashville that people avoided because it didn’t have the hip restaurant to go to or the bar that was written up in the New York Times. Because back then, girls who disappeared in East Nashville were clearly runaways*…

    (*sarcasm font)

  2. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately–the impact of abstinence-only sex education on perpetuating rape culture. This confirms what I’ve been suspecting, but what got me wondering about it was the vicious slut-shaming directed at Rehtaeh Parsons, Audrie Potts, and the young woman in Steubenville, more often than not coming from their fellow female classmates. I have no idea what sort of sex education they actually received in school. But if you have a culture that refuses to teach children what a healthy sexual relationship looks like, if you won’t even teach them what concepts like “consent” mean, it’s not entirely surprising that they make no distinction between consensual sex and rape.

  3. GoldnI, I’m actually starting to believe that, in that world-view, there can be no distinction between consensual sex and rape. In fact, in that kind of “you are a chewed up piece of gum” world-view, how can there be consensual sex as we know it?

    If all men constantly are trying to have sex and all women not married to them have to keep them from succeeding, then all “failures” to keep men from having sex are the same thing–failures–and the women who fail are all then “sluts.” If all non-marital sex “ruins” a woman and has terrible consequences for her and results in her social stigmatization and mental anguish, then what sets rape apart? Nothing.

    And this is the part to me that is so fucked up that I really hope I’m mis-analyzing it. But if you have a community that believes all non-marital sex, once discovered, should be as devastating to women as rape, that it should, in other words, have personal and social consequences to her so severe as to be indistinguishable from rape, not only are you forcing normal, non-rapist men with normal, non-fucked up sexual desires into the position of “rapist” (which explains a lot about why non-rapist dudes might be willing to give rapist dudes the benefit of the doubt. Here is the paradigm in which any man might be a rapist.), it means that, if a man hasn’t hurt a woman by fucking her, it is the community’s job to hurt her until she’s hurt like she’s been raped.

    In other words, if the man won’t make the non-marital sex feel like rape, the community will step in and do it.

    And this is seen as a moral, often Christian, social order.

  4. It’s a world-view that insists that a a woman’s body doesn’t belong to her. Because, you know, if your body belonged to you then even if you were a piece of chewing gum, you’d be the one doing the chewing. Not someone else who could pass you around (or not, as he chose). And I don’t want to blame this world-view on religion, and certainly not on any specific religion, because a whole lot of historically-known religions coming from a lot of different origins share at least the impulse towards this world-view (and a number of religions in a number of traditions don’t). But this aspect of disempowering women with respect to our own bodies seems, across the board, to be a feature of a certain current socio-political trend that does associate itself with “Christian morality.”

  5. Yeah, I would like a word for this (Anthropologists! Help!) when there’s a worldview held by members of a culture or subculture that is presented as being religious, and, while it might be informed by religion, is not actually the worldview held by the majority of members of that religion, and yet often does have some influence on the majority beliefs. I think that this is what some people who use “Christianist” and “Islamist” are trying to get at.

    But it is curious that, as you point out, there are a lot of people who call themselves religious and who would consider themselves opposed (for lack of a better word) religions that aren’t theirs, who, if you strip away the specifics of their justifications, seem to have very similar ideas about women and non-believers and so on.

    There’s a species of fundamentalism that crosses all belief systems (while camouflaging itself in hatred of all other belief systems) and that, really, is the object of my ire. We see it wearing the accoutrements of Christianity, because that’s our majority religion, but it’s not a religious problem, exactly. Or not limited only to one religion.

  6. Obviously I have a lot of feelings on this that are too complicated to drill down for one discussion, perhaps. I grew up in a sex-positive culture with abstinence emphasised. That was vastly different than Abstinence Only, for several reasons.

    Abstinence is not practicable for the majority of people; it’s a discipline as much as anything else. It’s a discipline that _isn’t necessary_ for a person outside of their religious faith unless their culture demands it.

    Christ-following is not a culture.

    Christianity is. I guess that’s my big thing these days–this attempt to differentiate between the aesthetic faith discipline of committing to follow Christ’s teachings and just being A Christian. In America “Christian” is a culture word. That’s why so many people are trying to institute it as the predominate culture through force of law and force of shame.

    Force of shame is easier than force of law, and it underscores the power structure remarkably well. If women are ashamed of their bodies, doubting their own desires and worth then they will not challenge you when you rob them of their God-endowed place at the table.

    That’s all of this–rape culture, sexual worth–it’s all an attempt to use the Force of Shame to institute Christianity as the predominate culture in North American society.

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