Monday, May 6, 2013

Elizabeth Smart: abstinence education teaches rape victims they’re worthless, dirty, and filthy

What this article doesn't emphasize is that the "conservative culture" in which Elizabeth Smart was raised (i.e., Mormon Utah) continues train girls to believe that they are the gatekeepers of the moral purity of men, and that failure to rebuff a man's advances will make her unacceptable as a future wife to a "good" Mormon man.

From ThinkProgress:

Elizabeth Smart became a household name after she was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City, UT at the age of 14 and held in captivity for nine months. She was forced into a polygamous marriage, tethered to a metal cable, and raped daily until she was rescued from her captors nine months later. Smart was recovered while she and her kidnappers were walking down a suburban street, leading many Americans who followed her story on the national news to wonder:Why didn’t she just run away as soon as she was brought outside?

Speaking to an audience at Johns Hopkins about issues of human trafficking and sexual violence, Smart recently offered an answer to that question. She explained that some human trafficking victims don’t run away because they feel worthless after being raped, particularly if they have been raised in conservative cultures that push abstinence-only education and emphasize sexual purity:
Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”
Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
UPDATE:  This article from Fox13 quotes Smart as follows:
“I remember in school one time I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence and she said, ‘Imagine you’re a stick of gum and when you engage in sex, that’s like being chewed. And then if you do that lots of times, you’re going to be become an old piece of gum and who’s going to want you after that'"
She is being a little disingenuous, because I'm almost positive that she did not  learn this lesson in school.  The "chewed gum" and "licked cupcake" object lessons are staples of the LDS Young Women's program.  My own daughter, who is only 10 years old, has already heard them more than once.  The basic message is that a woman's chastity is her greatest asset, and once it is gone, no good LDS man will want to marry her.  This is one of the most disgusting teachings of the LDS Church, and it can't hide behind local leaders and say that it isn't doctrine.  It could easily send a letter to all LDS bishops and and stamp out the practice, but it doesn't.  The Church is so hung up on the "immorality" of premarital sex that it does not want to give up any of the ammunition in its arsenal, be it public shaming or using pregnancy as a deterrent by opposing education about contraceptives.

Here is another interesting article on Elizabeth Smart and the psychology of the Christian purity culture.
Why is the Christian purity culture so toxic and shaming? Where does the feeling of "damaged goods" come from? Why do females carry the weight of this experience more than males?
And what might we do to change all this?
The answers have to do with the psychology of purity.
At root, purity is a food-attribution system, a suite of psychological processes that help us make judgments about whether or not it is safe or healthy to eat something.
One aspect of purity psychology is how we make contamination appraisals. The psychologist Paul Rozin has been a pioneer in naming and describing these appraisals. And one of these appraisals is the judgment of permanence.
The point is, we treat sexual sins and the loss of virginity very differently from other sins, as a class of sin unto itself. And how do we make that happen? We accomplish this by framing these sins almost exclusively with purity metaphors. And in doing so we recruit a psychological system built upon a food-aversion system, a system driven by disgust, revulsion, and nausea. But instead of directing these feelings toward food we are now directing the feelings of disgust, revulsion and nausea toward human beings. More, we teach our children to internalize and direct these feelings toward themselves
The answer is simple.  The idea of sexual "sin" (and indeed sin in general) is useless and destructive.  Stamping out the religious virus takes time, but many European countries are well on their way of doing just that.  Perhaps it will take a century for the United States to catch up, but catch up it will.  Eventually, a civilization will emerge that does not purport to use the ravings of bronze-age goat herders as a moral framework, any more than it relies on their long discarded ideas about astronomy or physics.

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