I recently had a long discussion with my sister about the patriarchy and rampant sexual repression within the church, along with its corresponding effects on the reporting and the understanding of sexual molestation.
It is so disheartening to see the church I was raised in, once again, side with the perpetrator and not the victims. It is so dissapointing to count my own parents among those crying about the unfairness that poor Josh Duggar and his parents are being put through, and it is downright revolting that those girls’ own parents are downplaying the sexual molestation of their own daughters in order to defend their son.
I want to zoom in on this phrase that Jim Bob repeatedly used in his interview with Kelly Live in regards to Josh activities:
“He was just curious about girls.”
So why is there such a movement against sexual education within the church? Can we take a minute to explore a world where we all understand, appreciate, and are completely unashamed of our bodies, to the point where we don’t need to explore with little girls because we are so sexually repressed and “curious.”?
What kind of image is this sort of downplaying sending out to all of the other young girls in this exact situation. “It’s okay. He only touched you over your clothes…. and a few times beneath.” It is indicating that it’s not something to ‘overreact about’ I mean, at least he didn’t “rape” you or anything…. It’s okay that he touched you, he was just curious about girls.
Let’s call a spade a spade, regardless of where that spade originated from.
The response from the church, prominate members of Congress, and a large portion of society seems to be in support of the Duggars. I’ve heard phrases thrown around, such as, “don’t turn this into a lynch mob, don’t dig up old dirt, don’t make these girls victims to a media storm”
The fact that juvenile records were illegally released – big no no. Big fuck up. Yes, that never should have happened, and I do hope that the people responsible for that are also held accountable, but one wrong does not negate the other, and I am personally touched by this story. I feel related to these girls if only by the similarities in how we were raised. I can see my parents sitting in those chairs, saying the exact things as the Duggar parents in some misguided attempt to save Christian face and defend the faith.
I’m about to share a very personal story. One that up until now, I have kept quiet, because I never knew how to speak about it, or why I even would, because, as Jim Bob said… “it wasn’t rape.”
When I was 7, my family was heavily involved in a Southern Baptist church. Every day after the service my sister and I would head out to the play ground. One of the elder’s sons, an older boy in the church, would offer us candy to sit on his lap and ride down the slide, sit on the swings, or play on the teeter-totter with him. In any other context, it seems like this would be okay, but the way he pressed his body up against me, wrapped his hands tightly around my body, and firmly held me against his lap- it made me feel uncomfortable. I never knew how to bring it up, he kept asking and 7 year old me wanted that candy, but something in me knew that what I was feeling was wrong. I felt dirty. I felt used. I still feel squeamish thinking about it.
I kept these feelings so tightly wrapped up, because I had no idea how to express them. I didn’t want to be a cry baby, and also, I had no idea why I even felt so wrong about it. I had never heard about sex, except on the odd occasion when something would be brought up on TV – and my parents would quickly change the channel, or my uncle would make an innapropriate joke and my parents would immediately shut him down. Sex was shamefull. Sex was something to be quiet about. Something to be hidden behind closed doors. And so, I never talked about it. Until a few nights ago.
The Duggar conversation somehow brought the subject of this boy up with my older sister. We had both experienced it. When she told me she still thinks about it all the time, that it still makes her stomach turn, I was instantly relieved. My feelings finally felt validated. Knowing she had felt the exact same way as me in the situation was comforting, in a way, but also eye opening. How many kids in the church are sitting quietly while being used in ways that make them feel uncomfortable? How many kids have been taught no words to explain it? How many kids have been told that their bodies are a temple, but not what to do when someone violates that temple?
To the religous community, you can’t call lynch mob when the church has historically, and primarily been the one hoisting the rope. You can’t say this was nothing when you at the same time condemn every other child molester and sexual abuser. The family doesn’t make a difference. The apology, while nice, doesn’t negate the act. A murder, apologized for, is still a loss of life. A sexual molestation, apologized for, is still a loss of innocence.
So what can we change? An openness and honesty about sex, firstly. Allowing children to ask questions that aren’t condemned or immediately reprimanded with a, “because it’s wrong.” Giving kids the vocabulary and knowledge about how anything, anything, that someone physically does to you that makes you uncomfortable is not okay. Along with giving them the vocabulary, we should be giving them ownership over their bodies, the knowledge that sex and physical affection can be absolutely amazing, as long as both of you are into it. Shame culture does absolutely no one any good. It makes conversation difficult at best, nigh on impossible at worst, and it creates the idea that our bodies and desires are something to be ashamed of. Something to be hidden.
I don’t want to raise children in a world where we have enabled the perpetrators and handcuffed our children with shame and lack of knowledge.
It has to change.