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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Virtue and Virginity

Let me say this right off the bat, before my readers start getting ideas at the title of this blog post. I fully support and encourage abstinence until marriage. There are dozens of benefits to it, such as significantly lower risk of both physical and psychological damage and lower divorce rates. Most importantly, God commands it.

What bothers me is when people associate whether a person is a virgin or not with whether they have worth on various levels. The chewed gum, reapplied tape, licked cupcake, and other analogies for people who don't practice abstinence can be outright damaging. It is true that having sex with more than one partner in one's lifetime comes with many negative consequences, whether we wish to see them or not. But that does not mean that lives cannot change for the better, that healthy marriages cannot be created, or that the non-virgin individual is inherently lessened in their worth. This is especially true for those who are forgiven and renewed through Jesus, who makes us new creations and forgives our sins.

But even worse, this mindset can do worse damage to victims of rape than would otherwise have been done.  Don't get me wrong, rape is always damaging. But if a person believes that someone else committing a sin against them makes them less worthwhile to a future spouse, makes them feel chewed up or licked and therefore less than they were before in ways that they cannot reverse, they may never fully recover from what has been done to them. Rape victims aren't at fault for what has been done to them, but all too often this sort of mindset allows them to go on to be promiscuous or think they are at fault for what has been done to them.

With that said, you can imagine my horror at realizing that this exact mindset is in the Book of Mormon and that the young women of the Mormon church are encouraged to read about it in their Personal Progress when doing the attribute of virtue.

Moroni 9:9 And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue

Did you catch that? By being raped, those women were deprived of their chastity and virtue, which is most dear and precious. They had their virtue deprived of them, through no fault of their own!

Now to be fair, the same value experience also has the young women read something else that does specifically say that victims of sexual abuse are not at fault and encourages them to seek help for healing.

However, that more realistic and right attitude has not always prevailed in the church, and the strong emphasis on virginity=personal worth still strongly pervades. Not every girl will remember the "you are not at fault and we're here to help" when they've heard "your virginity is tied to your virtue" when they have been raped. And if their virtue is already gone, what incentive do they have to seek help? To try to live sexually pure? To try to prepare for a good spouse in the future?

The message we give our youth should not be that their virginity is inherently tied to their virtue, to their worth, to their worthiness. It should be taught that virginity is something to maintain until marriage for a myriad of reasons. It should be taught that there is forgiveness and help and love for those who voluntarily lose it and that they can heal in such a way to be sexually healthy again in the future. It should be taught that those who lose it against their will--or who get raped at any time in their lives, in fact--are not at fault and should have avenues of help, support, and justice without any amount of judgment and without being treated like they are less than they were.

Encouraging young women to read things like Moroni 9:9, which contains an ungodly attitude towards what has been done to those women, is not the way to give youth a healthy idea of how sex, sin, and their worth are related.