Part of the ‘conversation’ on modesty rules, purity culture and virginity always has to come around to blame & responsibility. While I intend to write more on beauty & modesty soon, today’s piece addresses the darker side of the debate, rape culture.
Trigger Warning: This blog post addresses rape. If you or someone you know has been hurt or abused, please seek support. http://www.rainn.org/get-help
First, a couple basic thoughts:
Women aren’t objects. You can’t own a woman. You can’t control a woman. You can’t rule a woman.
Of course, the same are true for men. In the interest of gender equality, every time I reference women I should consistently include men in the equation. In the interests of clarity, I won’t do that throughout this piece, but please understand that I am always writing from a perspective of equality.
Unfortunately, people who obsess about modesty and purity culture, idolizing these ideals and equating with them with the basic tenets of faith, don’t represent gender equality very well. Women are objectified for their own protection, in spite of themselves, and for the protection of men. There is a general consensus in the Christian church that women can cause men to think & act inappropriately, even illegally, by wearing immodest clothing or behaving inappropriately that entices or attracts trouble.
This. Is. Wrong.
I spoke to a man the other day who’d been raised and indoctrinated with the flawed, albeit well-intentioned perspective of the religious, evangelical traditions of modesty and virginity. We conversed about the problems with a Christian culture that worships purity and virginity.
He was telling a story about a crazy party that happened across the street from his rural home a few nights earlier. There was loud music all night, with people yelling and running around, crazy drunk.
As he drove to work in the morning he saw a young woman, naked save for a thin robe, rise from where she was laying in the middle of a field and make her way back into the house, appearing to have slept where she lay.
He wondered aloud to me, “Had this girl just ruined her life? Had she made a mistake that she’d never recover from?”
My heart sunk when I heard him speak this way. My mind wondered all the same things he had. Was she hurt? Had she been drugged? Raped? My first thought wasn’t a thought as much as an intense feeling of dread and heartbreak. Is she okay? His first thought assumed she’d done something wrong. Our lines of thought divided when he began to inadvertently blame her for any of the terrible things that may have happened to her.
He continued to question, “Didn’t she know this could happen? These girls are running around in skimpy little dresses. Why do they (young people?) think this is fun? She should have known better than to go to a party like that, with all that alcohol something bad is bound to happen.”
All of this conversation was based on speculation. Neither he nor I knew her story, it’s quite possible we were imagining the worst. While he showed some empathy for a girl who may or may not have been abused, he also put the responsibility solely on her.
No. No. NO!
I’m not saying she shouldn’t have been more responsible, but I don’t know her story or why she was there. All I know is this: IF someone took advantage of her, abused her or raped her, it is not her fault!
Furthermore and after the fact, had something terrible been done to this girl, this is where the Evangelical Christian culture of virgin-worship really starts to pour salt in her wounds.
Questions like “was she ‘asking’ for it?”, “did she just ruin her life?” or “did she make a mistake she’d never recover from?” place all the emphasis on future implications of the situation and none on her emotional state, her immediate needs or her heart.
In addition, all the responsibility for what may have happened to her is left with her, with nearly no consideration of the people who took advantage of her & hurt her.
This is the very definition of what we call rape-culture and the problem with placing such a high value on purity. Once purity is tainted, virginity ‘lost’, the Christian-value of a woman plunges.
Again. It’s time to stop blaming women! This is wrong and there are a lot of us who follow Jesus and working to change the paradigm when it comes to women, purity, modesty, beauty & sexuality.
To the woman reading this who has been victimized, abused, raped and finally blamed, please know that your value hasn’t diminished. Please know that no matter what mistakes you may or may not have made, if you’ve been hurt or taken advantage of, it is NOT your fault.
You do not need to hide in shame. Talk to someone who will offer nothing but love and support. Don’t listen to anyone who blames you for being used. You did not make a mistake you will not recover from. Your life is not ruined.
You are valued. You are loved. You are whole. You are worth it. You are amazing. You are strong.
PS – I cried in Starbucks while writing this one.
This piece was originally posted at by other blog, Modesty Misunderstood. http://www.modestymisunderstood.com/blaming-the-victim/ Please leave any comments over there. Thanks!
Playlist while writing:
Beyonce – Listen (on repeat) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4gimHC7fKs
P!nk – Glitter in the Air http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3stsDXki__U
Bethel Live – Healer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tayKy0GtQTg