When We Sacrifice a Girl’s Innocence

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Sunday night I went to my wife’s dance recital. To be exact, my wife teaches dance and it was a recital for the girls she teaches. The opening of the show was just what you expect, nearly every Disney princess was represented by a ballerina. Of course, Let it Go made an appearance because it was a dance recital with about 100 young girls in it.

About halfway through the show there was a cheesy and beautiful moment when girls and their father’s danced to Butterfly Kisses. Even though it was cheesy, I sat there with a smile on my face as I watched dads awkwardly dance in front of 500 people with their daughter’s beaming. I give those dads a lot credit. I’m sure they weren’t comfortable in their white shirts and black ties as they waltzed on the stage. But they did it because they wanted to their daughters to feel like princesses.

Because they are.

I sat there and I watched and smiled. Those girls beamed in their dance shoes and flowing dresses, and everyone I could see looked intently and lovingly into their dads eyes. Their dads tried to look at them back, but more often watched their feet. It really was a sweet moment. In that moment I was overwhelmed by the innocence of those 6 -14 year-old girls.

I watched and I smiled, until I realized in a few years those innocent girls are going to be told they are dangerous. At some point those innocent girls’ bodies are going to turn into a woman’s body full of curves. When that happens, some well meaning person will tell that young girl that she is a threat to the innocence of a boy. They are dangerous. A temptation. A vixen simply because of gender.

How can a girl keep her innocence when we tell her she is dangerous? How can she feel innocent when her sexuality is directly linked to the danger in the world? The message we send to our girls and women is, “The world is not safe for you because of you.”

Rather than protecting the innocence of both boys and girls, we sacrifice the innocence of a girl by warning her of the impact she unwittingly makes for the sake of the boy’s innocence. By trying to protect the innocence of boys we destroy the innocence of girls. 

I’m sick and tired of men acting as if they are unable to control themselves. Men are warned to never meet one-on-one with women as if the allure of a woman will be so overwhelming powerful that a man will be unable to control himself. As my friend Micah put it, “We are not sex-fueled robots.” Listen, if a man cannot be alone with a women without making a sexual advance, the problem isn’t the woman or her clothes – it is the man. 

Men, avoiding women doesn’t does deal with the condition of your heart. It’s simply cleaning the outside of the cup and pretending that the inside is clean. It is time we take responsibility for what we can – our thoughts. You won’t be able to control every situation. There may be a time you end up in a room by yourself with a woman. Since you can’t control every situation, control what you can. Your mind. The only thing any of us can be responsible for is ourselves. For too long men have tried to control women, and purity culture, with its telling women they are dangerous to men, is an attempt to control women and free men of any responsibility they might have at controlling their own minds.

Everyone knows that objectification of women by men is a problem. But simply avoiding women doesn’t solve the problem. It actually does just the opposite by reinforcing the objectification and implying that men cannot ever see women as humans, and therefore must avoid them like a dangerous object.

The way we have dealt with this issue in the past is tired and old. Rather than helping men deal with the issue of how they look at women, we tell women to cover up. Where else do we do this? I often go to restaurants, look at the menu, and then order a crap-ton of food and eat until I am I stuffed. It’s not healthy. But you know what I don’t do? Demand that the restaurant stop selling food. If you rack up credit card debt rivaling the national debt of the US government, do you demand that stores stop selling stuff? No, because that would be failing to take responsibility for your actions. But that’s what we do when it comes to how men look at women. “Guys have a hard time not looking at a woman sexually. Women should wear burkas.”

For me, as a Christian man, I continue to be inspired by the original design of the Creator. Fear between the sexes is not part of that design. That’s what we create. Fear wasn’t part of the design in Genesis, and it won’t be part of the design when all things are restored. Fear isn’t part of the design, so it is time to stop acting out of fear towards the other. Women are not to be feared. They are not dangerous. They are not helpless princesses to be saved.

They are fellow humans to be danced with.

 

 

  • Timothy Van Bruggen

    I totally agree with your assessment, but my question is – how to we take this and put it into practice? As the father of two boys, what can I do to make sure they are not objectifying women? That’s the question I’m asking myself as a father. How can we change the culture, especially when the culture itself is forcing sexuality on our young people, boys and girls alike? What can we do, as parents who want to preserve our children’s innocence for as long as possible, to make sure that they are treating their peers of the opposite sex as their equals?

    I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. Any suggestions?

    • rachelreko

      Nate actually has a post on exactly that topic! :) http://natepyle.com/seeing-a-woman/#sthash.GwaSlooR.dpbs

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      That’s a great question! I think it is having conversations over and over again.

    • elee

      Lead by example. If you dont objectify women (including your spouse! ) chances are far better that your boys wont.

    • WhateverLolaWants

      This seems like a great question. I don’t have all the answers, but I think some good things to say and practice include:
      – “Don’t see women as so different from you. They can be friends, they can be leaders, they can be romantic interests, etc. Not every woman should be viewed solely through the lens of gender and/or whether or not you’d like to date her/find her attractive.” (I had a coworker who viewed women just like this. It was very uncomfortable.)
      – “Consider things from her perspective.” (IE, discuss sexism and how the world is experienced differently by women. One of my friends, for example, had never actually considered that sneaking up on his female friends who were walking across campus at night was anything other than a funny prank.)
      – Talk about consent in regards to all things, not just sex (although that is also important.)
      – “Don’t treat a girl/woman (or boy/man) differently based on what they wear, what they’ve done in bed or are said to do, etc. Just treat everyone with respect, even if you don’t agree with some of their personal choices.” (IE, it’s wrong to only act respectful towards “pure” women.)

    • Robyn

      I don’t know how old they are, but encourage them to be friends with girls. My 7 year old daughter has both male and female friends. Don’t talk about how boys/men a d girls/women are different. Talk about unity and how we are all integral parts of the body of Christ. Above all, model model model. The way YOU treat women and interact with them with friendliness and respect will be of ultimate importance.

      (I think it’s somewhat easier for kids to view someone of a different gender as just another kid instead of having to put them in a “boy” or “girl” box when they have a sibling of another gender. Which makes parents’ jobs all the more important when they grow up with only a same gender sibling. )

    • Jessie

      Teach your sons to respect women (and men!) as human beings, regardless of their appearance or sexuality.

  • Anna Schoon

    Thank you. Sincerely.

  • Megan Westra

    This is incredible. Thank you so much.

  • kiorakiwi

    Modesty is important as is chivalry, it is a matter of respect but it is a two way street with both sexes respecting the other and ensuring they protect each others reputations & virtues, not because neither can control themselves but because neither wants to bring the others reputation into question which by the worlds standards is a sad but true possibility…. people do make assumptions so by all means spend time alone talking with someone of the opposite sex by do so in such a way so as to ensure they can not have their purity, respectability and virtue brought into question this mean be somewhere public or at least within view of others. I also encourage my young teenage daughter to dress modestly by telling her she looks lovely and beautiful in modest clothing and now that she is maturing and going out into the world more on her own we have gently explained about the need the dress modestly and to avoid advertising or exposing her body unnecessarily. We do this in a way that she is made aware that her body is beautiful but that it is also private and special and doesn’t need to be embellished in the way of today’s highly sexualized culture and style of dress. I also tell my teenage sons to just look away politely if they become aware or uncomfortable with the amount of flesh being displayed by a girl or her style of clothing and not to look anywhere other than at a girls face when speaking with her as she is worthy of their respect and full attention even if she is dressed in a more revealing manner than is ideal. I also tell them to put a shirt on when my daughter has her younger friends over because it could make them uncomfortable or embarrassed just as if a girls body is too exposed it can have the same effect on a young man. It isn’t a case of blaming the other sex or accusing them of a lack of control…. it is a case of encouraging my teens to be respectful, polite and considerate to all people regardless of their gender and regardless of how they may feel and how the other may be dressed or behaving. It is an ongoing life lesson taught from a very young age so that it doesn’t become some dirty little secret or a source of embarrassment or shame.

    • Jessie

      Maybe we shouldn’t be so concerned about “reputation”, we should be more concerned about respect. If your sons can’t respect a girl when they see her body, that is a bigger problem than girls showing their bodies.

  • Patrice Stanton

    Men are warned to never meet one-on-one with women

    • Helen

      There’s a difference between “admiration” and the perverse that I don’t think you’re seeing here. A woman should never be ogled at just because of what she chooses to wear. In the middle of summer, is she supposed to cover everything up when the sweltering heat is getting to her? Wearing revealing clothing isn’t always a choice of trying to make someone look, but a practical one of you know, not roasting in the summertime just so people won’t treat you like a lesser being or sexual object. False allegations made against men are also FAR less frequent than abuse and crimes committed toward women simply for being women and considered sexual objects. It’s disgusting. All the generalizations made are also getting very ridiculous. Every person is different. Some men will avoid responsibility of sexually harassing women, some won’t do that in the first place. Some women wear revealing clothes to get attention, some do it just because its a practical way to cool off, or they like the style, or whatever the case may be. The fact is, NO ONE should be treated lesser, and no one should be placing blame on those that are being victimized by this horrid victim-blaming culture we live in. Do you have any idea how many women that have been raped are told awful things like its their fault for wearing the wrong clothes, or being in the wrong place, or trusting someone they shouldn’t have? Society is BIG on placing the blame on victims. They always portray it as it was the woman’s fault, or she was asking for it, or saying ludicrous things like women can’t rape men, or you can’t be raped in a relationship, and all this other awful nonsense. Women are terribly objectified in this world, and its very disheartening for them to have to go about their daily lives in fear of those around them because of it.

  • Karen Webb Kerby

    One of the best pieces I have read on this topic. Well done.

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  • Elsa

    This is sooo good!!! Thank you for speaking up for the truth!!!

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  • Heather

    Not only are girls taught that their bodies are dangerous/sexually powerful, we’re also taught that men aren’t to be trusted with theirs, that no matter what they say and how they act, sex is always first in their minds, even if we do cover up. Men are painted as predators and women are urged to do all that they can not to look too appetizing…

    So “purity culture” is honestly anything but. It teaches men and women that they are controlled by sexuality and that women can gain the attention and control of men based on the amount of clothes they wear. No wonder there’s fear between sexes! No wonder there is such a spirit of competition, judging, two-facedness, and distrust among women, even and sometimes especially in Christian circles! Wake up! The enemy is laughing at us!

  • Louise

    As a woman brought up feeling ashamed of my curves and feeling like modesty was a mandatory I thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing this to light.

  • Brian Hawkins

    Maybe I simply don’t know where you’re coming from on this, but it seems lopsided to me. If you want to protest the objectification of women, don’t attack teachings on modesty, even though they _are_ often excessive and legalistic. They are merely responding to the same underlying problem you are, but in a different way. Instead attack the real cause—pornography. That’s what has wired an enormous percentage of men’s brains to objectify women.

    Until that problem is dealt with, it is a terribly bad idea to encourage men to hang out with women while simultaneously encouraging women to wear whatever they want and let the men deal with it.

    Men and women are _supposed_ to be sexually attracted to each other, in the right context and in the right way. I am convinced that every human wants to be loved and desired, and that includes sexually. Please don’t attack the desire generally as if it were wrong in itself, instead confront the specific things that twist a healthy sexual desire into a sick and perverse lust. In our time I am convinced that pornography is the number one culprit, not purity culture.

    Lastly, since I’ve been mildly critical (constructively, I intend) I would note that I agree with you 100% that it is men’s responsibility to control their own thoughts. I consider it a major failing of well-meaning purity culture that modesty is so often taught as a way for women to help to men with their thoughts, instead of as a matter of obedience and submission to God. Women (and men) will answer to God alone for how they dress, and men (and women) will answer to God alone for the thoughts they entertain. More than that inevitably slides into legalism of some sort, while less inevitably slides into antinomianism. It’s true that we shouldn’t cause a brother to stumble, but that regards Christian liberty, and there is no need to even bring it up when teaching on modesty from Scripture.

    • http://www.natepyle.com/ Nate Pyle

      But what’s the cause of porn? There is a desire driving the existence of porn. Yes, porn is a problem. But I do not believe it is the cause of men’s objectification of women. That has been going on for a long time.

      • Brian Hawkins

        Every man has to battle with lust, I grant, whether he has ever seen porn or not, but I see a distinction between that lust and the objectification of women. Both are immoral, clearly, but one is a problem in an individual’s mind, while the other is a cultural and societal problem. Porn is what bridges the gap between the one and the other. Further, considering the young age at which boys have access to porn these days, I think it very often starts with an innocent curiosity. I seriously doubt that anyone watches porn with the intent to learn how to objectify women more callously.

        • Erin Knittle

          I would say every person, man and woman has to battle with lust. Thinking women don’t battle inappropriate sexual feelings is also wrong thinking.
          Men may be, more commonly visual stimulant people, but responsibility falls to both sexes. A man is in charge of what he is thinking, but a woman is responsible for what she does or doesn’t put on her body.
          We need to teach girls to respect their bodies, see the value in themselves as God created them. Beautiful, inside and out. Dress age for the age they are, not trying to be older and not dressing FOR attention.

          • Brian Hawkins

            You are absolutely right. I did not intend to imply otherwise. In fact that is why I emphasized that modesty and mental purity are the responsibilities of both women and men _before God_ and not merely before each other.

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