Early marriage, abstinence and gender inequality…

Suffragettes / Suffragettes
Suffragettes / Suffragettes (Photo credit: Nationaal Archief)

Not too long ago, I got called to task by a reader for being critical, intolerant and prideful because I expressed dismay over the early marriage, pregnancy and lack of college education of a former pastor’s kid, saying that my daughter has “more sense than that.” Framed in my typical, snarky, sarcastic manner.

(by the way – I have to note, I appreciated her insight)

The exchange was polite, and for that I am thankful. But it got me thinking. I realized I had seen several girls from that same group all marry and start having babies young. And none of them have graduated college (a few attended community college, but quit when they married – apparently they were pursuing their “MRS Degree”).

I wondered if this was part of a larger trend, or if it was just that particular church. The previous youth group had done the opposite, postponing marriage till after completing their education. Was this just a pendulum swing the other way?

A little research and I found, sure enough, there is a trend toward kids (girls and boys) skipping college, or taking only a year or two before branching into careers (wonder how that will work out in the long run?) And an accompanying trend for early marriage – the logic for that seems to be coming from several directions, not the least of which is: we’ve been teaching abstinence only, how long do we really think they can hold out?

Abstinence-only education (whether at home, in the schools or at church) has created a generation of young adults who know very little about their own health. They know to keep it in their pants. They don’t know about birth control, or disease prevention – apparently, the belief is, since they’re all abstaining until marriage, there will be no disease to worry about. Nice in theory.

Christian girls are being admonished about everything from the way they talk to the way they dress. In certain fundamentalist circles there has been a return of a blame-the-victim mentality. Girls who dress provocatively are “asking for problems.” They are inviting sexuality. Just what constitutes “provocative” is up for debate. To some it means anything that doesn’t resemble a potato sack.

The truly scary thing about that concept isn’t just that it blames the victims, but it also implies that men are just a hard on away from being rapists (non-Christian men, of course, since all Christian men know to abstain until marriage and would never go outside the bonds of matrimony).

The more I read, the more disturbing I found it. Criticisms of these attitudes have been met with cries of persecution and accusations of intolerance. What I would like to know, is just how much tolerance these same folks have when hearing views that are opposite their own? From what I’m seeing, not much.

And yes, these messages are aimed at both boys and girls, but for some reason, girls are getting the worst of it. Boys seem to get away with just a bit more.

Doubt me on that one? So, if a Christian female star had posed in a national magazine while wearing a skimpy bikini, can you imagine the complaints that would come out of it? I’ve seen a lot of commentary on Tim Tebow’s GQ spread, very few even acknowledge that it’s an old photo running for the second time in the mag, and fewer still make any comments about the appropriateness of a professing Christian man posing in a sexually provocative manner.

Finally, I set aside the post-in-process and decided I really didn’t want to stir this particular pile. But it sat there, festering, gnawing at me…

And then came the whole Akin thing with “legitimate rape.” But still, I held back. And then came the proverbial straw… my ex apparently attempted not only to justify but legitimize that statement by telling our daughter that there are “scientific reports” that prove a woman’s body will do this.

At that point, I had to sigh and wonder how in the world we can have come so far, and yet made so little progress.