Josh Duggar Blames Porn and Satan in Public Statement

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 20, 2015.

Josh Duggar has now released a public statement.

Statement from Josh Duggar:

I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.

I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him.

I brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions that happened when I was 14-15 years old, and now I have re-broken their trust.

The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country, in my heart I had allowed Satan to build a fortress that no one knew about.

As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose to our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example.

I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.

Josh Duggar

The idea that porn viewing leads to porn addiction which leads to cheating on one’s spouse is a common one in evangelical circles. It’s also false. But it’s very clearly an idea Josh is leaning on heavily. He’s positioned himself perfectly to travel the evangelical speaking circuit as anti-porn advocate with a powerful testimony.

Also, by putting the mention of his infidelity behind a double mention of porn, he made it easy to miss and effectively minimized it. I already had one person ask me whether the infidelity refers to the porn, not, you know, actual infidelity. Josh may not realize that most people don’t care that he watched porn. Seriously.

It’s the cheating on his wife thing that is an issue here.

Josh says he “allowed Satan to build a fortress.” What that means is that it was Satan who worked this evil in Josh’s life, and Josh’s only mistake was allowing it. This is most definitely a variant of “the devil made me do it.” It’s a way to shift responsibility.

Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate that Josh acknowledged that the consequences he is facing are deserved, that he stated that we have the freedom to choose our actions, and that he has admitted that he was a hypocrite. Still, I’m bothered by the way he blames both porn and Satan for what happened, and I can explain why.

First, notice what doesn’t appear in this statement: Any acknowledgment that any of Josh or his parents’ beliefs may be implicated in what happened. Now yes, lots of people cheat. But remember that Josh and his parents have portrayed their rigid beliefs about sex and relationship formation as the key to creating healthy, happy, sound marriages.

Courtship, not having sex until the altar, all of that is supposed to protect you from problems like this one. And it didn’t work.

There is nothing in Josh’s statement admitting that perhaps a highly chaperoned courtship and sexual abstinence before marriage isn’t so foolproof after all. Instead it’s all about porn and Satan. The problem, the statement suggests, is that Josh didn’t follow the rules closely enough, not that the rules themselves may be flawed.

I was raised in a home much like the Duggars’, but I am no longer religious, and my husband isn’t either. In the Duggars’ worldview, that means we have given ourselves over to Satan, because we are no longer protected from sin or temptation by the blood of Jesus. My husband and I began our relationship as a courtship, but switched to just dating when my parents’ started layering on restrictions. We had sex before the wedding. And you know what? We don’t subscribe to that whole no-porn business. And yet, somehow, neither of us has ever been anywhere near cheating.

The Duggars promote very specific sex and relationship rules, rules that are supposed to protect young adults from just this heartbreak. I’ve been saying for years that these rules are seriously flawed, and others who grew up in this environment have as well, but the Duggars have continued to promote courtship and abstinence as the foundation for sound marriages. Courtship and abstinence before marriage were supposed to give Josh and Anna the perfect relationship and a fairy tale marriage, but it didn’t. Josh’s infidelity ought to put a dent in their starry-eyed promotion of courtship, at the very least, but given the way this statement is phrased, I don’t see that happening.

The Duggar boys aren’t allowed smartphones for fear they’ll access porn. The Duggar children, including the adult children, are only allowed on the internet with someone else sitting by them watching them, to make sure they don’t access objectionable things like porn. It’s almost like they never stopped to ask themselves whether making such a huge deal about porn might backfire when their sons got out of the house and had control over their own internet.

When you obsess over sex, you shouldn’t be surprised when sex becomes an obsession.

But you know what?

I don’t think any of these questions will be asked, and I don’t think any of these conversations will be had, at least by the Duggars.

And that’s sad.

How I Became a Disillusioned Homeschooler: Elisheba’s Story

Image by R.L. Stollar.

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Elisheba” is a pseudonym. 

Content warning: descriptions of self-injury.

I used to be a good homeschooler.

I used to be a good Christian. I used to be a model daughter. Then something happened. I’m not sure what it was, I’m not even sure how it happened.

When I went to college I was determined not to lose myself to “the world”. I didn’t want to be another statistic for why you shouldn’t send your kids to college. I didn’t want to be written off. I was going to defy the odds.

My first full time semester of college was a blast. Learning with other people and having a social life? Hot damn! Sure my 17 year old sister was taking the same classes as I was and would comment on my new found friendship with a fellow homeschooler who happened to be a guy.

Fast forward six months. I am enjoying college as much as ever and even am proud to say I have a boyfriend. Sure I can’t talk about him around my parents, sure hardly any of my friends know about him but I have a guy. Things are slipping. I am becoming one of those people. One of my friends that my mom used as an example to warn me about. One of those girls who I’d have coffee with to try to encourage her to do the right thing. I wasn’t any different.

Then the depression started to hit.

Not only was I not a good daughter anymore, God had turned His back on me, or so I thought. I spent countless nights on the bathroom floor crying and holding a knife to my arm. Pushing it in just enough to leave an impression but never deep enough to actually cut myself. Even in self harm I failed. I didn’t have the guts to do it. Only to tell my boyfriend that I was losing it and that I was going to do it or that I wanted to die. The only relief I could find was being with my boyfriend, which led to more excuses, less time spent on homework and more lies to my parents and more guilt tripping from my boyfriend because I wouldn’t grow a spine and move out, all of this lead to more feelings of being a failure and depression.

Fast forward another six months. I was finding out that my prince charming (it sounded less worldy and in your face than “boyfriend”) wasn’t all that I thought he was, but I had given him my heart which meant I was never going to get that piece back (Boy Meets Girl, anyone?) and could never give anyone my whole heart so logically, I was stuck with him.

I had made my choice and once again I was not going to be another statistic.

My first college relationship would last. I was going to marry him no matter what, even if that meant moving to Texas to live in a trailer with his grandparents and dropping out of school. No price was to high to pay to not be a statistic. So here I was, my relationship with my parents in shambles. God? Yeah. Not really on good terms with Him. Good homeschooler? Not so much. I hated that I had been subjected to that.

The one thing I had was my best friend. She was honest with me, but somehow not harsh. She got through to me. Literally the only reason I did not move to Texas was because of her. To this day I am so thankful for her influence in my life. She saved me from so much pain and ruined dreams. My boyfriend moved to Texas for school. I wrote letters in class instead of taking notes. My grades continued to be mediocre or worse.

Then my parents gave me an ultimatum, him or them.

Some how, even though my relationship with my parents was totally shattered, I chose them. Even now, I’m still not sure why. But I did. Enter major heartbreak, anger, some more lies, and eventually surrender. I still seriously thought we were together, only now we couldn’t talk, okay, don’t become a statistic. We can still make this last. Until the day of all my finals, a mutual friend texted me and told me that my boyfriend had a new girlfriend and that he was a jackass. I got out of my car, stopped crying, threw up, walked in to take my first final and then repeated until all of my finals were over. So there I stood, still not the good, model daughter that I once was. Not a good christian, in fact I really hated God, that day especially. And now to top it off, I was dumped, damaged goods. It did not help that I was crushing really hard on this catholic guy that I knew even though I was sworn to my first guy. It made the depression and the feelings of guilt worse. Not only could I not make a relationship work and I was used and damaged now, I was emotionally cheating on my guy.

Three strikes and you’re out, right? I had them all.

Now I was trying to rebuild myself. Who was I? I was a broken, used, depressed, put in any similar adjective here, person. How should I redeem myself? How could I get my model status back? Fall in love with somebody else? Sure. Enter catholic guy. The perfect gentlemen. The guy who wasn’t afraid of my parents. The guy who my siblings and mom loved. The guy who knew how to handle almost all situations. The guy who treated me like a lady and made me feel like I was valuable and important. The guy who (though he did and doesn’t know it, helped me rebuild myself). Enter the perfect prince charming. No sneaking around this time, except in my head (Leslie Ludy’s books, anyone?). I was having an emotional love affair and giving more of myself away. More guilt, but no lies and no emotional abuse from this guy so not nearly as much depression. I felt loved and cared for and safe. Life was good. Fast forward. Things are good, in my head at least. Ends up he has a girlfriend and has had one for quite a while. Enter sobbing and telling my story to a guy that I don’t really don’t know (he will be one of my best friends eventually).

Again. I’m used and broken. But were we ever actually dating? This drives me nuts. Then the self loathing. Not only was I a sucker for another guy, he was catholic of all things.

Good homeschooled, christian girls don’t fall for catholic boys.

Good homeschooled, christian girls don’t have a chain of boys period. No good homeschooled, christian boy will ever want me now. Hell. God probably doesn’t want me now.

On the other hand I don’t have as many pieces to pick up this time. My grades are good. I have a supportive, loving group of ladies that I study with that are like second moms to me They get that I’m heart broken, they also get that finals are coming up and I have to study. During these study time we talk about everything. Life. Women’s roles. Religion. I learn that there are different types of christians and I like it. Maybe it’s more important to show people that God loves them than to show them where they’re wrong and how confused they are about God. Maybe God could accept the broken, used, messed up me. Maybe He doesn’t care if I’m the perfect homeschooler, daughter, christian girl that I once was. Isn’t that the gospel anyway? He takes something used and broken and renews it? Life isn’t too bad.

I’m still determined to not become a statistic. I will not lose my faith. I will not become too liberal. I will stay conservative. I will believe in courtship. I will follow my parents and obey them. I will not be crazy. I will only attend our church as it is the best and the right way to worship. I will of course homeschool my future children.

Fast forward. I have a best friend who is an atheist. I have another best friend who is struggling with their faith. I have other best friends that are rock solid in their faith. I’m just me. I don’t want to offend anyone. I’m not sure how to defend my beliefs but I think they are true, maybe. Then I start hard core struggling with my faith. What if there really is no God? What if my whole life has been a lie? What if nothing that I told was important, is important? The depression starts creeping it’s way back. I start cutting for real this time.

Now I’m a homeschooler that cuts. That’s not supposed to happen.

I’m a christian who isn’t sure if their God is real. That’s not right.

And I’m a daughter who isn’t telling her parents any of that.

Say goodbye to any chance of getting the daughter of the year award.

Who do I go to? My friend that was struggling and decided for their sanity that they cannot believe in God anymore. They get my problems. I go to my friend who is an atheist. He listens and tries to help. Several months later, I go to my friends who are rock solid in their faith. They still love me and don’t judge.

Fast forward a bit. I’m here. Now. I am tired of trying not be a statistic. Yes. I still hate the idea of it but people are going to make statistics out of whatever they want and as I learned in my research class, they can make those statistics say whatever the hell they want. Who am I to fight it?

Here I am. A homeschooler, christian, not so model daughter who is wondering if living at home is really biblical, if courtship is biblical, if modesty really matters (how is it all the girl’s responsibility?) basically I’m questioning everything I was ever taught was the correct thing to do.

How did I get here? I’m still not sure but it was through slow disillusionment of my life. I’m never going to fit the mold. I can’t. I’m too broken. Does that bother me? Sometimes. Sometimes it really gets to me. Sometimes I still want to die. Sometimes I’m still so depressed I can barely function. Sometimes I still want to cut. But do those things define me? Not really. Does not fitting the mold ruin my life and my plans? No freaking way. It opens up opportunities for me. It allows me an escape.

I’m starting to realize not fitting the mold may be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. The not ideal, disillusioned homeschooler, christian me.

Painting One-Dimensional Abusers

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Simon & His Camera.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Cynthia Jeub’s blog It was originally published on May 25, 2015. 


I’m sorry, momma!
I never meant to hurt you!
I never meant to make you cry;
But tonight, I’m cleaning out my closet.” –Eminem


Last summer, I had a dream about my mother.

In the dream, I was in my first consensual, trusting sexual relationship. My mom walked in on us and started screaming.

“How dare you not wait for marriage?” She demanded. “I told you, I tried so hard to not let you make the same mistakes I did!”

Sometimes in dreams, my emotional reactions are truer to my subconscious self than they would be in real life. If this had actually happened, I think I would have felt angry and defensive, and embarrassed for my love interest, who was standing there awkwardly. But in the dream, I saw her hurt with profound clarity. I felt nothing but compassion for my mother.

She got pregnant for the first time when she was just fourteen. She blames herself. She told us that she “made mistakes.” She told us to never have sex, to save ourselves for the one-and-only. She carries shame for her past.

It’s almost impossible to imagine that a 14-year-old girl in the year 1982, living in a trailer park of the Midwest, knew anything about consent or how to assert herself. It’s the story of many of our mothers in fundamentalist movements. They feel shame for something they probably couldn’t control. They tell their daughters to do differently.

I feel my mother’s pain. I know she was more than likely a victim. I know it wasn’t her fault, and she blames herself, and projects that guilt onto her own children. She’s just doing what she knows; she’s trying to protect us.

It was with this compassion and empathy that I started blogging about my parents’ abuse.


For the past several months, I’ve been challenging myself to examine my motivations in writing about my parents. I explained already why this has to be public, but I want to avoid the traps of venting in anger, or publicly shaming, or making my parents into purely evil human beings.

I’ve been following what Monica Lewinsky and Ron Jonson say about being publicly humiliated for mistakes. I just finished reading an article called “Abusers are people too.

On another level, I know that the capacity to do harm is within myself. This isn’t just about parents who shame their daughters for having sex drives, or about children being paddled. It’s also about the darker things humans are capable of doing, like genocide and rape and war.

Ordinary people do bad things. These situations are complicated. I refuse to excuse what’s been done, but I also refuse to paint a one-dimensional, inhuman face onto my abusers.

To see them as human is scary. It means abusers can be anyone, anywhere. That’s why so many people don’t believe me, it’s why so many people don’t believe so many other victims who’ve spoken up.


I don’t tell my story just to be vengeful. I tell it because I know I’m not alone. I tell it because I’m trying to make sense of the complexity, to bring healing to those who haven’t dared to forsake loyalty and broadcast their truth. I do it to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

And I hope that there are some mothers out there who can realize that they’re breaking their children with shame they don’t have to carry.

You didn’t do anything wrong, mom. Sin isn’t real. Your young motherhood wasn’t your choice, mom. That matters, mom. You don’t have to blame yourself, mom. What I’m doing is by choice, mom. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, mom. I wish you knew that I understand, mom.

I know you won’t understand, mom. You were too busy making us sick to keep us close. We kids came cheaper by the proxy for your Munchausen Syndrome. My whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn’t, that I was broken and dirty when I wasn’t. I get it. I got so used to being sheltered from the rain that always followed you, but I won’t come back to the wet, cold, sniffling comfort of your cloud.


“It seems like you’ve healed,” one of my most trusted friends, Lael, said to me a few weeks ago. “But the situation with your family hasn’t.”

“Maybe that’s just proof that I didn’t instigate it,” I replied. “Besides, if an ex-husband had done what my parents did, nobody would ask, ‘when are you going to seek reconciliation?’”

Understanding is not excusing. Explanation is not forgiveness. It’s possible to see people as complex and human, and still to acknowledge that it’s not healthy for me to be around them.

It’s also the only way to stop the cycle of abuse: acknowledge that we’re capable of doing the same, and choosing to be more self-aware with our decisions.

Rethinking Purity

CC image courtesy of Flickr, MadisonElizabethx.

The following is an excerpt from R.L. Stollar’s “Facing Our Fears: How the Voices of Homeschool Alumni Can Help Homeschooling,” originally prepared for the 2014 Great Homeschool Convention in Ontario, California. You can read the presentation in full here.

When we consider modesty and purity as a dialogue and not simply a monologue, we will realize what has often been communicated to homeschool children about modesty and purity has tied directly to abuse they have experienced and mental illness they struggle with. So, in fact, the dominant monologue about modesty and purity is a great example of how everything I’ve been talking about is all inter-connected. There’s this vast web of issues and no one issue is itself the “problem.”

If you follow homeschool news, you’ve probably heard a lot of homeschool “problems” as of late. Maybe those problems involved specific people, like Doug Phillips or Bill Gothard. Or maybe those problems involved specific ideas, like “Patriarchy” or “Legalism.” Over the last year, for example, homeschool debate coach Chris Jeub declared that “Patriarchy Has Got To Go,”[i] Presbyterian pastor Shawn Mathis claimed one of the “root problems” in homeschooling circles is Legalism,[ii] and HSLDA’s Michael Farris drew “A Line in the Sand,” denouncing both Patriarchy and Legalism as “damaging” and “threatening” to homeschool freedoms.[iii]

While I do think both Patriarchy and Legalism as systems of thought need to be called out, I want to point out that you are more than two-thirds of the way through this paper about issues homeschooling communities desperately need to address and this is the first time I have mentioned Patriarchy and Legalism. And I only mentioned them in the context of what homeschool leaders have called out thus far.

What I hope to communicate in highlighting this fact is that is that there’s no singular problem. While it is convenient to target certain systems of thought like Patriarchy and Legalism (especially since their most outspoken advocates, Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard, recently came under fire for sexual assault and harassment allegations[iv]), we cannot content ourselves with thinking that as long as we reject those two systems of thought, homeschooling will suddenly be healed. As Christian theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer has stated, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

The wheels of abuse and neglect in homeschooling are driven by much more than Patriarchy and Legalism; those systems are but a few of the wheel’s parts. All these problems are connected. They involve valuing ideas over children so much that we don’t stop and ask how our children experience those ideas. We neglect dialogue.


Modesty and purity.

I want to make this simple. Let’s talk about a phrase, a phrase that you have probably heard many times. This phrase goes something like this:

The greatest gift a young Christian woman can give her future husband is the gift of her purity.

Now, some of you might hear that phrase and think, “Amen.” Some of you might instead think, “That’s not true.” What I want to focus on is not whether you agree or disagree. I want to focus on interpretation. In other words, I want you to think about how this phrase gets interpreted by children.

Let me tell you how children — and by that, I mean almost every homeschool alumni I have talked to — has interpreted that phrase. That phrase means:

If a woman is no longer a virgin, she’s worth less.

One of the clearest examples of both this teaching as well as how it has been interpreted comes from a book that was wildly popular among homeschoolers when I was a teenager: When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy. (In fact, it continues to be popular today, even to the point of being a recommended resource in the context of sexual abuse prevention.[v]) The Ludys’ book, marketed as “The Ultimate Approach to Guy/Girl Relationships,” claims to be “for anyone searching for the beauty of true and lasting love, for romance in its purest form, and is willing to do whatever it takes in order to find it.”[vi] In one of the final chapters of the book, entitled “Too Late?”, Leslie Ludy discusses “sexual sin” and “moral compromise” — in other words, “lost virginity.”

There are two issues I want to highlight from this chapter about lost virginity: The first is the story Leslie tells about a 12-year-old girl named Rebecca. Leslie says that Rebecca — again, a 12-year-old — was lured by a 16-year-old boy from a church youth group into his house one day. Leslie says that Rebecca “left as a used and defiled sex toy” and was “forced from childhood into womanhood.”[vii]

From Leslie’s description alone, Rebecca’s story reads as a straightforward account of a 12-year-old girl being raped. The words “used” and “forced” indicate a lack of consent. Yet Leslie puts Rebecca’s story in the same chapter as stories of willing sexual encounters of individuals who chose to have sex before marriage. All these stories are then discussed as “sexual sin” and “moral compromise.”[viii] At no point does Leslie identify Rebecca’s story as a story of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and/or rape — and at no point does Leslie then relate it to the importance of children and teenagers learning sexual consent and safety. The message to young women reading this would be and has been clear: you being “forced from childhood into womanhood” is you sexually sinning, even if you were “forced.”

The second issue I want to highlight from Leslie’s chapter on “lost virginity” is how accounts of losing virginity are described. Leslie describes a number of young women’s first sexual encounters in the following ways: Karly, for example, “made the mistake of giving [her boyfriend] her most precious gift—her virginity, but now he was distant and cold towards her. She was full of guilt.”[ix] An unnamed 25-year-old from Australia is described as saying she had “given away the most precious thing I had—my purity. There’s nothing left of my treasure… Now I have nothing to offer my husband.”[x]

While Leslie does state that God can “forgive” each of these women for their sexual impurity and “can give us a ‘second virginity,’ spiritually speaking,”[xi] at no point does she question whether a young woman’s virginity (or “purity”) is “the most precious thing” one has. At no point does she question whether virginity is “the most precious gift” one can give one’s husband. The Ludys, in fact, endorse this idea — hence the importance of God granting a spiritual “second virginity.”

The Ludys are not alone in fixating on a person’s virginity as all-important. Another essential reading on relationships for homeschool teenagers was (and continues to be) Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity. While Elliot’s book is more contemplative than the Ludys and focuses on Elliot’s personal story of her relationship with her late husband Jim Elliot, Elisabeth states upfront that her book “is, to be blunt, a book about virginity.”[xii]

The message that homeschool students and alumni have received from books such as these is pretty clear: that if you are not “pure” (in other words, if you are not a “virgin”), then you no longer have “your most precious gift” that you can give your spouse. I want to take issue with this because I believe that not only is it a damaging message, I also believe that it is an unbiblical message. Marriage is a covenant of love: individuals deciding to commit and give themselves to one another, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And the greatest gift within the context of marriage is not one’s “purity” or “virginity” but one’s self.

In the Book of John, Jesus declares to his disciples that, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” And to make clear what it means to love another, Jesus adds that, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”[xiii] According to traditional Christian theology, Jesus himself demonstrated this greatest act of love when he sacrificed himself on the cross for humanity. And what Jesus sacrificed was not any one part of his body, or his virginity, or his “purity” of heart. Rather, he sacrificed himself — he gave the totality of his being for humanity.

Traditional Christian theology also tells us that marriage is to look like the relationship between Jesus and the Church. One must conclude, therefore, that the greatest act of love, the greatest gift, within the context of marriage is not any one part of one’s body or one’s virginity or one’s “purity” — but rather, in similarity with Jesus’s greatest gift, the giving of one’s self to another. You — not your virginity, but all of who you are, your body, heart, and soul — is your greatest gift to your spouse. This doesn’t mean virginity cannot have value; the problem is the message that it’s the most important thing when it comes to romantic relationships. You are such much more than whether you are a virgin or not. And that you — being an amazing and beautiful individual made in the image of God — want to give your life to share the journey of life with another human being? That is the ultimate gift.

But homeschool students and alumni learned otherwise. They learned that the greatest gift was not their selves but rather their virginity. And it is so important to see how this unbiblical teaching has led to great damage. Because when students and alumni are taught to value their virginity over their selves, their self-worth becomes inherently linked to their “purity.” Hence the idea young women have absorbed — that, If a woman is no longer a virgin, she’s worth less. Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart spoke of this idea last year when she said that after being kidnapped and abused it was “easy…to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value.”[xiv] Smart directly related this feeling to the purity teachings she had imbibed.

To fully appreciate how this idea has manifested for homeschool alumni, let’s look at a few examples of their experiences:

The first is from a young woman named Laura. She wrote,

“I had to go through the True Love Waits program. The ‘activity’ I remember the most was a wrapped present. I held the package and stood at the front of the room. Then, the youth leaders lined up the guys and each of them tore off some of the paper. Then I had to read some paragraph about how virginity is like a gift – no one wants a present that was ‘meant for them’ to have already been opened by someone else. Because of that one activity, I never told anyone I was raped at 15 until years later.”[xv]

The next story is from a young woman named Cora. Cora says,

“Having been told all of my life that my worth was in eventually being someone’s wife, serving him, and having children and that my virginity essential to attracting a husband, I naturally informed my [boyfriend] that I wanted to wait until marriage. He agreed. Then he started pushing. And pushing. Until he held me down in the bathroom one day, and forced himself on me… I told my friend. She told me it was because I was teasing him. I believed her. We both lived in a world that demanded that women be responsible for a man’s desire. The mere fact of existing and causing a man to want you means you should expect to be violated… I never told anyone else for a long, long time. I knew my parents would also tell me that it was my fault.”[xvi]

Another story, from another young woman named Auriel:

“When I was 9 years old, [my mom] told me that having my hair down made me look like a ‘lady of the night.’ Even though I was a shy, modest girl, Mom constantly told me that something I did or wore was sinful, displeasing to God, and might turn on my dad or my brothers. I was so scared that I was going to lead my brothers or dad into sin for lusting after me.”[xvii]

I know these stories are difficult and troubling to hear, so bear with me for just one more. This last one is from a young woman named Christine:

“When my boyfriend [in college] raped me, I felt horrible but thought it was sex. I thought to complain about it to a friend would be to say that sex was wrong… I had not been taught about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’. As a child, I was taught that I must always put my own interests and feelings aside and serve other people, and not argue. My body had never been my own – not when my parents coerced me to hug someone or when they’d told me to pull down my pants so that they could give me more spankings… I was unused to being in touch with what my body told me… So, ironically, the teachings that my parents thought would keep me abstinent and make me a ‘good girl’ actually ended up putting me in unwanted sexual situations.”[xviii]

I think Libby Anne, a formerly homeschooled blogger, summarizes these stories in an importantly precise way. She says,

“Presents, chocolate bars, roses, chewing gum, packing tape—these sorts of metaphors abound in circles where what I call ‘purity culture’ is strongest, and each one is used to illustrate how having sex before marriage will ruin you, rendering you dirty and potentially even unable to bond or form real relationships for the rest of your life. In the effort to keep young people from having sex before saying marriage vows, Christian leaders, pastors, and parents resort to threatening their youth… in the process, these very teachings have led young women…to leave their rapes unreported, remain in abusive relationships, and stay with their abductors. This is not okay.”[xix]

Libby Anne is right. This is not okay. What young women — and young men, too![xx] — heard about modesty and purity is nothing less than cruel.

Now, you might agree with that. When you hear these stories, you might also have a kneejerk reaction like, “But I never said that!” Or, “I would never say that!” Or, “If my children asked me, I would let them know I don’t think that.” All of these reactions bring us back to the importance of dialogue.

See, communication is a two-way street. Though honestly, sometime it’s more like a traffic-jammed freeway in Los Angeles. Through my decade-plus experience with speech and debate, I can confidently tell you that communication is so, so much more than what you say. In fact, communication experts often say that what you say is probably the least important aspect of communication. Far more important than what you say is how you say it, your body language when you say it, the mindset of your audience, and — probably most important for our current discussion — what you don’t say.

All of these factors go into the turbulent mixture of communication. And sometimes? Sometimes you have no control over some of the factors. You can’t mind-read your audience and thus know their mindset. You can’t prepare in advance an entire list of things you are not saying but you unintentionally communicate.

This is directly relevant to the homeschooling conversation — both in general and about the modesty and purity aspect of that conversation in particular.

It’s relevant in general because your lived experiences as homeschool parents are completely different and distinct from the lived experiences of homeschool children. Things that you might take for granted, aren’t taken for granted by your kids. I was struck by this fact when blogger Libby Anne wrote a piece about finding out her mom didn’t actually believe everything in a homeschool magazine that their family regularly received. Here’s an excerpt:

“My mother subscribed to Above Rubies and read each issue thoroughly. The ideas contained within the magazine aligned at least generally with beliefs I heard my mother espouse. When my parents disagreed with a religious leader, they were quick to say so. In fact, I grew up hearing James Dobson described as too wishy-washy and soft. Yet, I never heard my mother call Nancy Campbell or her magazine into question, so I assumed that the messages contained therein were approved, and that it was something I should read, take to heart, and learn from. And read, take to heart, and learn I did… I’ve talked to more than my fair share of homeschool graduates who grew up in this culture and took to heart things they later found out their parents never even realized they were learning…. Parents may not realize the toxic ideologies their children taking in through osmosis from the Christian homeschooling culture around them… ‘You need to tell the girls, mom,’ I said. ‘They read Above Rubies just as I did at their age. You need to tell them you don’t agree with all of it, because if you don’t, they’ll think you do.’”[xxi]

I was blown away when I read this interaction between Libby Anne and her mom because, wow, I can so relate to it. I remember hearing all sorts of messages from my friends, my friends’ parents, from the magazines that were in our home, from the leaders who spoke at conventions — and I, too, just assumed that we were supposed to agree with what they said. I assumed my parents agreed. Years later, after all sorts of fear and anger and fights between my parents and I, we realized that (1) I thought they thought things they didn’t and (2) they had no idea I thought they thought those things. I was living in a shadow of misunderstanding and fear because my parents did not publicly express dissent about certain prevailing ideas and they never bothered to ask me what I was hearing from the homeschool culture around me.

Now take all those observations and apply them directly to the modesty and purity issue. You have a whole life of experiences. For my parents, it was experiences growing up in the 60’s and 70’s and reacting to certain expressions of love and sexuality they found harmful. And in response to those experiences, they came up with — and listened to others come up with — ideas for how to avoid the pain and heartache they experienced. They came up with ideas about modesty and purity and bought Josh Harris’s book I Kissed Dating Goodbye and we attended seminars by Reb Bradley about Preparing Your Children for Courtship and Marriage.

But my fellow alumni and I didn’t grow up in the 60’s and 70’s. We grew up in often sheltered and protective homes. So our parents’ expressions of love and sexuality — built in reaction to their culture’s expressions of love and sexuality — mean something entirely different to us than to our parents. They are heard differently, felt differently, and lived differently. So much is lost in translation.

And when modesty and purity get communicated — in our culture with our experiences — with a line like,

The greatest gift a young Christian woman can give her future husband is the gift of her purity.

…we are not thinking about Woodstock. We are not thinking about the Free Love Movement. We are thinking about holding hands or the Antebellum Dances or the swing dances so popular in homeschooling circles. We are thinking that if we lose that “gift of purity” (whether by force or willingly), our worth has been diminished.

So you need to stop and ask yourself difficult questions like, what if my child gets assaulted? You probably don’t want to, because that is probably one of the most heart-wrenching and sickening scenarios you could ever imagine. You would probably do everything in your power to stop such a situation from occurring.

But you can’t just wish away the possibility. As a parent, you have to come to terms with what we talked about earlier: that as many as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood. What are your modesty and purity messages teaching those girls and boys? How will your messages be interpreted after an experience of trauma? Are your messages going to empower them to speak up, or will they silence them into shame, guilt, and secrecy? Into darker moments? Perhaps even longer and more abusive relationships?

What I want to challenge you to do today is to go home and rethink everything for yourself. I want you to put yourself in Laura’s shoes; I want you to put yourself in Cora’s shoes; I want you to put yourself in Auriel’s shoes; I want you to put yourself in Christine’s shoes.

How are they hearing your metaphors? How are they hearing your analogies?

This is why dialogue is so important. This is why we need alumni to keep speaking up and we need to hear from you — you who are parents and leaders of our communities — that you welcome our voices. Because you actually can’t put yourself in our shoes entirely. We need to tell you what roads we walked and what words we heard from you. We’re the ones who can tell when you communicated messages that trapped us in abusive mindsets, abusive relationships, or drove us into depression or suicidal thoughts. And if you will listen, if you will open your arms and hear our words and show us you care, then we can work together to make things better for the next generation.

But we have to do it together. You cannot change this world alone.

Click here to read the rest of “Facing Our Fears: How the Voices of Homeschool Alumni Can Help Homeschooling.”


[i] Chris Jeub,, “Patriarchy Has Got To Go,” April 16, 2014, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[ii] Shawn Mathis, Examiner, “Homeschool apostates, homeschoolers and legalism,” December 17, 2013, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[iii] Michael Farris, Home School Court Report, “A Line in the Sand,” August 2014, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[iv] Regarding Doug Phillips, see Chelsea Schilling, WorldNetDaily, “Christian Giant Sued For ‘Using Nanny As Sex Object,’” April 15, 2014, link. Regarding Bill Gothard, see Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service, “Conservative leader Bill Gothard resigns following abuse allegations,” link.

[v] Lisa and Kalyn Cherry, “Recommended Reading List For Parents and Teens,” Kalyn’s Secret, Word and Spirit Resources, 2009, p. 293. Also see Frontline Family Ministries, “Sexual Abuse: Recommended Reading,” link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[vi] Eric and Leslie Ludy, When God Writes Your Love Story, Loyal Publishing, 1999, p. 13.

[vii] Ibid, p. 202.

[viii] Ibid, p. 203.

[ix] Ibid, p. 203.

[x] Ibid, p. 205.

[xi] Ibid, p. 204.

[xii] Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning To Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control, Baker Book House Company, 1984, p. 11.

[xiii] John 15:12-13, New International Version, Bible Gateway, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[xiv] Elizabeth Smart as quoted by Elizabeth Esther, “Elizabeth Smart & the life-threatening danger of shame-based purity culture,” May 8, 2013, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[xv] Libby Anne, Pathos, “Things Woman Hear In The Church,” May 15, 2013, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[xvi] Cora, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “When Home Is Worse Than Rape,” May 13, 2014, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[xvii] Auriel, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “Growing Kids the Abusive Way,” August 13, 2013, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[xviii] Christine, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “Asexuality And Purity Teachings Can Be A Toxic Mix,” May 24, 2013, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[xix] Libby Anne, Patheos, “Question: What Do Presents, Chocolate Bars, Roses, Chewing Gum, and Packing Tape Have in Common?,” June 6, 2013, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[xx] An example of how purity teachings have impacted males can be seen in Abel’s story on Homeschoolers Anonymous, “Ticking Time Bombs of Atomic Hormones”: link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

[xxi] Libby Anne, Patheos, “They Why Didn’t You Tell Us That, Mom?,” September 1, 2013, link, accessed on September 29, 2014.

Queer in a Courtship: Charis’s Story

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Charis” is a pseudonym. Also by Charis on HA: Hurts Me More Than You: Charis’s Story.

Sitting around the table surrounded by a beautiful family, someone passes me a slice of pie. I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and his family, some of the most genuinely caring people I know. I’m happy, having a wonderful day with wonderful people. We played a card game later, laughing and enjoying the fun of competition. His family embraced me with open arms, loved me, wanted my company, and were supportive of my relationship with their son and brother.

This story is as I remember it,  but it isn’t only mine. There are many people who were involved and observed; our friends, family, and community. This is the relationship the way I recall it, and is likely somewhat different than others would remember. I don’t pretend to write everything in perfect accuracy, but simply my experience.

So I’m gay. Like super gay. Discovered boobs and my-life-was-changed-forever gay. 

How in the world did I end up in a heterosexual, super religious courtship? 

Unlike most fundamentalists, my parents were not pushing for courtship. They didn’t really approve of my relationship, but I had just moved out so they couldn’t do much about it. My dad made it clear that he didn’t consent to me getting married. He told me he wouldn’t come to the wedding, let alone walk me down the isle. He said I wasn’t worth “ruining any man’s life.” And all this when I hadn’t even come out. Jeez. You needn’t have worried dad, I have no intention of marrying a dude, and you’re not invited to any ceremony.

How did it all start? I met the young man whom I would get to know at a homeschool speech and debate competition. There were many of these throughout the school year, and the third or fourth time I saw him we talked for several hours. Hitting it off and connecting on a lot of the same angsty issues that young people have, we talk about our values in life and anything and everything else. He asked for my email address. I said yes. We continued our conversation through email, lengthy letters about our thoughts and happenings of life. I was thrilled to have a friend with whom I could be relatively honest, few and far between at this time in my life.

We started meeting for coffee, and going on hikes together. It was on one of these hikes that he asked me about pursuing an intentional relationship, finding out if we were compatible for marriage. I agreed.

I found myself in love with the potential, excited for a bright future. I knew our life together wouldn’t be perfect, or even easy. My past had taught me that. But it was a wonderful feeling all the same. I was walking on air, he liked me! And I liked him too. I came to care for, and more importantly, trust this man. Being honest about my life and the things I was feeling became an incredibly healing and growing experience.

I was a wildly different person at the time from where I am now. I wore ankle length skirts and dresses, stayed covered up as much as possible. My long wavy hair went past my waist. I wore it up in a bun most of the time because I struggled with wondering whether wearing my hair loose was a “stumbling block” for men, or too sexual. Incredibly conservative in the way only an abuse victim can be, trying to protect herself from the world.

I was starting a journey of healing that I couldn’t begin to anticipate at the time.

Spending more time together, we developed our relationship over long walks, phone calls, and continued letters. There were conversations about marriage and parenting. What we believed, what we wanted. He speculated that our chances of a lasting marriage were pretty great. I thought so too. I wanted to do all of the right things, check all the boxes, start new. We would settle down and enjoy life together. It would be wonderful.

Together we visited my family. He took the opportunity to speak individually with my parents and siblings about his intentions for our relationship. I can’t begin to express how courageous this was, and incredibly respectful. Impressed my family, made interactions with them easier, and made it more than clear he cared for me.

We were invited to dinner by a couple from my church that were friends and mentors of mine. It was during this time that I had my first defining moment as a queer person. My friend’s husband asked us, and my boyfriend specifically, about how we would stay physically pure as a couple. I distinctly remember the first part of his response, and nothing after. He said “We will be tempted [sexually] but…” and continued. In this moment I realized I wasn’t “tempted” to be sexually active with my boyfriend. I didn’t want to mess around. “I’m not tempted…” The thought rang over and over in my mind. Thankfully the patriarchal culture I was raised in hadn’t too badly damaged my view of female sexuality. I understood that my lack of desire was a problem. That unlike some in the community taught, a wife should be sexually attracted to her husband. And I wasn’t.

Dear god, now what was I going to do? 


Our courtship eventually ended. It happened suddenly, I don’t actually know what the reasons were, or understand the timing. I was in a conflicted state at the time, both worried about our relationship and comfortable with it. He spoke of desiring to do what was best for my well being, and that continuing to stay together probably wasn’t part of that. I don’t remember much from our conversations the weekend we broke up, but it was over. I took some time to process. Breaking up was a sad thing. But it was wise, I was somewhat relieved, and I didn’t regret it.

I moved forward, growing and exploring my sexuality. I was becoming more and more grateful that we were no longer together as I became involved in the queer community and found my place in it.Turns out a lesbian in a heterosexual relationship is not such a great idea. 🙂

Years later I am happily settled down with my domestic partner, a beautiful woman I love very much. We’re sharing life together, in a relationship of “mutual support, caring, and commitment” like it says on our registration. I’m working on my career, looking at going back to school, and completely out of the closet; all things I never dreamed possible.

I recently happened to see my ex on the bus, and not surprisingly he didn’t recognize me. My head shaved, wearing a suit and tie and a bunch of body jewelry, I look nothing like the person I was so many years ago. I sat there on my commute home contemplating how different life is now than it might have been. I could have been married to a man by now, with a child or two. Still the long-haired, dress-wearing, conservative girl that I was. But that’s not where I am. I’m sitting here on the bus, going home to my partner, happier and more whole than I’ve ever been.

The courtship was a positive experience in my life, but I am grateful it didn’t end in marriage.

How Modesty Teachings Hurt Men, Too

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on June 26, 2013 and is modified for HA.

Someone posted this article today on Facebook, from a famous Christian author and blogger:

If Only She Knew ~ Thoughts On Modesty

I read this against my better judgment and honestly, I’m sitting here furious. I have said for years that boys in conservative Christian homes are conditioned to struggle with “modesty” and everyday normal things regarding female bodies. That they are programmed to see non-erotic body parts as erotic. This article is the perfect example of that. This poor boy, and every boy like him have been set up by their parents for a lifetime of failure and shame. Then they have the audacity to blame all the women in the world for their terrible parenting. I’m just so angry at this type of spiritual abuse and bondage!

Here’s how the article starts out:

“Avert your eyes, Son. His dad started saying it to him from the youngest age – when he was only a little boy. Might have been an alluring commercial while watching the ballgame. Or a billboard while driving down the highway. A pop-up on the computer screen. As parents, we had purposed to teach him purity from the beginning.  

Temptation can be found anywhere. Even in Target. Target? Yeah, I know. That’s what I thought too. Until one day we popped in to pick up some flip-flops for the summer and I remarked how he kept bumping into things. What is your problem, Son?? “I’m just looking down, Mom,” And with a nod, he indicated the ads placed strategically above us. Billboards for the lingerie department. Yikes. I’d not seen them. “

I’ve written about how modesty teachings enslave women, well this is the perfect example of how they enslave men too. The first few sentences infuriated and shocked me. They created their son’s struggles. They conditioned and brain-washed him to think there was something wrong with seeing females in clothing they didn’t approve of. That looking at a woman is somehow shameful. They did that to their son and they are patting themselves on the back for it. They didn’t teach him “purity”, they taught him shame and objectification of women.  They taught him that natural attraction is something to feel guilty about and be avoided at all costs. They should be ashamed of themselves. They have set their son up for failure, and now he is going to be under such a heavy burden his entire life for things that are not wrong. He’s going to struggle with “sins” that aren’t sins but that he’s been brainwashed to think are “impurity”. The sight of normal American women all around him is going to send him into such a frenzy of natural emotion and arousal that he’s not going to know how to function in the real world. This poor boy! I cannot imagine doing anything that unhealthy to my sons.

Oh, but it gets worse:

“It was a hot July day and we all packed up and headed out for fun and fellowship with a bunch of other believers. Picnic blankets, cold watermelon, and squirt guns. It was promising to be a great day. 

So I was surprised to see our oldest son hanging back from the festivities. He’s an outgoing guy and usually one of the first out there mixing it up. Except not this time. He stayed close to our small spot and played with his little brothers instead. What is your problem, Son?? 

He hesitated for a moment. Then answered, “Mom, I don’t know what to do. Dad’s taught me to ‘avert my eyes’, but there doesn’t seem anywhere I can turn here.”

Nowhere he can safely look. Because women in swimsuits and summer clothes are everywhere and he’s had it drilled into him from a tender young age that women in swimsuits are off-limits, tantalizing, and “impure”. This poor boy cannot even go swimming or play outside because of his parent’s brain-washing. How is this “purity”? It isn’t. It’s heaping guilt and legalism on a child’s head and causing untold confusion. This isn’t healthy. This is so very toxic. He’s just a little boy. Yet his innocence is being trampled into the ground.

My cousin Matt said this when he read this article:

“He [the boy in the story] wouldn’t have a problem with it if his parents didn’t make it a big deal. If they approached sexual attraction as a normal thing, and taught him how to control his actions, he wouldn’t have to live in fear of seeing bare skin. Now, it seems like he is afraid to even go out in public, because of all the eye snares around him. Its almost as if he – or his mother, at least – expect girls to cover up for her son’s sake, as if the world revolved around him. 

If he was in the real world, you know, the one that inhabits the spaces around his stifling mother and father, then he would find that real men really don’t worry about bare skin. Those of us who control our desires know it is not wrong to look or enjoy the sight of a beautiful woman. We also don’t expect them to serve us because we know they aren’t the temptresses this mother is insinuating that they are. 

What he needs is for the walls of his little world to come crashing down. People like his parents think they are helping him walk in victory, but it isn’t victory when you are afraid of the world around you. It isn’t victory when you demonize something God created: beauty in a woman. It trivializes His creation. It makes it seem as if women are there to set you up for failure. 

What’s wrong is not the world around him, but the world in which he lives. Open your eyes, son, look up. Nothing says you have to look at the lingerie ad, but you won’t go to hell for lingering a second longer on it. Look at it and move on. It is part of the world around you. Your urges are part of your world. Your desires are part of your world. They aren’t your whole world, as your mother seems to emphasize.” 

In essence, these parents are crippling their son. There’s no way around that. And this mother is encouraging other mothers to cripple their son and to see all women as objects of temptation.  Not to mention using emotionalism and spiritual-sounding language to urge all women to cater to her dysfunction. This is a glaring example of spiritual and psychological abuse.

I’m not going to post the rest. It’s an appeal to emotion that ends up blaming all the women in the world for this boy’s and every good boy’s “struggles”; blaming women for toxic, spiritually abusive parenting they have inflicted on their son. You can read it but be warned, it’s painful.

This is a real, serious problem, but I’ve never seen it outlined so perfectly as this post does. Making normal, non-erotic body parts erotic does a grave disservice to boys and men. And this is a wide-spread problem among conservative Christians and homeschoolers.

Here’s what my friend Katie had to say in a conversation we were having on this topic:

I believe the ultra conservative teaching many of us grew up under modesty-wise, has hurt men as well as women. Men who grow up so sheltered that they find a cap sleeve enticing and whose moms cover their eyes if a woman with cleavage walks past, never learn how to deal with normal American dress. It is no wonder they experience such trouble at a beach or a pool. Regardless of how you personally believe God would have you to dress, you have no right to control the rest of culture. Your husbands, brothers, sons, etc. will be exposed to cleavage, shorts, bikini’s, mini skirts, etc. We do boys no favors when we raise them so strictly that such normal clothing is hyper erotic to them. Instead of sheltering them we end up hyper sexualizing them. I feel sorry for guys raised that way that struggle thru normal daily life like going to the grocery store.

I hope our generation will do better than our parents at teaching our children (boys and girls alike) how to view the opposite sex. Lust is not a sin that only effects men. Women can struggle with it as well. Part of the problem is that we call sin things that are not sin thereby heaping guilt on men and women for simple biological hormonal reactions.

It is not sin to find a person attractive. It is not even sin to feel turned on by them as they walk past you. That is just a basic function of biology and hormones. It is a sin, to dwell there and savor the moment, to go back to it time and again, or continue to fantasize about that other person (ie undressing them in your mind or worse). We need to teach our children the difference between a hormonal reaction that is biological, and choosing to expand or camp in that reaction and indulge in lust. We need to practice personal responsibility in our handling of situations that are struggles for us personally, and we need to teach our children personal responsibility for their own reactions to others around them. Men and women alike need to dress in ways that do not violate their conscience, but they also need to realize that they can never control anyone but themselves and master their own thought lives.”

Fear, shame, guilt, rules, “temptation is everywhere”….a little boy whose innocence was taken by the very people supposed to protect him. And all in the name of “purity”. My heart is breaking. I may be a woman, and I experienced these lies from a woman’s perspective, but I saw what they did to the men in my life. To the boys programmed with shame. I continue to see the effects of such teachings as the boys I grew up with are now men. An entire generation of men who were raised with shame and fear, like this little boy, have grown up and their stories are enough to keep the tears flowing and the hearts breaking. I have two little boys of my own. And I cannot imagine raising them to fear the world, women, and themselves as the parents of  the boy in this story are doing. I hope they see what they are doing to their son before it is too late to undo it

(Warning: I would suggest that if the above sickens or triggers you, don’t read the comments on the post I linked. Some of them are worse by far than anything in the post and completely disgusting.)

On Crushes

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on September 14, 2014.

Growing up on the conservative Christian homeschooling culture of courtship and purity rings made a lot of things about boy-girl interactions different. Everything was ramped up, accelerated somehow. Our mothers jumped straight from simple attractions on our part to the possibility of marriage. We did too.

I still remember my first crush. I was seven. He was nine. I was homeschooled, but he wasn’t. My mother and his mother knew each other from church. Finally, I got up the courage to ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, to see if our life visions were compatible. He said he wanted to be a basketball player. I knew that almost certainly wouldn’t happen, and that even if it did, the longterm prospects were slim. This declaration on his part made him seem unwise, and thus definitely an unsuitable partner. How would I be able to submit to his headship when his life ambition was basketball player? I still thought he was cute and all, but my crush was for all intents and purposes over, because I knew there was nothing there for us.

We were told we shouldn’t date until we were ready for marriage. Well, they told us we shouldn’t date at all, that we should court, but that those relationships should not begin before each party was ready to marry. In other words, guy-girl relationships were intrinsically tied to marriage. Guy-girl relationships that weren’t marriage-oriented were wrong and would have all sorts of consequences.

In this context, it’s not surprising that we children would immediately jump to thoughts of marriage upon even the slightest crush.

Were there prospects? Could we possibly end up married, someday? If no, attraction must be crushed. If yes? Well, one can dream, right? I mean, I might be 14 and he might be 16, and we may not be ready for marriage and I might be too afraid of the opposite sex to talk to him anyway, but the most important pressing question is whether maybe, someday, we might be compatible and in a position to marry, right?

There was one young man whom I had always found gangly and awkward and unattractive, but when I headed off to college I learned that he was headed off to university to study engineering. Hmm, I thought. That’s good prospects. Maybe I should reconsider how I felt about him? If I played my cards right, perhaps there might be something there. After all, we had the same beliefs and background. Like me, he was from a large homeschooling family, even more conservative than mine if anything.

Reading that now, I’m struck by how mercenary it was. But that was my reality.

I don’t think it’s helpful to ramp the pressure up to 100 and insert the marriage question into the slightest childhood crush. Most people will have multiple relationships before they meet the person they marry, and that’s actually a good thing, because it’s how we learn and grow. I was taught growing up that we give away “pieces of our heart” every time we have a relationship. The ideal, I was taught, was for my very first relationship to lead to marriage. But the truth is that we learn and grow through our relationships. My husband wouldn’t be the person he is today if he hadn’t dated the two women he dated before me—and I like the person he is today. Far from depriving me of pieces of his heart, those two relationships improved him.

But perhaps what I find most unhealthy about this whole pieces-of-your-heart/your-first-relationship-should-lead-to-marriage ideal is what it means for young men and women who begin a relationship and find it turning south, only to feel that leaving the relationship is not an option. I know women today who found themselves in abusive relationships—yes, good evangelical homeschooled girls who followed the rules and courted good evangelical homeschooled boys—only to feel trapped. Leaving was out of the question—leaving meant not simply relationship failure but comprehensive life failure, and things lost that could never be retrieved.

I know what I’m going to tell my children: It’s okay. It doesn’t have to mean more than you want it to mean. Enjoy the moment. Focus on building healthy and fulfilling relationships rather than trying to force things toward marriage.

Oh, and also? Sometimes a crush is just a crush. And that’s okay.

“To the Ladies of Patrick Henry College”: A 2006 Email from 2 Male PHC Students

Homeschoolers U

HA note: The following was submitted by a PHC graduate who wishes to remain anonymous.

Trigger warning: slut-shaming, victim-blaming, and abuse apologisms.

If you need some extra content for your series, you might be interested in publishing this lovely piece of misogynistic bullcrap.

This email was sent to all PHC students by two male students on March 15, 2006. As you can see from the first paragraphs, this was not the first email of its kind. In fact, the all-student email function was routinely used for purposes of “exhorting” fellow students over various moral matters, although not usually to quite this length and degree.


[Redacted 1] and [Redacted 2], to the Ladies of Patrick Henry College:

The purpose of this e-mail is to encourage and exhort you. This is something we as brothers in Christ should always be doing. We do not mean to judge or to condemn—that is not our place—but for some of you, this e-mail will also attempt to offer correction. That too is a good and appropriate thing, but it is easy for us to be judgmental or prideful, seeking to correct with the wrong spirit or from the wrong motives. We are very aware of the dangers, and of how far we ourselves fall short of the mark. Nevertheless, prayerfully, in brokenness and humility, we offer this e-mail for your edification in Christ Jesus.

The matter in question is Modesty.

Two years ago, [Redacted 2] sent out a long e-mail entitled “Love, Lust, License, and Liberty (Ball).” It addressed a lot of the questions we will speak of here. However, it was rambly, and although we don’t claim by any means to completely understand the subject now, we’re quite certain we understood it a good bit less then.

Further, there are three factors making this a particularly apropos time for such a discussion. First (as with [Redacted 2]’s epistle), there is a Liberty Ball coming, and the ladies are purchasing lovely dresses. Second, the weather is getting warmer, which tends to make modesty a much more immediate concern. Third—based partly on the first two reasons—several persons of both sexes have encouraged us to address the subject.

Thus, another e-mail.

The Nature of Modesty

Far too frequently, we talk about and make emphatic statements about “modesty” without defining what we’re talking about. So, first of all, a definition. Although he has since taken it in other directions, this definition was originally formulated by Dr. Hake.

Gentleness as a masculine virtue may be defined as “Perfect Strength under Perfect Control.” In a complementary way, Modesty as a feminine virtue is defined here as “Perfect Beauty under Perfect Control.”

Perfect Beauty

Some definitions of modesty seem to be opposed to beauty categorically, suggesting that prettiness and modesty are somehow at opposite poles, and you must choose one, or else try to balance precariously somewhere between the two. This is a wicked and damnable lie. In truth, a right understanding of modesty is rooted first and foremost in the fact that you as women are—and are meant to be—perfectly beautiful. Any really useful discussion of modesty should begin with a radical affirmation of that fact. God created you to be beautiful; and He has done a pretty stupendous job. In spite of early mornings and caffeine and all the things which the self-centering mirror and lying culture claim make you unlovely, you are deeply and truly beautiful in God’s sight—and in ours, too, when we see clearly.

Further, it is good and right that this deep, internal beauty should be adorned, and that it should be enjoyed by others (more on that later). God Himself is beautiful, and He reveals His beauty in His Creation. It was revealed in a particularly wondrous way in the last act of Creation, the first woman, Eve—and all other women share in her gift, the effects of the Fall notwithstanding. We should rejoice in this fact, and give Him thanks. But there are also many false ideas about the nature of beauty, and many women (including Christian women) believe them.

An elderly woman from [Redacted 1]’s church back home died two weeks ago. She had experienced the usual results of aging: graying hair, crooked teeth, wrinkled skin, thinness, bentness, and often-debilitating illness. And she was very beautiful.

It is eminently clichéd to say that beauty comes from within. It also happens to be true. This lady deeply loved God. She was a faithful believer, a servant of God, a saint if ever there was one. She prayed earnestly for others. She gave of herself wherever she could. She loved people from her heart; and it shone from her face.

“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves.” (I Peter 3:3-5)

The apostle moves on to offer the example of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Scripture informs us that she was an extremely physically attractive woman (at ninety, no less). That is, Biblically, a good and commendable thing. (If you think God dislikes physical beauty and don’t want to be disabused of your belief, stay away from Song of Solomon). But it was not her physical beauty that was the central thing; it was her inner holiness. Everything about her, body and soul, was radiant with the presence of the Holy Spirit.

We have both known women who, while by no means unpleasant-looking, just didn’t strike us as particularly attractive. However, as we came to know them, and noticed how they lived their lives in service to God, we realized the depth of their devotion to Him… and found ourselves increasingly appreciating their physical beauty as well. Honest truth, ladies—a woman who really loves and serves God with all her heart and soul and mind and strength becomes more physically attractive as well; not because her physical beauty changes, but because the deeper beauty becomes apparent through it and infuses it with life. On the other hand, we have known women who were extremely beautiful in a merely physical sense—some of them professing Christians—and yet because we did not perceive the same depth of Christian character, the physical beauty, real though it was, simply failed to inspire any deeper attraction.

True beauty begins on the inside, with the “gentle and quiet spirit,” with devotion to God and a constant focus on love and service. But that is only the proper beginning. Beauty also has a proper end.

The Purpose of Beauty

Beauty attracts. This is fundamental to what beauty is, and an essential part of its purpose, its end, its telos. Further, it is good that beauty should attract. God made it that way.

But if attraction is central to the purpose of beauty, what is the proper end or purpose of attraction? We would suggest that the proper end of attraction is enjoyment.

If we see a beautiful sunset, or mountain, or small child, we want to look at and admire it. If we smell a beautiful flower, we want to breathe deeply of its fragrance. If we taste—allowing the phrase—a “beautiful taste,” we want to partake of that delicious food or drink. This is the natural human response to beauty. We want to participate, to delight in, to enjoy.

So it is with the beauty of women. And here is where matters become difficult. There are some aspects of beauty which not everyone may rightly enjoy. A woman has a lovely face—well and good. We all may look upon and appreciate the beauty of her face. She has lovely long hair. “It is a glory to her,” and to everyone who beholds it. She has graceful and pleasing curves, she is a fragrant garden of delights—now we run up against complications. “The king is captivated by your tresses” is one thing (Song of Solomon 7:5). The following few verses are another. (No, we’re not quoting them. Read ’em yourself.) And yet the two are related, and we cannot deny the reality of that relationship. A man who spends significant amounts of time admiring a woman’s captivating tresses, her eyes like doves, her neck like ivory, etc., is likely to make the very natural progression to Solomon’s next subject.

One man, and one only, is allowed to follow this progression to its consummation. This does not mean, however, that others cannot enjoy the woman in some sense. Many people benefit from a woman’s spiritual gift of hospitality, or kindness, or encouragement. A few can rightly enjoy the emotional comforts of her presence and care: an elderly father, a younger brother, a close friend. But the full physical enjoyment of a woman’s beauty is limited strictly to her husband and no other.

There are different kinds of love—admiration, desire to serve, desire to possess, etc.—and they are appropriate for different things or persons, at different times and in different ways. The moon may be admired; no one but a lunatic would try to possess it. A cat may be admired, served, and possessed. All women may be legitimately admired (if they deserve it) and served (whether they deserve it or not), but there is only one of which any man may truly say “this is mine.”

The difficulty arises because all the kinds of love, and all the kinds of beauty and attraction, are intimately intermingled. Men under the influence of attraction are rather poor at keeping simple admiration separate from a desire to possess (and we’re always rather poor at cultivating a desire to serve). And, it must be said, women are frequently just as bad at keeping all these things separate, and at encouraging right kinds of attraction while discouraging wrong kinds. Again, the problem is not the desires, but the sinful human propensity to try to satisfy them at the wrong time, or in the wrong way, or to an excessive degree. Women desire—rightly!—to attract; they have been given beauty for this very purpose. But they often do it for reasons or via methods that are frankly wicked.

Desire Gone Wrong

We rejoice to say that the women at Patrick Henry are, overall, some of the most conscientiously-dressed ladies it has ever been our joy to meet. And we have seen a number of our sisters here grow in this area over the past few years. However, we must in honesty say that there are many who could do better. We do not believe that there is a general wicked desire to “cause a brother to stumble”—quite the contrary. You all show great love and care for us. But many Christian women, probably a large majority, simply do not understand the depth and extent of the foul perversity of the male mind. (If you’re a man and some part of this doesn’t apply to you personally, just assume we’re only talking about ourselves at that point.)

We have a duty as brothers in Christ to guard the purity and holiness of our sisters, which means restraining how bluntly we speak. On the other hand, part of that duty is to help you understand the problem. To avoid causing offense for our own sake, all the most explicit bits are taken directly from Scripture. Anyone who finds God’s authoritative written revelation inappropriate is advised to skip this section.

You’ve heard this before, but we’ll say it again: men are visually wired. A man notices a pretty female walking by. His eyes lock on, his brain clicks in (we mostly tend toward one-track minds). He is attracted to her. Attraction, when left undirected, leads naturally to desire.

If she’s his wife, all is well. In itself this visual attraction is a good thing. A man is supposed to look upon his wife and be drawn to her beauty. Please, please, ladies, don’t confuse the abuse of the thing with its good and proper and holy purpose in God’s plan. Husbands are not merely allowed but commanded to take pleasure and fulfillment in their wives’ physical beauty: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19). This intoxication is a blessed fact and should be a cause for great rejoicing. As C. S. Lewis says in a very similar context, “God likes it. He made it.”

But there is a great deal of abuse. If the attractive female wandering by is not the man’s wife (and mathematically, the odds tend that way), then there’s a nifty Biblical phrase for desiring her: “lusting after her in your heart.” We’ll leave out the details; you don’t want to know. Suffice it to say that he wants to be intoxicated and filled with delight too. As Solomon says in that passage we declined to quote from earlier: “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.” It’s all right for Solomon, he’s talking about his wife, but many of us are not married. Of course most men—here at least—are decent enough not to actually do anything much; but that’s beside the point. The man has spoken these words to himself. He has made the act of volition.

He has once again committed adultery in his heart, and the woman is once again a victim of visual rape.

No, not always. There are plenty of occasions where a man is not tempted to lust. There are some men who are tempted rather less than others. But then, by the same logic, there are some who are tempted more than others.

And yes, it’s more complicated than that. The man’s physical desires are almost certainly confused with all sorts of other desires, emotional and intellectual and spiritual. Some of them are commendable desires, like the longing to care for a woman, to make her feel loved and appreciated, to encourage her—or simply to have a stimulating intellectual conversation. It can be very difficult to sort all this out and be certain what results from righteousness and what from sin. But sometimes a lot of it is sin.

And no, the woman is not guilty of the man’s sin, if he does give in. If a man sins, it is his fault. He is utterly without excuse. Adam tried his line “the woman made me do it!” and God was not convinced. This is important. I am not trying to blame anyone else for what I do; I nailed Christ to the cross, and have no room to point fingers. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

And yes, there is grace. There is much grace. God gives us the strength to manfully oppose temptation, and commands us to do it. We must die to the flesh, and live according to the Spirit. We have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

But temptation still happens. There is a war going on here. Some of your brothers are achieving mighty victories, by the power of God. Some—more than you would think—are losing blood and beginning to grow faint, and are in grave danger of being overcome. And many of us are warring and winning more often than not, but expending so much spiritual energy in doing so that we are left tired and worn down, weakened for the next confrontation. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness; but sometimes we forget.

Now, again (before some men get offended at me), there are Godly men who face less temptation, and there are those who face a great deal but have obtained great victory. However, there are many—and among them some of the most dedicated and true-hearted believers we know—who feel many days as if they’re struggling for their very soul (as, in a sense, they are). For the sake of these men, please at least consider the things we’ve said.

We are not trying to blame you for our sin. Rather, as a warrior with many wounds, on behalf of ourselves and these our brothers, we are asking for allies. This is a cry for reinforcements, lest the battle go to the enemy. We are sorely pressed on every side. This is no exaggeration: we need all the help we can get. We don’t need to be struck down from behind by friendly fire.

Remember, Adam’s sin was Adam’s, but that doesn’t mean God held Eve guiltless in the affair.

Eve tempted her husband, and God cursed her for it.

If we give in to temptation, we are judged; but if you deliberately tempt us, you are judged, whether we give in or not—even whether we notice or not. The sin is not in successfully tempting a brother, but in trying to do so. The immodest swimsuit is still immodest and sinful even if there happen to be no guys on the beach that day—if you decided to wear it because you hoped there would be. Deliberately choosing the barely-too-tight top is still immodest and sinful, even if the RA catches you before you make it out the door.

Perfect Control

We have been told how difficult it is to find apparel that is both beautiful and modest. We believe it. Many of you do an amazing job—and for those who do understand what’s at stake, or who without understanding have simply been trained and have very right instincts on these matters, blessings upon you to the fourth and fifth generation. You are all wonderful, and we pray God will bring you every good thing, all your lives long.

For those who are sincere, but perhaps were not trained quite so well or do not altogether understand quite yet—we pray that He will continue to work in you, so that you can better carry out the good desires of your heart. We deeply appreciate you too. Do not become complacent; continue to grow in purity and holiness. There are women who not only avoid causing temptation, but actually provide positive assistance, making it easy for men not to lust after them—and yet modestly display the beauty God has given them. More than noncombatants, they are valuable allies. Seek out such ladies and ask them for advice in all humility.

But let us also offer a warning. Although women almost never completely realize the extent to which (or the ways in which) they can affect men, most women are aware on some level that certain things attract men. And women like to feel attractive. This is natural; we have already said that you are created to be beautiful. But we have also said that the purpose of attraction is enjoyment.

Please be careful of this desire to attract. It is a good thing; but it is easy to misuse. Many females drive us to ask some pretty unpleasant questions.

If a woman does not want to be the subject of wicked imagining, why does she provide so much scope for the imagination? If she does not intend to be suggestive, why does she tantalize with hints, peeks, glimpses, suggestions?

The answer is that wrongful desire also has a feminine side. The third-century apologist Tertullian links the “lust of the eyes” to corresponding sins in both men and women: “Such [male] eyes will wish that a virgin be seen as [those of] the virgin who shall wish to be seen. The same kinds of eyes reciprocally crave after each other. Seeing and being seen belong to the self-same lust.” But only the husband is meant to see fully, and to enjoy completely. “Should your springs overflow in the streets, streams of water in the public squares?”

To attract where there can be no completion, to encourage desire which must not be fulfilled in enjoyment—let us put it bluntly. This is sin. C. S. Lewis quotes an unnamed source in That Hideous Strength (he may have made it up): “To desire the desiring of her own beauty is the vanity of Lilith, but to desire the enjoying of her own beauty is the obedience of Eve.” The poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti also speaks of Lilith, fascinated entirely with her own beauty, “subtly of herself contemplative,” who snares a man and leaves “round his heart one strangling golden hair.”

All flowers attract insects with the promise of nectar. All are beautiful, adorned with bright colors or beautiful perfumes or landing patterns painted in the ultraviolet. Most of these flowers give up their nectar and satisfy the desire of the bee or the moth, who in return helps to pollinate the flower. But there are also certain flowers in the world which promise but do not fulfill: they are called “carnivorous.” They want to be desired, but not enjoyed—what they really want is to greedily fulfill their own desires, at the cost of a continuous stream of lives.

This lust for desire, which withholds physical fulfillment, is exactly the inverse of the rampant male sin of promising emotional intimacy (which girls want with the same intensity that men want physical intimacy), without the fulfillment of real commitment.

The lustful woman craves attention, and by her attitudes and actions she promises physical rewards that she cannot legitimately deliver.

The lustful man implies a promise of emotional rewards that he is either unable or unwilling to deliver, in return for the physical rewards that the lustful woman has rashly promised. It’s a ghastly mockery of a waltz; it’s two serpents circling forever, endlessly trying to devour the other’s tail; it is Tantalus squared.

This grim fact is why immodesty can, of course, also be practiced by males, though it usually happens in forms that are less visual and more verbal/emotional. (Still, guys, give up the public displays of the muscle shirts—they really aren’t a blessing to your sisters). But if this is how and why immodesty occurs, it follows that modesty is not primarily or fundamentally a physical thing. As with beauty itself, the soul of modesty does not lie in the outward appearance, but in the heart. It is the intent, the desire, that drives everything. It impacts what is worn, of course; but far more significantly, it impacts the reason it is worn, and the way it is worn (and when, and in what company). This is why we have deliberately avoided making comments on particulars of dress—that misses the point. Some articles of clothing are just irredeemably scandalous (in the Greek sense of “causing to stumble”), but many others may be immodest on one woman and perfectly modest on another, and not simply because of physical differences. (Just be careful of the “Well, it could be immodest, but I’m not wearing it like that” argument.) Any woman can be immodest “by accident,” but she is far less likely to do so if she has sisterly love in mind as a deliberate daily goal. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Modesty flows from a heart devoted to the service of God.

“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to Godliness.” (I Timothy 2:9-10)

Beauty Perfected

This brings us full circle. This is why Godliness is so much more important than the physical radiance that will eventually grow from it. It is this beauty, this inner beauty of a “gentle and quiet spirit,” which not only does but should attract everyone, because it may be rightly delighted in by everyone.

We have put a great deal of emphasis on the extremity of the situation, the severity of the battle, the desperate need for help, and thus the importance of modesty. It really is this important. But this is stating the issue in a negative way. Immodesty is a sin of omission. The contrary is inexpressibly more important, for it is not mere restraint, but a positive and difficult action, a firm belief, a way of life:

You are created to be gloriously, radiantly, superabundantly beautiful.

This beauty is a beauty of the soul, of the heart, and to some degree of the mind. It does not allow slovenly appearance, but neither does it allow an overemphasis on or too-great concern for the physical. It is revealed in the face, but it is not a beauty of the face. It is, rather, a filling of the inside of the cup with clean and living water—and then the outside is clean as well. It is the scrap of carbon thread being turned into a flaming incandescence by the electrifying power of the Spirit of Holy God. It is the flowering of the crocus bulb that has lain unnoticed in the ground all winter, persevering through cold and comfortless nights, drinking deep of the graceful rain, and waiting for the Father—in His time—to clothe it more beautifully than Solomon in splendor. It is the transformation of the heart, the “renewing of your mind,” which God is bringing about to make you like His Son—to infuse you and overwhelm you with His own glory and beauty, so that He may be the more infinitely glorified in you, and in all who behold your countenance and see His face reflected there.

Ladies, you are beautiful. God has declared you so, and “not one word has failed of all His good promise.” In the same way in which He made you holy, and is continuing to sanctify you, so also He has beautified you, and is continuing to make you beautiful; and “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Believe it. Live it. Grow in beauty. Bring glory to God.

Under the Mercy,

[Redacted 1] and [Redacted 2]

I Am Learning To Love Myself: Mara’s Story, Part Three

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HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Mara” is a pseudonym.

< Part Two

Part Three

His mother didn’t like me, I had a free-spirit locked inside a 40 year old woman. Every now and then my free spirit would come out and I would do things that are a little crazy (like jump in a pool at a new years party with some of the other girls — and yes, we were clothed). All of my family were late bloomers and didn’t hit puberty until 16-18 but, once we did, we all ended up having the body of swimsuit models.

Being tall, small-boned, with D+-cups and a nice butt and legs, is the worst thing that can happen to a homeschool girl.

No matter what you wear, if the wind hits right, or if the shirts too baggy can make you “immodest.”

We were on a thrift store budget and most shorts and dresses that look good on other girls look like daisy dukes and mini-dresses on us. Anyways, his mother hated my clothes, she felt I dressed too provocatively (I mean a t-shirt and fingertip length or longer shorts, or dresses). I had a figure and she hated it. I also was passionate and intelligent. I was starting to gain a little independence and her family was huge into the umbrella concept. She ran the house and hated that her son liked me and would look down her nose at me every time she saw me.

I had never been alone with anyone, and one night when we were alone, we started kissing and before the night was over we were pretty much naked. I felt so bad and so guilty, even though we hadn’t physically had sex. I felt as if I had sinned so much that there was no going back and I had to marry him. Not soon after, I lost my virginity to him. He proposed shortly after, largely due to how much pressure I was placing on him. I had grown up believing my body was my husband’s and that I should never deny him sex if he wanted it.

When we are told that, sex is your gift for your husband and you are only worth your virginity. Once you lose it, you place all your future on that person. You feel as if you have to marry him or no other man will want you. But, we finally broke it off after he told me that he thought a women was supposed to do exactly what her authority figure said, even if there was a bible verse that contradicted it.

I went through a very severe bout of depression after that. I ended up telling my mother what had happened and my mother ate it up. She loved having her little baby back. Anytime I tried to gain any sort of independence she would always bring up how much sin I had gotten in on my own. I had lost any ability to feel by this time. I started trying to date again, I was so numb and wary then, it made life difficult. Unbeknownst to me, my mother signed me up for a Christian dating website and reached out to a couple of the men on their without my knowledge eventually gifting me the website as a “present.” I tried to date one of them, but I could sense that something wasn’t quite right with him and ended up breaking it off before I was invested at all.

After that, I just really didn’t care anymore.

I thought ‘if the “good, Christian boy” hadn’t treasured me at all, why don’t I find someone on the opposite end of the spectrum?’ I also started to reason that if guys were just after sex, I would just give my body away and anyone who stayed after that might be worth getting to know. For me, I had already given away my precious jewel, so what did I have to lose just letting everyone else have it? At least then, I didn’t have to spend the time, energy, and trust vetting them out. I had started MMA and absolutely loved it, but met one of the guys from there who had little ambition in his life, smoked/dealt weed all day long, was not attractive, and had no job. So I went home with him one night, I was so numb. I remember, I just couldn’t take it and it began to hurt because I wasn’t into it so I made him stop and went home crying. I snuck into the house and didn’t tell a soul for the longest time.

A couple of months after, I met a guy at work, he worked insurance and we had been put together one day. I talked back and forth with him and he had a good personality — it was easy to talk to him and he could make me laugh. Later that week he made me a flower out of a post-it note and a paperclip and asked me on a date. He had been the first guy to ask me on a date ever without me having to manipulate them into asking. I decided I had had enough with courting and trying to find the man I was going to marry and decided to just have fun. When he picked me up, his car had the faint smell of smoke in it and I wondered if he was a smoker. He took me ice-skating, then to dinner which he ordered for me and bought the most expensive item (my first filet), and then to his house for a movie. We lay down together and started kissing, but I left before anything else happened.

I wasn’t physically attracted to him, I just was desperate to feel something — anything.

He was fun. He didn’t ask about me and he didn’t condemn any of my choices. I could just be with him, without having to divulge anything. He didn’t pressure me for sex either.

Our next date I ended up staying the night and I was always the one who initiated, I wanted to see what would happen if he could have it anytime, how he would treat me once he had gotten “ what he wanted.” On our third date he told me that he wanted to marry me, and my heart started racing, I had never had to go slower than the guy in the relationship. He had told me he had been into drugs and alcohol as a kid but had been clean for several years.

I had finally found the good medium between a “good, Christian boy” and a bad-boy — a reformed bad boy.

He started coming to church and loved the attention from our one elder. He stopped smoking and started reading the Bible. We were still spending many nights together, but I just kept that our secret. My mother would grow suspicious, but I would talk her out of those saying that I had had to work that night — she heard what she wanted to and it wasn’t hard to convince her.

After three months of dating, we went to the justice of the peace and got married, alone. I was afraid that after much more time, the church was going to find something wrong with him and forbid my dating him. By this time, the church had dwindled down to one family and 2 men and me. One of them was a single father, the other was a father of a big family who had separated from the church. They were particularly hard on men and felt that if they showed anyone the “truth” any truth and they didn’t immediately convert, they were in sin.

I went ahead and got married so that I could be under the authority of someone who didn’t try to control me – someone I could manipulate. I had gotten rather good at underhanded and submissive manipulation. My great aunt had a finished basement, complete with kitchen, so we moved in there. After being interrupted a couple of times, we decided we had to move out. He had told me he wanted a bunch of kids before we were married, but, after I miscarried our first, he changed his mind.

They sent me home with some narcotic pain medicine for the miscarriage, but I didn’t like it and only took a couple. A couple of months later, I had a migraine headache and went looking for the medication, only to find out it was completely empty. My husband made an excuse about his neck hurting and that he had had to take. Before we were married, he had told me that he had had an addiction to this same medication in the past and I questioned him about it, but he told me that I had misheard him and that hadn’t been the case. Pretty soon, he was going to several different doctors about his back and neck pain until they finally started prescribing him narcotics. Over the next couple of years, they escalated the dose until he could barely keep his eyes open, but all he said is that it wasn’t enough.

I had grown up very sheltered — I hadn’t been around an addict or drunk before.

Unless they had a bottle in their hand, I had to be told when someone was drunk. I didn’t know what a bong was, I didn’t know what a pipe was. Nursing school and the internet had taught me what sex was and I used urban dictionary to pick look up references my friends or patients made.

Soon after the heavy narcotic use, my husband lost his job and one of our cars broke down. He stayed home all day, and wouldn’t let me use the car for anything (one that had been bought with my pre-marriage savings) he would drive me places, but he would fall asleep at the wheel while driving me to work and I would have to wake him up while we were driving. I would tell him to text me when he got home, so that I would know that he had made it home alive and that he hadn’t crashed into someone else.

I would discuss my fears with a nurse I worked with who was a former addict and one day he made a joke that you know how addicted someone is if you flush their medicine down the toilet. This was brilliant, I had wanted to take all his medicines for a while, but didn’t know where to hide them were he couldn’t find them. I thought that if I could just get him sober he would see what he had done and want to stop. I flushed half of his pills down the toilet and hid the rest of them in a tampon wrapper.

When he woke up, he flew into a rage.

He started yelling at me, throwing my stuff on the floor, taking all of my credit cards and IDs, he picked me up and threw me on the bed. He sat on top me yelling “You stupid bitch! Why would you do that?” He raised his hand as if to hit me and I looked into his eyes and told him that if he was “going to hit/kill me to go ahead.” I really thought I was facing my death and I didn’t want to leave earth without him seeing the defiance in my eyes.

I wanted that image to haunt him as long as he lived.

Part Four >

Allowing the Devil to Undress You: The Slut-Shaming of a Former Homeschooler

Teresa Scanlan.
Teresa Scanlan.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator


A disgrace.

A destructive force against families.

Homeschool dropout.

A rat turd.

These are but a number of phrases used on HSLDA’s Facebook page in reference to Teresa Scanlan, a former homeschooler attending Patrick Henry College. These are not phrases used by HSLDA; in fact, HSLDA has championed Teresa as a homeschool success story. But these phrases are also not coming from anti-homeschoolers or liberal secularists.

They are coming from fans (or at least previous fans) of HSLDA.

Yesterday, HSLDA shared about Teresa’s life and homeschooling experience in light of her being crowned Miss America in 2011. It was obviously about marketing to some extent — “the secret behind the crown was homeschooling!,” HSLDA says. But it also was about celebrating a young woman with passion and drive.

But things got ugly.

Some of HSLDA’s fans were livid. In fact, if you were looking for evidence that the modesty and purity culture that exists within Christian homeschooling can lead to some truly dehumanizing and dangerous thoughts, look no further than what unfolded.

Here is HSLDA’s original post about Teresa Scanlan, and here is the link to the post on Facebook:

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The comments that some people are leaving on HSLDA’s post about Teresa are frankly alarming. They are misogynistic and dripping with body-shaming. They even are scarily reminiscent of rape culture — that women are responsible for men’s lust and are “asking for it.”


There is direct, no-holds-barred slut-shaming going on right on HSLDA’s Facebook page.

Check it out:

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Yes, you read that right. Someone is pulling their support from HSLDA because of HSLDA’s link — which was merely a link to their original radio series about Teresa. Because old men and young men might “fix their eyes” upon Teresa dressed in a rather conservative red dress (you can’t even see her shoulders!).

Now you might wonder: how is that picture immodest? Well, it isn’t. But fear not. People encouraged other people to google her in a bikini. (Does that sound a bit hypocritical? Because it is hypocritical, and also slightly creepy.)

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Not everyone on HSLDA’s page, however, was attacking Teresa. Some people tried to defend her – and then got promptly slut-shamed, too.

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Yes, if you participate in a pageant, you have caused men to commit adultery and you will be “held accountable of Judgement Day.”

The comments continue:

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Another defender, who is attacked:

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By the way, Teresa is a Christian.

Not just “a” Christian, but a conservative Christian. In fact, she points out in her radio interview with HSLDA that many of the young women that participate in pageants are actually conservative Christians:

Actually, the majority of contestants, believe it or not, are Christian conservatives, I found, in the competition. And then the judges, in my interview, they have my resume in front of them, and they saw a lot of church activities and things on there, so during my interviews, several of them actually asked me questions about my faith.

But that does not stop people from judging her relationship with God:

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It really is a train wreck. They call her a “homeschool dropout,” and attack her for wanting a career:

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They compare her to a “rat turd”:

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They do not hesitate to link to her Facebook profile (which, as we all know, will probably lead to further online bullying, harassment, and slut-shaming):

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This is not to even mention the likely hypocrisy and double standard of some people in the homeschooling community when they only think of modesty and purity in terms of women. What about men?

Were all these people up in arms when Tim Tebow went shirtless for magazines?

Or were they parading Tebow around as a homeschool superhero? Kathryn brilliantly pointed out (not on HSLDA’s page) this double standard about equally harmless actions:

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Credit must be given to those people who are defending Teresa on HSLDA’s page. This goes to show that not all homeschoolers — in fact, not all Christian homeschoolers — believe in the toxic ideas behind modesty and purity culture ideology.

I commend those people for standing up against those ideas and the people that would use those ideas to shame a young woman.

We need to push back like this. We need more homeschoolers to speak up against these ideas (and not just against the modesty and purity culture ideas). Teresa’s own experience has demonstrated that this shaming is (very sadly) nothing new to her:

When I first won, I thought, of course, that I would get criticism from the public in general about being a Christian, but it was kind of surprising to me that probably the most criticism I received was actually from conservative Christians that competing in the competition like Miss America did not line up with their morals and values.

No one deserves to be abused and harassed in this manner, regardless of their way of dress, their gender, their political or religious beliefs, or anything else. In fact, I commend HSLDA for being willing to champion a conservative Christian woman who is — through her actions — bravely overturning some of the deeply held assumptions in some conservative Christian circles. She is celebrating her beauty and her body, she is going to college, and she has high career aspirations — in fact, as HSLDA mentions in their bio of her, “her highest career goals are to run for president in 2028 or to be nominated to the Supreme Court.”

She also hopes to educate people about eating disorders.

She has expressed a desire to “educate children and adults alike as to the signs and risks of eating disorders, as well as how and where to get help for themselves or a loved one.”

More power to her.