Amanda and Jill have already tackled the high level of casual sexism in Integrity vs. Purity Balls. I noticed something else, related to another recent criticism of abstinence fetishes, namely the tendency to elide active consent and therefore to obscure the problem of date and acquaintance rape.
Traditionally, rape has been a very difficult crime to commit. This is not because women have been protected from violation, or granted dignity in the eyes of society such that their sexual consent was seen as important. It’s because rape was defined not as a particularly horrific kind of assault against another human being, but rather as damage to an elusive yet precious kind of male property: female chastity. A man had the right to an exclusive wife, and a father had the right to marry off a virginal daughter. If you raped a woman, you turned her into damaged goods. You were a vandal.
If a woman was not chaste, she could not be raped. If her value was as a different kind of chattel, she could not be raped. If acknowledging her rape amounted to an insult to the dignity of the men in charge of her, then that rape could not have occurred. And if her rape occurred at the hands of the man or men in charge of her, then it was frequently a contradiction in terms.
The color of a woman’s skin, her class, her independence, her dependence, her origin, her age, her profession, her clothing, her marital status, her sexual history, her rumored sexual history, her presumed sexual history, her mental health, her presumed mental health, any disability she might have, her criminal record, her status as a ward of the state for any reason, her freedom: the potential exemptions from chastity and therefore rape were legion. Most women were either categorically or arguably incapable of being raped, and even those women who were not could only be raped by certain men.
Best of all, any woman careless enough to get herself raped stood a good chance of rendering herself not merely unrapeable in future but retroactively unrapeable. Placing oneself in circumstances conducive to rape was often evidence that a woman would never not consent to sex, and often an indication that her ability to be a victim of rape was challenged in many of the ways mentioned above.
It is only in the past few decades that rape laws in this country have been reformed to emphasize a woman’s refusal and deemphasize her chastity. It is only very recently that the crime has been changed from damage of female property via the wanton destruction of chastity into a form of battery. Even now, legal and practical definitions of rape often exclude the horrific assaults that happen to certain kinds of women under certain circumstances.
So. Let’s take another look at what the Integrity Balls are teaching young men about young women:
Baker told the young men that the women they had come with, their mothers, were somebody’s daughters, and they meant the world to those parents. He further told them that when they date a girl, she is somebody’s daughter, and they care deeply for her.
Baker also told them that while they might not believe it at the time, the girl they may date in high school is probably not going to be the one they will marry. “So you’re dating someone else’s future wife,” he told them. He also told them that someone else may be dating their future wife.
“If you knew somebody was with your future wife,” Baker asked them, “touching her in ways you wouldn’t like, pressuring her, how would that make you feel?”
Jill pointed out that this casts the woman as a kind of property to be passed from developer father through trustee boyfriend to beneficiary husband. But look whose consent is being violated here. Look who’s being injured, and look what the injury is. Is it wrong to “pressure” a young woman because she might end up coerced into sex that she doesn’t want to have? Apparently not. It’s wrong to damage property. The dismissal is already there. The implications this has for the idea of women as people, period, are horrendous, but I don’t want idiots like this:
How you get that out of an event designed from start to finish to instill respect for women is beyond me.
to be allowed to forget how weak this boundary is when it comes to protecting women. It offers nothing, and never has. Once a woman is defined as an object, she is deprived of the only solid foundation for any respect for her safety or happiness. Once it is permissible for anyone to ignore her wishes, she ceases to have rights. Property is property: perishable, replaceable, salable. Traditional attitudes towards women and chastity condoned rape by definition. It’s downright criminal to revive them, and downright perverse to describe them as respectful.