My Experience Being Shamed for Existing:
At least four of my Mormon bishops on different occasions taught me the following: “When a man reaches a certain level of arousal, he has no choice but to continue.” Essentially, if I am attractive to someone, it is my fault for tempting them, and I am then obligated to allow them to use me to alleviate their sexual tension.
I wish mine were isolated experiences, but this is such a common sentiment that it made Sam Young’s list of 29 sexually explicit questions asked in bishop’s interviews with youth. Thousands of Mormon children are subjected to these invasive and inappropriate lines of questioning, and shamed for their sexuality. Particularly as a woman, I was degraded not only for my own natural feelings, but also the impulses of the men I associated with.
Shame I Witnessed (and Contributed To):
The worst thing that happened in my ward growing up was something I witnessed happening to my friends. I regret that I cheered this abuse on, and I wish I could go back and stand up for these girls instead. Apparently several people in the ward reported that some of the 14-15 year old girls were wearing clothing that they considered inappropriate. Essentially, men were staring at and being aroused by underage girls. Rather than shaming those men and telling them they needed to either wear a blindfold or not be anywhere near children, the leaders of the girls’ class came up with a plan. She told the girls that every week, she would evaluate their outfits and tell them if they were “modest” enough. If they weren’t, she would call them out in front of the entire class and tell them exactly what was wrong with their clothing. And just to be clear, they were told this was because men in the ward had noticed their bodies.
To my friends this happened to, I am so sorry that I betrayed you by supporting this leader and the ward at large. I should have made you boycott church with me every week until those men were told to leave us girls alone. You were not safe in that ward. Not only was I, your purported best friend, not helping you to be safe, but I was on the side of those threatening you. I can say I didn’t know better and that I was taught to think that way, but that doesn’t change the way you were treated. I am so sorry. I should have protected you.
To the people who did this or to those who do things like it: STOP IT. Stop shaming girls for their attire. Stop inferring that their bodies are bad. Stop teaching women than they are sex objects that if not properly controlled will lead to the destruction of men. Empower them to say no and support them in calling out those who degrade them for existing.