Chewed Gum, Boards, and a Licked Cupcakes
I’ve been fascinated with Elizabeth Smart since I first heard about her kidnapping. I’m roughly the same age as her, we share a common faith, and I have a really soft spot in my heart for women who have been kidnapped, raped, and despite all odds turn out alright.
Smart recently spoke at a John Hopkins forum on Human trafficking about her experience and why she didn’t run away when she had a chance. She said,
I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued?
I’ve heard all sorts of objects lessons about purity and virtue. I’ve heard the chewed gum analogy relating men and women to pieces of gum and if they have sex before they’re married then they turn into a piece of chewed gum, who wants to have a piece of chewed gum?
Or the board analogy, if you “lose your virtue” you are like a board with nails in it. When you repent those nails are taken out again, but the scars still remain.
Or, perhaps the grossest one, the cupcake. Again, a person has premarital sex is related to a cupcake that has all of the frosting licked off. Nobody wants a cupcake that has been licked by someone else.
I struggle to even know where to begin with these analogies. First of all, I’ve only been taught one of these directly. It also only happened once. I don’t remember getting the purity lesson often in my young men’s classes. I’m sure we got it, but when it was taught there were no such analogies. I heard about all of these from women, most of them had heard every single one of these analogies more than once. They have purity and virtue beaten into them on a frequent basis.
The main problem with these analogies is that sexual purity is not something that is taken away. It is not forcibly taken. Someone does not pound a nail or lick a cupcake or chew the gum. It is something shared. It is something voluntarily given.
Elizabeth Smart was still sexually pure. She was raped and did nothing wrong. This rhetoric has become lost in the church. We are afraid to talk about rape because it is scary or because maybe there are those that believe that if one is raped they lose their virtue. I’m not entirely sure.
The fact of the matter is that men and women who are raped, men and women who are molested, men and women who in any way are forced into any type of “sin” are still pure. They are still clean.
To say otherwise will ruin anyone who has been raped. It denies the agency that God has given us. It frustrates the fundamental core of the Atonement.
As a church we need to talk openly about sexual purity to both men and women. We need to emphasize that rape is horrible and that those who have been raped are not at fault.
This will encourage them to speak up and talk about their attack and seek help. Then, and only then, will real healing occur.
- Traditional Mormon Sexual Purity Lesson Contributed to Captivity, Elizabeth Smart Tells University Audience (religiondispatches.org)
- Elizabeth Smart speaks on human trafficking (csmonitor.com)
- Ways NOT to teach about chastity (the-exponant.com)
- Dear Church Leaders, FIX THIS NOW (bycommonconsent.com)