The Honor of a Woman

The legislators of the United States, who have mitigated almost all the penalties of criminal law, still make rape a capital offense, and no crime is visited with more inexorable severity by public opinion. This may be accounted for; as the Americans can conceive nothing more precious than a woman's honor and nothing which ought so much to be respected as her independence, they hold that no punishment is too severe for the man who deprives her of them against her will. In France, where the same offense is visited with far milder penalties, it is frequently difficult to get a verdict from a jury against the prisoner. Is this a consequence of contempt of decency or contempt of women? I cannot but believe that it is a contempt of both.
--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

In writing about the Timken High School pregnancy epidemic yesterday, I got to thinking about issues related specifically to what we teach and impart to young women in our society.

When Alexis de Tocqueville examined our democracy in the 1880s, he paid special attention to the way women were treated and the way they behaved as an indicator of the success of our democracy.

Conflicting Messages
Here's what women hear from people in authority, from the media and in the schools:
  • There is no difference between you and men.
  • Men are dogs.
  • Don't repress your sexuality. Be free to experiment. (Planned Parenthood)
  • Do whatever feels good now.
  • Whatever you do, make sure that you are independent. That way, in case your man leaves you, you don't need him.
  • It doesn't matter what you look like; it's what's inside that matters.
  • If you want to be popular and successful, this is what you need to look like: an airbrushed model.
  • Your role models: anyone besides women who choose to stay home with their children.
  • Songs that empower you: "Independent Woman," "Payback," "Since You've
    Been Gone" and "Complicated."

I could go on. But, I'll spare you...for now. One thing is clear about the message preached to women today: it's mixed and not clear at all. Add to that the crisis in the modern day family, and it's actually a miracle that more teenage girls are not addicted to drugs, attempting suicide and getting pregnant. The concept of honor, noted by de Tocqueville, has vanished.

I believe that as women are valued and taught to appreciate their own worth in the eyes of God, teen pregnancy wouldn't be an issue because teen sexuality wouldn't be one. Regardless of how boys behaved, girls would have the final say. As 'bad' as boys may be, there would be no epidemic of teen pregnancy if girls simply told the boys that their bodies were reserved for their husbands. There would be no need for teaching parenting to teens if girls had such a sense of purpose for their lives that they didn't give the little hormonal boys the time of day.

Honor would be restored to women, to men and to the nation.

De Tocqueville was the same man who said that "America is great because America is good. And, if America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." I wonder what he'd say today, both about our 'goodness' and about our women.


At 8/25/2005 12:33:00 PM, Anonymous Clayton Bell said...

Don't you mean our "goddess", not our "goodness"?

At 8/25/2005 04:07:00 PM, Blogger void said...

I believe each of us finds our own worth through our creator.

Your post are always so thoughtful. Hmmmm.

At 8/25/2005 04:28:00 PM, Blogger shelbymiddleton said...

The arguement of abstinence vs contraceptive education in schools: My, do we get heated. And rightly so, it's important. Here's my issue, we get so upset at legislation because we say "you can't legislate morality" but the ONLY thing law legislates IS morality. So when we make the arguement that you can't push your opinion on someone else's value system in the world of education, specifically sex ed, aren't we legislating morality AND depriving our young people the opportunity to see a better way? I think it's a far greater offense to stiffle a voice that speaks out that wants to offer teen's a moral option that would be good for them. They are ALL moral options-liberals and conservatives. Why is it that the opinion that wins out is supposedly right one because they say it lets you choose. That's bs, they are choosing FOR you. Where is the freedom there?

At 8/25/2005 04:29:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Lores, seriously, and with all due respect, can you possibly believe that human beings (male or female) can control one of the strongest biological drives we have? I mean, after eating, sleeping, drinking (water!), comes sex.

If the actual goal -- the ethical imperative -- the desired end is strictly a precipitous drop in teen pregnancy (and abortion, which is obviously related), why aren't you writing an equally eloquent post about how birth control should be widely and cheaply (if not freely) available, given the reality that abstinence simply risks far too much?

Would be interested to hear what everyone has to say about this...I know what Jamie thinks already! :)

At 8/25/2005 05:07:00 PM, Blogger shelbymiddleton said...

That is what I was commenting on. When I was in college, condoms were freely given away to any passerby on campus in the name of promoting safe sex. However, all that does is make date rape more accessible, im sorry, but its true. I have a fresh perspective, trust me. Even for the few who are responsible, NO ONE ever told them in their younger years (high school) how to treat the opposite sex and what self respect even means, much less how to act responsibly. If you think that sex is uncontrollable in humanity, then why isn't food and water free too since those are also natural drives you mention? Sex isn't bad, that's not what i mean, but why can't we practice self control? we have to use self control when we do many things, like eating so we don't get fat. I'm interested to know why you think abstinence risks too much? I would agree that abstinence ONLY and without counseling and guidance is a great risk.

At 8/25/2005 05:49:00 PM, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

Yes, Doug and I found some common ground awhile back in our discussions elsewhere.
I am fully in support of providing condoms for young people who reject abstinence and who choose to engage in sex. Why do I support this? Because my true goal is to drastically reduce those horrendously high abortion numbers and to stop the spread of STD's. Teach kids who choose to have sex how vitally important it is is use a condom. Their lives and futures depend on it.
FIRST, I would call for sex ed that teaches abstinence as the BEST choice, not a choice to be laughed away and not taken seriously. Sex is not a frivolous matter. For women especially, it holds deep power and can cause a lifetime of hurt if engaged in casually, without thought or real care.
Second, I would teach the importance of safe sex for those unwilling to choose abstinence.
I may not relish the idea of condoms being handed out in our high schools, but I'm not an uncompromising conservative. When I see a way to reach the goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies (and therefore abortions) I support it.

At 8/25/2005 06:04:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

I do think that food and water should be, if not free, certainly as widely distributed as possible. I'm sure the many Christian charities who work in the field against hunger would agree, no?

From what I've read, abstinence just doesn't accomplish the goal it purports to. Include it in a full sex-ed class, sure, but we all know that the point here is to legislate a certain kind of morality that I, for one, find anti-human.

I find nothing wrong with teenagers having consenting sex. Nothing at all.

As for your date rape point, can you point me to a study where this is shown? In any event, condoms don't cause date rape, people do. Right? I'm just quoting the NRA's mantra, with the terms substituted.

Self control is very much important; no argument there. I just don't see how controlling something that isn't necessarily a bad thing (wasn't for me -- or for my girlfriend at the time!) is required...unless, of course, there is some other cultural desire or moral imperative that is actually more important than the purported need to prevent teen pregnancies/abortion.

So, what's more important? Fewer unwanted teen pregnancies and fewer abortions, by whatever means that will actually work, or legislating one group's sexual morality?

At 8/25/2005 06:08:00 PM, Anonymous KO said...

Doug, human beings CAN control themselves. We do it everyday in every area of life. When the goal or priority is high enough, we do what needs to be done. Self-government, self-control- it's been around for a long time. I too would like to know what you think is the great risk in abstinence?

At 8/25/2005 07:44:00 PM, Blogger shelbymiddleton said...

Doug- I just play out circumstances to their natural conclusions. People act on their emotions and their hormones too many times instead of good character. Unfortunately, you rarely learn how to be a good person in high school. I am in agreement with you on finding whatever means necessary to eradicate the problem, and i don't think that only one agenda should be legislated. But, I do think there is a better way. My point was that usually only the leftist opinion is the one that is seen as the open-minded one. And to that I disagree.
Yes-people, not condoms, commit the crime. But would i give a child a box of matches if i knew they could potentially hurt themself? Granted, college students and dare i say high school students should be old enough to make sensical decisions, but obviously they aren't due to the glaring statistics. I think there is a place in the middle, where, like Jamie said, abstinence is shown as the best way, and those who reject it can at least be informed of the dangers and precautions out there.
As for free food and water :) i think it's great to provide it to those who cannot provide it for themselves, but if i have a dollar, I'll gladly support the vendor i'm buying from. But I think I understand the point you are making.
No, i don't have any numbers to give you concerning my date rape comment, i can only offer all the experiences i had in college and all the conversations i overheard and the friends who were date raped. It's unexcusable behavoir, and as i woman, i take it very personally. way more personally that charts and graphs that can give me "evidence".
So in conclusion, I agree and disagree. Yes, let's have a "whatever it takes" attitude towards the problem, but there is a fine line between helping protect young people, and then actually endorsing the very behavoir (and therefore the results) we are fighting. We need strategy.

At 8/25/2005 08:38:00 PM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

The problem with abstinence is the way it's perceived and discussed by educators. When it's presented as a realistic, viable option (because it is), you'd be surprised by the way teenagers receive the message.

If it were dangerous and unrealistic, then there wouldn't be living examples of people who aren't having sex outside of marriage. Not because they can't get any but because they choose to live by a set a values and principles. And in this case, a set of principles that set a sacred worth on their lives, including their bodies.

During my years as a high school teacher, I always took some time to talk about abstinence. And, I have continued to speak to teenagers since leaving teaching. You would be amazed at the reaction of the guys and girls alike.

When presented the right way, teens (and adults) will strive to live a life of honoring both themselves, their peers and their future mates in this way.

At 8/25/2005 09:04:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Hi, ko:

I agreed that not only can humans control themselves, they should. Control what, is the question. I don't see that consenting humans should control their consensual sexual urges, regardless of genders involved, and assuming a certain level of responsibility due to age.

I mean, if we can execute teenagers, based on "personal responsibility," surely we can let them have sex!

Absolutely, sex is a complex topic, but your using a child playing with matches kind of uncovers two underlying assumptions: teenagers are children and sex can lead to things like out of control fires.

Now, unprotected sex can lead to all kinds of medical issues. Guilt-ridden sex can lead to all knids of psychological issues. Thus, I think freely available (or nearly so) contraception and HIV-prevention, with a breakdown of Puritanical notions of guilt over sex, would minimize not only the medical and psychological issues noted above, but also unwanted pregnancies -- and abortions!

So, the risk of abstinence is the unstated assumption that your sexual urges are somehow bad, the ethical view that sex must be reserved for marriage, and the guilt that follows if and when you can't or don't want to follow those -- to me -- inhuman guidelines.

shelby: you assume that acting on one's hormones (having sex) is somehow incompatible with "good character." I think that's my point: I don't see, nor have I experienced, any necessary equation like that. You even use the word "crime" when making your matches/sex analogy.

As for date rape -- don't misunderstand me: it's real and it's awful. What that has to do with sex, per se, is beyond me -- rape, in all its forms, is an expression of violence, using sex as the weapon of choice. I'm happy to see an acceptance of the term "date rape" on a conservative blog; I've heard far too many supposed rightwingers dismiss that as "political correctness."

lores: what people say about what they do, sexually, and what they actually do are and have two sets the relationship between which is, at best, varied! LOL

However, thanks for all the comments!

Now, assuming you're all free-marketers, is the constant saturation of our kids with impossible body-image and youth-freezing standards of beauty OK, because the market demands it? Or would you be willing to curtail some of the market? How about the bombardment of our children (I don't have any; just nieces and nephews) with tens of thousands of hours of commercials from companies pushing high-fat, high-sugar foods which have led to an epidemic of child obesity that unquestionably harms them medically? What to do about that?

Later, all! Thanks for being so engaging. Feel free to come to cyberpols if you like -- not an "advertisement," just an invitation. Feel free not to as well; I'm just extending hospitality, is all.

At 8/25/2005 09:05:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Oops: Meant, "...what that [date rape] has to do with sex education is beyond me..."

At 8/26/2005 12:19:00 AM, Anonymous KO said...

"assuming a certain level of responsibility due to age."

That's one of the problems right there. Who is doing the assuming and at what age? Many would be shocked at what Planned Parenthood is informing 10 year olds about, apparently trying to make them responsible. The school system is also deciding what kids are informed of, much information that can be inaccurate. If correct information and statistics were taught, at appropriate age levels regarding pregnancy, STDs, HIV, not to mention the emotional toll a sexual relationship or encounter will bring, I don't think we'd have some of the problems we currently have among our teens.

The parents should be the ones to educate and inform their children, and unfortunately this probably isn't happening, at least not effectively. The success of how well our schools, parents, and other organizations are doing at this are dismally shown in the stats of STDs, teen pregancies and abortions.

Doug, you mentioned the Puritanical guilt that is to blame. Perhaps. Whether approaching this subject from a religious standpoint or not, we should approach this subject to our kids (I mean that in a general sense- the nation's kids) from a standpoint of what is wisdom. There is a time to control urges, sexual and otherwise, not becuase the urge itself is wrong or evil, but because acting on it, with a consenting other or not, would not be wise. It would have repurcussions that far outweigh any right to give into such urges or natural inclinations.

At 8/26/2005 02:45:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

I can't even comment on that asinine statment that there's nothing wrong with teens having consensual sex.

At 8/26/2005 04:32:00 AM, Blogger William said...

Unfortunately, many of us have reduced the sexual experience into a seemingly mundane activity such as eating or using the bathroom. Yet, to compare the sexual experience with such daily events is to assume that sex is a necessity that cannot be controlled. Whether ethically the experience is right or wrong is unimportant at this point. But logically it would seem to me that the experience is so much more.

Associating the sexual experience with our daily activiies demotes it to a simply animalistic impulse which would go hand in hand with natural selection. However, if we really believed that we were victims of natural selection, then we would attempt to copulate soley for the purpose of reproduction. That is rarely the case. To me, it seems that those who would adhere to such a theory are simply too immature to admit that our desires are subject to the individual resulting in men... (excuse me) boys who are void of responsibilty.

At 8/26/2005 02:49:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

First, lores -- how did you get the word verification thingy? I and other bloggers have been having similar problems with ads.

OK, I had consensual sex with my girlfriend at 15 (she was 15, too). We stayed together for five years, and are still in touch. It was a good relationship, and I can't see what was wrong with that. That one's for Mark.

I learned all about sex (with much misinformation) by the time I was seven -- in Framingham, MA. I see no reason at all not to educate 10-year-olds about the biology of sex. It's a basic human function. Don't assume they won't "learn" about it in the schoolyard, locker room, or from TV.

Given the seriousness of HIV/AIDS, I think it would be immoral NOT to teach kids about sex before they are able to have it. Why risk it? My sex ed classes in Connecticut were perfectly fine, and I don't remember anyone encouraging me to have sex. Our biology will do that for us; if you want to resist it, go ahead. If you want to tell your kids that sex is wrong unless you're married, go ahead. Who's stopping you? Why are you more worried about the public schools than the free-market-fueled media?

People have had sex and will continue. My first prioirity is to give them the knowledge and means to protect themselves from STDs and unwanted pregnancy. Second would be a conversation about the psychological impact, both good and bad, potentially, of sexual relationships.

tengo: 1. Women are as sexually active and curious and enthusiastic as men. That's certainly been my experience. 2. Of course we don't just have sex to procreate. But natural selection has "made" (natural selection is a blind "force," of course) it quite fun, for obvious reasons. I see no reason not to take advantage of something that can give mutual pleasure and increase mutual intimacy, given the nasty things like aging, disease, and death, which are also part of the human condition.

Sex is an animalistic impulse -- if done right! We are animals, after all. LOL

Sex is obviously fraught with cultural issues -- and those are the ones I'm trying to highlight here. There is nothing to feel guilty about; it's perfectly natural, and as long as you're as nice and kind while having sex with a person as you are when having any other kind of interaction with a person, I see no necessary problem.

I find it amusing that you amend "men" to "boys" -- so, only immature men want to have sex? Not my experience. I'm 35, by the way -- soon to be 36. Too soon!

Have a good one, all.

At 8/26/2005 02:51:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

I note no one attempted to answer these questions...

"Now, assuming you're all free-marketers, is the constant saturation of our kids with impossible body-image and youth-freezing standards of beauty OK, because the market demands it? Or would you be willing to curtail some of the market? How about the bombardment of our children (I don't have any; just nieces and nephews) with tens of thousands of hours of commercials from companies pushing high-fat, high-sugar foods which have led to an epidemic of child obesity that unquestionably harms them medically? What to do about that?"

At 8/26/2005 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Hey, Lores:

Found the word-verification thingy. Just went to Blogger's homepage -- duh!

Sorry to have bugged you unnecessarily. :)


At 8/26/2005 06:45:00 PM, Anonymous nicole said...

So interesting to read these comments. The fact is that most teens aren't driven by some instinctive genetic predisposition to be sexually active, they are "encouraged" to be.They are encouraged to take their natural curosity about their changing bodies and turn it into out-of-contol desire. I can still remember how I was "encouraged" by a practically cheering mob to lock lips with a guy I had a crush on. The truth of the matter, when we were eyeball to eyeball I was a little "grossed-out" (I know, I'm dating myself by using this term , but it's the truth). I thought,
"I 'm not too sure exchanging salvia with this dude is what I had in mind.." I can tell you the rest of the gory details some other time, but it wasn't pretty. I was certainly encouraged by friends, movies, shows, and books to go further. Interesting enough I never really did. My mom and dad influenced me to be more concerned with my future than having babies - yes, good old fashion abstinence ruled the day at my house. (or was it the threat of homocide; I can't remember. But to my dad's credit, he shared his own experiences of growing up in a home where men came and went, and the pain on a grown man's face is what made me decide to live without becoming sexually actively until I just happen to get married - I was comtempting a career in social work at the time. Listen abstinence works. No story of sainthood here, just facts.

At 8/27/2005 06:47:00 AM, Blogger Lores Rizkalla said...

doug, my friend, with all due respect the reason that question was not answered is because it was irrelevant to the topic at hand.

one other thing, it seems that you have a difficult time grasping the reality that real people are really living out the abstinenced lifestyle. perhaps it's easier for you to wink and LOL your way out of the reality than it is to engage the discussion. or, could it be that you are so dogmatic about your own values and lifestyle that you're not open to accepting diverse perspectives on this issue. hmmm.

i think it's interesting that conservatives are so often labeled close-minded. but, so often its mere projection.

all for the sake of debate, my friend!

At 8/28/2005 02:29:00 AM, Blogger Doug said...

Hi, lores:

I think that it's related -- the free-market-media saturation. We were talking, I had thought, about the safety of children.

But, fine, forget about fast food and other dangers -- I mean, do you really think that kids are being encouraged to have sex in schools, or by the surrounding cultural imagery, if they're being "encouraged" exogeneously at all? If the surrounding market-driven culture is to blame, then the free market would need to be curtailed somewhat, no?

I think that's germane.

As for closed-mindedness, I wrote:

"My sex ed classes in Connecticut were perfectly fine, and I don't remember anyone encouraging me to have sex. Our biology will do that for us; if you want to resist it, go ahead. If you want to tell your kids that sex is wrong unless you're married, go ahead. Who's stopping you? Why are you more worried about the public schools than the free-market-fueled media?"

That is germane and on-topic, as well as not at all indicative of me foisting my personal sexual ethics on you or anyone else. I do think that the actual physical, potentially life-threatening dangers of sex require any moral person to teach about condoms, spermicides, etc. Furthermore, for a group concerned about abortions and teen pregnancy, I should think that "both/and" would be the prudent, logical step -- both abstinence and sex education of the usual kind.

In my sex ed class, it was stated, as was obvious, that the only way to avoid STDs and pregnancy completely is to avoid sex completely. However, if that doesn't occur, here's what you need to know to protect yourself, physically, and even emotionally. Choice -- isn't that the conservative mantra?

Now, as for the actual efficacy of abstinence programs, I would think that you would all be interested in a scientific determination, no?

Check out this: and, as they say, follow the footnotes to check it out for yourself.

And from that wild-eyed unscientific group, the American Psychological Association.

By all means, if anyone has actual research from reputable sources that counter these conclusions, please post them.

That's the thing about science: it is a social, collective enterprise that corrects individual biases. Yours or mine.

At 8/28/2005 02:30:00 AM, Blogger Doug said...

Correction: I mean to speak about the efficacy of abstinence-only programs. The kind the Bush admin is pushing. Hard.

At 8/28/2005 02:33:00 AM, Blogger Doug said...

In case you don't follow the footnotes, as I did, profitably, with layman's claim in a previous string: here's a real-science article from the British Medical Journal.


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