On Elizabeth Smart, Sex and Worth: People Are Not Gum

I cannot believe, in 2013, that this statement needs to be made.

People are not gum.

People do not get used up from sex. People are not like chewed pieces of Trident or like dirty toothbrushes because they’ve had sex.

Elizabeth Smart, a formidable and courageous young woman, who was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in 2002 (and who was found, recognized and rescued in 2003), has formed a foundation to educate children on sexual crimes. She also now promotes comprehensive sex education.

She was widely asked, “Why didn’t you run away?”, a question I can only fathom was asked out of some kind of magical thinking that “that would NEVER happen to me!” and ignorance of the Stockholm effect, instead of real empathy for her (or other survivors).

In this article at Think Progress, she states an emphatic “why” to that question-because her education on sex indicated that once she was raped, she was now worthless.

Elizabeth Smart: Abstinence Education Teaches Rape Victims They're Worthless, Dirty, And Filthy | ThinkProgress.

“Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”
Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.
“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 no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”

Abstinence Only education is an abomination and it clearly doesn’t work as indicated by the high rate of pregnancy in my home state. And given our State’s desire to limit access to comprehensive health care for teens and women, it will increase.

Comparing one’s sexuality to dirty gum or to used toothbrushes, as Shelby Knox once shared about her own sex education in Lubbock, is immoral, unethical, and just plain stupid.

First of all, our genitals are not gum. Nor are they toothbrushes. They are parts of our bodies that don’t wear out with use, just like our mouths don’t wear out from different foods, or our hands from different tools. The genitals are hardy parts of us, designed, well…for use. Like all the rest of our parts.

Secondly, the emphasis on “cleanliness” and “purity” generally seems to focus on women and virginity (as monitored by males in the family) and not on boys. Why else would there be purity balls and promise rings for girls, but not boys? Can you imagine a purity ball in which a young man pledges himself to his mother until he meets his future wife?

Men are still taught that getting sex is key to maleness, even as women are taught not to “give” it away, lest they be compared to chewed up gum.

Finally, this view of sex is barbaric and horrifying, and is as old fashioned as the religions and property laws it stems from. Sex is pleasure, it’s communication, it’s personal and private to individuals and the partners they get to choose. We are not mindless pieces of plastic that get dirty, we are complex human beings that improve with experience and knowledge.

The worth of a woman isn’t determined by how untouched her sexual organs are, but by her actions and her courage.

In which case, surviving a horrible assault and now doing the important work of reaching out to families, children, and educators in support of comprehensive sexual education (not to mention doing this in a climate where politicians and religious leaders push back on all fronts to keep our kids in the dark and believing such falsities), I’d say Elizabeth Smart is one of the most worthwhile and worthy people I’ve ever heard of.

If you agree, get involved here.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “On Elizabeth Smart, Sex and Worth: People Are Not Gum

  1. That poor girl. We’re really not doing our daughters any favors by victimizing them twice – first with the assault, then by making them feel like they’re worthless because they were assaulted. I’ve been amazed by how well she handled this whole thing, and continue to be. She’s one brave young woman, and I can’t wait to see what she does with her life.

  2. Pingback: Signal Boost: Lindy West’s “Female ‘Purity’ Is Bullshit” | Julie Gillis

  3. druidwinter

    Reblogged this on winterdominatrix.

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