A little while ago, I read an article entitled "For College-Age Mormons, Sexual Violence Is a Religious Problem" (I'm not going to include a link out of spite). Despite it being a stupid article that looked for the sensational story more than it looked for the objective and accurate one, it did make me think. And what better place to put my thoughts than here?
The main assertion/accusation from the article:
"In the Mormon community, teenage boys and girls are taught that preventing sexual violence is a woman’s responsibility. To preserve the morality of men, a woman must closely monitor how she dresses and speaks and acts."
There are two different sub-assertions within this assertion. First, that (the victims) girls are taught that it is their responsibility to prevent sexual violence.
Is that true?
Well I honestly don't know. Its embarrassing to admit, but I have not attended that many relief society or young women lessons (although not for lack of trying haha). Although its hard for me to imagine that it is common practice to tell our women folk that its their fault if they get assaulted and they better be righteous or else the bogey sexual assault man will get them (at the same time, I wouldn't put it past an overzealous young women's leader somewhere from trying to use that scare tactic).
Then there is the whole modesty issue. I can see how women could interpret it to mean that they are responsible for a guy's libido. "You should to dress modestly, to help men avoid temptation", but everyone knows or should know that would be a secondary reason to dress modestly.
Just for the record, I think everyone should make their own choices on what they wear and I do not condemn anyone for being modest or not modest or whatever. But at the same time, being modest absolutely helps men avoid temptation. When I first arrived at BYU from outside Mormondom, I was astonished how modest the girls were and how much that really did help me keep "pure thoughts". So there's that...
Now are boys (the perpetrators) taught that it's the girls responsibility to prevent sexual violence/sexual sinning?
Heck no. We are taught it is our fault. Its always that we are responsible for everything and that we are the ones that will screw everything up and that we need to be better. Never once are we given anyone else to blame. Girls can help by being modest, but our actions are 100% our responsibility. So regardless if girls (the victims) are stretching logic and interpreting their helping us out by being modest as they are responsible for everything, the male (the supposed perpetrators doing all the bad stuff this article is complaining about) are absolutely not taught that and no guy I know has that mindset. Maybe a few sick crazies somewhere have sick crazy logic, but the vast majority do not. No sane guy would think, "oh girls are encouraged to be modest, so its their fault if I sexually assault her" That would be insane. (Let's be honest, modesty is about clothing, and what guy is thinking about clothing that much?)
Interestingly enough, I do think I was taught that girls are inherently more righteous than boys and therefore I assumed that they would be more vigilant when it came to putting on the brakes with physical relations. "AVOID THE HORIZONTAL HAZARDS!", I was told. I was actually surprised that often I had to be the one making sure things didn't get out of hand (or was I making sure things didn't get in hand? hmmm....)
To back up the assertion/accusation, the author of the article interviewed a very very representative sample of the BYU student population, also known as the students in BYU's Young Mormon Feminists group (The most representative of all BYU student groups). Many (or maybe just 3) had stories of boyfriends getting too frisky. One even said she was felt up one night and just laid there, without saying a word. Let's be clear, that is horrible what happened to her and the guy is to blame, but if you've been taught its your responsibility to keep men pure, why did you just lay there not moving or saying a word? If you really believe its your responsibility, you did a crappy job of fulfilling your perceived responsibility.
Sexual assault is a horrible and real problem, but if what my non-mormon friends tell me is true, then the frequency and intensity of the problem is so much greater at other universities. I've had non-mormon female friends telling me how crazy respectful LDS guys are compared to the other guys at their schools who expect to have sex after the first or second date and are often very aggressive about getting it. So the same religion and culture that's causing men to blame women for sexual assaults, is also causing men to be super respectful and not sexually aggressive? Riddle me that.
In my opinion, blaming the LDS religion for the sexual assaults would be almost as stupid as guys blaming women for the sexual assaults.
But I would love to hear some female thoughts on the matter.