PODCAST: Echoes of Menstruation? Really, Focus on the Family?

by | Mar 24, 2022 | Podcasts | 51 comments

Echoes of Menstruation Podcast Turning Red

So apparently preteen girls’ cramps and pads are sexual, according to Focus on the Family.

We have a little bit of a detour today because something blew up last week that I just had to address!

Rebecca noticed that in Focus on the Family’s PluggedIn movie review for Turning Red, they had put references to menstruation under “sexual content”, including cramps and pads. And they warned that some people may hear an “echo of menstruation” in the title of the film.

I posted about this on Twitter, Facebook, and instagram, and it blew up–and Focus on the Family actually amended their review! It’s not perfect, but it’s a start–and it’s the first time they’ve ever listened to me. So I’ll take that as a win (although I wish they’d listened to me about Love & Respect).

Today, we decided to share about why we thought this whole thing was inappropriate and shaming.

(Please note: This podcast is NOT about the movie Turning Red. We haven’t seen it; we have no plans to see it (we’re not the target audience). So this isn’t an endorsement or it, nor is it a critique of it. We merely want to talk about how Focus on the Family talks about periods!)

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

 

And you really should watch, if just for Rebecca’s beat poetry! Just check out the timestamps.

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 Periods are sexy, apparently.
7:19 Rebecca’s “Echoes of Menstruation” Beat Poetry
9:10 Interview with Kyle Howard
35:20 Rebecca breaks down ‘othering’
44:30 Private vs Secret
48:00 Your kids deserve the whole story
56:30 Keith weighs in

Main Segment: Why Does Focus on the Family Consider Preteen Girls’ Cramps and Pads “Sexual”?

Originally I talked about this on Instagram and Twitter, with these updates: 

Here was the original review that we were referring to. Note how the warning about menstruation comes under “sexual content”, and is flanked by paragraphs that are about relationships and fantasy and what we would more likely consider normal sexual content. 

Focus on the Family Turning Red Review

After the uproar, they did amend their review, to add a different introduction to the topic, and for that I’m glad:

Focus on the Family Turning Red Amended Review

But it should not have been done in the first place.

In today’s podcast, we bring on Kyle Howard, who participated in the Twitter thread quite a bit and agreed that the problem is that it’s inviting people to sexualize little girls’ bodies simply because they are now having periods. Kyle is a soul-care provider, abuse advocate, and racial trauma specialist, and he’s a great follow on Twitter! 

We talked about how language has changed, and just because something has to do with the reproductive system does not mean it is sexual. For instance, in the review, they make reference to cleaning the labia as being sexual. But baby girls have labia too.

There’s a huge issue in the church with ascribing sexual motives to girls simply because they’ve reached puberty, or now have breasts. We assume they’re trying to flaunt their bodies when they’re merely getting busty. We assume that they’re trying to entice or be stumbling blocks when they’re merely attractive. And we should never invite others to see preteen and young teen girls as “sexual”.

We should also not make menstruation so taboo, that it needs to be “hush hush”.

We reiterated throughout the podcast that we would have had no problem if they had put the menstruation warning under “other” topics, or under “parental guidance”, because parents may want a heads up about this, and that’s fine. But it shouldn’t have been labelled sexual. We need to stop people sexualizing young girls merely because of their bodies.

 

You’re telling me WHAT goes WHERE?!

Talking about sex with your kids doesn’t always go smoothly. 

That’s why we created The Whole Story, our online course that walks parents through the tough conversations and does the hard parts for you!

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

Echoes of Menstruation Podcast: Turning Red and Focus on the Family
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

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51 Comments

  1. Active Mom

    Amen!!

    Reply
  2. A2bbethany

    In defense of the plugged in reviews, these people are heroes to me. Because they are tasked with reviewing literally almost everything in theater. They have to do reviews of horrible R rated films and further. Obviously not into the official porn rating, but I’ve only ever seen them not review one film. It’s trailer was so bad, they just put up a review of the trailer and Said, “yeah we didn’t want to force our reviewers to sit through this muck.”
    It’s the best movie review place I’ve ever found, because they’re so thorough. Especially with my past of trauma, I’m very sensitive to those kinds of scenes. And they’ve saved me from watching films, that I was excited about! (It was a Jeremy Renner film, but I didn’t know it depicted a brutal rape of a native American woman. Something that would’ve been waaaay too much to handle)

    That said, in small films similar in type/size, they do tend to knit pick!(think finding Nemo kinds)
    I think they get bored and way over report. Like the Muslim girl in the background? Literally Nobody cares….
    I say this, because I have read their reviews for other extremely g rated films. They point out things that are hilariously non-issues. So you can probably argue that it shouldn’t be mentioned, but for people like me, it builds trust. (Trust that they veiw movies seriously and write down literally anything that a parent might have .5% to have reason to avoid.)
    their rationale holds consistently with all other reviews given. If it has to do with genitals, it’s always in the sexual category. Why? I think some parents skim reviews and in that case anything to do with sex in the vaguest possible way goes there.
    Could they move it? Yes and it’d make more sense. Will they? No
    But now that I’ve defended the movie review side, I do agree that the menstruation was miscagetorized. It’s a fairly good example of an other category notice.

    Reply
    • Cynthia

      I hadn’t read any PluggedIn reviews before this, but after reading this I checked out the reference to the Muslim girl. At this point, I might find their approach to people of other faiths and backgrounds even more problematic than their approach to menstruation and puberty.

      I’m from a non-Christian faith and I live in the Toronto area (the setting for the film). As Sheila knows, LOTS of people here are Asian! It is 100% normal and typical to be around people who celebrate aspects of traditional Chinese culture, to see someone in a hijab, to see someone in a turban, etc. The idea that this is something to warn people against – frankly, I’m horrified. I knew I didn’t like FotF before, but that degree of intolerance is just hateful. I love my multicultural city and the fact that we have friends from different backgrounds and we can all live together in peace.

      Reply
      • Laura

        When Rebecca mentioned that on the podcast, I was horrified that FOTF would put that in there. However, I’m not surprised because they are part of White Evangelical culture. Dobson, their founder, has said some racist stuff which I’m not going to repeat on here.

        Reply
          • Laura

            On one of the recent Holy Post podcasts, Phil mentioned overhearing Dobson’s comment about the results of the 2008 US presidential election. I won’t say what that comment was, but it sounded very racist.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, exactly, Cynthia. We were really upset by that part of the review. I went to Jarvis Collegiate Institute, where most of the student body was of Caribbean or Chinese descent. It was so not a big deal. And that was in the 80s! Of course people had different religions–that didn’t threaten mine. In fact, when we were trying to get a Christian group started up at the high school, it was those of other religions that were the most supportive because they knew it mattered.

        Reply
        • Cynthia

          I wrote that before I listened to the podcast, but just listened to it and wanted to applaud you and Rebecca. Honestly, Rebecca’s rant helps me to feel SAFE commenting here.

          Let me paint a picture. My high school co-op student, who wears a hijab, left an hour ago. My next door neighbor is Chinese. We used to live at Bay and Gerrard when my husband was doing residency, and most of our friends had families that came from China, Korea, India or the Philippines. I always knew that being Jewish and Canadian means that I’m just a half-step off when dealing with media that reflects a Christian and American world – my favorite example is talking about my son’s old Jewish hockey team being just a bit different from the cliche of the Christian American football team. What shocked me was that the reality of my life and the lives of people around me would be seen as not just something a bit different, but as a danger and something to protect kids from.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes, exactly! And you used to live at Bay and Gerrard? We were at Church and Carlton, so that’s like three blocks away maybe? Too awesome!

          • Cynthia

            Yup, from 1995 to 2002. Too funny to think that we probably saw each walking around and didn’t realize it. Was it hard to get Rebecca to sleep when the Leafs won?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            The hockey games weren’t as bad as the concerts! I actually worked at the Gardens as a teen. The Sunday night wrestling was the WORST.

      • CMT

        Agreed. I take A2bBethany’s point in that there is value in offering very detailed reviews to help people avoid things that could be triggering to them. But, I’m sure they could find a way to do that without in any way legitimizing a belief that a depiction of a girl in a hijab is something that people need to be worried about. That’s really, really not ok.

        Reply
        • Sarah

          I’ve often wondered about starting a movie/book/music review site for Christians, like PluggedIn but not so pearl-clutching. (Sidebar, if you want a laugh, go back and check out some of their early reviews, for films like The Road to El Dorado. Very scandalised-middle-class-mother-at-the-church-barbecue kinda vibe.) For real, I think Christians need to engage with the culture in order to produce good art. If we can analyse the perspectives others come from and appreciate what is redemptive there, we can figure out how to make meaningful creative work that honours God (*not* God’s Not Dead 5).

          Reply
    • Bre

      YES! I didn’t get why the muslim girl was such a big deal either! From a faith perspective, are they theologically “wrong” in that they don’t recognize Jesus as savior? Yes .Are they evil and scary and a threat for just existing because of that? NO! They may have a different religion but they are still humans created in God’s image like the rest of us. I’m in college at a state university and we have a surprising amount of international students and families in the community. I just find it fun to people watch downtown at my favorite coffee place, and it’s really enlightening to just watch people go about their lives; different races, colors, religions, male, female, old, children, homeless people, professors…it’s probably the writer in me waxing esoteric, but It’s really helped me gain an appreciation for the individuality of each person and our shared humanity and how much God values all of us. In any given day-to-day situation you are going to encounter non-Christians or others who you don’t agree with; that’s just how the world works and IT IS NOT A BIG DEAL! I just don’t get why people find it so threatening to be near “different” people. These people spazzing out about the cultural elements of the movie and the ancestor worship also just leave me confused. While it’s up to each family to pick when it is right for their child, they should know that people live like this even if it’s “wrong” or not how you live. If just seeing a Chinese family with a shrine business causes your child to go off of the deep end, I feel like there are probably bigger issues going on. This sort of cultural stuff isn’t scandalous to me because at all I’m a major anime nerd who consumes large amounts of Japanese manga and anime in my rare free time. Some Japanese cultural and religious elements are similar (red pandas and shapeshifting come up a lot in their myths, culture, and anime, actually) so I don’t find the premise weird or evil; I’d actually go see the movie if it was showing around here. The elements like shrine visits and stuff are kinda cute and fun, but I’m not going to leave Jesus because of them. It’s just interesting and is baked into the manga and anime because it’s just a normal part Japanese life. I consume and enjoy the stories and can acknowledge those things without agreeing with or participating in them; it’s become normal for me to see those references or images because I read and watch Japanese media regularly and it just ain’t a big deal to me. I think that we’ve forgotten that understanding and acknowledging how other people believe and think doesn’t equate to outright acceptance of those things as right or good; it’s just acknowledging that those people exist and trying to understand their lived experience. You don’t have to agree and they shouldn’t be scary…I’m trying and failing to find the exact words to describe my thoughts but…you can still love and appreciate other humans while not agreeing with or participating in the things they believe ( with caveats for things like abuse and related stuff, obviously) and I don’t think that is a sin or a threat to you and your faith. I just can’t the idea of being scared of having a different thinking person around me.

      Reply
      • Anon

        Bre and Sarah, thank you both for your rational (and honestly, refreshing) POVs on this. I’ve read Christian reviews of a lot of movies (particularly Disney) and it never ceases to amaze me how nitpicky and pearl-clutching they can be. It seems like they think if you like fairy tales or fantasy, or if you watch a movie that has a different faith mentioned (“Mulan” comes to mind; also “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” – Morgan Freeman’s character is Muslim), you’re either not Christian enough or in danger of losing your faith. I’ve read fantasy and fairy tales AND watched Disney movies for years, and guess what? I still love my Lord!

        Reply
        • Sarah

          Thanks Anon! And ditto! I’m a Christian writer (amateur and unpublished!) of fiction, particularly fantasy fiction and modern novels; therefore an avid consumer of both, and I’ve often felt that if other Christians read my stuff I’d probably be judged by them as not a real Christian. Mostly because my stories aren’t straight-up fables that barely conceal a clumsy Christian message (*cough* most Christian fiction *cough*) but messy stories about messy people because that’s how real life is. Heck, that’s how the Bible is (Judges, anyone??) I hate the Christian tendency to sanitise our art.

          On the Holy Post a while back they had a story about a Christian lad doing a fashion show that ultimately got squelched by higher-ups at his Christian college, and they made the point that Christians often don’t know what to do with artistic expression and see it as potentially dangerous. I’d go further and say we’re not comfortable with anything, art, philosophy or science, that doesn’t offer definitive answers to the questions it raises. This results in very narrow parameters for God-honouring art.We’re told it has to all be parables, with a clear meaning and direct parallels to the Bible and while some of those stories are fine and done well (e.g Narnia) most lack intrinsic value because they’re copy-paste Bible stories without depth of imagination. Parables are fine, but let’s allow room for psalms.

          Reply
          • Anon

            Amen to that. I will wholeheartedly agree that no one can touch C.S. Lewis when it comes to Christian fantasy. However, there is a Christian fantasy novel that is extremely well-written and doesn’t beat you over the head with a “copy-paste Bible story.” It’s called “Dragonspell” by Donita K. Paul. If you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought; if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It’s well worth checking out.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Rebecca LOVED that series as a preteen! Just loved it.

          • Anon

            Are you talking about the Dragon Keeper Chronicles, Sheila?

  3. CMT

    Those stats about period shame in teens being associated with poorer sexual and marital outcomes as adults are really interesting. I’m asking all kinds of questions about correlation versus causation.

    And, tbh, I think that rewritten review isn’t that much of an improvement. Periods and anatomy are just normal stuff about bodies. We only think this stuff needs a content warning when it has to do with female bodies. Nobody gets weird about things like teaching little boys to pee standing up, for example. I would take a bet that if there was a joke about that in a movie they wouldn’t classify it as sexual. They would call it potty humor if they mentioned it at all.

    Reply
    • Joanna Sawatsky

      Totally echo your point about correlation and causation. But I think the correlation is really important! If causality flows from 1. girl has low self esteem therefore 2. girl is very self-conscious about her period then the intervention is to improve self esteem and self-confidence in girls who are self-conscious about their periods. If, instead, it’s 1. girl is embarrassed about her period therefore 2. she experiences shame and lower self-esteem then the intervention is education and, again, empowerment. I actually think causality flows both ways and is likely a feedback loop. Planning on making some fun diagrams for the new book!

      Reply
      • CMT

        Intuitively that makes a lot of sense. Ofc it could also be that having period shame is symptomatic of a broader set of beliefs that devalue women’s bodies and experiences. But again the intervention is education and empowerment. It’s just what kind… hmm. Seems like you guys have enough to keep you busy for a looong time!

        Reply
    • A2bbethany

      Started to reply earlier but it’s been a busy day. With how many reviews I’ve used for movies, I’m 95% sure they would. (From them)
      They always make note of sexual jokes. And if it’s too many to count? They’ll count how many total bad jokes and how many refer to each body part. (or if they refer to certain kinds of relationships, like gay, incest or 3somes ECT) and they use the same categories for every single movie. And sometimes like this one, something like this could have been put under either category. What pushes it into the sexual in my opinion? The mom’s comment about cleaning petals. It’s just weird… not really sexual, but could be taken that way by some people.

      Reply
  4. Nathan

    Every time I think that nothing more bizarre can come out, there it is.

    And also, as others have said often, I love the “Fixed it for you” items!

    Reply
  5. April W.

    Thank you for this podcast it is very informative. The church needs to take responsibility for what they do. Focus on the family needs to do better as well in all areas.

    Reply
  6. Jo R

    OF COURSE Focus on the Family thinks periods and pads are sexual. That’s right up there with thinking that a postpartum woman’s lochia is evidence of her being sexually aroused while giving a mandatory hand job or blow job to her husband before it’s medically safe for her to have PIV. Duh!!! 🙄🙄🙄

    I guess nuns through the millennia are also, somehow, being sexual every month when they get their periods??? 🤔🤔🤔

    ⭐⭐⭐ Fellas, here’s a little tip for you. Periods and their associated baggage are about as sexual as you getting a knee to the nuts while playing football or basketball. ⭐⭐⭐

    My group referred to periods as “Uncle George.” (Later, I referred to yeast infections as “Aunt Candida.” TMI!!!)

    I’d say the white evangelical preoccupation with the body is more the preoccupation with the FEMALE body, because let’s face it, MEN have given themselves every benefit they possibly can, with on-demand male-centric PIV and other sex acts, limiting women’s Spirit-given spiritual gifts and their use thereof in ministering to the whole church, etc. MALE bodies are good and wonderful, and if men sin, it’s always the women’s fault because of what they were wearing, their lack of respect, etc. (Keith’s comment ties directly in to this as well—thanks, Keith!)

    Kyle Howard’s analysis of the chain of “since menstruation involves sex organs, therefore menstruation itself is sexual, therefore female children are now sexual beings, therefore female children can now participate in sex” is clearly dead-on. Just look around the North American church. 🙄🙄🙄

    His analysis of men’s sexual projection and perversion ditto. And how he said the church sexualizes all females instead of being the safest place on earth for females of all ages. Oy. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

    On the “othering” of women. I remember a news story sometime in the late 80s or early 90s that talked about how several decades earlier some drug had to be pulled off the market after women who took it had massive and widespread side effects. Why weren’t these side effects noted during testing? Because even though the test participants filled out questionnaires that asked about issues with their uterus, etc., 100 percent of the test participants were actually male, hence no uterus and therefore no side effects. 🙄🙄🙄

    If grown men are too stupid to know that no, women can’t “hold it in,” or can’t go into water because they use pads instead of tampons, or need to go to the bathroom a few extra times for a few days a month, then frankly, those grown men deserve to be called out—LOUDLY—with a “Dude, I’m having my period, so unless you want menstrual blood everywhere around me, I need to stay out of the water or go to the bathroom a little more often this week.”

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      To your last paragraph: a basic life skill is understanding that when someone needs to go to the bathroom, they need to go to the bathroom. Maybe it is menstruation. Maybe it is IBS. Maybe it is diarrhea. Maybe they have been holding it and cannot hold it any longer.

      Unless you’re potty training someone, don’t police their bathroom habits. They are the ones who know their bodies, not you.

      Reply
  7. Andrew

    While I agree with the point of not sexualizing menstruation, I find it problematic to project this as an evangelical, white evangelical or American evangelical as a whole. Let’s address the problematic teachings without putting an entire group into a box that assumes all have identical issues. Evangelizing is spreading the Gospel to those who are lost. I find it offensive to link this to problematic teachings that do exist but are not ubiquitous to every white man or evangelical church. As Christians we should all be evangelizing as commanded in the great comission. Its an ad hominem attack to claim every church that claims to be conservative or evangelical is harmful towards women. Please consider the negative message this sends toward those trying to do good and grow in Christ.

    Reply
    • Anon

      Yes to this. I’m in the UK where ‘evangelical’ for DECADES has meant someone who believes you need to have a personal relationship with Christ to be a Christian and that all Christians have the responsibility of telling other people about Jesus. Many churches are named ‘[Location] Evangelical Church’ and they are usually good places to try out, since they mostly have sound teaching and are active in their local communities. Now, I know a lot of them are considering renaming themselves because the way ‘evangelical’ is used in the States is starting to filter over here.

      I would have unhesitatingly described myself as an ‘evangelical’ Christian until a couple of years back, but can’t use that word any more because there is an increasing risk people will understand that word in it’s Amerian context.

      It reminds me a bit of how ‘fundamentalist’ got hijacked back in the 80s. It used to mean someone who believed the Bible was the authentic word of God. Now it means someone who kills people they disagree with…

      Reply
    • Jo R

      I would like to agree with you, but if I go look up the titles of the worst-scoring “Christian” sex and marriage books reviewed in TGSR, then I go find the authors’ pictures, what do they all have in common?

      Same with the big-name pastors “teaching” similar bilge.

      Of course not all local churches and individual pastors and authors push these anti-biblical viewpoints, but enough of them do, or at least the ones with the biggest platforms, and that’s how stereotypes get created.

      Reply
  8. Cynthia

    One of my daughters had precocious puberty. Yes, we needed to talk about it and not get weird or treat it as something inappropriate, and we had to do that when she was around 6.

    Reply
  9. Laura

    Wow! Very interesting podcast! It is very important for children to know these things by a certain age. For years, I just didn’t know what the right age was. When I was in fifth grade in 1988, the girls had an assembly about periods and maxi pads. Guess what the boys got to do? The fifth grade male teacher took them outside to play basketball. They didn’t get a “talk” as far as I knew. Sixth grade was the year we all sat in assembly and had the talk about STD’s and AIDS. So, maybe the boys did know what periods were. At least my brother knew because when my mom and I had these talks, my brother eavesdropped. That same school year, I came home and asked for my mom so I could tell her I think I was having my first period. I tried to be hush hush so my brother wouldn’t embarrass me. Well, when I was laying on the couch, he figured it out and made a joke about it. He was in fifth grade at the time.

    So, I don’t know where the feeling of embarrassment and shame about periods came from? It didn’t help having a younger brother who made embarrassing remarks. My dad never said or did anything to make me feel embarrassed or ashamed. Maybe my brother heard stuff at school. We weren’t raised in church culture. I think at that time, society as a whole, made periods out to be embarrassing and had to make it hush hush.

    I think church culture and mainstream culture mesh more than we want to admit. It’s so funny how Christians love to quote Romans 12:2 about not being like the world, yet here we are acting like the world. Sometimes I think the world behaves better than the church.

    Reply
  10. almadecolor

    I absolutely loved that Kyle Howard points out that even if a prostitute came to church dressed in extremely provocative clothing, or very little clothing, we should STILL not sexualize her! We should see her soul as Jesus saw when broken women were in his presence, not her body as something to be consumed, despised, or feared. Great conversation!

    Reply
  11. Mara R

    Thank you for having Kyle J Howard on your podcast.

    I love what he a you said about sexualizing teen girls.

    I discovered him during the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” run and loved what he said about that podcast not going nearly far enough in exposing the misogyny of Mark Driscoll and his trauma inducing doctrine on women, sex, and family dynamics.

    He’s a good resource to have along with everything your ministry does.

    Reply
    • Laura

      I knew I had listened to Kyle J Howard on youtube but I couldn’t remember how I found him. Now, I know. I saw his commentary on the Mars Hill podcast. He addressed things that were never mentioned in that podcast CT (Christianity Today) did about Driscoll and his culty church in Seattle. I guess the guy from CT who did that podcast series was afraid to admit the full truth about Driscoll, but Kyle was brave enough to point it out. I admire him.

      Reply
  12. J

    I really liked how Kyle addressed and pointed out the issue of assigning sexual motives to actions of children– like in relation to crushes. I think this needs to be talk about even more, for how utterly destructive it is to children. I grew up in a pretty fundamentalist home, with a lot of purity culture talk (I’m still trying to sort through that trauma), but this was constantly happening in the sphere that I grew up in. I remember when I was 12 or 13, my mom matter-of-factly told me that I “wasn’t allowed to have crushes”, or to “like boys”. Even though I was young I thought her saying that was utterly absurd, like I’m supposed to be this machine without emotion or feeling, or like I can help being attracted to a boy because he’s handsome, or kind to me and we share things in common. I knew that I couldn’t force myself to not have a crush, so I didn’t even intend to try to “obey” her in that, and even though I thought the rule was completely asinine, it still caused incredible damage. I can see now that crushes were considered “wrong” for a girl of my age because they viewed it through a sexual lens. Seeing that now is just so bizarre to me– that someone would assign sexual motives to a preteen girl! What?? Crushes weren’t just a completely innocent, normal part of girlhood– they eroticized it, and made it into something shameful. Because of this, it drove all my purely innocent emotion underground in shame. I believed that I had to hide if I had a crush, which meant I literally never talked about it with anyone, not even my friends. Yep, literally no preteen or teen girl talk about crushes for me. And even though 12 year old me knew I couldn’t just shut my heart down, and in fact that would be unhealthy, whenever I had a crush on someone I felt like I was sinning somehow for caring for them. It also meant that I had no one to talk to about boys, to ask questions, to learn, because any kind of curiosity would have been treated with suspicion of sin. I have never told anyone this before, and the more I actually write it out and process it the more angry I become for the weight of how much unnecessary shame I was made to carry alone during that time in my life.
    Also, the Passport to Purity curriculum was soooo terrible. I have no memory of it actually talking about what sex really was. But I do remember having to do exercises like throwing dirt into a sink of water and how unclean, and gross it became and that no one would want that disgusting water=this is what happens to people who lose their purity. So essentially the whole point of the curriculum is don’t have sex, and sign this contract that you won’t until you’re married, but we won’t actually tell you what sex is, because if we did then you would know how to have it, and we don’t want you to have the knowledge because what would stop you from giving your most precious gift away if you knew how to give it away. Ignorance and fear, that’s what will keep you pure.
    And this is why your work Sheila is just so important. I really don’t know where I would be if I did not, by the complete grace of God, find your resources.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      J, I’m so, so, SO very sorry for what your child self went through. 😢😢😢

      Huge hugs to you. ❤ ❤ ❤

      Reply
  13. Bre

    This should be interesting…I haven’t got to listen yet, but do it tonight while I’m studying. I think this is an interesting topic, though I am a bit conflicted on how much of a priority this topic is, but I do like the conversation… And I’ve also learned that maybe I need to spend less time on facebook. Alas, even in online Christian communities trying to enact change, people on the internet are THE WORST for my mental health. So many people not getting why this could be an issue…do I think that this movie review is the best use of TLHV’s time and resources? Not really. Do I think it makes you man-bashers or asses? NO! I love how having a strong opinion on something makes you guys bad, but certain male preachers screaming aggressively from pulpits and saying that anyone who disagrees with them is deceived and on the road to hell isn’t…methinks there is a double standard here. I’m curious because, honestly, I never had a single period or sex talk in church or youth group growing up. I just picked up stuff from health class and life, I guess, and asked a few questions to my mom. The one lesson we did have was ‘keep your tape sticky’-kissing, sex, ect. becomes less special when you do it with a lot of people and have no serious commitment to their well-being and the both of you having a relationship. All the bad ideas I picked up were from books, the internet, ect…basically unconscious christian culture osmosis. Maybe that’s why I don’t see this as a big deal; it was never even really a deal in general for me in my life? I’ll stop talking nonsense until I finish listening though.

    Reply
  14. NG

    Wow. I had no idea that getting your period might be so complicated in the Western / American culture. I’m blessed, because even in the 80’s, there was enough information available – at school, different magazines, anatomy books etc… My Mom was a nurse, so it treated as the most natural thing in the world.
    I have heard women tell that they did not really understand what was going on, and they felt ashamed… thankfully that was not what happened to me. I always loved my female body, and for the most part, it always acted pretty reliable… no nasty ‘surprises’ (but I was always taught to be prepared anyway, have a pad or two in the purse)

    This American evangelical magical thinking starts to sound more and more like certain patriarchal religions. I know how many girls in Muslim countries, for example, have been told that their body is dirty, tempting to man etc etc… (I have lived in a few of those countries myself, and the treatment of women is still quite bad – regardless of the advances made in legislation. Attitudes are still deeply rooted in archaic ideas of female impurity..) Girls are taught to guard their chastity & reputation at all costs, otherwise they bring shame to their families,

    How sad the see similar mentality among so called followers of Christ, who should know better…

    Reply
    • Jo R

      Is a girl considered a woman and therefore “ready for marriage” as soon as she has her first period in some of these cultures or countries?

      Someone made a comment to that effect in Monday’s post, and when I challenged her about Cynthia’s six-year-old daughter, mentioned in a comment in this thread, she insisted, as a Christian (!), that yes, that poor little girl was now a marriage-able “woman.” 😱 😱 😱

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I somehow missed that comment! Wow. It’s been hard to keep up with everything. That’s next level perversion.

        Reply
        • Jo R

          No worries, several of us explicitly told her it was pedophilia.

          (And yeah, that post was quite busy today! About a hundred comments added today.)

          Reply
      • Cynthia

        Oh, yuck!
        Not gonna lie, I was a bit freaked out when she developed so young, but SHE wasn’t. She didn’t realize what it was or that she was so early or that people might find it weird. I found an American Girl book on puberty (it seemed to be aimed at younger readers) so she would know what was happening, but obviously sex wasn’t remotely on her radar. I taught the basic facts of life but it wasn’t anything but a distant thing that adults do.

        She was a CHILD.

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        • Jane Eyre

          I love watching children grow because it’s really neat to see things develop at different times. They get curious about the world, then they have the capacity to explore. They don’t appreciate danger, then they do. Stuff doesn’t always line up, and to me, part of being a good parent is explaining this to my kid. Just because one part is “ready” doesn’t mean everything is. You can reach the pedals in a car by age 12 but obviously lack the capacity to operate a motor vehicle. Same thing with periods and sex drives.

          Reply
  15. J

    Wow. Kyle nailed it. Perfectly. Unfortunately. (I hit menarche two days before my twelfth birthday. Youth group was the night before my twelfth birthday. A period isn’t sexual, unless someone makes it. Most people don’t “celebrate” the way my youth pastor did. I call it child rape in the first degree.)
    I think it’s high time American evangelicalism came out of what I call “Ozzie and Harriet Christendom”. [Think “Pleasantville”.] Most of what I recall from the ‘90s-era Brio articles implied there was something wrong with you if you had a passing thought about sex, erotic dreams were somewhere between abnormal and sinful, and even the nicest boys will nearly rape you if you aren’t careful. But no, nothing is wrong.
    Re: filling in the guys on girls. Only time I was deeply embarrassed of a period. Camping trip. Outhouses. Female friend 2-3 years younger, her brother my age. Their dad had to explain to him what my pads were. I was 12 or 13. Somehow, it was my fault because they weren’t ‘hidden’ enough? (If you didn’t let your son learn the facts of life from you or in school—you brought it on yourself.

    Reply
  16. Ray

    I probably should re-listen to the podcast because I just couldn’t get past “echoes of menstruation” slam poet. Kept laughing, well done Rebecca

    Reply
  17. Ilse

    I left the laptop screen on your website title while I went to tighten a screw on my glasses. When I came back, my husband asked me, “Something wrong with my vacuuming today??”

    Reply
  18. Anon

    I never experienced a lot of shame around my period as a teen, but when I got married my husband was very skittish about anything women’s health related. He came around when we started trying for our first baby and he’s much more comfortable with “woman stuff” now. But early on it left me feeling like he didn’t want to really know me, or “dwell with me with understanding” as the Bible puts it. It took a long time for him to see that this isn’t just five days of blood every month but it’s a process that affects every aspect of my life as a woman.

    Reply
  19. Judi

    Echoes of menstruation slam poetry was the best thing I’ve heard all week. LOL

    I found myself thinking about not only how adults can sexuality young girls but how girls can sexualize themselves because they think that is their role. There is communication that needs to happen with kids younger than we might think because in all honesty, they might have sex and it might lead to a 12 year old getting pregnant. So that’s the one thing I had slight disagreement with. The idea adults think that kids might have sex is in some cases absolutely correct.

    Reply

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