PODCAST: Why Are Women Supporting the Modesty Message?

by | Mar 23, 2023 | Podcasts | 21 comments

Podcast Consent and Modesty
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Consent and Modesty: Let’s talk about two ways the church often gives terrible messaging to teens–and why

Today on the podcast we’re looking at two more aspects of our upcoming book She Deserves Better, which launches on April 18!

We’re going to start by interviewing one of the women whose story is featured in the book, about how the church mishandled her date rape when she reported it to her (very young) youth pastor. Then we’re going to get deep into the data from our survey of 7000+ women and look at the characteristics of the adult women who are spreading the modesty message. Honestly–it explains so much!

I had so much great (and heartbreaking) feedback from our podcast last week on the modesty messages. I’m glad that the messages from She Deserves Better are resonating, and I hope that we can all start to heal by bringing these things to light, and talking about what we should have been taught as teens instead. 


We do have a story of sexual assault as a teenager in the beginning half of this podcast. If you would prefer not to listen to that, you can skip ahead to 45:00 to talk about why it’s women who often spread the modesty message.

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 Today’s topic: Consent
2:00 Our special guest Vera joins
3:30 Vera’s experience with harmful youth group/church messaging around sex
24:15 “The way to be a Christian is to not have sex” youth group message
30:45 Vera’s healing process and vision for the future
37:15 Final note on youth pastoral care
46:30 Why do WOMEN teach this stuff to other women? ft Joanna
1:05:00 Let’s pay attention to red flags!

Let’s talk Vera’s story and consent

One of the women that we interviewed for She Deserves Better joins us on the podcast to tell her story. We opened our chapter on consent with Vera’s story. We heard from so many women how date rape was part of their story growing up. But we also heard so many women who didn’t understand until  years later that it was rape, and who blamed themselves because of what they were wearing; because they “let him go too far”, because “he got too excited and couldn’t help it.”

You’ll hear in Vera’s story how the rape was compounded by the messages given to her by her youth pastor, and how this sent her into a spiral.

She actually grew up in a healthy home, albeit in a non-Christian one. But going to youth group she learned that she couldn’t trust her mother, who didn’t know Jesus, even though her mother was teaching her the right stuff about her self-esteem, her worth, and consent. And then she felt that she couldn’t go to her mother after the rape because it would be a bad witness.

The story is just a perfect and tragic encapsulation of how consent is mishandled in church, and all that goes along with it.

Plus let’s talk about how women in our survey told us that they by and large never understood consent as teens, largely because the church didn’t teach on it whatsoever. 

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Why is it women who often push the unhealthy modesty messages?

Then we wanted to revisit what we talked about last week with modesty and ask the question: Why do women often pass these teachings on to girls? If you ask girls where they heard the modesty message from, over and over again it’s female youth leaders; their moms; their friends’ moms; or, of course, female authors and influencers.

Yes, men say it too (and often pastors from the pulpit), but often the ones policing what girls wear are women.


Especially since we know the modesty messages were the most harmful that we measured.

Well, we talk on the podcast today about what we learned from our survey about adult women who believe the modesty messages. They’re far more likely to be in difficult marriages, for instance. So listen in to hear how this can make them want to share the modesty messages.

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

The Modesty Messages spread by women

What do you think? Were you in a church that mishandled date rape? Or that never talked about consent? Or did you have women spreading the modesty message? Let’s talk in the comments!


Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your marriage, your sex life, and now your parenting.  And I am joined today by my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach.    

Rebecca: Hello.  Hello.

Sheila: We are talking about consent.  The consent message today on episode 184 of the Bare Marriage podcast.

Rebecca: That’s a lot of episodes.  

Sheila: It is.  And today we are going to look at how the messages that are given to our girls about consent—or rather the messages that aren’t given to our girls about consent can really hurt them.  We’re in the middle of our launch for our new book, She Deserves Better: Raising Girls to Resist Toxic Teachings on Sex, Self, and Speaking Up which is out April 18th.  And we have a lot going on.  We have an amazing launch team which, if you preorder the book and you’re willing to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, you can join that launch team.  We will put links in the podcast notes.  But there’s several hundred people in there.  We’re having an amazing time there.

Rebecca: Yeah.  There is a lot of people.  It’s amazing to see.  There’s lots of great discussion.  We post one thing, and there is tons of comments and tons of discussion immediately.  It’s fantastic.    

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Three weeks ago we did our first podcast on this looking at dating rules.  

Rebecca: Yes.  That’s right.

Sheila: We looked at the effects of the girls talk too much message as a thing of internalized misogyny.  Last week we did a pretty horrifying podcast on the modesty message.

Rebecca: Yeah.  It was pretty bad.  I mean the podcast, I—the podcast was good.  The message was bad.  Yeah.

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  And today we want to turn to something else which we found was really harmful in a number of our interviews and our focus groups which is the lack of emphasis on consent and how that affects sexual assault in girls.  So to do that, we have a special guest that we are going to have join us for part of this podcast.  We are so happy to bring on the podcast someone that we interview as we wrote She Deserves Better.  And we’re not going to have video for this portion of the podcast to preserve privacy, and we will introduce you as Vera, which was the name that we gave you in our book.  So hello, Vera.

Vera: Hello.  Thank you for having me.  I am Vera.

Sheila: Becca, do you want to take this because you did the interview with Vera?  

Rebecca: Yeah.  I do.  For people who don’t know, I am kind of in charge of our qualitative research side of things because I am—I think I am the only one who has done semi structured interviews through qualitative research through the university.  I don’t know if Joanna has or not actually.

Sheila: Yeah.  And you kicked me out when I was in some of them.  

Rebecca: We had talked about this in a previous podcast.  Mom was so bad at it because she would be like so react like, “That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.”  Like you can’t say that in a professional research interview.  Anyway, so Vera was one of the people in our focus group research.  And we wanted to have you on today to talk about this idea of how the church teaches consent to preteens and teenagers and how that can affect people.  So I mean I guess let’s just jump into it.

Vera: There’s nothing else we can really do.  So let’s just start.

Rebecca: Yeah.  We talked to you because you had experienced sexual assault in high school.

Vera: Yes.

Rebecca: And had heard some really damaging messages from the church.  So do you want to tell a bit of your story?

Vera: Yeah.  Absolutely.  So I was not raised in a Christian home, so I think that also adds a lot to my part in this.  In high school, I had gotten a really, really bad concussion.  And then I woke up out of the concussion as I kind of like to say.  And I was suddenly in a relationship with an older boy from high school who I had not known pre concussion.  And I kind of just went, “Oh, yeah.  I will trust Vera’s judgment in whoever she is choosing to date,” because I had great judgment pre concussion.  Well, maybe not great judgment, but I had judgment pre concussion.  And then what would happen was because of the concussion afterwards I would get really, really severe migraines.  And so I would get migraines to the point where I was not able to stay at school.  This boy would drive me home.  My parents would be both at work.  And I would have no memory of what happened but then had very strong triggers to certain smells that would be associated with this person.  Or just different body things that would happen that wouldn’t quite make sense.  And it all cumulated about six months into the relationship or so, I guess—maybe less than that.  And it ended up in a full out sexual assault where in the eyes of young, Christian me I quote unquote lost my virginity.  And that was very traumatizing because there—again, we’re going to go into it more.  There’s so many messages you hear about your worth as a woman or a girl and your virginity, and it was so hard because, to this boy, there were a million little moments that led into that.  And I was not aware of any of those moments that we were leading into.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because you were—you said you were recovering from a concussion.  And so a lot of this stuff would happen as you were kind of like—either in the midst of a migraine or blacked out.

Vera: Yeah.  I don’t think I was conscious.  I very well may have been.  But based on my memory of it—

Rebecca: We also know how traumatic brain injuries affect people too.  

Vera: Yeah.  And if someone is sick enough to not be in school, they’re probably not sick enough to consent to sexual things.

Rebecca: They’re probably too sick.  Exactly.  They’re not healthy enough to consent.  Exactly.

Vera: So yeah.  So that’s kind of the nitty gritty, but it was a lot of little moments.  I only truly remember one.  But in the body remembers conversation, there is—I know there is far, far more in the memory bank that my brain is readily protecting me from.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  I know from when we were talking and interviewing for the book what you were saying is—yeah.  So you had this concussion.  Your boyfriend would then take you back from school.  And then things would happen.  And after one particular incident where you quote unquote lost your virginity—after that, you were kind of something is not right.  You had the warning bells.  And then you went, and you tried to get help.

Vera: Yeah.  Well, I had—from what I remember, I had broken up with him because I had such deep shame.  And oh my gosh.  I just had sex.  This is horrible.  This boy isn’t a Christian.  The church talks so much about how dangerous this is.  All of these things.  And then I had talked to a friend.  And she had felt, “Oh, something really isn’t right.”  But I just remember sobbing and not being able to really say why.  And in my mind, it was, “Oh, it’s because I’ve done this horrible, horrible thing.”  And so I did try to seek help.  I tried going to the youth pastor and his wife.  And in very 2010 youth pastor and wife style, they—youth pastor basically said, “Well, this is what happens when you date a non Christian.  This is the risk that you take.”

Rebecca: And, again, to be clear here, you were blacking out from a concussion while a guy was having sex with you.  To be very, very—

Vera: Yeah.  And held down.  It was very explicitly in that moment nonconsensual moment.  And then the youth pastor’s wife, who frustratingly enough is barely older than I am, glues two pieces of paper—a blue one and a pink one because boys are blue.  And girls are pink.  And glues the pieces of paper together and then lets them dry and tears them apart and tells me all about soul ties and tells me all about how now our souls are forever intertwined.  And in that moment just realizing like, “Oh my gosh.  God is never going to let go of this moment with me.  I am now forever intertwined with this boy who has done this thing to me,” and not even really with me.  Just literally to me.  And now I will never be able to shake this out of my body.  This is now part of my DNA forever because soul is even deeper than DNA especially when you’re a young teenager, who hasn’t grown up with the understanding that that is not a biblical concept.  You believe what your pastor is telling you.  And then just continuously searching for more answers.  Going to a youth leader and him saying, “Well, it takes two to tango.”  And that being kind of the first, “But it didn’t.  I did not tango.”  And I think that was my first little aha moment.  Or going to a friend who was at youth group and him saying, “Well, now you realize you’re married in God’s eyes,” because those were messages that he had been given as a child.  And me actually sitting and thinking for the rest of the summer, “Should I get back together with him?  If I’m married in God’s eyes, then am I dishonoring God by not being in a relationship with this person?”  And so it was a lot.  It was not just a singular message, then going into counseling.  I’m now in school.  He’s changed classes so he can be in class with me so he can further assault me in class in public.  And this old youth—this old counselor saying things like, “Well, it’s like David and Goliath.  And you have these stones.”  And it’s just making it so spiritual when it was still happening in my body, to my body in public.  And they did say, “Oh, are you still in danger?”  But in that moment, it doesn’t feel like danger.  It feels like sin.

Rebecca: Yes.  I think that’s the big thing is when you have just been told—we heard this over and over in our focus groups.  Girls said, “I was taught so much to say—to protect my virginity, but no one ever taught me to protect myself.”

Vera: Yeah.

Rebecca: Right?  And so once you lose your virginity whether it’s by force or not, you feel like you no longer matter because the thing that you have to offer as a Christian girl is gone.

Sheila: So let’s just set the stage a little bit more.  So you’re in a family that doesn’t go to church.

Vera: No.  No.

Sheila: But your mom loved you.  You had a great relationship with your mother.

Vera: Oh gosh, yeah.  Really good relationship with my mom.  My mom had really set me up for success when it came to avoiding abuse.  I had learned about sex at seven years old.  I had learned about consent for literally as long as I could remember.  But the church had made my parents feel so untrustworthy because, “Well, they’re not Christians.  They don’t really know.”  Do I really want to tell my mom that this happened to me?  Because then what will that do to her potential relationship with God?  I had had so much blame in the past over a great-grandmother dying and her not knowing God, and I just sent her to hell.  And just that personal responsibility and that fear of their souls, your soul, needs more than anything else.  So if they know that this has happened to me and this is how the church has responded, they might tell me to stop going to church.  They may never go to church.  They may be turned away from God.  And then that’s going to be my fault because I was careless with my body.  

Rebecca: So not only did the church—dude—flat out tell you that because your parents were not Christian they could not tell you the truth in this area.

Vera: Yeah.  Oh, absolutely.  Well, in every area.

Rebecca: In any area.  Well, there is this mentality that unless you are the right—not even just a Christian—but the right kind of Christian, you can’t have any truth.  And so therefore, you can’t listen to anyone who doesn’t share your exact theological debates.  So you have that side of it which meant that all your discussion about consent that you previously had were not worldly.  And the idea of consent was worldly.

Vera: In my eyes, at the time—and now looking back, it’s strange.  But she was a sexually liberal woman.  She dressed immodestly.  I remember being a teenager and condemning her to her face for dressing like a teenager.  And why are you dressing immodestly?  And saying that to your mother because the church has made you feel so much shame about your body as a child—let’s reiterate that.  As a child.  That I have to project that shame onto my mom because she is wearing—

Rebecca: Yeah.  Things that you’re not allowed to wear.

Vera: Exactly.

Rebecca: Yeah.  So you have the side of it where they’re telling you that what your mom has told you is not appropriate because—not because they disagree with what she is saying every single thing.  But because she’s not a Christian.

Sheila: So you can’t go to your mom for anything.  And so you do go to your youth pastor.  And I want this to be—I want everyone to hear this.  When you went to your youth pastor and his wife, who again was not that much older than you, no one mentioned consent.

Vera: No.

Sheila: No one asked you if it was consensual.

Vera: No.  And no one, I don’t think, cared because I had put myself in that situation with a non Christian boy.  And I should have known better than that.

Rebecca: And that’s sarcasm.  I should have known better.  Sarcasm.

Vera: Yeah.  Oh sorry.  Yes.  Really sarcastic there.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  There is this idea that boys will be boys.  And your job as a girl is to make sure that boys don’t be boys around you.  And so if you put yourself in a position where boys can be boys around you, then really what were you expecting?  And that is so harmful because it does—it really damages our ability to have conversations about consent.  Because when you are someone, especially—I think especially for people who are in your situation.  We have a lot of people who listen who are talking about She Deserves Better or who are thinking about these kinds of books and thinking, “Yeah.  But my daughter is fine.  I’m a great parent.  I’m aware.”  Okay.  That might be true.  I’m going to be honest.  I had great parents, who were very aware, very strong Christians, active in the community, actively taught me how to stand up to leadership.  Okay.  I had all the— 

Sheila: Thank you.  

Rebecca: Yes.  Exactly.  But I had friends in my youth group who were going through stuff, right?  What if your friend—what if your daughter has friends in their youth group?  This matters to me so much.  Okay.  So if you’re a mom who is listening and you’re saying, “I don’t think that I need to really care about this that much because my daughter is safe,” it’s not just about your daughter.  It is.  But it’s not.  It is about the culture as a whole.  And as Christians, we are supposed to care for the least of these.  And that doesn’t mean that there are some kids who are least than others.  I just mean we’re supposed to care for everyone.  Okay.  You care for people who are not convenient for you to care about.  Maybe it’s the kid who did convert when they’re 12 years old, and they’re at your daughter’s youth group.  And they’re your daughter’s friend.  Or maybe it’s the kids who converted and you daughter doesn’t really get along with them.  But you know what?  They matter anyway.  Because additionally, we hear from so many people who—obviously, we hear from so many people who they, themselves, were damaged or abused or harmed because of harmful teachings or they were abused in youth group or they were sexually assaulted.  And they heard this kind of crap like that pink and blue construction paper.  Like you said, he was now a part of your soul.  Not just your DNA.  Right?  It was so intense.  But there are also people who don’t have any of that, but the people they love do.  Their friends, their people that they loved growing up where they come out of this and they see how much the church hurt their people they love.  And so I just want to make sure that there are a lot—we have a temptation as parents to look for the ways that we can close our eyes to things that are scary.  We have a temptation to think, “But that will never happen to my kid.”  And the unfortunate truth is that you might be right.  That does not mean that it won’t affect them.  When there is poison in the water, it affects us.  And please, don’t just turn away even if you think it doesn’t affect you.  I do want to say that as we’re going forward.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because I know, for you, a lot of the emotional turmoil you had in your teenage years was over friends.  It wasn’t what was happening to you.  It was over friends.

Rebecca: Oh yeah.  Especially in my 20s.  When I was 18 to 23, just finding out again and again and again the kinds of ways that the church had betrayed people that I desperately loved.  And then, I mean, that’s a lot of why we’re doing this work.  And that’s why we interview people like Vera, people like the other stories that you see in the book is because these stories matter.  And we can’t keep saying things like, “Well, what did you expect?  Or well boys will be boys.”  And that all comes into this.

Sheila: So okay.  Vera, as you’re growing up—so you’re a teen.  You’re in the youth group.  You love Jesus.   

Vera: So much.  

Sheila: You’re trying to do the best that you can.  These terrible things are happening to you.  What other messages—can you remember any other messages that were given to you in youth group about consent? 

Vera: Well, I remember doing Sunday School.  And one of the dads, who was also a worship leader, gave one of the Sunday School messages that I am sure many of us have heard before about a boy and a girl sitting in youth group.  And the boy having his hand on the girl’s thigh.  And the youth pastor asking the boy, “Are you planning on marrying this woman?  Have you proposed to her?  Is she your fiancé?”  And the boy saying, “No.  We’re 13.  We’re 14.  We’re 15 years old.  Of course, I haven’t proposed to her.”  And then the youth pastor saying, “Well, get your hands off of another man’s wife.”

Rebecca: No.  No.  No.  We need a second.  We need a second.  Get your hands off another man’s wife.  Okay.

Vera: This is about a child again.  A teenager.  And in that moment, everybody—and you realize, “Oh, I belong to someone else.”  

Rebecca: Yeah.    

Sheila: So it’s not treat someone with respect because they deserve respect in and of themselves.  She only deserves respect because she belongs to some future as unnamed man.

Vera: Future man.  This child belongs to a man one day.  And that goes along with all of the other purity culture modest messages, all of those kind of things of—we were kind of talking about.  We’re talking a lot about consent and all those things.  They tell you don’t have sex.  Don’t do it.  And if you have sex or if you’re raped, you deserve it.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because you probably did something wrong.

Vera: You’ve chosen to wear a V neck, or you dated a non Christian.  Or that one day you wore a bikini top or a tankini and you didn’t wear a T-shirt over top of it.  And then you’re told all of these things.  And then you’re being also told by grown men in the church who are most likely married with children your age that you’re a stumbling block.  And you can’t wear yoga pants because men see you, and you’re a stumbling block to their faith.  And what does that really mean?  It means that they’re thinking of you sexually.  They may be masturbating over you or other kinds of things.  You are a risk to them.  You are the danger to them.  You, the child, are the danger to the grown man, who is sexualizing you.  And so, again, it takes away the autonomy and the consent.  I don’t consent as a 14, 15-year-old girl because I’ve developed at a certain rate to be sexualized by a married grown man.

Rebecca: Like 54-year-old man.  Or 40-year-old man.  Yep.

Vera: And so those messages not only were not talking about consent, you’re saying don’t have sex, but then also don’t get raped because you’re not going to talk about consent.  So any sex is sex to you.  

Sheila: And this is something I want our listeners—we haven’t said this yet.  But one of the big things that we talk about in the consent chapter in She Deserves Better is that we largely replaced any conversation about consent in the church with just simply the don’t do it message.  We never talked about consent because you didn’t need to because the message was don’t do it.       

Rebecca: Yes.  And so if you’re having sex, no matter what, it’s a sin.  

Sheila: Right.  And so we never set up our girls to understand when something was coercive.

Rebecca: Well, and not only that, we also trained our boys to not know what was coercive because we—like what you were saying.  This idea of ownership of women’s bodies, of women are stumbling blocks, women make men stumble.  So first of all, you’re training the girls to just fully be a predator’s complete dream because they don’t understand at all any autonomy.  And they’ve been groomed already by the church not intentionally.  But they’ve been groomed by the church to speak right out of the predator’s handbook where, “Well, I made you do it.  Well, you couldn’t help yourself.  Well, I did all these things.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  Let me share something else that we have in that chapter.  And your story, Vera, it opens our consent chapter.  But we also quote from some resources that were really heavily promoted to girls your age because you’re a millennial.  So you grew up with a lot of the purity culture stuff, the Brio magazine.

Vera: Well, I didn’t have that because, again, I didn’t have Christian parents.  That was not being purchased for me. 

Rebecca: But you were in that era, I guess.

Vera: I was in the era.  Yeah.  And I still got those messages from people.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And so let me tell you there was a book called For Young Women Only that was written by Shaunti Feldhahn.  And in that, she talks about a survey question, which we have taken apart on a previous podcast.  I’ll put a link to it.  We took it apart several years ago.  It is not properly worded.  We shared last week on how one of her modesty questions was horribly worded.  This one was just as horribly worded.  But she was asking boys, “You’re in a make out situation with your girlfriend.  How likely is it that you’re going to feel responsibility or an ability to stop?”

Rebecca: Well, no.  No.  She doesn’t ask that.  She asks, “How likely are you to be able to stop the sexual progression?”

Sheila: Right.  And then she—there’s a number of different answers, which are very badly worded again.  Again, I will put a link to where we dissected this question.  But her conclusion, in looking at her results, was that 82% of boys have either little ability or little responsibility to stop in a make out situation.  And then she highlights one of the comments from a guy, who took her survey who said, “Girls need to know that if they want to stop it it’s safest to not even start.”

Vera: Yeah.  And that’s the message that I feel like I got from the youth group was I consented to what happened to me because I consented to kissing this non Christian boy.

Rebecca: Yes.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  Yeah.

Vera: Exactly.  And if you’re going to engage in sexual sin, which is ridiculous, because making out—

Rebecca: I just (cross talk).  It’s like we all just sigh.

Vera: I consented to making out with this boy.  And now whatever happens after that is—and the friend had said to me.  “Now you’re married in God’s eyes.”  So it takes it the step further.  It’s not only are you consenting to one thing if you’re starting to make out, but then you’re consenting to something that, again, soul wise, like the pastor’s wife had said, is so much deeper and so much more—and we were teenagers.  You’re going to want to make out.  

Sheila: We’re just parachuting into this discussion to tell you about a group of people who help us do this work.

Rebecca: We have a Patreon. 

Sheila: Yes.  And we could not do it without them.  We’re so grateful.  Our patron group is what allowed us to do the research for She Deserves Better.  They gave us the financial backing to be able to do this amazing project.  

Rebecca: Well because frankly, again, I know we said this before.  But we were not expecting this book to take on the wings that it did.  We were expecting to do a very quick, cutesy, little mom and daughter devotional.  And instead we ended up putting the same amount of work in that we did for Great Sex Rescue.

Sheila: Yeah.  And our patron group is my favorite place on the Internet.

Rebecca: It’s lovely.  

Sheila: We have a wonderful Facebook group.  I feel like I know them.  They’re my real friends.  There’s new people joining every week.  And it’s an incredible place.  You can join us for as little as $5 a month.  There’s unfiltered podcasts.  You’re doing to see a lot of stuff behind the scenes.  It’s a really great place, and your money helps support what we’re doing.  So we would love to see you there.  We’re going to put the link to our patron.  It’s patreon.com/baremarriage.  And we will put the link in the podcast notes.  And I just want to say too your story is so—it’s awful.   

Rebecca: Oh, it’s terrible.

Sheila: But it’s so common.

Rebecca: That’s what’s horrifying.

Sheila: We talk to so many people in our focus groups.  We had so many people tell us about date rape situations.  And quite often, they didn’t even realize it was date rape for ten years.  They blamed themselves.

Vera: Well, I didn’t even know that date rape was a thing because the church messages that I—and there was the verse.  I can’t exactly remember what it was.  But where it says, “Wives, submit to your husbands,” right?  And the way that that was twisted in my brain in these moments was, “Well, I am a woman.  I need to submit to these men.”  And this guy was not the only one that this had happened with me.  And I think that the other incidents were before him.  But that kind of opened the door for it to happen in the severity that it did.  But I was like I am a wife in God’s eyes because if this pastor or this leader is talking about me as though I am some future man’s wife then who knows who my husband is?  I have to submit to these boys because I am a woman.

Rebecca: Well, and you’re not the only—that’s actually really common.  That’s all in For Young Women Only.  That’s in Lies That Women Believe.  It’s in all these popular books.  

Sheila: Yeah.  That you need to practice submitting now.  Do not—you need to practice—

Rebecca: Unconditional respect for the boys around you because a woman’s job is to be submissive.  And so you’re telling girls to be submissive and also that boys can’t help themselves.  And so this is one of the things where one plus one equals two, people.  This is not hard to think—to follow the logical trail here.  And what makes me so frustrated is what we did in evangelicalism is we took a girl’s faith and we completely just made it about virginity.  We made everyone’s faith about sex.  Okay.  So if you’re not married, it’s about not having sex.  And if you are married about having sex.  Right?  Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better.  Literally, evangelicalism mostly has become defined by what we do about sex.  Right?

Sheila: Yes.  

Rebecca: And even in the culture, you know that’s what evangelicalism is typically known about is our sexual ethic and that kind of thing.  That’s what we are popular for and famous for because that’s what we spent all of our freaking time talking about.  Right?  And so here is the problem.  We taught all these girls that the way to be a Christian is to not have sex.  And so what does that mean?  That means that we teach our girls that if you have sex that’s the worst thing that you can do.  So what does that mean?  That means that we get to all or nothing thinking about sex.  And we say, “Well, then if I’ve done one thing I might as well do the rest.”  There are so many studies that have also shown this.  High personal conservatism is actually—in terms of faith.  So very strict rules, very fundamentalist viewing on these things, very religious—all—black or white thinking tends to actually more risky sexual behavior and higher rates of sexual assaults because girls think, “Well, I’ve kissed him, so now I have no excuse.  I have to have sex with him because I made it go too far already.”  Right?  I’ve already lost—the chocolate bar already has one bite out of it.  I might as well let the whole chocolate bar go.  Right?  Well, I’ve already glued myself to this piece of paper.  This all or nothing thinking (cross talk).

Vera: The flower is already crumpled.  The flower is not getting any more crumpled as we go.

Sheila: The water already has spit in it.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Whatever the horrible virginity sexual purity message—insert terrible metaphor here.  Right?  So we ended up with this horrible all or nothing thinking, which then also told girls your entire worth has to do with whether or not you’ve had something inside of your vagina.

Vera: Yes.

Rebecca: Okay.  And then—I’m sorry.  And then what we have done is we then have those girls.  And when they come into the church and something bad has happened to them, there is no ability for the evangelical church with these beliefs to tell them that was wrong.  That shouldn’t have happened to you because it uproots the entire idea of what God-given masculinity is.  It says we actually—maybe this actually wasn’t okay.  But then we have to talk about power dynamics in sex.  We have to talk about what consent actually means.  And as we know from Great Sex Rescue, a lot of really popular marriage books have legit examples of marital rape in them.  And I do have to wonder how much these conversations are not happening in youth groups because the men, who are running these youth groups and running these churches, are being taught by people in evangelicalism who cannot talk about consent because they are actively perpetuating messages that enable marital rape.  And so if you can get raped as a teenager who consented to making out and maybe starting fooling around and then said no, then what does that say about his wife?  Right?

Vera: Or you consented like what the pastor had said to me.  “Well, this is what happens when you date a non Christian.”  I consented to, in his eyes, being raped because I was dating a non Christian in the same way that a wife consents to having sex with her husband whenever he wants to because she married him.

Rebecca: She got married.  Yes.  Exactly.  What does that say?  I do think that’s a conversation that needs to be had as well because my concern is we are not addressing the root of this which is that we see our young girls—our young, young, young girls—I mean we talked about this last week with the modesty stuff.

Sheila: Eight years old.

Rebecca: Girls as young as eight years old are told, “Your bellies are very intoxicating,” right?  Or in the 2021 version of Dannah Gresh’s book, they’re told that wearing certain clothing can ask people to finish the picture of your body.  Eight year olds.  There are no eight year olds who are inviting people to finish the picture of their body.  No.  That is a problem.  We don’t say that.  It’s pedophilic.   

Sheila: And this is still being said.

Rebecca: Again, that’s in the 2021 version.  Okay.  There are fundamental views in evangelicalism where we see our young girls primarily as sexual objects that are owned by men.  They are just kind of gotten dibs on them.  Right?  So the nine year old in the youth group who is dressing immodestly.  She is defrauding a man by making him look at her, and she is stealing from her future husband by allowing another man to look at her intoxicating belly as a nine year old.  That’s what she’s taught.  That’s what she’s taught.

Sheila: Yeah.  And it means that you can’t own your body.  You were saying something interesting, Vera, about how that worship leader said that leg belongs to someone’s future husband.  I once knew a woman who felt like her vagina wasn’t hers.  She had been told in her church that her vagina belonged to her future husband.

Rebecca: Well, no.  Her vagina belonged to God and then to her husband.  

Sheila: Right.    

Rebecca: Your vagina is never yours.  It’s God’s vagina.  And then it’s your husband’s vagina.  

Sheila: So is your ear yours?  Is your elbow yours?

Rebecca: I think if a man wants to have sex with it, then no.  It’s not.  

Sheila: It’s this idea that you do not have any agency.  So okay.  I mean you’ve gotten through this.  And I know that that doesn’t mean that—    

Rebecca: Gotten through is a bad term for it.  

Vera: It’s also been ten plus years for this incident we’re talking about and 15 plus years for the other ones.  And so it has been a really, really long time.  And I think that a lot of it—I have a therapist.  Get a therapist.  

Rebecca: Yeah.

Vera: A non Christian therapist if you can.  Can be Christian but don’t get a Christian therapist.  Licensed therapist.  And I have talked a lot—a lot of disassociation.  There are a lot of years that I do not remember.  I’ve lost my mom, who was a big part in teaching me consent.  And when I lost her, I realized how much of her the church took away even when she was alive.  How much I had missed out on the wisdom that she taught me.  She was trying to teach me to love my body when I hated it because it was a danger.  I think losing her, becoming an actual woman, that changed.  I think a lot of it changed when I turned 24, and I—my brain was mostly developed.  A lot of things changed in the way that I saw myself and the world.  And I was married at that point.  And my husband did not see me as an inherently sexual thing.  I was not his plaything.  I was not some irresistible charge that he just couldn’t handle.  I was his wife.

Rebecca: Who you loved.

Vera: And he liked me as a person.  He liked, for the most part, who I am at my core with or without sex.  We were together when my mom died.  And we went through a really long period where that was not on the table.  And that was fine because he didn’t marry me for my vagina, like you had said.  He liked me for who I was.  And the parts of me that he didn’t quite like were because of that trauma and my reactions to it.  And he helped me—walked alongside me in realizing that I don’t have to be some hypersexual being to keep him or to be a good wife.  That I could just do the dishes.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  You just be a normal person.

Vera: Be a person.  And it was really hard unlearning all of that.  And I think that being married and then becoming a mom and looking at my child and soon to be children and realizing like, “Oh my gosh.  I will never see my children as inherently sexual beings.”  They are, of course.

Rebecca: All of us are sexual beings.

Vera: They (cross talk) have sex.  But I don’t look at little girls and think, “Oh, they’re tempting these boys.”  I don’t look at 16 year olds and think, “Oh, she’s wearing jeans and a tank top.  She deserves whatever is coming for her,” because they are children.  And I think that was the big thing is growing up and seeing my age where I thought that I was this grown danger and my body was some weapon against men that God had somehow created an error in creating me in the way that He did.  We’ve talked about it, and I used to think I was so big.  And I used to think I was so curvy, and I was so—such a terrible temptation.  And then I look back, and I was a child.  And I looked like a child, and I acted like a child just like the children that exist today do.  I think that was a big part of it is as you grow up you get different eyes.  You’re going through Starbucks, and there is a child at the window serving you.  You’re like, “Oh my gosh.  What happened to me?”     

Rebecca: How is there a child?

Vera: How is there a child—are you okay?

Rebecca: And it’s like, “I am 17, ma’am.  I have a part time job.”  

Vera: I think that’s something that kind of happens.  You start to see the world in fresh eyes when, “Oh my gosh.  I was a kid.  I was not some temptress.  I was 16.  I was 15.  I was 13.  I was 12.”  And I think that that’s a really big thing is giving myself the eyes to see who I really was and not who I was told that I was.

Rebecca: And giving yourself room to grieve for that child too.  We hear that.  The ability to grieve for the lost childhood.  My prayer for She Deserves Better too is that as this—as we’re talking about this as a church—and I don’t mean church as a church.  You know what I mean?  A capital C, the church.  As we’re talking about this, we can raise our kids to know that you’re not somebody else’s wife.  You’re not already claimed to be a sexual object for some other man, and that’s why it’s wrong to touch you.  You’re a person which means that no matter what you do or what is done to you you do not lose value by what happens.  It means that our girls will grow up knowing that even if you have—I mean if you have sex with as many people as you possibly can, you haven’t value.  You are not worth less.  And especially, we can get rid of these ideas that boys will just take, and it’s girls’ job to make sure it doesn’t happen.  So if you got raped, it’s probably your fault.  We can get rid of that because our girls deserve better than to be told that you are really only worth something if you are in mint condition, which is the creepy way that I was talked about it.

Sheila: Oh, that is.  That is really creepy.    

Rebecca: I want to make sure it’s very clear that those are not my words.  Really clear.

Sheila: And I think too in—in know in our launch group because we do have a launch group going for She Deserves Better.  There is like 600 people in there now, I think.  It’s awesome.  But if you preorder the book and we will put a link in the podcast notes and then you agree to do a review for it wherever you bought it, Amazon, a review on Goodreads, christianbook.com, wherever you buy it, then you are welcome in the launch team.  And we’re doing Facebook Lives.  We’ve got lots of great discussions going in there, so we will have a link there.  But one of the things—  

Rebecca: I will say I believe that when this one drops—at 1:00 p.m. today on Thursday, I think we’re talking about deconstruction.  So that will be awesome.  

Sheila: We’re working through one of our preorder bonuses for you.  But one of the things that’s come up in that group a lot is that people are using this book to reparent themselves, to hear the things that they wish they had been told.  So it’s not just moms working through it with their daughters.  It’s like this really messed me up, people.  And I need to reparent myself.  Before we go, there is one other thing that I want to just reiterate with Vera’s story, which really hit me.  You were talking about how you went to your youth pastor because that’s the normal place to go.  I mean youth pastors—the church hires the youth pastors to deal with the issues with youth.  And your youth pastor and his wife were totally unqualified to handle this.

Vera: Oh, so totally unqualified.  Yeah.

Sheila: And we often hire youth pastors, who are in their early 20s, who are not trained in trauma, in consent, in coercion, in any of this stuff.  And they are the people that are going to be getting the worst stories.

Vera: Yeah.  And I know I wasn’t the only one he went to.  And I know that that wasn’t the only time that I went to him.  I went to him when I was worried I had an eating disorder.  And his threat was, “Well, you know I have to tell your mom if it’s true.”  Well, it’s not true.  Okay.  So then it’s not true.  If you have to tell my parent and then, again, like we’ve talked about, this is going to harm their soul, and it’s going to be my fault then no.  None of it’s true.  I guess I was making it up.  I went to you in your office for no reason.  And I know many other stories where that pastor should have reported or should have protected and should have done those things, and he didn’t because, again, he’s so unqualified.  He’s so young.  His wife far too young to be having any kind of conversation like that with any of us.  You’re not automatically qualified to mentor children who have been harmed because you are married at 18 or 19 to a youth pastor.

Rebecca: It’s such a ridiculously common story.  Right?  And that’s one of the things that I’m glad that we can talk about a bit too because we have to ask churches too.  Even if you really like your youth pastor, if you think they’re a great guy, they’re just young, right?  They’re not ready for lead ministry because they’re just young.  Well, then, how on earth do you think they’re able to handle the kinds of questions you’re going to get from teenagers?  I mean most people in ministry know that the hardest questions happen between grades 8 and 12.  Right?

Sheila: Well, the people that are the most likely to disclose abuse, the people that are the most likely to disclose sexual assault or eating disorders—  

Rebecca: You have mental health, severe—

Sheila: – or mental health issues, cutting are going to be teenagers.  And is your youth pastor that you are probably paying $30,000 a year to where they have a Bible college education but not really any history in psychology or proper counseling techniques—  

Rebecca: Or any real world experience.

Vera: Trauma informed training.  Any of that stuff.

Sheila: Are they qualified for this?  Because teens probably don’t know anyone else on staff that they’d be comfortable talking to.  You’ve set up this youth pastor as the one that teens are supposed to go to.  And the worst advice that we heard over and over and over again in our interviews was from youth pastors.

Rebecca: Oh yeah.

Vera: I mean if the youth pastor is the go to for the ultimate truth, the truth of the Gospel—who is Jesus?  What does the Bible say?  You, as a teenager, are going to assume that your pastor has the ultimate truth in every other aspect.

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Vera: And it may not be true.  And as adults, we may think, “Well, that’s not quite original.  Nobody can be the holders of all truth.”  But if you’re going to be put above us and teaching us in this way, I’m going to trust that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re safe and trustworthy.  And so when you tell me, “That’s what you get for dating a non Christian,” I don’t hear that from a youth pastor.  I hear that from God because you are the voice that brings me what the Bible really means.  You’re giving the sermons.  You’re doing small groups with all of those things.  It’s so challenging because when the pastors or youth pastors or worships leaders, who are the mouth pieces of God in these churches, are saying these things to you, you don’t hear it from the voice of youth pastor.  You hear it from the voice of God.  God said to me, “You deserve that because you dated a non Christian.”  Because when you’re saying these men are the bearers of truth, then that truth is truth.  Or it’s not.

Rebecca: Or else you’re labeled prideful.  Right?  Because that’s the thing.  And this is exactly what we found, though, is that this is why it affects those who believe it the most.  Right?   We have found this over—and, again, if you’re interested in this, get into the group.  I’ll make sure that our—the person who runs the group let’s people in at noon, so you can get there for 1:00.  But if you’re interested in talking about this, we’re going to be talking about this at the Live today.  The people who we found were often the most harmed by these teachings were those who believed them the most.  Because if you’re someone who believes the youth group like 75%, you think it’s a good idea, but you haven’t really internalized it.  And your youth pastor says something off you’re going to be like, “You’re out to lunch.”  But if you’re someone who actually, actively wants to follow Christ, you want to be a godly teenager, that’s what we all wanted.  We all longed to be godly.

Sheila: Like Vera did.  Like Vera did.  Yes.

Vera: And I didn’t have parents to look up, so I had the people in the church.  I had the worship leader and his family.  I had the youth pastor and his wife.  Those were the people who were my spiritual parents, and that’s the way the church had worded it.  So it’s so—there are so many layers to it if, again, you’re speaking for God.  And you’re also speaking as somewhat of a parent to me because I don’t have spiritual parents, who can tell me those things.  So when you, the adult in my life, are saying this to me, I’m going to take it like my own father says it to me.  

Rebecca: And that’s why we need to be really careful to make sure that we’re saying things that are actually rooted in truth and not just sound like they’re Christian because I believe—I really believe that Jesus is the truth.  And so if we are saying things that mostly hurt the people who actually believe what we’re saying, that means we’re lying.  If the only way that you can really be protected is if you don’t actually believe what’s being taught to you that means it’s a lie.   Right?  Our goal should be, as a church, to have a message that brings life and healing and goodness, not something like what Vera experienced, what so many others experienced where if you actually trust the church fully, you’re more likely to get hurt.  And that’s what we’re trying to do.  We’re trying to get us back to evidence-based stuff so that we stop hearing this crap.  So we stop hearing this stuff.

Sheila: So if you want to talk with your kids about this or if you just need to sort this out for yourself, we do have this.  And specifically in our consent chapter in She Deserves Better, what’s another way of looking at consent, what’s a better way of looking at consent, what’s a Jesus-centered way of talking about this—  

Rebecca: Let’s actually talk about consent.   

Sheila: So that you can work it through with your daughter including ways that she can make sure that she isn’t violating consent.

Rebecca: Because that’s always missing too.  

Sheila: Because girls can violate consent to.  So we have that in the book, and I really encourage you to pick it up.  So, Vera, it was so great to have your story in the book.

Vera: Thank you for having me.

Sheila: And we’re really honored that you joined us and all the other stories, all the other women who were really vulnerable.  We know that this was hard stuff to share.  I know the stories that we were able to include from people who did do our survey and our interviews they really made the book better.  So thank you for doing that.  Thank you for being courageous and being here.

Vera: Oh, thank you.  Yeah.  

Rebecca: Honestly, yes.  Thank you so much.  As you’re just ending, I just want to say my main hope is really that our kids, my daughter, the people who are just little babies now, who are really small, and the ones who are teenagers now, the ones who are currently growing up, that they’ll be able to grow up in a church that never tells them that if you’ve had sex with someone they’re part of your soul.  They’re able to be in a church where the idea of consent is not something that’s just seen as another word for license to sin.  And they’re in a church where they actually seen as more than just what they have to offer a man sexually, but that our girls are taught that they deserve better.  They deserve better than to be seen as objects.  They deserve better than to be blamed for other people’s actions against them.  They deserve better than fear tactics and lies to keep them in line because, really, we all deserved better than that.

Sheila: I’m really honored that she chose to share her story with us.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Honestly, whenever anyone is willing to be interviewed about such personal things, I’m always just—I’m always impressed by just how much people are willing to share to help other people.

Sheila: Yeah.  And this is how we stop the bad messaging is we start talking about what happened to us.  We start being open about how this messed us up.  And we’re just adamant the next generation deserves better.   

Rebecca: Oh, yeah.  

Sheila: But I want to turn to something else.  We’re going to bring Joanna, our coauthor Joanna, onto the podcast in just a second because what I want to look at now is that so often these messages whether it’s the modesty messages that we looked at last week, whether it’s the consent messages like Vera heard from her pastor’s wife that were shared in a lot of the books that we mentioned, often they’re spread by women.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  I mean how many of us had a woman be the one who told us that our top was too tight or our skirt was too short.  Right?

Sheila: And so let’s jump into a conversation with Joanna about that.  Well, we have brought on to the Bare Marriage podcast from Edmonton, Alberta our wonderful coauthor, Joanna Sawatsky.  

Joanna: Hi, everybody.

Sheila: Yeah.  And Joanna is our status person, so you are the smart person who runs all the statistical analyses on all of our data.  And we thought we would have you on today to answer a question that I think has been haunting people since last week’s podcast where we talked about the eight year old bellies that are intoxicating which is how in the world were women the ones who so often spread these messages.  Not just the female authors but even in our focus groups, we kept hearing over and over again that the people that girls heard this from in church were not men.  It was women.         

Rebecca: Yeah.  It was your mom’s friend or your Sunday School teacher.  Just some older woman in the congregation just coming up to you apropos of nothing to tell you that you’re immodest.  Right?  

Sheila: You were wondering this too, Joanna.  And so tell us what you did.

Joanna: Okay.  So I thought I would look at how women who believe the modesty messages today—do they believe that girls talk too much as well?

Sheila: Because if you remember—tell us—because from two weeks ago on the podcast, we talked about the issue with girls talk too much.  So explain what that was.

Joanna: Yeah.  So essentially, we’re looking at the measure of, technically what would be called, internalized misogyny.  So girls actually don’t talk too much statistically.  So if you believe that girls talk too much, then that’s saying something about your beliefs about women and, therefore, your beliefs about yourself.  You’re more likely to believe that you taking up space is not okay.  There isn’t room for you as a human.  And there’s actually a hunormous—it’s a technical term in statistics.  Hunormous.  Very large correlation between believing modesty messages today and believing that girls talk too much.  You’re about four times more likely to believe that girls talk too much if you believe the modesty message.

Sheila: Which is really—that is hunormous.  That is hunormous.

Joanna: That is hunormous.  Yes.  So I actually think that the modesty messages themselves are a measure of internalize misogyny.  We would need to run more statistics to say that that was actually for sure a thing.  But that seems to be both logically and statistically where the numbers appear to be pointing.  Additionally, if women believe the modesty messages, they are about 55% more likely to report that they have been in an abusive marriage.  The current marriage that they are in is abusive.  So this is something both about their beliefs about themselves as women potentially but also is a—potentially says something about their quality of their marriage and of the man who they are married to.

Sheila: Right.  

Rebecca: We have other numbers too on this talking about how women who believe this today how they differ from the women who either never believed it or who deconstructed.  We are going to be talking about that.  I’m going to do a little plug.  Okay?  We are going to be talking about that in one of our Facebook Lives in our launch group on Facebook.  And so if you’re interested in this conversation and figuring out what is it that makes women the predominant people who bear this message, please do join for that.  We want to have it more as a discussion with the live comments and stuff like that.  So we’re going to keep that in the Facebook group, but you can just—there’s going to be a link in the podcast notes to figure out how you can become a part of our launch team.

Sheila: Yeah.  All you have to do is preorder the book.

Rebecca: And then send us your receipt.

Sheila: And then tell us that you’re going to write a review, and that’s all we ask of you.  And then there’s so much extra stuff coming your way.    

Rebecca: Yeah.  But really what we’re getting at is people do not preach this message in a vacuum is kind of what we’re finding.  Right?  If you are a woman who believes that boys can’t help but lust after girls who are dressed a certain way, that girls have a responsibility to protect boys from having to see their bodies.  If you believe that girls who dress immodestly are worse than those who don’t, these are the kinds of messages that we were measuring.  If you’re believing these messages that we’re finding in places like Secret Keeper Girl, like For Young Women Only, like—we’re finding these in a lot of our big things.  We’re finding them in Focus on the Family broadcasts.  Right?  These are in the normal evangelical zeitgeist.  If you’re preaching these things, there’s actually a good chance that it’s because it is your experience.  Maybe the men in your life are unsafe.  Maybe you have been taught that men will not control themselves around your body.  Or maybe a man that you love talks about how tempted he is by the 13 year olds in your congregation or worse.  The nine year olds and ten year olds who are dressing like little hussies.  I mean we’ve all heard men say that about really, really young girls.  And maybe it’s easier for this woman to believe, “Well, it really is women’s fault,” than for her to recognize that maybe her husband has actually got some seriously concerning stuff going on in his head.    

Sheila: And I have to admit this is—when I hear women preach this now, that’s what’s going through my head is like, “What are you hearing at home?  What must you think is normal?”  Because in the wider culture to look at an eight year old and call her intoxicating, that’s not normal.

Rebecca: Or even a 13 year old wearing a bikini and seeing her as a sexual object.  That’s not normal.

Sheila: No.   

Rebecca: You could get fired from your job if you’re found saying those kinds of things in some places.  I know at the YMCA we had strict rules about stuff like that because we were around children in bathing suits all the time.  It’s disgusting to think that the kinds of things that were said at church would have meant that you got really talked to if not disciplined at the work place.

Sheila: Yeah.  

Joanna: So if you follow us on Patreon and you get our podcast, you’ll know that I really enjoy reading in my spare time and that I have decided to turn that into a podcast series because I read a lot of books.  And there are interesting things to talk about from them.  So I recently reread an excellent book by Tom Holland.  And he did sort of biographical sketches throughout church history.  But he talked about a woman named Elizabeth of Hungary.  And I thought about her as we’re doing this.  She is a woman who was horrifically abused by her confessor, Conrad of Marburg.  And she sets this standard of piety that literally kills her at the age of 24.  She was a princess, very happily married.  Her husband—she’s very pious.  Her husband is a fan of her piety.  She’s giving away her jewels to the poor.  He’s like, “This is great.  This makes me look amazing.”  And so then Elizabeth swears an oath to her confessor, Conrad, of complete obedience essentially and takes a vow of chastity.  She ends up working in the hospital that Conrad has set up.  And she takes care of very, very ill patients all through the night.  She’s not sleeping.  She’s hardly eating.  He breaks her will very particularly making her confess—it’s really dark.  Really dark.  And she is venerated actually for her piety.  And her piety is legitimately something that is powerful, and she helped a lot of people.  But also she died at 24.  She didn’t just die at 24.  She could have lived to be 80 or 75.  She could have done a lot more good.  But she was a puppet.  She was made to do what she did by her confessor, who systematically broke her.  

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  And how many of these women are being systematically broken?

Sheila: Well, and honestly, that’s what I wonder.  When you read through these books, when you listen to some of the women who teach this stuff, I just can’t help but think, “What is your home life like?”  If you honestly believe that men find eight year old’s bellies intoxicating, that little girls, in Dannah Gresh’s words, have the power of beauty and it is their responsibility to control that intoxicating power,  if we are putting that on little girls, what must these women be going through?  When I was in university, we were studying a lot about why it is psychologically—and I might get this wrong.  And you’ll jump in if I do I’m sure.    You’re the psychology grad.  But why it is that so many children and women who are abused end up blaming themselves and thinking that I am the one who caused it.  And what they’ve deduced or hypothesized or whatever is that if you believe that it’s your fault, then you also believe that if I act differently I might be able to prevent it.

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s a false sense of control.  

Sheila: Yeah.  It’s a false sense of control.  But if you believe, “No.  They’re just doing it because they’re an evil person.  And I can’t do anything about that,” then you are completely helpless.  And this can keep happening to you, and you’re completely helpful. And I wonder how much is this very similar dynamic happening with a lot of the women who are preaching this message is they’re thinking, “If I can just get all the women around me to dress differently, then maybe my husband will be intoxicated by me.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s this idea of they are unwilling to sacrifice the false husband.  Right?  This false idea that maybe my husband isn’t the kind of man who looks at 12 year olds sexually.  Maybe the problem is the way that 12 year olds are dressing.  Maybe my husband isn’t the kind of man who doesn’t have eyes for me alone, but he’s actually the kind of man who would have eyes for me alone if he had a choice.  He just doesn’t have a choice.  And you can’t accept the reality that yeah.  He does have a choice.  And so instead, it becomes this hope and this—yeah.  I mean Adler sense of the false self is applied to the spouse.  Right?  

Sheila: Right.  And so you think about that.  So they’re trying to control what all the other women around them and the girls around them dress like in the hopes that now maybe my husband will remain faithful to me.  And when you read the words that Dannah Gresh and Shaunti Feldhahn have both used, this is what it sounds like because Dannah Gresh talks about how he automatically fitted—his eyes finished the picture of your body.  Right?  So she uses Gestalt Theory, which is like—well, do you want to describe why this (cross talk)?

Rebecca: Gestalt Theory is complete crap about this because it’s—I don’t even know where to start.  It’s so not really applicable to this situation.  

Sheila: She talks about how men can’t help but finish the picture of your body.  So if you show a little bit, they’re going to think about the rest of it automatically.  Shaunti Feldhahn says that all men are tempted to linger on, fantasize, imagine you naked.  That this is the male brain.  And they’re putting it as a normal thing that’s automatic.  My husband is a pediatrician.  He sees children every single day.  He never—he is so appalled by this.  I really should get him on the podcast to go off on this for a little bit.  He just can’t imagine any man ever saying anything like that about being intoxicated by little girl’s belly.  

Rebecca: No.  And I think there is another side of it too.  I think there is one where it’s maybe they’re just—maybe the women who are in your small group or who are—that lady coming up to the young girl at the church and telling them to be careful not to wear those pants.  Maybe they’re just in a marriage and they want to preserve that sense of the false self for their husband.  Right?  I think there’s also another side of it where I think if you’re someone who has experienced that men who you love whether it’s your husband or not are kind of dangerous people—if it’s the girl’s fault, we can also try to protect other girls.  I think this is also a false way of trying to protect young women.  I think there’s a lot of women who are really passionate about making sure that women understand the dangers of the world and understand that men can—only want one thing.  And that’s where a lot of this comes from.  And I think it comes from a really good place of trying to protect people.  But again, intention does not equal impact.  We say that all the time.  Right?  If you intend to do good but you accidentally harm, the only way to do good is now to stop doing the harm.  That is to say, “Well, I’m trying to do good, so you should just be okay with me doing harm because I tried to do good.”  No.  That’s not it.  So if you’re thinking, “But these girls don’t know what men are like,” okay.  But we also know that believing these things is not helpful and that there’s obviously a better way.  There is a third way.  It isn’t either everyone should be naked all the time, or everyone should be covered to prevent lust.  There is a way that’s not about lust and about sexual impurity or sexual thoughts that teaches people how to be confident and have boundaries and recognize red flags and dangerous people so that instead of blaming themselves or trying to have a false sense of control when something bad happens or if they meet a bad person, they’ll instead have the resources to get out.  And yeah.  It might mean that a lot of people have to recognize that the false sense of the men that they love whether it was their father, their grandfather, maybe a friend’s dad, who you were really close with that was like a father figure or your own husband or worse—I mean as a parent, even worse, your own sons.  Whoever it is.  You might have to let go of the false sense of them.  But that’s what truth requires.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And it’s interesting how in Secret Keeper Girl they just never talk about red flags.  It’s all about the power of your body to intoxicate.  It is never about be careful of men who would ever say anything like this to you.   

Rebecca: No.  There is not a call out box that says, “How do you recognize when someone is unsafe and say, ‘Hey, if a dude is coming up to you at age nine and says your belly is intoxicating, you should probably call the police.’”  No one says that.  They just say that you need to make sure to only save it for your husband and to make sure not to intoxicate a man who should only be intoxicated by someone else.   

Sheila: Yeah.  This is a big thing they say is like you’re supposed to intoxicate one person.  So men are supposed to be intoxicated by one person.  Your wife.  And so you’re only supposed to be intoxicating to your future husband.  So then if a man says he’s intoxicating to you beforehand, it’s your fault.  It’s so messed up.

Joanna: So I do want to just make sure that I give a big stats caveat here because I do think that it’s important that if someone is speaking the modesty message that we go okay.  This is a red flag for are they safe.  This is a red flag for what they believe.  That does not mean—and I cannot say this strongly enough.  That it means that this person is being abused, this person believes that their husband is bad, or that their father or anybody else—we do not know.  They have a higher risk.  That is different from that being diagnostic.  It is not.

Rebecca: It’s like a mole.  Right?  You want to get the mole checked out and to ignore the mole would be really, really irresponsible.  Not every mole is cancer, but to say, “Well, it’s just a mole,” is irresponsible.  

Joanna: Yes.  Exactly.  And I also think that there can be another reason for women believing the modesty message and propagating it and that is it is the rule that has been taught to them.  If they just believe the rule and they haven’t thought about it, they haven’t had to interrogate the rule.  And they believe that the rules are given to them and that they are good rules that will help them.

Rebecca: Exactly.

Joanna: It can come from a place of just not having thought through it.  If you hear someone who is teaching it all the time that you’ve made this your life’s work, yeah.  Super big red flag.  But if it’s just a Sunday School teacher, it—I’m a little bit more cautious about making that a diagnostic thing.  I think that there certainly is a red flag.  Certainly, it would be a good reason to just kind of keep an eye on it.  Right?  But is this something that’s like, “Oh, no.  For sure.  Yikes.”  I’m more cautious there.  I just want to make sure that we talk about the fact that this is not a their husband is bad.  We need to change our view of their husband or whatever because of the fact that So-and-so is telling you to cover up.

Sheila: Although I do want to say, I do change the view.  I actually want women to hear this because when I hear women talking about how all men struggle with lust I do change my view of their husband.  And that may not be fair.  I’m not saying that statistically.

Joanna: I think that that’s different than saying it’s important for you to be covered because this is a—if it’s about respectability in dress, that’s different than all men are monsters.

Rebecca: Exactly.  Yeah.  We have to see this as people—if people are promoting modesty messages aside from the idea of, “Well, the 60 year olds are going to look up your skirt 11 year old,” right?  That’s different.  That’s the red flag.  But if it’s just like, “Well, remember to dress modestly because that’s—we’re Christians.  And that’s what we do,” right?  And then defining that very strictly or something.  I think there’s a level where—yeah.  We have to talk about is this ignorance.  Where we just don’t know that it causes harm?  Is this a place of privilege where it’s never caused harm to you and so you’ve never had to think about it?  Or is this a place where you actually are perpetuating a harmful system because you’re kind of—you are a victim yourself in some way?  Right?  And we have to question which one because ignorance and privilege—that does not mean that you’re meaning to harm people.  It should mean that you are willing to reconsider your beliefs when you realize how it harms people.  And we have to give people that chance.  But there’s another big but where it’s like even if it’s ignorance and privilege, if you’re promoting things like 10 year olds—oh, sorry.  Like 14 year olds on the worship team should wear long skirts so that the elders don’t look up their skirts even if that’s coming from a place of ignorance or privilege, you are still actively normalizing a pedophilic behavior.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And I want to say—okay.  This actually happened to you.  I do need to say something.  So there was a woman who told both you and Katie that you couldn’t wear skirts on the praise team because the men in the front row would look up your skirts.      

Rebecca: The youngest man was like 57.

Sheila: No.  The only issue is the only people who sat in the front row were the elders when they were serving communion.  And this woman was the wife of an elder.  And so I’m like okay.  I now do think differently about her husband.  I do.  And so I mean that may not be completely fair, but I do.

Rebecca: But also our actions have consequences.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so the fact that so many women think that this is normal, I just want to tell you.  When you say these things, the women around you are going to start to wonder about your husband.  

Joanna: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: They just are because that isn’t normal.

Rebecca: And I do think that we need to start normalizing seeing red flags where they are.      

Sheila: Yes.  Please.  Okay.  Can we please—instead of saying, “Wow.  That man found that 12-year-old girl to be a stumbling block because of what she was wearing, so let’s change what the young girl wears,” let’s say.  Holy cow.  You found a 12 year old a stumbling block.  Let’s make sure that he’s never alone in the church.  That there is always someone accompanying him.  Let’s make sure we talk to his kids and make sure they’re okay.  Let’s treat that like oh my goodness instead of going ballistic on what the 12 year old is wearing.

Rebecca: Exactly.  Because especially when—I mean think about how many people are sexually assaulted by the dads they babysit for.  

Sheila: Oh yes.  This is another big—this is another big thing I have.  One of the main places where girls are sexually assaulted as young teens is by the men that they babysit for.    

Rebecca: It’s very common.

Sheila: It’s very common.  You’ll see this a lot in our focus groups, when you talk to girls, like, “Where is the first place where you were sexually harassed where something happened to you—where you were abused?”  It’s often babysitting.  So if there is a woman in your church—if your daughter has a youth group leader, a female youth group leader, who is talking about how all men struggle with lust, never, ever, ever let your daughter babysit for that family even if it’s just an increased risk.  That is too big of a risk.  We are not saying it’s 100%.  But that needs to start—  

Rebecca: Mattering.

Sheila: – sending off holy cow red flags.  Like flashing red lights.  This isn’t okay.  

Rebecca: And that’s really what we’re trying to get at with all this is what we’re finding is that, again, it’s either ignorance, privilege, or for a purpose.  Right?  That’s why people tend to promote these things either because it’s just in the culture milieu and they haven’t thought about it.  Either because they have just been lucky enough to totally miss the repercussions and so they’re in a privileged position for this or because they’re protecting themselves in a maladaptive way.  And no matter what that kind of points to this person not being someone who is good to get advice from in this area, someone who needs to be educated, or someone who needs to have someone come alongside her and say, “Do you need help?  Does the church need to be here to help you heal?  Do we need to figure out a way for you to get to the other—for you to be able to work through what’s happened or maybe the fears and the anxieties around sexuality and sexual sin among the people in your life?”  And I think this is a conversation that needs to start to happen instead of just saying, “Well, this is just how men are.”  Or, “Well, that’s just what evangelicals say.”  We need to start saying no.  No.  No.  Even if it is just what evangelicals say, it is normalizing a pedophilic culture that turns young children even prepubescent children into sexual objects and into the—I mean they’re blamed for their own assaults in this culture.  Right?  So no matter what, we need to say this is then—this is someone who should not be a spiritual authority because they are not educated enough in these areas to be giving spiritual guidance to children this age.  And they’re not able to recognize the red flags for grooming and abuse.  Or they are someone who needs the help of the church to come alongside them and say, “Hey, we—there is better for you.  This is not true, and you deserve better.”  You deserve better, right?

Joanna: The other thing this is I actually had a woman come up to me and she told me that my clothing was immodest, and she framed it as a, “You were going to make the boys lust.”  She did it pretty well.  But if timed it differently, it would have been super helpful.  So the problem was I was quizzing at Bible Quizzing Internationals.  And I did not realize—because when you quiz, my friends, you are using a butt buzzer, so you’re lifting your bum off of the chair which is really weird.  Why they didn’t use hand buzzers is beyond me.  But anyway, we used a butt buzzer, and so you had to lean forward a lot.  You’re practically horizontal.  So we girls had to be really careful because you don’t want people seeing your underwear.  That’s just weird.  So I miscalculated my shirt, and my underwear was showing.  And so she came up to me.  And instead of saying, “Hey, I don’t think you’re aware of the fact that your underwear is showing.  Awkward,” she framed it as a lust problem.  And if she had framed it as, “This just isn’t functionally appropriate.  I don’t think that you are aware of the fact that you very different than the other kids all sitting up front.”  It’s all about framing, right?  And so even that, genuinely helpful.  She was trying to help me because my clothing was not appropriate.  I did not realize it.  She stepped in to give me a hand.  It’s about framing and how—what we’re emphasizing.  

Rebecca: Are we emphasizing, “I don’t want you to be embarrassed, but people can see your bra,” or is it like, “Oh, no.  The boys”?  I don’t want the 50-year-old moms to see my bra either when I was a 14 year old Bible quizzing.  We want no one to see it.

Joanna: Exactly.  I just was like no one.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  Yeah. 

Rebecca: And that’s what I hope.  I hope these conversations can start to change where people will notice what’s the actual reason that we’re talking about this.  And it has to be protecting the young girl, right?  Whether it’s from embarrassment or—but it’s not protecting them from boys having predatory thoughts because that’s on the boys.  And it happens, frankly, no matter what she’s wearing. 

Sheila: Yeah.  Well, these have been some interesting discussions today.  I hope you guys found it interesting.    

Rebecca: I hope so.  

Sheila: I really find this whole idea of why women are the ones sharing this message to be so interesting.  

Rebecca: Sobering but really interesting.  And the thing that I like about talking about this kind of stuff is it also gives us a chance to see what do we do next.  Right?  This isn’t just, “Hey, let’s just look at how things happened in the past and what’s bad about it.”  It’s also like, “Hey, no.  Let’s trouble shoot.  Let’s figure out how can we by emphasizing healing and wholeness and health actually make things better for the future but also for the people today who are perpetuating the harmful stuff.”  How can we break the cycles in their life too.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because they have been harmed as well.    

Rebecca: This stuff harms.  It’s bad.

Sheila: Yeah.  So let’s just get rid of it.  Okay, people?  That shouldn’t be too much to ask.  And so that is what we are asking.  That is what we are asking in the book, She Deserves Better.  That is what we are asking in Great Sex Rescue.  That’s basically what we’re asking with everything that we do.     

Rebecca: We’re pretty much asking can we please just stop.  Can we stop?

Sheila: Can we please just stop?

Rebecca: Can we just do something healthy instead?  Please?  Please.  Please. 

Sheila: Yeah.  What an idea.  So thank you for joining us on this podcast.  Next week we will be looking at another aspect of our research for She Deserves Better.  So do check out the book.  We’re so pleased with it.  We’re so excited that you’re going to get to read the whole thing now.  And, of course, you can read it right this moment, if you join the launch team.  So check out that link.  Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until April 18th.  There is an audio version coming.  Rebecca and I did record it.

Rebecca: Yes.  I had to record my first audio book.  Yeah.

Sheila: Yeah.  Which was fun.  And you, of course, had a really difficult time getting through the modesty chapter because it was so emotional.       

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  

Sheila: Because it really was bad.  This stuff was bad, and we can do better.  So join us next week as we continue this conversation.  And thank you for joining us on the Bare Marriage podcast.  Bye-bye.

Rebecca: Bye.  

SDB Coming Soon Desktop

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

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  1. Joy

    I preordered your book am excited to get in and learn how to raise my daughters in a healthy way! How do we access the freebies that come with the preorder? I am especially interested in how to talk to various church type leaders. Our homeschool co-op has a tendency to call out just girls, and it makes me mad. My kids are all in elementary school so I want to see how to address this before they get older.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      If you email your receipt to preorder@sheilawraygregoire.com you’ll get everything! Plus we’re doing a Facebook Live today on our deconstruction bonus!

  2. Codec

    Some of my takeaways.

    This idea that you can not have any grasp on the truth because you are not a believer or because of denominational differences is not only absurd but contradicted by scripture. The Ethiopian eunuch was looking for the truth and look at what happened to him.

    Self defense and a moral martial philosophy is worthwhile.

    Peer pressure and crowd control is terrifying.

    Someone’s value is not determined by sex.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Pretty good!

  3. Natasha

    Not only that, but when I did dress modestly, I was told that I looked like a frump and to dress prettier by my mother and then when I did that, my Christian school told me to not dress like that. I just couldn’t win, I was constantly getting mixed message from people to dress modest, but not too modest. It was exhausting.

    There was this teacher I had at my Christian high school, she would always tell the girls when they were dressing immodestly and I was constantly picked on by her for being tall so my skirts always hit my legs higher. I swear she was measuring me with a ruler. Well, I come to find out, that there was this history teacher of mine who was basically making her be a messenger and having her tell me that I was dressing immodestly and she admitted he didn’t always agree with him. That really creeped me out that it was the men using her as a messenger because they were too afraid they would be seen as creepy even though it was creepy. She didn’t even agree with some of the stuff they said was immodest!

    I also later learned that her husband coerced her into having a sexual relationship by threatening her and she got pregnant and eloped with her and she didn’t think anything was wrong and blamed herself. I have met her husband before and despite being a police officer, he didn’t think what he did was wrong because he wasn’t physically violent. I pray my high school Spanish teacher finds peace.

  4. Jo R

    So how is an eight-year-old girl stronger and more capable than a grown-a$$ man, who also conveniently asserts only men can be the ultimate authorities in the church, home, and even society? She has to carry not only her own burdens but those of absolutely every man and boy around her.

    Things that make you go “Hmmm.”

    • Nathan

      It’s very convenient. I’m a man, so I’m in charge, I make all decisions, and if I mess up, it’s some woman’s fault.

  5. Amy

    Just a thought on the boy touching “another man’s wife” at youth group. Comments like this send the message to girls that their value lies in being a wife – as in it doesn’t leave singleness as an equally viable option for girls. She is someone else’s wife and her life is less valuable if she doesn’t have a husband.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire


    • M

      Wow. That just hit me. It always sounded so protective and sweet, but if you think carefully it orients a girl in a possessive way rather than personal. Instead of treating her respectfully because she is a HUMAN, they are warned away using language that assumes she will be someone’s wife, and that the primary reason to be respectful is because she belongs to another man.

  6. Laura

    I wasn’t raised in church so I didn’t experience modesty messages, but growing up my mother made sure I dressed appropriately by not showing too much skin. I didn’t think of it as harmful, just the culture she grew up in during the 1960s. When mini-skirts were the rage during my mother’s teen years, my grandmother would not let my mom or her sisters wear mini-skirts, so she made skirts that were no higher than two inches above the knee. I think that was reasonable. If you wear a skirt that is too short and you bend over, your underwear could show. It makes sense to wear clothes that do not expose bra straps or underwear.

    When I was over 40, an 80-year-old woman who was the Celebrate Recovery leader got onto me for wearing a tank top. She said that could be a stumbling block for men who are struggling with lust issues. This made me feel bad and I did not want to see myself as a stumbling block. Besides, shouldn’t grown men know how to control themselves by not looking at my hardly well-endowed chest? For crying out loud, I wear a B-cup size and do not have cleavage. I told my fiance (at that time) about this and he jokingly told me that maybe I shouldn’t wear shorts because he was drawn to my legs. He thought the leader was a bit ridiculous. Even though we never married, we are still friends to this day.

  7. Angharad

    Teaching that a girl ‘belongs’ to her future husband + lack of teaching about consent = lethal mix.

    I was in my teens when I was grabbed and kissed by a guy who had literally been introduced to me that very minute for the first time. He did it in the middle of the church building right after a service in front of a dozen other people. Having been taught that ‘good girls’ only ever kiss with one man – their husband – this really messed with my mind. Fortunately, I’d had enough grounding at home to realise that I didn’t need to go out with this guy just because of his behaviour, but I still felt guilt and shame and that his actions were my fault. Because if I’d been behaving the ‘right’ way, he would have respected me…

    In my 30s, I was sexually assaulted by a man in leadership in the church, who claimed it was my fault for attracting him too much – I’d barely spoken to the man and was always super-modestly dressed (thick, baggy clothing, chosen to make me as shapeless and unattractive as possible). It got so bad that if I needed the toilet during a church event, I’d wait until another woman was going too, so that I didn’t have to walk down the narrow passage to the toilets on my own – because he’d always follow me. When I finally plucked up the courage to report it to a female pastoral worker, I was told I should be ‘grateful for the attention’ at my age – the fact that I was repeatedly telling him to stop was irrelevant because my consent didn’t matter.

    I’m just grateful I had enough teaching from other sources to know that these men didn’t own me. But I know at least one woman who ended up in an abusive relationship because she believed the garbage about ‘belonging’ to one man – so the first man who assaulted her became her ‘husband’ automatically at that point – she felt she had no choice. It’s a sick combination of teachings which does so much damage. I wonder how many women worldwide have ended up married to abusers because they felt forced to marry the first guy who sexually assaulted them out of a mistaken belief that he now ‘owned’ them.

    • Jane Eyre

      Or the belief that she’s like a sticky piece of tape that has lost its stickiness. After all, she’s soul tied to her assailant.

  8. Jason

    Joseph in the Old Testament, being young, probably with hormones raging resisted advances from Potiphar’s wife continiously and ran out when she grabbed him. He didn’t have ‘Every Man’s Battle’ Sermons about lust, Matt 5:28 or even the Ten Commandments. But 40 to 50 year men now days get “intoxicated” and lose total control if a 15 year girl shows a little to much skin, Or according to Dannah Fresh a 8 year old showing a little belly. It’s really sad.

    • Codec

      His ancestor also dealt with a lot. Isaac works a full seven years to marry the woman he loves and Laban has him marry a different woman and then he has to work another seven years to marry Rebekah on top of Laban wanting to seize him, his brother wanting him dead, becoming a father himself and later seeing his sons get into some crazy shenanigans.

    • M


  9. Elizabeth

    Thank you for doing this work! Honestly this is kinda painful to unpack. I have a wonderful husband and life but I do grapple with how much happier our time dating could have been for me without these messages. I remember us making out on the couch one day and I wasn’t really feeling like it (I normally would have been totally keen haha!) but I decided I should just keep it happening because it was good practise for when we got married and I would have sex even if I didn’t feel like it. Ick! (Thankfully I found your work before getting married!!)
    But then later when he went home I felt bad because I’d let things go further than I felt I should have and it was all my fault.
    Even the fact that I asked my husband out initially was a source of great insecurity for a while…I even felt like it was wrong. My husband on the other hand loved that I did, ‘a pretty girl I like tells me she likes me and wants to date…what a great feeling!’ Haha!
    Honestly, it’s just frustrating how much these ridiculous messages robbed some of the joy out of such a precious and exciting time. I’ll never get that time of first falling in love with my husband again…I sometimes wish it hadn’t been so wracked with guilt and shame because of these messages. I’m married now and things are great between us but I’m still struggling.
    Sorry this was a ramble. I’m crying now. It’s hard to account for the damage that’s been done from this movement. What the world is feeding young girls right now is awful (look at the work of Collective Shout here in Australia! They’re awesome and do an amazing job at calling out the over sexualisation of girls and women) so as Christians we need to do better! We need to be different. Patriarchy, porn culture and purity culture all come from the same sexualised view of women. All of them must be stopped!

  10. Lisa Johns

    I was assaulted by the father of a boyfriend (whom I did NOT marry, thankfully) and didn’t tell the story for almost 30 years, partly because I was afraid I would be viewed as complicit. When I finally did tell the story the pastor was really nice to me about it, and also confronted the man in question. The guy tried to blow it off as us “sharing” an “overly warm hug.” 🤮
    I hope soon to have opportunity to chew him out semi-publicly.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so good that you were able to say it out loud finally! And I’m so glad that the pastor supported you and did the right thing.

  11. Katie

    I had a lightbulb moment while listening to this. I experienced sexual harassment as a junior in high school on a daily basis for several months. I was often touched, slapped, squeezed, and hugged by a few different boys and one time I had a scary experience where they were dragging me out of a room to do who-knows-what, luckily a teacher walked in and caught them. I didn’t really have a youth group (rural area) but I devoured Brio magazines like crazy and figured I just wasn’t dressing modestly enough – I also had a mother who was afraid of my womanly body. I wore men’s (baggy) T-shirts and loose fitting jeans to school every day and things never changed. None of these boys went to church.

    One time another classmate said to me, “Why don’t you say “no” when they touch you?”, and I said, “Because they can’t help it because I have a large chest.” Can you believe that!? I JUST NOW realized that this friend could see I had a problem with consent but I was convinced it was MY FAULT they were touching me! That was almost 20 years ago, and I just realized that it wasn’t my fault.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow, Katie! I’m so sorry. I wish I could give little you a hug! I’m glad you realized that, though.


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