July 2, 2024

Let the Ship Sink


Note: Parts of this blog are excerpted from my new book, and I’m honored to share a tiny glimpse into this nerve-wracking, thrilling, immersive endeavor. It is what I know so far, raw and true. I’ve been so ready to write this for you; I’m writing it for you as you read this. I’m also writing it for me.

I grew up in a specific sodality aptly named “purity culture.”

This is niche, so apologies to the women who were told as little girls that their bodies were beautiful and trustworthy and to be respected. fortunately for you, this writing will make no sense. I love this for you. 

While “purity culture” was nestled inside conservative evangelicalism, a quick glance around reveals communities the world over that raise girls in a fever dream of sexual shame. It is strange to dissect in hindsight, but we were both over-taught and under-taught: singular hyper-focus on abstinence with no actual sexual education. We were told in no uncertain terms that before marriage, sex, sexual curiosity, sexual experimentation, sexual thoughts, and even sexual desires were inherently wrong. As you might imagine, in that ideological ethos, no one can be right. There are zero winners in a system that pathologizes normal, natural sexuality.

In my particular subculture, this viewpoint had a theological backing that also assured us our bodies couldn’t be trusted: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

I am taught this baseline at church from the time I can remember. It wasn’t contextualized or nestled within the genre it was penned. It was just presented as a stark fact undermining absolutely any instinct, desire, sense of self, dream, feeling, perception, ambition, or inner truth. No to intuition. No to what your body knows. No to what your gut is telling you. No to what you want. No to any hunger. No to what feels right. No to what feels wrong. 

No to your deceitful, incurable heart. 

This was drilled in through curriculum, purity pledges, sermons, shame, and belonging (both given and revoked). Weirdly, young married evangelical culture takes a hard left and expects women to become unhindered vixen in the bedroom the minute they say “I do.” Don’t be slutty and have sex! But when you do, be awesome at it! 

This may shock you, but this produced a crop of women who hated their bodies.

We were at constant war with our bodies. What source of authority are we left with when the enemy of goodness and truth beats inside our own chests? When we cannot trust our own instincts, whose do we trust instead? The incandescent rage I feel watching these leaders who assured us we were the problem now decimate the autonomy of women while giving men in power a free sexual pass. Women who cross state lines for a medical abortion? Put her in jail. Men who grab women by the p*ssy against their consent? Put him in the White House. 

I will tell you this: I am finished listening to what a single person in this subculture tells me about my body. I don’t want to hear what they think of sex, agency, reproductive rights, body image, sexual identity, none of it. It turned out to be a self-serving, power-protecting, women-subjugating enterprise with an opt-out for men, and the whole rotten ship can sink. 

Here, grab my hand. Let’s abandon that failing boat and turn our faces to the sun. Wouldn’t it feel good to end the war with our own bodies? We have the right to honor them. As Dr. Hillary McBride taught us, our bodies are not an “it” but a “she” and “her” because they are not simply the container; our bodies are who we are. She experiences desires and perceptions and trustworthy instincts, and these are to be heeded not hated. 

We are literally walking around in a honing device, a lie detector, a lookout on the highest point of the ship. When my brain interferes with overthinking and its bizarre impulse to protect broken systems, my body overrides her immediately. She knows. She tells me the truth. She always tells me the truth. Molly, you in danger, girl

It will be the work of our lifetimes to reject the message all these capitalistic, patriarchal systems have conspired to tell us. They have a vested interest in keeping us at war with ourselves. If we hate how we look, they own us. If we hate what we want, they dominate us. If we hate what we crave, they control us. They get to master us with impunity when we hate ourselves; we do their dirty work and make it easy. 

Our bodies are beautiful, truly. Gorgeous inside and out. They are deserving of the good lotions, the good sex, the good words. They should be heeded like the safest, smartest, truest, most knowing source of wisdom possible, because they are. We must stop saying the cruelest things on earth to her. We simply must. Some entire institution wants you to berate her and benefits when you do. She doesn’t deserve that hatred. She isn’t your enemy; she is your best friend. 

Let the ship sink. It was never going to get you to shore, darlings.

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