Monday, September 14, 2015

Duct Tape and People

The youth group at my church just finished up three weeks on sex and dating, covering the usual gamut of God's intended purpose for sex, common temptations and obstacles, and forgiveness and recovery. We worked through this during our mid-week Small Group time as well, and last week, that unfortunately included a popular addition to such talks: The Duct Tape Example.

One of my fellow leaders brought out a roll of duct tape in the middle of the talk, and asked for volunteers who were "really strong." Finding one such volunteer, he tore off a suitable length of tape and plastered it to the volunteers arm, observing that the tape was stuck fast and was now "one flesh" with the high schooler. Then he ripped it off, pointing out the pain experienced by the volunteer, as well as the hair and debris that remained stuck to the duct tape.

He repeated this a couple more times, noting each time how much less sticky the tape had grown, and how much weaker the attachment was between tape and high schooler. And each time, he brought it back to sex, telling the guys that each time they had sex with someone else, they would become less capable of experiencing a meaningful connection with the next person they had sex with, even someone they intended to marry. And at the end, he was sure to bring up the power of God in Christ, to forgive us and make us new, and heal our wounds.

He said all the right things. He didn't say anything that was untrue, and he said a lot that was true and helpful! But the problem is, the illustration itself is incredibly flawed.

As the last volunteer shook the tack-less tape from his arm, one of the guys said something that (unintentionally) drove the point home for me. He said, "So we should call all the hoes at our schools 'duct tape'?"

He was joking, of course, but the comment betrayed the crucial flaw in the illustration. While it was accompanied by a lot of spoken truth about connection, intimacy, and the very real dangers of pre-marital sex, the illustration itself said something different:
Girls who have sex with multiple people are inherently worthless. 

That's what the illustration says when performed with a group of guys. It can't say anything else. The tape is an obvious (and explicit) stand-in for a woman, and it is quite literally worthless for its intended purpose after one or two people have "had their way" with it. The illustration is very least, if your goal is to get guys to associate worth with virginity.

A lot of the guys laughed when he made the "hoe" comment (they are high schoolers, after all), but I immediately raised my voice, to say, "And that's the danger of illustrations like this: They reduce people to one thing, and make that the only worthwhile thing about them." I think he understood my point, because he immediately nodded and was quiet for a bit.

But the problem remains: We use these illustrations, and to the people in charge, they mean one thing...but to the people witnessing it, they mean something completely different, about people, sex, and worth as human beings. And I think we need to stop with the analogies, because ultimately, I think they do more harm than good. Or, if you simply MUST use analogies, they need to be accompanied by a LOT more explanation and restriction: What do they mean, and more importantly, what do they NOT mean? This is what our analogies lack, and this is the reason why they so often reduce people to something less then people...and that is unacceptable.

NOTE: I owe a great deal of my thinking on this matter to my good friend Alishia, who has written about this topic here and here

1 comment:

  1. Think of how many times you have heard, "Your virginity is the greatest gift you can give your husband." Really? I sure hope not, because that is gone in a night.

    And also, you don't hear this with the gender reversed, do you? Hmm.