Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sounding just like my father--except different

So the remains of La'Toyia Figueroa have been recovered, and it is believed that she was murdered, and there is the possibility that she was murdered by the man by whom she became pregnant. As the accused is in fact innocent unless/until proven guilty, I won't say more about this case except that I am profoundly saddened by the death of yet another beautiful young woman and that her four-year-old little girl and the rest of her family remain in my prayers.

In hearing the speculations about her death, I am reminded that earlier this year the Washington Post published a series of articles about a statistical link between pregnancy and homicide (here's a link for anyone interested: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45626-2005Feb22.html) And the media have covered a number of cases (Laci Peterson, Cherica Adams, Lori Hacking) of women who were murdered by the men with whom they became pregnant.

Now, the meaning of the numbers has been contested, and justifiable criticism raised over at least the reporting. It would not be accurate to say that every teenager, for example, who becomes pregnant is at risk for homicide. Statistically, it is not huge numbers of pregnant women each year who are murdered--but even one is too many. But stories like this make me wonder, especially when I am a bit cranky: what on earth ARE we teaching our young people about sexuality? About relationship?

I know, I know--sexuality is only a part of the picture, and the incidence of homicide among pregnant women is about violence primarily, and the homicides of pregnant women are, to some, more loathsome because the death of a fetus is involved even than because the death of a woman is involved, but really. Can we not at least communicate that murdering one's sex partner is wrong?

People. These are women, murdered by men because they had the audacity to become pregnant and to maintain their pregnancies. Which brings me to a key point: where is the focus, by religious organizations, on the moral responsibilities of men? Church folks spend so much time talking about abortion, and talking about it as a moral issue of women, but do we spend even half as much time talking about the moral issues of the men with whom women get pregnant? Last I heard, women could not reach the point where abortion becomes an issue without some contribution from some man, somewhere.

Somehow, some way, some day, I think that churches are going to have to step up a lot more. It's so easy to be "moral" by talking about abortion and gay marriage--especially if one is not in a position to be intimately involved with either! But the "morality" of sexuality is so much more than those topics. How many congregations would tolerate sermons about abusive relationships? About exploitative sexual behavior? About communication and sexuality, even in "ordinary," socially and religiously normative (that is, heterosexual) relationships? I suspect many congregations would not; perhaps I am wrong, but I think the whole topic makes so many people so uncomfortable that we don't cope well. Which is one reason why gay sex (the horror! the horror!) is something so easy to oppose--it's "other" for most people.

For the record, I am a homosectional* and my denomination holds the position that spirituality and sexuality can/should be integrated. I suspect that individual churches and regions vary in the extent to which we discuss openly what that means... I think the UUA and United Church of Christ, who co-developed the OWL (Our Whole Lives lifespan sexuality education curricula--here's a link for that: http://www.uua.org/owl/) have gone much farther. (I've heard wonderful things about OWL btw, although I think many churches would reject it for its discussion of abortion and its affirmation of sexual orientations other than heterosexual, and its progressive understanding of gender.)

Anyhow I need to stop ranting for tonight, though I may return to this general topic --church and sexual morality teaching--it is complex, and I've been thinking a good bit about it.

* A good friend, now deceased, told me that an unsympathetic relative had once in his presence referred to people like him as 'homosectionals,' prompting from him the only possible response: "I am NOT a piece of furniture!"

3 Comments:

Blogger Sophia said...

Thank you for this post - I agree with you wholeheartedly. Another tragic part of the story about this young woman is that the national media didn't cover it nearly as much as they covered other cases, such as the Laci Peterson case. Here in the Delaware Valley/Philadelphia area some folks are wondering about racism as a reason for lack of coverage, or perhaps because she was unmarried. As if that makes her murder somehow less awful. Grrr...

My husband and I are volunteer youth ministers. One of the things that REALLY gets to us is trying to help the boys understand their responsibility for their actions when it comes to sexuality. Often we are contradicting what they are hearing from men in their lives!!!!!!!!!! Once on the way home from a youth retreat 4 of our boys started talking about a young woman of about 17 or 18 that they had heard about. She was a single mother who was hit by a truck crossing the street trying to get to her job. While talking about her situation, one of them said something along the lines of "well, she shouldn't have gotten pregnant." EXCUSE ME? That was one of those "don't make me stop this car" moments. My husband took the lead in disabusing them of the idea that women are solely responsible for the consequences of sex. An hour long discussion ensued, and it seemed that they reconsidered what they said originally.

I think we did okay with that teachable moment, but It's an ongoing battle.

8:05 PM  
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Blogger Eliza said...

Wait a minute--I had no clue about this--did you just say you were a thespian???

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