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10th place (tie): College essay contest — Aubree Reese

Aubrey Reese

FFRF awarded Aubree $300.

By Aubree Reese 

Girls who have sex with multiple people are like tape. They not only lose their stickiness, but they become dirty from sticking to other pieces of tape.” 

Known as the sticky tape analogy, this innovative measurement of social control is one of many metaphors weaponized against women’s sexuality. Being a former Christian, I was 13 years old when I heard this analogy for the first time. In a space where I was supposed to be learning about safe sex, I was told to practice abstinence. To do anything else would result in my “purity” becoming dirty, sullied and devalued.

Of course, this was certainly not the last time I had heard similar messages being preached to me. Whether we are being compared to a flower, a chewed-up piece of gum, or a cup filled with spit, these shame-based metaphors are more than an admonition for virginity. In their canned and pre-rehearsed rhetoric, these rebranded biblical messages of female submission are merely molded into a more “palatable” form to maintain social conservatism.

Like tape, our modern comparisons derive from the biblical notion that women are not people, but bodies that are replaceable, dispensable and free to utilize by others. Just like Eve, our modern metaphors analogize the female body to an inanimate bone that requires a male gaze to validate her worth as a person. This phenomenon demonstrates a sado-masochistic culture in which there are men who want objects and there are women who are these objects.

Outlined in Milton’s Paradise Lost, “hee for god only, shee for god in him,” men are likened to God in their right to cast judgment regarding women’s personhood and worth. Eve is considered nothing more than Adam’s “latest found, / Heav’n’s last best gift, my ever new delight.” Her existence is derived from male possession with the sole purpose of satisfying Adam. Under male possession, the female body is subject to external validation to legitimize her sexual worth. In other words, the modern woman is born sinful, a half of the man who is whole.

The problem is not only that these messages are appalling, it is the lack of critical intellectual examination. Why is purity a value that we desire? Who does that benefit? The more we ask these questions, the more we can see the instability of this rationale. Outside of the bible’s text, notions of virginity and purity as we know it are an imagined reality. Purity is a notion that resides only in the imagination of those who utilize theology to determine female subjugation and sexuality. Subscribing to these deeply flattening ideas cheapens the human experience to be nothing more than how we choose to express our sexuality.

If humankind were to put faith in itself rather than a supernatural deity, we would be able to turn our focus to people and concepts that are real, including women. 

Liberated from the confines of biblical heteronormativity, the female body would not be inherently sexual, but a vehicle of desire with the consent of the individual. Like orgasms, liberation need not come from a man, but from the woman herself. Convinced of their worth as sexual beings, women would finally become as insatiable and greedy about orgasms, love and care as they have always been portrayed. Women would finally be able to enjoy all the luxuries men have been afforded since the dawn of time. Contraceptives, extensive sex education, and healthy sexual appetites would be permitted to flourish in the absence of purity. Ultimately, they would finally make the world theirs, too.

Aubree, 20, attends Western Oregon University where she is majoring in American Sign Language Interpreting Studies: Theory.

“One of my greatest passions is American Sign Language,” she writes. “I became passionate about sign language as a teenager when I stumbled upon a video of an interpreter signing a song. From that point on, I became transfixed and dedicated to not only mastering my ASL fluency, but becoming immersed within deaf culture.”