(Though this is a blog post about young girls, it is not appropriate for young eyes to see.)
Depending on where she grows up in the world today, a young girl will receive radically different viewpoints on her virtue and sexuality.
If she grows up in the U.S. or many Western cultures, she will be awash in sexualized messages, clothing, and even entertainment--PG-13 movie ratings certainly assume a jaded, well-informed audience of 13-year-olds. If she is reached by many of Planned Parenthood's advertising campaigns, she will be "educated" in the most shocking and vulgar manner about sexuality, courtesy of our tax dollars. (A site created by Planned Parenthood designed to reach teens has a warning posted prior to entering that says: "Your reproductive health is important to us, and we want it to be important to you. That said, some of the content on this site is intended for mature teens and adults only." Having been warned about that content, I didn't visit it and I don't link to it for that reason, too. Reading the second-hand accounts of this "sexual health" advertising campaign was sufficiently appalling.) Yet, even when research shows the obvious link between the consumption of overly-sexualized media and teen pregnancy, we don't step back and say, "Hey, is there another way to go about this?" Instead, we talk about the purported failures of abstinence programs and throw up our hands in resignation. Our public policy is to hand out detailed instructions about the mechanics of sex, without providing any help to navigate the emotional and spiritual implications of all this activity.
On the other hand, if a girl grows up in some Islamic cultures, she will receive the opposite message about her sexuality. As reported in a disturbing article today in the Washington Post about female circumcision among Kurds in Iraq, "Kurds who support circumcising girls say the practice has two goals: It controls a woman's sexual desires, and it makes her spiritually clean so that others can eat the meals she prepares." According to this article, health experts say the procedure can result in adverse medical consequences for women, including infections, chronic pain and increased risks during childbirth. But not everyone seems to understand why it is done. According to the mother of a girl who had her daughter circumcised in front of a reporter:
"This is the practice of the Kurdish people for as long as anyone can remember," said the mother, Aisha Hameed, 30, a housewife in this ethnically mixed town about 100 miles north of Baghdad. "We don't know why we do it, but we will never stop because Islam and our elders require it."
Fortunately, that is not entirely true. The Post reports that "one of the religious leaders who have been less vocal in demanding female circumcisions is Hama Ameen Abdul Kader Hussein, preacher at the Grand Mosque of Kalar and head of the clergymen's union in Germian. Previously, he preached that female circumcision was required. Now he says it is optional, which Hussein believes has caused the area's rate of female circumcision to drop from 100 percent to about 50 percent."