Another Day, another round of people discovering that Matt Walsh and conservative evangelical leaders like him will go out of their way to justify their own pedophiliac tendencies through a bastardization of historical understanding. Earlier this month Media Matters revealed the horrific beliefs Matt Walsh espoused on-air in his radio show, and Walsh predictably responded by doubling and tripling down on twitter.
Of course the internet blew up in shock, because how could someone who is calling all LGBTQ people groomers and pedophiles support child marriage? Isn’t that hypocritical? Yes, and he doesn’t care. None of them do. This ideology isn’t new, I grew up steeped in it.
Stories like Maranatha Chapman’s marriage at age 15 (to a 28yr old man) were heralded as pure and right, because the apostle Paul said it’s better to marry than burn with passion. Christianity today even published a 7 page expose on The Case for Early Marriage in 2009. To justify this, you first have to buy into the idea that adolescence doesn’t exist, and girls become women as soon as they get their menses while boys have to wait until they can support a family before they are seen as men. This is why none of these folk bat an eye at 10+ year age differences.
The idea that Adolescence is a myth (as Walsh wrote in 2013) permeated the subculture I lived in and was perpetuated by my equally conservative peers. I wasn’t allowed to go to youth group or have friends or a teenagehood because my entire youth was spent literally preparing to be a helpmeet.
As my parents became more radicalized through homeschooling and listening to talk radio and radio preachers basically 24/7, they bought into the idea that teenagehood is a fake stage of development. They taught me from the time puberty started (when I was 7) that once I got my period is when I was considered a woman. Because in the biblical days that’s when girls would be married off to have children of their own, and that was how God intended life to be.
I knew at a very young age that I did not ever want to become pregnant. That feeling was cemented after being forced to help with a home birth when I was 11 and completely, utterly, unprepared for the scene of a live birth in my parents bathroom.
I knew that was what awaited me whenever I “became a woman”. I prayed that my pubescent body would wait until I was 13 so I could process that trauma but I got my period when I was 12.
I was sitting in a tree doing schoolwork and watching my siblings when one of the kids who lived with us told me I was bleeding. I looked at myself, confused. I didn’t hurt myself climbing up the tree, I didn’t feel any pain besides some vague uncomfortableness in my stomach. I chalked that up to something I ate. I looked between my legs and saw my favorite light pink pants were now ruined by a deep reddish brown stain in my crotch.
Horrified and confused I ran inside and called for my mom to help. I didn’t know what a period actually was, only that I would get it someday and that meant my childhood (if you could call it that) would be officially over.
I wasn’t ready.
My mom told me what it was and gleefully told me I was now a Woman. I fell on her bed and started sobbing while she called up the entire family to tell them the news.
I was a Woman. No longer a child, but a person eligible to be married off at any time should the right suitor (in my parents eyes) come along to fulfill my parents dream of multiple generations of a quiverful family. In fact they tried to marry me off at 16, offering to sign the required paperwork, because that was more holy than waiting until I was 18. In the US it’s legal in most states to marry under the age of 18 with parental consent.
It meant if I were raped I must marry the man who violated me (if he wasn’t already married) and raise that child, and more. It meant I was responsible for the way men and boys looked at me, for keeping myself sexually undesirable and thus pure until my parents gave their consent for me to marry.
I cried because I lost my innocence the day I got my period. I lost my ability to simply exist. My existence became a threat — to the inner minds of boys and men, to my own peace of mind. I now carried the burden of knowing that anyone who wanted to could overpower me, impregnate me, and I would be the one to pay the price.
If I were impregnated before marriage I would be ostracized and punished by my community. Forever frowned upon and seen as unclean, broken, unworthy of love…a charity case to whoever looked past the child I would inevitably have to raise, despite being a child myself.
In a world where teenagehood is a myth, girls become women when they bleed regardless of when that starts. Men like Matt Walsh and the pastors I grew up listening to use this belief to justify their own vile urges and suffer little to no meaningful personal consequences. Their churches enforce this belief and shield the abusers while ostracizing the victims. The danger to children is not and has never been the queer community, the danger to children is in the church. The church for centuries has found it more prudent to protect those who abuse rather than the children they claim to care about.
The entire point of this ideology is to keep girls from becoming independent, because that would ruin the Christian Dominionist plan. Keeping girls barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen before they have a chance to live their own life. That’s the way the Christofascists keep and grow their power. Advocating for child “marriage” and protecting child abusers is what it takes to push their agenda and therefore justified.
The true danger to children are people in positions of power with structures that exist to protect them like the SBC, fame, and the internalized anti-child ideology that keeps adults from taking kids seriously when they tell us something is wrong.