Impure Thought Police
A number of folks have been sharing the story about Clare, a seventeen-year-old girl who was kicked out of her prom. Reading Clare’s account, it sounds to me like there were two factors:
- Mrs. D, one of the prom organizers, was on a power trip. She disapproved of Clare’s dress, and when Clare pointed out that it didn’t violate the dress code, Mrs. D couldn’t let it go. I remember dealing with teachers like that. I remember watching my brother go through it. My daughter recently had similar trouble with a woman at her school. A student points out that an adult is mistaken about something. The adult takes it as a challenge to their power and authority, and gets it into their head that they’re gonna show this punk kid who’s boss. I don’t know for certain that this is what happened to Clare, but that aspect of her story is both familiar and highly obnoxious.
- A little later, Mrs. D pulled Clare aside to say, “some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative, and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts.” Clare said she had hardly been dancing at all, much less seductively. Mrs. D reiterated that the dress was too short, and told Clare she would have to leave.
There’s an update here, which asks people not to harass the prom coordinator, and notes that the moderators for the prom’s Facebook page were deleting comments and eventually deleted the whole page. Neither Mrs. D nor the administration have made any sort of statement about the incident.
So here’s the thing. I’ve got 40 years of experience as a guy. For the record, we men aren’t a bunch of delicate flowers who swoon at the mere sight of a girl’s legs. A young woman dancing doesn’t scar us for life.
The dads were worried about the young men at the prom thinking impure thoughts? Do they remember what it’s like to be a teenage boy? At that age, a stiff breeze is enough to make you think “impure” thoughts. It’s like Pavlovian condition gone mad. School bell rings? Boner! Sit down in the cafeteria? Boner! Adjust your seat belt? Boner! Trying to maintain my dignity as a teenage boy was like a neverending game of whack-a-mole…
Or is it that we don’t trust the boys to control themselves? That we think men are monsters, transformed by the mere sight of a girl’s thigh into slobbering, sex-crazed monsters, helpless to resist the Curse of the Visible Girlflesh.
Clare notes that she and her friends were grossed out by some of the Dads who were ogling them from the balcony. Which would be creepy as hell if we held men in any way responsible for their own actions, but of course we can’t blame them. Because apparently seventeen-year-old girl legs are made of man-kryptonite.
There’s nothing new in the attitudes here. We blame and punish the women, because it frees men from responsibility. But as a man, I find it insulting, tiresome, and damaging as hell.
May 14, 2014 @ 9:15 am
Thank you for bringing this story to my attention and raising awareness that bullshit like this happens everyday here in ‘Murica.
Also, it was great listening to you on the last two SF Signal podcasts.
How much differently do you think the girl would have been treated had her date been the same race as her? With the backward thinking employed to kick her out of the prom, it isn’t very much of a logic leap to perhaps guess his skin color had some factor in the prom organizer’s decision to remove her from the prom.
Jim C. Hines
May 14, 2014 @ 9:18 am
That’s addressed in the follow-up post. Short answer, Clare doesn’t believe race was a factor. In part because she doesn’t think Mrs. D even realized they were together until after things went to hell.
May 14, 2014 @ 9:22 am
Fair enough, then. I did not click through to see the follow-up post.
May 14, 2014 @ 9:25 am
WTH are a bunch of dads doing at the prom in the first place? There were no dads at any of the three proms I went to. Is this a generational thing?
May 14, 2014 @ 9:28 am
If it had been my father, step-father, or uncle/godfather, the ‘fathers’ would not have been left standing. You just don’t go up to a parent and say, “I’m having impure thoughts about your daughter.” The poor girl doesn’t realize she was being sexually harassed by adults–and I do believe this is a crime. And that dress is tame compared to some of the dresses I saw come through a hotel on the way their prom for a public school in Chesterfield VA.
May 14, 2014 @ 9:47 am
I had my children in cyber charter school for a year while we saved to get into a decent school district after I withdrew mine for being bullied half to death. They were lonely, so I found a homeschool dance for my daughter, paid the exorbitant fees for myself, her, her friend and her friend’s mom to go.
Those homeschooling Christians were SO RUDE. We sat on the sidelines and weren’t even greeted or made to feel included at all. The girls and boys were encouraged to dance on separate sides of the floor, the girls wore long dresses (but skin tight with plunging backs) and there was enough blush, mascara and hairspray to supply Hollywood’s elite for a month, LOL. Our daughters were the most “modestly dressed” there, as we had been concerned about the rules for the event, but that was apparently not an issue.
The weird thing, though, was the dads. Men were EVERYWHERE – including several dads who were police officers and sheriff deputies who showed up in uniform and fully armed and swarmed through the house repeatedly slamming open doors and yelling that “NO DOORS CAN BE SHUT!!”, inspecting rooms to make sure no-one was “sneaking off”, and monitoring the picture taking room to ensure no “seductive poses” were being taken and that the girls who had approved boyfriends in tow didn’t hug too tightly.
May 14, 2014 @ 10:10 am
IIRC, it was a homeschool prom, so they were likely chaperones, rather than the typical HS prom that has teachers as chaperones.
May 14, 2014 @ 11:02 am
Seriously. I can’t think of anything my father would have enjoyed less than being forced to spend time listening to his kids’ generation’s pop music. And hanging around with nothing to do but watch a bunch of teenagers be teenagers.
But this was a bunch of homeschool evangelical Christians. Some of those groups have some very damaged (and damaging) views of sexuality and the role of adult men in the lives of young women.
May 14, 2014 @ 11:39 am
^This. That part of the story sent up so many red flags I’ve just put a down-payment on Sara’s Big Red Flag Discount Emporium. Don’t couch your own “impure thoughts” in the hypothetical actions of teenage boys, creeps.
May 14, 2014 @ 11:52 am
That sounds like a very frustrating experience and, unfortunately, it’s going to color her views of parents, chaperons, and adults probably for the rest of her life. Knowing that people like that are going to lie (the refund thing), ignore the rules (the finger length bit), and everything else is just a way of hurting someone and proving that the rules don’t apply to people in charge.
That, and I think “impure thoughts” really should expressed with an “inner voice” and kept to one’s self. You know, instead of broadcasting that you don’t have control over your inner monologue…
Bookmarks for May 13th through May 14th : Extenuating Circumstances
May 14, 2014 @ 11:56 am
[…] Impure Thought Police – The full rant about the "Impure Thought Police" is at […]
May 14, 2014 @ 11:57 am
People still use the phrase “impure thoughts?” That story was creepy on so many levels having nothing to do with a 17 year old girl dancing and being happy. Sheesh.
May 14, 2014 @ 2:10 pm
I was just coming here to note the homeschool prom part of things, which suggests there may have been that good oldtimey religion factoring in.
May 14, 2014 @ 2:39 pm
@Amy Bauer: I usually only use the equivalent of “impure thoughts” in my language if I want to make fun of the “women are responsible for men’s impure thoughts” concept … for example by reminding men that their habit of running around topless at the beach can cause impure thoughts.
I don’t think anyone here uses it seriously, although it doesn’t surprise me that there are people in the US who do.
@Jim: People should just tell teenage boys to wear more clothes. I think that would solve the dignity problem much more effectively than long skirts on girls. However, to be honest: I don’t think anyone notices, anyway. I for one don’t … but then, I would assume that grown men do not notice how short the skirts of teenage girls are, because they don’t look at the legs of teenage girls.
May 14, 2014 @ 3:14 pm
Thanks Jim for this article. Nothing to add to it.
May 14, 2014 @ 3:19 pm
Wanted to share my thoughts on this. To start off with, and make it as absolutely clear as I can, I think something VERY wrong happened here, and Clare was CLEARLY in the right. Please don’t misunderstand me on that one very important point.
I’m from a very conservative background – no, I’m not so conservative myself anymore, although some would probably consider me so. I went to private Christian schools every year of my schooling, including college, and spent a lot of time with home schoolers in college. Most of the schools I went to didn’t even allow dancing – we had socials or “dinners”. They also had fairly strict dress codes. Personally, I see a dress code as a way of setting an attitude or mood, but I have heard many people espouse the “preventing impure thoughts” motive. Once I was old enough to really think seriously about it, I recognized it for the BS it is. I still think a dress code can be ok, for the reasons I mention above, but it should be very clear and in no way vague or misunderstandable.
On to the specifics of the situation. One, it sounds to me like there was only one clear rule communicated, dress code wise, which is surprising, but maybe this wasn’t all that strict of a place. Clare’s dress is clearly within that standard, and therefore within the rules. If some people felt her dress was inappropriate then the way to address that would be AFTER the prom by setting new rules for NEXT year based on whatever problems were perceived. That said, from what I can see in the pictures, Clare’s dress would’ve been ok at almost all of my schools’ formal occasions, maybe with the exception of ones where they specified a hemline restriction by measuring inches above the knee. It was certainly far LESS provocative than many dresses I did see at such events. That’s because teens are fairly smart about finding loopholes in the rules, and you’re going to have to accept that.
Two, the behavior of the dads upstairs certainly does seem creepy to me, but I can see how it happened. As a home school prom, there wouldn’t be teachers to be chaperones, so parents would have to do that duty. Why only (or at least mostly) dads happened to be doing that duty is weird. I can definitely see someone deciding that, if a balcony’s available, let’s put the chaperones up there so they can 1. stay out of everybody’s way and 2. do their jobs and keep an eye out for inappropriate behavior. All of that said, it was probably a mistake to do it. It’s the kind of mistake that happens often – caused by lack of forethought. Creepy dads staring down from the balcony is definitely not OK. Honestly, why didn’t the dads bring their spouses? Maybe it would’ve been less creepy if there were a mix of folks up there. I don’t know.
Three, while I completely understand Clare and her friends’ frustration, I do feel the need to point out that often, even when you’re trying to be calm, polite, and thoughtful, it is possible to still come across as rude, arrogant, or overly angry. I don’t knwo if that was the case here – I wasn’t present. I’m just pointing out the possibility. I can’t say for sure what “Mrs. D” was thinking, but I will at least argue that it’s possible she perceived a threat/unintended harshness from Clare and her friends. However, if she’s been around teens at all, she should recognize that it is VERY difficult for them to react in a calm and polite manner to things that affront them, and if they’re making an attempt, then it should be recognized and taken in consideration.
To wrap it up, all I can say is that I feel very disappointed by what happened to Clare. I grew up in the kind of culture she’s describing, and I have a great respect for it, even when I think it’s wrong. It frustrates me to see people taking it too far, and harming young girls like Clare. I wish I could take them aside and explain to them what they’re doing wrong, but, especially in a situation like this one, I’m sure their backs up so far by now that they won’t listen to much reason. And that is sad.
May 14, 2014 @ 3:27 pm
Clare is the younger sister of Hannah whose family has left the Quiverfull movement, partly because of Hannah’s efforts. Hannah blogs about the abuses in Quiverfull and how young people are escaping it and has done articles on it:
The homeschool prom was primarily a Quiverfull dominated affair. Clare was thus responsible for causing the impure thoughts, and was sinning by not immediately following adult authority, by their philosophy, and so was taught proper behavior by ejection and shunning. Women are property and have babies, but not before their parents marry them off properly. This is not a case of a regular prom, though of course Quiverfull views of teenage girls are not that uncommon in society elsewhere.
May 14, 2014 @ 3:39 pm
Thanks for your reponse to this. You are what I consider to be a “Real Man” unlike those abdicate their responsibility for their own behavior / thoughts and put the blame on women.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your common sense and input.
May 14, 2014 @ 4:07 pm
Thanks, Jim, for your rant.
It certainly does seem to me, from Clare’s post, that the main issue here is the abuse of power available to Mrs. D. as one of two organizers and confirmed by people who said, “it’s her call.” Without hearing her own words on the matter, I can’t say if her behavior was triggered by envy, fear, or bad traffic on the way to the prom.
It was certainly a terrible thing that was done to Clare and her friends.
But I’m not convinced by Clare’s post or by the Homeschool in Richmond webpage that Mrs. D.’s behavior can be laid at the door of religious beliefs. The fact that the event was held in a church doesn’t necessarily mean that the homeschooling individuals practice a particular religion. My daughter’s Girl Scout meetings were held in a church, in space generously donated by the church. I don’t recall that any of the members of the troop were particularly religious or given trouble by the church for not being practicing Christians.
As a parent who homeschooled a child for a year, I feel the need to point out that homeschooling is not solely the province of people who object on a religious basis to what is taught in public or private schools. It’s also practiced by people who don’t believe that available schools suit their child’s educational needs. I didn’t homeschool for religious reasons; I did it for health (hers) reasons and the feeling that the middle school would not be able to keep up with her academic needs.
Mrs. D.’s actions are her own. As Clare and her friends were told repeatedly, it was her call.
May 14, 2014 @ 4:27 pm
I didn’t refresh this page before my making my own post, so this is something I didn’t know while composing it or posting. I took my information and made my conclusions based solely on Clare’s own post.
I do stand by my remarks on homeschooling in general.
Thanks again, Jim.
May 14, 2014 @ 6:28 pm
There are a lot of people homeschooling for non-religious reasons. I was part of a very large secular homeschooling community.
May 14, 2014 @ 8:26 pm
That’s really interesting information. I winced a bit at the title, as I self identify as an evangelical Christian, which is often conflated with fundamental Christianity, even by those in the group. I know many evangelicals would probably be shocked and appalled at my personal stances on things like evolution and LGBTQ, but I also feel defensive when someone starts making negative comments about fundamental or evangelical groups that aren’t super obviously beyond the pale, such as FLDS groups like the one down in Texas a couple years ago.
And yet I couldn’t help feeling so frustrated and even disgusted with the views Hannah described the Quiverfull movement as having in her post. I always hate it when people apologize for the Church’s (read this as universal Christian church, not any one denomination) behavior to critics, and yet I can’t help but feel terrible that my religion is being used for these purposes.
I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but this does make me wonder, was the prom organized and run by an explicitly Quiverfull group, a generic Christian home school group, or a non-religiously affiliated home school group? If the first or even second, I support the group’s right to express their religious beliefs through the rules they set, even if I may disagree with the reasoning behind them. However, the circumstances as they’re presented still make clear no rules were broken, so the treatment of Clare was clearly not justified.
May 14, 2014 @ 9:11 pm
I would like to give your Emporium custom when it opens.
May 14, 2014 @ 10:27 pm
If this, right here, doesn’t tell you everything that’s wrong with “alternative education models” that are being pursued in an effort to get tax dollars out of education, then there’s something seriously blocking your vision…
There is so much wrong with an environment where the onus of responsibility is applied in such a one-sided manner that if you have a problem seeing it, that we might count the motes in thine eye by the scores…
May 16, 2014 @ 9:49 am
I think my first question would be “which fathers were complaining?”, and I do think this is one of the questions Clare’s parents ought to be asking of Mrs D. That part of it, to me, sounds like something she came up with out of her head in order to justify kicking out a girl who contested her self-imposed authority. I’d also wonder whether at least part of it was sheer, unadulterated envy, because quite frankly, from those pictures, it looks like Clare was looking her best, and enjoying herself, and being seventeen (like you’d expect a girl to be, at a prom).
I wonder where Mr D was, and whether he was one of the male “chaperones” up on the balcony.
May 16, 2014 @ 3:05 pm
I have nothing against homeschooling in general; and, frankly, know several secular homeschoolers myself. But I also already knew about the Quiverfull connection — and I didn’t express that clearly in my original comment.
And for that I apologize.
May 16, 2014 @ 6:51 pm
As far as it is evident, it was a homeschool prom event open to homeschooled kids in the area, but the homeschool movement in their area is dominated by the Quiverfull movement and fundamentalist sects, so the “rules” of this prom seem to have been based on those movements.
Proms with strict rules are usually the ones that are held on school property with more school involvement because of liability issues, such as the school that insisted attendees take a breathalyzer test to watch for drunken students coming in. Privately run proms affiliated with schools off of school property vary. Unfortunately, that has sometimes meant racially segregated proms in the South and gay students being barred from attending and bringing same-sex dates, or wearing certain kinds of clothing. This seems to have been a very strict prom focused on the girls as sexual property.
I would also suspect, though Clare seems to think it isn’t, that her non-white date and her being Hannah’s little sister probably got her more closely watched. But it may just have been a question of one of the men deciding that she was too sexy, so she was ejected. But this isn’t a homeschool, Quiverfull issue alone — that mentality is everywhere. And the homeschool movement goes from leftist radicals to orthodox sects.
May 16, 2014 @ 6:54 pm
I doubt it was a jealousy issue, and that just continues the blaming the women problem. Fundamentalist and Quiverfull movements believe very firmly in male authority and prime status. If one of the dads said she should go, then the female chaperones down on the floor had no choice.
May 16, 2014 @ 7:29 pm
Ah. Okay, thanks.
May 27, 2014 @ 6:43 am
Interesting that you blame the homeschool movement in a case of abuse of power that could easily have happened at a school prom. Perhaps there wouldn’t have been leering dads, but abuses of power happen every day in schools.
May 27, 2014 @ 8:32 am
I don’t doubt that school proms are as likely to have leering chaperons as this event, but to the best of my knowledge I have never heard of a regular school prom kicking out the kids because the chaperons got turned on by them.
This kind of occurrence seems likely to only occur at a home school event; had someone overseeing the dance at a regular school event claimed such a thing, they would be looking at loss of license to teach at the school or facing charges for endangering a minor. The fact that the dads in this case got to go home afterwards without repercussions is what makes this especially galling.
If you have something to show us where the dads in this case actually faced any disciplinary actions, that’d be helpful.