Reality Show Takes Slut Shaming to New Level

Lifetime's new Preachers' Daughters focuses on church girls and sex while letting boys off the hook.

Preachers' Daughters cast member Taylor Coleman and her father, Ken (Lifetime)
Preachers' Daughters cast member Taylor Coleman and her father, Ken (Lifetime)

At one point in the pilot, one of the mothers tells her daughter — who is ready to date, like a gajillion other girls her age — that she needs to focus just on school. Coleman’s father, so afraid he’ll give his child too much freedom, is adamant about not letting her date at all. As pastors’ daughters, the show’s three young stars have even more pressure on them than average church girls to be virtuous and pure (although one already has a child). Of course we all want that for our kids, no matter their gender, in hopes that they don’t end up slanging their private parts all willy-nilly.

But conversations between parents and sons have traditionally been more relaxed and less restrictive. Parents might halfheartedly plead with them to wait until marriage. They might warn them about getting a girlfriend pregnant and contracting the assortment of sexually transmitted diseases lurking out there.

Few and far between are the guys who are browbeaten with threats about chastity. Instead, they have breathing room to make personal decisions based on hormones and impulse because men, as a whole, are given more room to be less virtuous. Young ladies, meanwhile, are simply forewarned to keep their legs shut and their patience focused on marriage. That message is impossibly unrealistic, especially with matrimony on the decline.

I am one of those church girls — not a preacher’s kid, but a child of the church nonetheless — and I grew up learning the jewels of conservative Christian values filtered through the perspective of male ministers, as well as female ministers under the tutelage of male teachers. I’m not outraged by Preachers’ Daughters, as I know some folks are, largely because I think it gives us good reason to step back and look at the imbalance between what we’re teaching our sons and daughters and what we’ve long held as truth ourselves. Aside from Deborah, Mary and Esther, the Bible captures many women in subservient arrangements or as men’s sexual playthings. That seeps into the teachings we absorb.

But we can’t wave the banner for female empowerment and continue to shame our girls for being normal, sexual beings or let them be mystified by their own sexuality. The God I know didn’t banish womankind to the extreme ends of angel or concubine.

Janelle Harris is a writer, blogger and editor and the owner of the Write or Die Chick, a boutique editorial-services agency. Keep up with her on Facebook or Twitter.