Warning: A very serious blog on a frightening, shocking revelation

 

I rarely blog on personal matters or controversial subjects, but something happened recently that was so shocking and eye-opening to me that I can’t not talk about it. Perhaps I am feeling a bit like Mr. Darcy in hindsight, wishing he had not been secretive about Wickham. Maybe sharing and revealing will save someone from what I consider a reprehensible movement.

Let me back up a bit…

On September 12 I blogged on Austen Authors about a class I had just started teaching two days prior. You can read that blog HERE: Girls in Paris so I won’t hash over those details again now. The salient points are that I was asked to teach a group of homeschool late-teen/young adult girls a literature and history class with Miss Darcy Falls in Love as the basis. I planned the class for over a month, sent out the altered PDF of Miss Darcy Falls in Love (minus the one explicit sex scene, which occurs after they are married) well in advance, and was clear as crystal that not only was the book our text but that I am a romance historical novelist. Links were provided to my website, I gave my phone number if anyone had questions, etc. When I said in the AuAu post that the first class went well, I am honest in that I DID think all was well. In my mind there was no question that the class I planned would be a fabulous one that any normal female would absolutely adore being a part of. I still think this is so. However, to my surprise I was not dealing with “normal” teenagers, and worse yet very abnormal parents.

My first indication came on the same day the AuAu blog posted when my friend who asked me to teach called to express concern from one parent. The scene in question, for those who have read MDFIL, begins on page 30 and is where Lord Essenton (Who is NOT a nice man!) has a gruff exchange with Lady Essenton. Frankly I was confused at what could possibly be upsetting about this scene, the reply being the reference to “breasts” and Lord E having mistresses. Oookaaay.

Additionally forewarned to the heightened sensitivity, strict blinders to historical facts, and rigid view of what is deemed “racy” I entered the classroom on September 17 nervously but determined to carry on. Only one girl had cracked open the book (the daughter of the friend who asked me to teach, she loving it and devouring the entire novel), so the option of delving into the opening chapter to discuss thematic elements, character structure, dialogue, plot and pacing, and so on was moot. Luckily I was prepared with a brief history on what the Regency was, travel during that time, and a few other baseline topics to set the stage for Georgiana’s sojourn in France.

This seemed to go well, but then at the end the Lord Essenton scene was brought up by the concerned mom. I explained the purpose of the scene for the story as well as the historical truth of how marriages often were in those days and with that generation (ie- arranged and not based on love) and the fact of men in this class having mistresses, etc.

Well, to make a long story as short as possible, the week between classes #2 and #3 was replete with emails from parents. Every one of the girls – whose ages ran from 16 to 20 – were pulled out. Except for the previously mentioned daughter of my friend, who has been overwhelmed with sadness and dismay. It was an emotional rollercoaster for me as well, but in the end I have been enlightened to something shocking.

Reading the lengthy emails from the moms, talking for hours to my friend, and getting online to do extensive research brought to my awareness a growing movement within certain Christian circles called by various names including: courtship, betrothal, anti-dating, authoritarianism, isolationism, emotional purity, quiverfull movement, and divine manipulation. I am not going to attempt to dig into all the aspects of the general philosophies in this post. You can plug any of those words into Google to learn more about them and the variances, and I will share some links at the end. As with most of these such movements there are kernels of truth and honest desire to improve the difficult life of the Christian living in a fallen world. Also, as with most of these movements, that truth and honesty ends up lost within extremism. The latter is what I saw.

I must pause for a moment to clarify that I am, as my regular visitors know, a devout, born-again Christian, who values her relationship with Jesus Christ above all else in life. I believe in the Biblical teaching of one man for one woman for life, and that chastity and purity before marriage is the best way. Remember that I wrote Mr. Darcy as a virgin when he married Elizabeth Bennet, a fact that I presented in a logical manner and believe is entirely plausible and possible then and now. I also received a fair amount of criticism for that plot point! While never claiming to be an inspirational writer in the strict definition of the genre, my beliefs and faith play out in the lives of the characters in my novels. For that reason I believe the romance between Georgiana and Sebastian fulfills the tenets of a faith-based courtship and marriage, and as such should have been embraced as a text for a group of Christian homeschooled young women.

I also believe that parents have a right to raise their children as they see fit. For the most part. As we all know, there are laws to prevent abuse and sadly these are needed. Yet oftentimes the line between what is parental choice in our shifting world and abuse becomes blurred. This is one of those places, in my opinion, and I am not saying I have the complete picture or all the answers. I only know what was presented to me.

Whatever the name applied, the anti-dating/courtship movements have commonalities and when taken to extreme ends of the spectrum you see the following. Boys and girls are not to talk to or even look at each other. God’s gift of free will and intellectual reasoning are suppressed. Choice for a mate is left up to parents, specifically the father. (Tuck this one in your mind for now.) Women are subservient in everything and have no purpose other then to have babies. Emotions, especially in regards to sensuality and romance, are wrong and to be denied. Learning anything about sex or sexuality is forbidden until after marriage, at which point the couple are left on their own to figure it out. Gazing beyond the bubble of the family and what the parents decide is forbidden. And on and on it goes, but I think you get the picture.

As I said, I will share links at the end, but here are random excerpts from the emails I received so you will know I am not making this up or exaggerating.

My reservation is actually the display of emotions which makes it a romance novel. As a single lady for God, I don’t think it’s right for me to be thinking about those things. I’ve figured if God wants me to be married, He’ll take me on that journey when I come to it…. I’d rather not get those giddy sensations that come with it (reading the novel) if I don’t have to.

This sounds understandable (sort of), but in the next paragraph 1 Corinthians 8:9-11 was quoted and I was accused of writing a novel that stumbles young ladies into acting wrongly. Thanks for that! And why romantic emotions are such a bad thing is beyond my comprehension. Worse yet, if “giddy sensations” are considered something to ignore and not tolerate, then how is one supposed to hear God when He calls you to take the journey toward marriage?

Here are a few snippets from the many emails:

…anything from romantic kisses to an actual sex scene can fuel sexual fantasies, which can stumble a person striving to be pure… on the Oprah Winfrey show, I heard a man say his crippling addiction to porn started with the ads that come in the weekend newspaper…. she might play the (romantic) scene over and over in her head, changing and adding to it. If she has a store in her memory of sex scenes, especially romantic sex scenes, a simple kissing scene might lead her down a path of imagining a whole scenario leading up to sex.  The problem here is that at this point the woman is lusting… giving in to fantasizing in this manner can potentially lead a woman or girl to choose to seek out situations in real life…

There is more in the same vein, again making sense to a degree, but always with the inevitable conclusion that even thinking of romance – any kind of romance – will lead to acting upon it in a sinful manner. And, of course, placing the blame on the romantic/sex scene itself while denying, 1) that these are normal feelings God gave us (read Song of Solomon) and not unequivocally lust (ie- bad and sinful), and 2) that we are supposed to learn how to control ourselves in all things and make proper choices with God’s help.

Over and over I was told that Miss Darcy Falls in Love was “explicit” with “heavy overtones of sensuality” – ??? A couple touches? Those above mentioned horrid tingly sensations? The mutual attraction and *gasp* desire to kiss? Talking at the piano?! Oh yes, Sebastian’s dream, in which they are MARRIED, little is described, the point of his despair at losing the woman he loves is insignificant, and it lasts all of two pages so could be flipped past! Yet not one word about the writing itself. No appreciation for a respected, successful, and very busy author giving freely of her time to share her unique knowledge and perspective. Not a hint of recognition from these Christian moms for the journey of sacrificial love that Georgiana and Sebastian embark upon, always with propriety and following a proper courtship of the Era. The story was missed entirely because to them it was a “romance” novel, and that equals porn.

Another email from a mom, this one sending me over the edge, shows the extremeness we have underlying:

I did not know much about the class getting into it (I was clear on the class) and I expected it to be a history class, but I see that reading novels is an intricate part of the class. What I have here is a moral conflict with the sensuality presented in all novels. Chastity promoters warn about novels for girls and porn for boys as equal in effect against chastity. I hope you understand the effects that I am referring to… in general I avoid all novels, women’s magazines and popular culture media altogether.

The bold and underline emphasis is mine. In this instance I could not in good conscience avoid a response. This is my reply in total:

Thank you for informing me and for the explanation. I appreciate, of course, that you have the right to raise your daughters as you see fit. However, do not assume that I can remotely understand or agree with equating ALL novels on the same level as porn. I find that conclusion reprehensible, and as a novelist and advocate of literature I am highly offended. I will pray for your girls because personally I cannot fathom a greater hell then to be raised in an environment where all literature is restricted.

Yet for all this, the real kicker to me was when two more times a reference was made to the scene with Lord Essenton, once specifically naming the exact page when the 20 year old adult student “came to the conclusion that the book wasn’t going to be appropriate.” What is on that page and the ones before that was so offensive? Copying from the novel—

     “Write them down for me and I will consider the alternatives. However, Lady Cassandra is my choice and is, in all ways, perfect as the wife of an earl. An obedient son, and wife, would not argue with me over it.” He scowled fiercely, Lady Essenton resuming her poised, and hopefully seductive, perch on the chair. She did not point out, this time, that his “perfect” choice was unattractive, fat, and dull as a post.

.

.

     “Or worse yet, what if some fortune hunter entangles him in a web and he marries without my permission? What if he falls in love,” he said with a sneer, “with a woman utterly unacceptable, like Miss Darcy?”
     “What is wrong with Miss Darcy?”
     “Are you a simpleton? She has no title and her dowry is paltry compared to Lady Cassandra. She is completely unsuitable and the sooner she leaves Lyon the better.”
     “Well, I think she is a delightful young lady, from what I have seen.”
     “Good thing these decisions are not up to you, then. Sebastian will marry a lady of breeding and nobility, not the daughter of a minor landowner. I will not allow it.”

Remember what I told you to tuck away? As I read this scene after researching the betrothal/courtship movement it suddenly became very clear. My husband instantly had the same reaction. In this scene we see a father demanding his son marry his choice of wife, and a son who is refusing. We also see a sneer at the concept of a son choosing a wife based on his emotions of love.

So was the “problem” with Miss Darcy Falls in Love that it is “too explicit”? In their twisted minds apparently so. Or was the bigger problem because it is about two people who freely feel emotions that are real and beautiful, fall in love before an arranged agreement by their elders, learn to trust those emotions, and worse yet, defy at least one parent in choosing for themselves? I think it clear my conclusion is the latter.

I can’t be inside the minds of these girls’ parents, so will not say for sure. But I can logically deduce and know what I have read and been told. It frightens me and makes me very, very sad.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  ~C. S. Lewis

 

Links of interest if you wish:
The Bondage of Betrothal
Christian Research Institute: Christian Families on the Edge
Approaches to Courtship
Why Not Train a Child? Courtship & Betrothal Movements
Betrothal and the Works of the Flesh
My childhood in the ATI/IFB World – a profound personal testimony
What are Courtship & Betrothal Movements? 
God in the Backseat

How the teachings of courtship damage healthy relationships – be sure to read the comments as well
Betrothal and Emotional Purity
What does the Bible say about dating, courtship, betrothal, and divine manipulation?

 


66 comments on “Warning: A very serious blog on a frightening, shocking revelation

  1. blodeuedd

    How sad :/ I’d love to take your class.
    And I get so sad when that mum equeal novels for girls to what porn does to boys!

  2. Sisterlisa

    Thank you for including my article about this. You know…when we read books and see films that are set in the years of old, we tend to think “Oh how romantic”, but we have come so far for freedom’s sake that it is absurd to attempt to rewind the clock and go back to the oppression they had to live under. The scriptures say we are to “renew” our minds…new means growing. Growing is upward and forward. It doesn’t mean we should lead our children back to the days of oppression. Blessings to you in your journey.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Thank you Sisterlisa. And thank you for sharing your thoughts, as I have, with the hope that well-meaning parents and confused youths with see the truth.

  3. thea

    this is ridiculous I feel sorry for the children of these parents as they will be niave to the world and what happens in it. I think your books are amazing. im 18 years old and a rape victim. I think the best part of your books are the feelings they inspire they promote love and encourage people to look for a partner for love not lust.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Thea, I am heartsick to hear of your trauma. May God heal what I cannot imagine must be incredibly painful. If my novels, in even the tiniest degree, can help, then I am humbled and again thank God for His hand in helping me write them.

      I have gotten so many emails from readers struggling with life and finding “Mr. Right” who have been encouraged by the relationships I present. I think I am going to start sharing some of those. Not to boost my ego but to encourage others that reading novels with love and romance within them can be a blessing and not universally detrimental.

  4. Sandigee57

    i lead a church small group of 8th grade girls. it’s rocky ground. homeschoolers have such different and often skewed ideas on rearing/teaching their daughters! i honestly feel sorry for the 2 girls in my group that are home-schooled. they are not allowed to take part in any kind of church activity outside of the worship service and small group time. how do they handle life when they eventually are old enough to try and fit into an adult world?? i’m so very sorry you have had this horrible experience. it’s all so sad.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Sandigee, I know many people who home school and do NOT ascribe to these extreme philosophies. I hope it is clear that I am not throwing a blanket of “anti-homeschool” out there.

      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Colette

    Sharon, there are so many things I would like to say in response to this, but I will hold my remarks, as they would surely be taken in the spirit in which they are intended.

    Just know, you are not alone. A dear friend is a teacher at an affluent high school. He had assigned ‘The Color Purple’ to his students for years. Then one day, ONE PARENT complained. My friend was drug into the principal’s office as if he were a student caught cheating. Now he is prohibited from assigning that novel, and he is quite diligent in making sure none of the books or films he uses in class could in any way offend anyone.

    This ridiculous censorship obstructs the education of our country’s youth.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Indeed you are correct that we are seeing rampant censorship, etc. all over the place. I could write many blogs on that, as I am sure you could too!

      I know what my friend has gone through in trying to expand the minds of the home schoolers she has a heart burden to minister to. Asking me to teach was one of many times she has tried, and eventually failed, in introducing the “real” world to the kids in her circle. As upsetting as this was to me, how it has hurt my dear friend and her daughter is much worse.

  6. Kelli Crowe

    First, I am so sorry that you experienced this. You have brought hours of joy to my reading experience and made me appreciate the Keira Knightly version of P&P (which I didn’t think it was possible to do.) There as many books written by you on my shelf as Austen.

    Second, it would have been far better for someone to simply tell you they misunderstood the class instead of going foward and putting condemnation on your class, process and profession.

    Third, as a home schooler and someone who is very a over protective parent and a Christian, I am unfamiliar with most of the terms you posted. While respect other people’s view points, I cringed when I read it was for a home school group because people often believe we judge everyone else’s choice not to home school. Gee, I wonder why?

    Fourth, I want to know if there is a way for you to put your class on line or have some sort of interactive portion of it. I would LOVE to take your class!! I would absolutely pay for a chance at that.

    Kelli Crowe

    1. Kelli Crowe

      Ok, clearly I did not proof read that before I posted it! Nice.

    2. Sharon Lathan

      Hi Kelli! Great to hear from you, and thanks so much for speaking up as a home school mom. Again, I am NOT in any way saying home schooling is wrong or anything remotely like that. My best friend in the world home schooled both her children, and her son is now completing his PhD at UCSF in 18th & 19th century literature! No problems with novel in their household. LOL!

      I am glad to know the terms were not familiar to you. They weren’t to me either. Well, I had heard whispers of courtship but did not realize the full implications when taken to extremes.

      As for me, yes it was a shame and distressing. But I am glad it happened. I have learned something important, I believe, and grown stronger in my determination to provide a pure vision of marriage and love within my novels.

      As for the class, I did not plan out a detailed didactic since my expectation is that the students would be so excited about the text that they would be bombarding me with what they wanted to learn more about! So much for that. LOL!

  7. Nicola Green

    I can’t comprehend on what teaching that class must have been like for you and then receiving those emails after. I first stumbled across your novels at the age of 16 and do not find them at all offensive. I have been Christened but would not call myself a Christian I do have many religious friends who’s views I do not necessarily understand or agree with however I think that debate is healthy. Being narrow minded and refusing to see historical fact is not. I think you should be very proud of yourself for conducting yourself the way you did in the situation and your emailed response was brilliantly written. Which is not unexpected but I thought I would let you know anyway.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Thank you, Nicola. :-)

  8. Megan

    What a shame!? I looked forward to hearing about the discussions from your class (which I would gladly attend). I am a Christian and take my faith seriously and I do believe that God has a plan for my life and the man I will one day meet and marry, but to allow your daughter no choice in the matter – when did we go back in time?

    I understand their concerns about morality and everything but like you said Sharon, it’s about having the self control to behave properly. If these girls attempt to go off to college, what then? They are going to be so ill-equipped to handle the real-world. I was friends in college – through an on-campus Christian fellowship – with two guys, brothers actually, that were home schooled. They were two of the most polite guys I’ve ever met, but at the same time they also were some of the most socially awkward people I’ve ever met. Never letting your kids interact with the rest of the world (i.e. live in a bubble) does them a great disservice. They don’t learn how to interact with others their own age which can affect friendships and self-esteem levels in the kid (it’s very hard to be an outsider – spent my 8th grade year that way when my best friends dropped me out of the group, and you couldn’t pay me enough money to relive how lonely I was that year!) I pray for the girls that they continue to follow the Lord, but that they might learn to be like Lizzy and have an independent thought in their head!

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Indeed, Megan. The issues of this type of control are not just about matters of sexuality, marriage, etc., but about dealing with LIFE.

  9. Grace Burrowes

    Everybody handles fear differently, and you hope these folks are operating from a fear of what you call our fallen world, and not some far less worthy motive. YOU DID NOTHING WRONG. YOU DID NOT DESERVE THIS RESPONSE. There are people in my family who think my books are disgusting, who will not allow one to physically touch their hands. They love me and pray for me, and hope someday I’ll use my writing talents to write “good” books. I love my family, so we pray for each other, and keep trying to find common ground.

    This has to hurt, Sharon, but you write wonderful books. Don’t doubt yourself, and don’t give in to destructive temptations. Just keep writing the books you love to write, and so many people love to read.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Oh Grace! I am SO sorry to hear this of you, your wonderful novels, and your family! Tragic! At least I have never gotten that from anyone in my family, nor from any friends (many of whom are Christian and understand what I am writing).

      It did hurt – at first – until I delved into it and saw the reasons behind. Now my sadness is only for the girls, and others in the same situation. That was the purpose of this blog. Enlightenment.

      Thanks, Grace. You keep at your writing too. I know for a FACT that people love your novels, and they should!

  10. Carla Hoffmann

    I am so sorry Sharon. I have read all your books and I would never, EVER compare your novels to porn.

    I have been teaching for the past 23 years of my life and I have found both ends of the spectrum: young women with no criteria at all, manipulated by their “spiritual elders” (call them parents, counselors, pastors, etc) and young girls that think they are mature 30 year olds and consider appropriate to read “Fifty shades…”

    I believe in the right of every parent to educate their children in the way they see fit, but there is nothing more damaging – in my point of view – to tag everything as sinful and bad when human love, presented in a healthy, loving manner, is a great source of education to the younger generation, as opposed to sex as violence and possession and an animal act.

    My two cents.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Thank you for your “two cents” Carla. I think it is worth much more then that! Indeed there are extremes on both ends. Neither is right. Balance is, usually, the key.

  11. Stephanie L

    Oh for crying out loud. I am a preacher’s kid, I was homeschooled, I am still a Christian and I LOVE your books (which you know). Homeschooling has its good points, but it severely shelters kids to the point of social exclusion at times. There has GOT to be a happy medium. I agree that our world needs fixing in some areas. There is a lot of bad stuff out there, but locking your kid in a bubble and not letting them read current or past media or allowing them to learn what love is, is shortchanging them and not changing the world at all! I’m stepping off my soapbox…LOL
    I’m so sorry you had to experience that! I would love love love to be able to sit in on that class and would have when I was homeschooling.

    1. Stephanie L

      I just had a discussion with someone I grew up with today regarding their daughter being homeschooled because of the evil in the world. I think I would have been more shocked from the conversation if I hadn’t seen all this first. She wasn’t as hardline as some of what you discussed, but I was seeing a trend. That’s frightening to me. What good can these kids do if they are taught nothing but how to live in a bubble? Dear God…and I mean that in prayer…just hurts my heart for them.

  12. Aly k

    Sharon, I’m soo sorry to hear this. I too am a born again christian, and I adore your books. I look foward to reading them, everytime a new one gets released. Although I did have the first three, they were stolen from our boxes from the moving company. I love the relationships in the books and how they interact. Please continue to write amazing books :)
    Aly

  13. Maggie Schimelpfening

    Oh, my dear friend!!!! I am so sorry to hear of you having this experience. The beautiful thing about your books is that they portray healthy romantic relationships and sexual relations within the bonds of marriage. I believe that we were created by a loving Heavenly Father that intended for us to have these relationships with our spouse. I am so sorry that you were hurt by this. Sending much love!!!

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Maggie!! I miss you SO much! It has been too, too long. {{BIG hugs}}

      Thanks for the comment. Indeed this is the essence of the sadness I felt over all this: Not that negativity was cast onto my work because none read it far enough, or with an open mind, to honestly form an opinion of the novel. It is the strange beliefs of SOME – let me be clear that these are not all Christians or homeschoolers – that will stifle their precious children.

      Hope to see you soon :-)

  14. Kimberly M

    Dear Sharon,

    I have always loved P&P. I have grown to appreciate and love it even more when I began to read each and every book you have written. Please do not let this dissuade you from writing more novels!! I myself grew up in a very strict religious upbringing and was pretty much like Cinderella where I was kept at home all the time. Luckily, for myself I chose not to live in bubble wrap and enjoy life. I rebelled hard and against everything my parents tried to enforce. Now, as a parent myself, instead of following the path my parents had shown me along with my own experiences, I would rather have my children know love and enjoy life than to shelter them!

    When I began reading your books, especially when Lizzy and Darcy started their family, it reminded me of my own parenting style and how I wish my children will be able to enjoy life and their experiences on their own as well. Thank you for the beautiful stories!

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Kimberly, Your story is all too familiar. Youths end up rebelling, often as far the other direction as possible, just as a way to escape and deal with the oppression. Naturally going to the extreme other end is damaging too.

      I am very happy that you survived both experiences, learned from them, and are applying a reasonable balance to raising your children. They will be better, stronger human because of it.

      Thanks for sharing.

  15. Monica P

    Wow. Firstly, I’m sorry that the class you were so excited about and put much effort into took such a nosedive. But it’s about so much more than that. Of course people have the right to do what they see fit, and I am typically a “live and let live” type of person. I just feel like these girls may be getting a disservice by being forced to keep their heads in the sand. Human beings have romantic and sexual feelings about other human beings. It’s a fact; it’s the way we were made. Reading about it is not the same as doing it. If you read a murder mystery and analyze all the various elements involved, does that make you a murderer in your heart? Of course not. If these mothers had sons in this same class, would they be equally concerned? This just reminds me of some of my group of girlfriends from school whose parents wouldn’t let them take sex-ed of any kind and were very strict with them about everything. They were all pregnant by their second semester of college. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Kids have to know what’s out there to know how to deal. Yes, Regency spouses often had other lovers. Not particularly something I like, either, but it happened. It’s no different than any other period in history. Or today, for that matter.

    Don’t let it get you down too much. (Easy for me to say, I know).

    Hugs!

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Very good analogy on the murder mystery, Monica. Of course, some aren’t allowed to read novels at all, so I guess that is to avoid them committing crimes! After all, if they read about it they would envision it, and have no control to keep themselves from dashing out to do it. Right.

      Again, I am FINE. Really. I only wanted to spread awareness for what I and my husband see as an insidious lie. Plus, I knew readers would be asking about the Girls in Paris class, so figured I would tell the whole sordid tale!

      Thanks for the comment and concern. :-)

  16. Diana Birchall

    Whew, what a saga. I would say, Sharon, it’s “welcome to the big time,” that’s all. When you reach out to the world with your books, you get stuff back from a lot of different sorts of people. Some of it wonderful beyond words – and sometimes you stumble into a nest of, well let’s be charitable and say “people who think differently.” You know they’re out there. I think the shock was expecting one thing (a lovely experience with young people at a school – and I have taught my Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma to five high school English classes and met with nothing but nice interested kids) – but you were hit with some close-minded ignorant folks who form a rather alarming component in our society. If everybody thought like them this would be some kind of fanatic dictatorship. Fortunately they’re not likely to get into the majority, so you can just move on and remind yourself, “An author’s lot is a very varied one!” This particular experience is thankfully a fairly uncommon one, but the more readers you’re exposed to, the more oddities you’ll encounter. I wouldn’t bother trying to argue or justify anything in your mind, or to anyone else. You can’t please all the people all of the time, and certainly not the nuts.

  17. Amanda T

    Wow, I’m sorry you were faced with all this! I’ve known some very strict families in my life, but I can’t say I’ve ever faced one that actually disapproved of ALL novels! Wow.

    I have actually been introduced to the concept of courtship/betrothal before, and found it just as sad then as I do now. When I was in college, I was a part of a student ministry choir. Through that, I met a girl who told me that she would never consider dating anyone, and that she would only follow the courtship/betrothal process, where the decision of who she would court/marry was left up to her church elders (her parents being absent from her life). During one of our spring tours, a group of us (including this girl) stayed up late one night, and had a very extensive (but respectful!) discussion about the whole idea of courtship/betrothal. Most of us, like me, knew very little about it. And that’s when I learned this girl’s whole story. She had grown up getting moved around from foster home to foster home, and had experienced more than one abusive situation (in one case, sexually abusive) in her childhood. So naturally, the thought of being sheltered and, in her mind, protected by the authority of someone else was a pretty appealing one to her.

    So while the rest of us still maintained that taking all choice and self-control out of the equation in relationships generally does more harm than good, we all really felt for her and could almost understand why she would choose to go that route. But that being said, she CHOSE for herself to follow that path, unlike these poor girls whose families made this decision FOR them and their lives. It makes me so sad to think that so much of their lives are being restricted by fear and control, and how many blessings they are missing out on because of that!

    Will be praying for these dear girls. And I’ll keep reading your lovely books, being grateful for the fact that I can =)

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Thanks for sharing your friend’s tale with us, Amanda. There are always unique situations for each unique person. No ONE way is the only way when it comes to dealing with the daily pressures of life. Many tenets of the courtship movement are wise, if not taken to extreme and not imposed unilaterally. God is all about free-will. God IS love, and wants us to love Him of our own choice. Why would anyone imagine He would not want the same for us in loving our life mate? There is zero logic in thinking otherwise.

  18. Susanne

    Dear Sharon!

    I really don´t know what to say; this sounds strange and weird. These girls from 16-20 are old enough to know about romance and love. Your books are full of faith, true love and believing in the one person meant to be your soulmate. How can this be wrong? I am really speechless, this can´t be true! These mothers are very wrong!
    I really don´t know what is better: to get really angry about these mothers or laugh about them. But it is a serious topic and I think here in Europe hardly anybody cares about this topic.
    Please remain true to yourself! You are the best!
    Lots of love,
    Susanne

  19. Bronwyn Scott

    Wow, I am so sorry that happened to you. It is unbelievable, especially when the regency courtship process is in actuality so much like the process they are currently subscribing to–with a family focused management of who is an appropriate spouse. If they dislike it so much perhaps they should look at their own process. Regency families often thought or felt they were making good matches for their children for practical reasons, sensuality and romance completely aside; financial stability, status compatibilty (which would equate to values, and beliefs compatibility)etc., much like these folk attest to.

    I am also reminded of an article I read not long ago about the positive values of romance novels, particularly regency historicals. The main point was that these novels placed a heavy value on the importance of family–how many regencies have you read where the hero or heroine is trying to their duty or their best for their family? Lots of them is the answer. This includes selflessly putting the needs of the family (ailing aging elders or younger siblings) ahead of oneself, giving up personal dreams and goals for the betterment of the family, taking responsibilities above and beyond the call of duty. Secondly, there is an emphasis on honor and doing what is right. Thirdly, there is a strong thread of the importance of wanting one’s own family and loving relationship with a spouse after having looked around society and seen the lack of it in other relationships and realizing how important that component is for them to have. Many novels end in marriage and the promise of a child–two very beautiful and sacred things in God’s creation.
    BTW, I am Bronwyn Scott for those who don’t know me. I have written twenty titles for Harlequin and lead Bible study at church on Sunday mornings at a nice conservative Presbyterian church in a small town.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Hi Bronwyn! Thanks for coming by. And, of course, I know exactly who you are. :-)

      I never got the time to talk about Regency courtship. If I had I would have pointed out that while, indeed, parental involvement in finding a suitable mate, males and females were free to choose the person they wished to court. They did not “date” in the same way we think of it, but they did talk to each other, dance, visit museums or the opera, and so on as a way to interact and decide if this person was compatible and stirred stronger emotions. They were allowed to touch – carefully and cautiously, yes – and even kiss. In other words, they looked for love in their future spouse as previous generations had not.

      Of course, if I had gotten to say any of that it would have been another nail in the coffin of teaching my class with historical accuracy! LOL! I had already realized, after a couple comments when talking about fashion, that that too was a topic I could not cover. After all, Regency dress was all about displaying the physique. Yikes!

      And lastly, thanks for the comment on romance novels. You are 100% correct. I’m not saying erotica should be freely passed out to 14 year olds, but a well written romance, especially historicals, can be very positive. I know Miss Darcy Falls in Love is. Yet when I tried to point out the sacrifice my characters make out of love for each other, and so on, it was met with stony silence. More of the story I did not take the time to explain. *sigh

  20. Cherri T.

    What a shame that some parents still think ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately ignorance usually has the opposite effect of what these parents would like. Try your best to not let this hurt you too much.

  21. AngieK

    My son, 10 at the time, was watching a youtube video of a minecraft walkthrough, and the language was pretty strong. I said, ‘Howie,’ stop watching that – lots of bad words.’ He says, ‘But Mom, I’m not SAYING those words. You don’t hear me talk like that.’ In one sentence, he gave me a clear, concise argument for his freedom to consume content. I couldn’t argue with him. My response, ‘Good reasoning – carry on.’

    But, I am the freaky liberal of the bunch…just my two cents!

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Excellent! Indeed we want to train our children properly, and naturally that means we are not going to allow them to play on a freeway. (One of my dad’s favorite sayings.) But only through being exposed to what is negative in the world can parents teach their children morals and to make proper choices.

      But, as I learned in researching this “movement”, the whole point is for children (even when adults) to be utterly subservient to their parents, especially the father. Very, very weird.

  22. Sheri Humphreys

    Sharon, it seems you stumbled into a cult. This isn’t about home schooling or Christianity. These are extremists who meet the definition of a cult: a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.

    I’d expect such individuals to home school their kids. I’d expect them to vigorously object to most any literature other than the Bible. I’d expect them to be close-minded and adamant that their views are sacrosanct.

    I’m confident all your preparation will not be in vain. You’ll be able to use it for another class someday and everything will be done. We don’t know what the future holds. Perhaps you encountered these individuals and had this bizarre and upsetting experience for an as yet unknown reason. For everyone reading your blog, it was an education. It’s one thing to occasionally hear about such groups on the national news, another entirely to discover such a cult alive and flourishing in my own county.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Well, “cult” is the word my husband and I were tossing around, but I decided to not be too harsh in this blog. Still, it does come to that when books are banned, burned, and edited (more of the story I did not relate) – and I don’t mean novels but the actual textbooks as well. My son “knows” a couple of the girls – meaning he encounters them at church occasionally since they are of the same age – and he said that they will never look at him (or anyone), won’t respond to his simple hello, and sit alone. Now explain to me how any parent can possibly think that is healthy?

      Indeed the point of this blog was not to simply condemn these particular parents (although they should be told the pointed truth), nor was it to talk about my feelings. The point was to educate and enlighten. What good that will do, I am not sure. But perhaps young ones struggling to make sense of their oppression will be encouraged by this blog post and the many, many, many others out there talking about this obscene, yes, cultic, movement.

      1. Dawn Reed

        Cult? I would agree! Unfortunately the homeschool world has a much higher percentage of these extreme unhealthy families than the general Christian world. (I am a homeschooling Christian mother and have recovered from 10 years in a cult just as you described!).

        Things I have noticed:
        1. This extreme sect is less than 15% of the entire homeschooling movement. As homeschooling continues to grow the numbers continue to decrease. Twenty years ago about 85% of homeschooling families could be categorized in this way.

        2. Although shocking and I’m sure hurtful — This situation has planted seeds in the minds of these young girls and, by God’s grace, they will return to think more about in the coming years. This we can be thankful for!

        3. Did you know statistically less than 20% of these type of homeschooled children will ever grace the doors of a church in their adulthood. It’s an abusive system and few return (at least once they get out — for girls it tends to be in their late 20’s to early 30’s — remember girls are not allowed or prepared to live on their own) It’s all very sad.

        4. We need to be praying for the girls especially. The parents are often too far gone. Scariest part is how closely the views of these parents line up with the extreme Muslim faith more than the Christian faith.

        5. Although 15% of the homeschooling movement, I often compare them to the gay/lesbian movement — small percentage but loudest voice and the most threatening! The majority of state leaders in the homeschooling movement (mostly because they have been around for so many years) tend to be of this extreme religion.

        6. This is NOT Christianity. It’s the one thing in the gospel that Jesus hated and rejected — it’s the modern day Pharisees! Plain and Simple.

        1. Sharon Lathan

          Awesome and succinct. Thank you, Dawn.

          It is good to see some statistical numbers. I do hope you are correct. I feared the over all percentage of extreme (cultic) attitude was increasing. After all, I live in CA not in Amish country or next door to the Duggars! Granted we are in one of the few remaining pockets of conservative majority, but even that is narrowing and the Left Coast is a stone throw away. I never would have thought the movement so powerful here as to only have ONE homeschool family willing to let their daughter read a romance novel. It is still shocking to me. Hopefully the numerous blogs on the web are helping to shine a light into the darkness these young people are living in. I really meant it when I said living without books would have been my worst hell as a youngster. Novels of all kinds were constantly in my hands. It truly makes me shake when imagining not having been allowed to read!

          And a hardy AMEN to #6!

  23. Pamela Garrett

    Well, Sharon, I am simply flabbergasted! As someone who likes to know what’s going on in the world around her, I thought I was fairly aware when it comes to extreme attitudes like this. I am not a religious person, though I like to think I’m a spiritual one. I respect the faith and beliefs of others, which is one of the most important tenets on which this country was founded. But I don’t see how anyone can call this kind of behavior “Christian.” Would Jesus Christ share such an attitude? I think not. I agree with you and others who’ve responded that this feels decidedly like cult behavior. The attitudes of the parents you’ve described are truly beyond my comprehension and what you have written here leaves me at a complete loss. How I pity the children of such parents. To never know the joys of literature… I, for one, would rather be dead than inhabit such a world. You response to the “I-avoid-all-novels” Mom hit the mark perfectly and was very moving. I’m sorry that this happened to you and I’m sorry that your lovely prose and depiction of romantic love were attacked in such a despicable way as to liken them to pornography. As you know, I have read all your novels with great appreciation. I have also had the good fortune to spend time in your company and know you to be a kind, compassionate, intelligent woman with a loving and, yes, Christian heart. You seem to have handled a difficult, rather ugly situation with grace and it’s a great pity that these girls on the brink of womanhood were deprived of what should have been an enjoyable and enriching experience.

  24. Roz

    I have had some interaction with people of this ultra conservative background. It is nearly impossible to reason with them.

    We had some young women who worked with us as RNs and LPNs. Being nurses, they had a more modern exposure to society, yet they still followed their family’s and their religion’s points of view when it came to courtship and marriage. Much like the Duggars, they were only allowed to associate with other youth in groups. When it came to selecting a mate, they got a proposal from a young man in another church, maybe even from another state, the consideration prospect was almost too strange to consider.

    These educated and somewhat more worldly young women considered the proposal because it was what was expected of them by their family and church. As much as I wanted to say, “You have got to be kidding!?!?” We watched them consider these proposals from young men they’d never met.

    The girls locked themselves in their bedrooms and prayed for as long as it took until they got an answer from God. One of our RNs felt God did not want her to marry any of these young men presented to her. Later, she married a widower from their church who had three children already, and needed a mother for them. God told her this was to be her fate.

    One of the RNs locked herself in her bedroom and prayed for three days, not leaving her room except to go to the bathroom, and God told her to accept a particular young man. Wonderfully, this has proven to be a very happy marriage for her. They have 6 children and are all being raised just as they had been.

    It’s very contrary to what we consider to be a normal courting and marriage. The decisions have been made, but only within the confines of what the church and the family want. If the family didn’t first approve of the young man’s family, he would never have been allowed to present himself as a prospective spouse.

    The LPN who worked for us, left that same conservative branch of that religion and married a man who had been left a widower after his wife (whom she had cared for in her hospice needs) had died, because the widower was a Catholic. They “compromised” their religions when they wed. She left that sect that allowed her to wear only long skirts, hair in buns, lace covering their heads, and embraced an Evangelical church. She cut her hair very short, she wears short skirts, tank tops, blue jeans, shorts, etc. She wears makeup. Her parents did not disown her, thankfully, though it took until they were having their own children (besides his two) before the family was onboard with her decision. It was heart breaking, yet it has ended well.

    One of the RNs who had also worked for us, prayed over many petitions for her marriage, and God apparently told her no each time. She’s in her late 40s and has no dreams of being married and having children of her own.

    It is so different from the way we’ve been raised, and the way that we have raised our family. No amount of exposure to “our world” is allowed to penetrate the cocoon that has been put up around their youth. They remain socially awkward and unable to relate to people in a variety of situations. They feel their lives are complete. They pray over the rest of us. There is just no way to present an opinion that is different in a way that can be acceptable.

    I had no idea that you would have been having to teach to such a conservative group. I can see how this would not go well. I feel that your friend is fighting an uphill battle. I hope she can find another group to get her daughter involved in for group home schooling. That would be an easier solution than trying to change their minds.

    Don’t take it personally at all. That must seem silly to hear, but it is true. It is not you that they object to, but to a society that they don’t believe in.

    Be true to yourself first. Be happy. Be confident that God has a great love for you, as you for Him.

    Roz

  25. May

    I have come late to this, so sad for you Sharon. I read a newspaper article this morning and one paragraph made me think of your situation. It was written by Sir Christopher Meyer a former US Ambassador and he writes “America is a country suffused with religiousity emanating from all kinds of weird and wonderful churches and sects” I think as someone has said above you have stumbled into one of those. It is heartening that you appear to be unbowed by these parents’ slanted view on life.

    I love practising Tai Chi, it is connected to Budhism, a gentle kind worldwide belief but more importantly they pass on their skill to people who have had heart attacks, strokes, arthritis etc which helps these people no end. Yet in the UK some Church Halls won’t let classes take place. Yet all it is is a group of people wanting to learn it and get some health benefit and exercise, the most innocent of reasons. I hasten to add that the Catholic Church has no objections, nor most of the churches, but The Free Church of Scotland says we “contaminate” their community. What! Just a bunch of people doing a bit of exercise. At no time has any Budhist instructor EVER insisted on us becoming budhists, they don’t think like that. It is exercise plain and simple. So you can see how bigoted people are.

    The Bishop of Salisbury opened a Taoist Centre and he had absolutely no problem with the centre. He is not a narrowminded bigot like these people.

    Sorry for going on about my hobby! But I somehow relate it with what you are going through.

    Lots of love
    May xx

  26. May

    Sorry should have said The Bishop of Colchester, bless him!

  27. Erlynn

    Wow Sharon, I am so sorry for you and your girls. I remember you posting about your class way back and being jealous. However, as a teacher in a public school, teaching World History and world religions I know exactly what you are up against. I walk a tight rope everyday worried about what could set a parent off. Many parents have questioned my content and I have to point them in the direction of the state standards that I teach to. I am constantly checking myself, the content I present, and the way in which I do so. I have 120 parents watching my every move, waiting to find fault and pounce. I love teaching and my students so much and I know you do too. From all these comments I know it must be awesome to see the support you have from all your fans. Some days when I get off the phone with a parent or finish reading an email, all I need is a hug and someone to tell me I am good at what I do, am making a difference and to just hang in there and keep going.

    *hugs* I love your novels from beginning to end. Some of their covers are taped on. Never ever stop writing.
    <3 Erlynn

    1. Erlynn

      P.S. This kinda sounds like this awesome young adult dystopia novel I read called Delirium by Lauren Oliver. The main character Lena, falls in love while living in a society that believes love is a disease that must be eradicated. At the age of 18 teenagers undergo a mental procedure to disable their brains from being harmed by or being further capable of love. Unfortunately Lena contracts the disease before her planned surgery and her eyes are opened to world around her. She has been sheltered from interacting with any boys up until her “rebellion”. Great novel…. not so much when it is reality.

  28. Anise

    I found this blog article through a community of people, some of whom came out of such a background. I myself grew up on the fringes, so I am well-aware of the beliefs and dynamics of people such as the families you encountered in teaching this class.

    If I could add to your analysis, your presentation of historical facts and representation of the Regency era itself was a challenge to their beliefs. These groups often glorify the past, particularly the Victorian era, but also the Regency era and before as well. These are represented as ideal, moral times in which people courted properly without sexual impropriety, families were strong, and roles of men and women heavily defined. These girls are well-familiar with images from these time periods used to promote books and lectures on family life, housekeeping, etc. So imagine the blow to discover that history is so different from the image they have been sold- the courtships of the past not necessarily leading to happy marriages and that affairs were a matter of course.

    Additionally, the novels of Jane Austen are very popular among this group. Among a group in which romance novels are equated as porn for women, Pride and Prejudice is the closest thing to a romance that most of these girls will ever read. Pride and Prejudice- without romantic scenes and kisses! I’m sorry to say that there was bound to be a huge clash as your books are actual romance. I am sorry that you did not have a more open audience. Personally, I think the lessons you had planned out sound fun and interesting.

    And yes, they probably really are that innocent of real romance and have no real idea of the mechanics of sex. The love stories they read in their literature focus on young men noticing young women across the church and talking to their fathers.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Anise, Thank you very much for stopping by and for your unique insight. I was so shocked to learn of this extreme attitude, but also very encouraged to discover the wealth of blogs and websites dedicated to enlightening people either unaware or who need help out of this diabolical bondage. This one blog post is a blip on the radar, but hopefully it too will help someone to understand just how crazy the thought processes are. You are 100% correct about the revisionist history. There was much, much more said via emails and from my friend then I revealed here. I knew early on that there was no way I could have tossed my novel out and just held a class on history. I would have taught the truth, and obviously they had no interest in that. I also knew I could not teach one of Jane Austen’s novels because even there we see romance and not-so-nice characters. Dare I reveal what Wickham or Willoughby were up to? I am sure in their blinded reading they have no comprehension of what was really going on there!

      Keep up the work you do on your community. I fear my blinders have been on and this movement is bigger than I realizes.

  29. CandyM

    Hi Sharon! As you may or may not know, I’m a homeschool mom. I know many families like the ones you describe above. They are all very good families and all seem to be very happy. They do some amazing activities and projects with their kids. So, what you have written about and experienced is not a surprise to me.

    I don’t ascribe to these beliefs, at least not to all of them, I live in the real world. There are many things we cannot protect our children from, but we can teach them to know the difference between right and wrong, to be smart, to respect their bodies and to hopefully make good choices in life. I homeschool because the schools here in Tucson are terrible!!

    Someone mentioned, what do these homeschool kids do when they go to college?….they take online classes! The girls are brought up to be wives and mothers, they aren’t on the college plan.

    One of my friends on goodreads is one of these homeschool kids. She is in her 20s now. Because of her I now try to remember to put a warning in my reviews if there are any sexual scenes!

    On a closing, I want to say that I am a Christian and I believe Jesus died on the cross for me! :)

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Hi Candy,
      I hope I have been clear that I DO know there are many homeschool parents who are not this extreme. And perhaps these particular kids will grow up just fine. I personally have some doubts based on all I have written in this blog, which is a fourth of what I could recount. I honestly believe that it borders on mental child abuse, but as a Christian it also angers me that these extremist put a false-stamp of Biblical teaching on it.

      Indeed this has been eye-opening to me, and I am trying to see the positive in learning a new phenomenon. However, it still galls me that none of this would have happened and I would not have wasted my precious time if these Oh-so-concerned parents had simply taken the two minutes to read the class description that included my bio! Instead it turned into pointing the finger at me for misrepresenting the class and trying to foist the “sex book” onto their innocent girls. That still steams me, I admit. LOL!

      As to your last sentence, a hardy AMEN!

  30. Kimberly (Reflections of a Book Addict)

    I’m at a complete loss for words. This is insane. To cut your children off from literature is honestly one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard. Keep writing amazing books, Sharon. You rock!

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Thank you, Kimberley. And I certainly will keep writing!

  31. Kathy

    Hi Sharon!

    After knowing you for years, I know you to be kind, sweet and wonderful Christian woman, and a successful novelist who has inspired many worldwide with your tenacity to bring your Austen-themed novels and writings to fruition for all to enjoy! Above that, you have woven a very obvious and God-centered theme of honor and love in marriage into your writings. But with these extreme and harsh isolationist views and red flags abound, I wish you would’v consulted me before you embarked on such an endeavor…LOL!

    The Good News? You grow from an otherwise dark and disturbing experience tell about it and you use it as a light for good and weave into your life and novels! Moreover, perhaps your friend’s eyes have been open and her daughter spared from a life of detriment and isolation. Yes, it is true that some who have been home-schooled get a better basic education and great experiences, but many kids unfortunately who were home schooled because of extreme religious views as adults experience isolationism (there are plenty of documented cases), have a hard time getting jobs, have impossible relationships and are distrustful of people most of their adult lives.

    More simply, what I find interesting is how one mother invokes the “Oprah Show” from her own viewing, saying she “heard it” for herself. Poor thing doesn’t see the obvious contradictions if she is truly trying to teach her daughter another way of life than she obviously lives. The others just sounds akin to the book-banning crowds of bygone days (Nazi & KKK to name a few, and some modern day extremists). Jesus was angered by these types–the legalistic, half-scholar-ed finger pointers–He said “YOU HYPOCRITES!! (Matt 23:15)

    But these simple minded and very carnal parents, obviously, want to be the ONLY authority in their daughter’s lives and keeping them away from society they think will “train them up”. Conversely, Jesus never backed down from society, in fact, he changed lives and lived and died for all by living and commiserating AMONG all types of people, especially downtrodden, not ducking from it!

    You said the right thing about praying for those unfortunate girls as they will need all our prayers. God will deal with the parents in HIS time.

    After living in the Bay Area over 20 years, I have found that one never wins an argument with someone so extreme and simple minded as these. ( In fact the juxtaposition of the very ultra conservative and the very ultra liberal is a fine line to me.)

    So Sharon, you have novels to write (and they don’t), themes to pursue and people that will and are, enjoying them as a result, so ponder that!

    Be calm and carry on!

    Hugs
    Kathy
    x

  32. Eric

    Just wanted to say thanks for including the link to my “Bondage of Betrothal” article. I’m so glad you found it helpful!

    I should add that it was originally written for a website that will definitely be of interest to those who have encountered this doctrine, especially young women: http://www.quiveringdaughters.com. There’s also a spinoff book from that blog, both sensitively written by a very insightful woman who grew up in the Patriarchy / Quiverfull movement (oldest of I think 10 or 12 homeschooled kids). It’s pretty much essential reading for those who want to understand this worldview from the inside– and those who want to get out!

    S.D.G.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Thank YOU, Eric, for a fabulous article and website. I placed the link to your blog on the top of my list for a reason. It is perfectly presented and brought everything that I had read into clarity. Several friends have read it and said the same thing. I appreciate the additional link to Quivering Daughters. I found that website, among many others out there attempting to enlighten, but had to limit the list at some point. LOL! Keep up the good work. God bless you, Sharon

  33. Suzanne

    Welcome to the big bad world of Quiverfull and Patriarchal courtship. I am not surprised at all you had that experience with the home schooling Quiverfull crowd. I used to teach art to that type of student and had to stop because of the insanity of dealing with those type parents. Don’t let them get to you.

    More info on courtship, bounded choice, patriarchy and quiverfull at No Longer Quivering

  34. Kristen

    As someone who has become very familiar with the patriarchy/courtship movement, I can definitely confirm that the problem with the passage you quoted had everything to do with the way it undermines patriarchy and courtship. It implies three things that are never to be even hinted in this movement: that a father can be wrong, particularly in his choice of a mate for his grown child, that the grown child can be right where the father is wrong; and that the wife can and should voice her own opinion if it is different from her husband’s, rather than being “submissive” as they define it. In making these three implications, it characterizes the father (who should be portrayed as the all-wise authority) in a bad light, even making him look foolish. More than anything else, it is this which cannot be tolerated in the patriarchy/courtship movement. Though they would never come out and say so to someone not in the group, these are the reasons this passage was so upsetting to them– more upsetting than anything else in the entire novel, no matter what else they objected to. It’s no wonder you ended up with an empty class.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Excellent summation, Kristen. This conclusion to the reason why the passage was so disturbed made everything clear. The looonnngggg email explanations of the sensuality and explicitness (which the novel is not overtly so, especially the way the moms kept going on about it) simply made no sense whatsoever. And, of course, you are correct that they would not acknowledge the facts you wrote if spoken directly to their face. All we can do is pray.

      Thank you very much for offering your insights.

  35. Grace

    One of my favorite Christian authors has experienced the same difficulties and criticisms for her sex scenes in a couple of her books. They are between married people, biblically sound, and honestly, less explicit than the Song of Solomon! I’m hoping to one day be a published author myself, and on the one hand, seeing these conversations and explications do prepare me for what’s ahead. But on the other hand, they do cause me to second guess and wonder “How much is too much?”. But I don’t believe it’s productive or necessary to limit our words for the sake of a few extremists. As a mother myself, and a student of midwifery, I hope to present sexuality, reproductive health, and godly sex, to my children. I would hate for them to enter a relationship without that knowledge, setting them up for either a sex life that is lacking for fear of being “dirty” or “sinful”, or for abuse, catering to their husbands with no regard for their own comfort levels and understanding of what is right, good, and healthy.

    In all honesty, I only stumbled upon this page after it was shared by a friend on Facebook, and I’ve not read anything by you before. But having read your stance here, I believe I’d be delighted to read your works, and I look forward to exploring what you’ve written.

    1. Sharon Lathan

      Hello Grace. If there is one absolute fact of being published, it is that you will face criticism from someone. It is never easy, mind you, but it WILL happen.

      I struggled with the question of “how far” in regards to the explicitness. In time I found what was comfortable for me. Compared to the average romance these days, even my Darcy Saga novels are tame, and they are far more explicit then Miss Darcy Falls in Love. Opinions and perceptions are all over the place. Once upon a time it swirled my head around trying to figure out a way to write so that everyone would agree, but that is impossible.

      With Darcy and Lizzy one of my goals was to show how fabulous the physical side of a marriage should be, and that it can last beyond the first year! That meant going into the bedroom, so, yes, it is pretty racy at times although I make no apology for it. With Georgiana and Sebastian the goal was to show how beautiful it is to fall in love, innocently opening to the sensations that are awakened when discovering the person who you are designed to share your life with, and then delighting in the joy of wholly giving of yourselves. While not, IMO, “racy” in even the mildest definition of the word, I don’t shy away from the fact that along with how perfect they are for each other in attitude, etc., they are also drawn to each other in a physical way. I simply do not see sexuality as a dirty word. Thankfully most people don’t either. I just ran into some who do!

      Thanks for coming by. And thank your friend for sharing this blog. I appreciate seeing the word spread. :-)

  36. Latebloomer

    This does not surprise me at all. Ten years ago, I was just like those girls, treating even the mildest hint of sexuality as something scary and sinful. It was all based on one verse (1 Tim 5:2), in which Paul told Timothy, “Treat….younger women as sisters, with all purity.” According to the view of courtship that my family’s homeschooling church promoted, this verse meant that all men had to treat all women like sisters. But the church apparently didn’t trust that the singles were capable of this, since the church took the additional step of preventing inter-gender mingling by disallowing a church youth group.

    The result was that as a teen I was afraid to make eye contact with a boy, talk to a boy, or even mention a boy in my private journal. To me, having a crush on a boy was the mental equivalent of pre-marital sex, but despite my best efforts, I seemed to develop a crush on nearly every boy I saw. It was an extremely unhealthy and debilitating approach to life and relationships–thank God I got out on my own and found my own spouse!

    If anyone is interested, I wrote more about my experiences here: http://pasttensepresentprogressive.blogspot.com/2012/03/sexuality-elephant-in-room.html

    1. Sharon Lathan

      “For me, what I’ve learned is that there is no use in denying that we are sexual beings, and no benefit to fearing it or trying to hide it. Accept yourself, take responsibility for yourself, and make your own choices. You’ll find that sexuality is not such a scary and powerful monster when you stop treating it like one.”

      Latebloomer, this final line of your story is perfection in its simplicity. Thank you for sharing with the world. I am very happy you found your way out and your happiness with God’s help, as it should be.

  37. Amandajane

    Thanks Sharon. This is absoliutely terrible. The most scary thought for me is, what would happen if the husband, a father chose for his innocent daughter abused her ? Would she be expected to just stay and endure it ?

    In my first marriage I was subjected to emotional abuse for two years. Luckily my family were firmly on my side when I found the strength to leave. I can’t imagine how terrible it would have been, if I’d been forced to stay.

  38. Brigid Keely

    ” Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it (for every thing announced it to be from a circulating library), he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels. — Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. — Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose ‘Fordyce’s Sermons’. ”

    Seems kind of fitting, actually.

    Sorry you had to deal with that.