Hide That Naughty Word from All the Christians! March 27, 2012

Hide That Naughty Word from All the Christians!

When I wrote I Sold My Soul on Ebay, the Christian publishers had two rules regarding my writing:

1) Every mention of God had to be capitalized. (It didn’t make a difference to me.)

2) You can’t swear. (It wasn’t an issue since I usually don’t, anyway…)

After that, they let me write whatever I wanted and they helped me along the way.

Rachel Held Evans is writing a book for a (different) Christian publisher in which she follows the Bible as literally as possible regarding how to be a good Christian woman. One of the passages deals with her own upbringing and the abstinence movement:

I signed my first abstinence pledge when I was just fifteen. I’d been invited by some friends to a fall youth rally at the First Baptist Church, and in the fellowship hall one night, the youth leader passed around neon blue and pink postcards that included a form letter to God promising to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. We had only a few minutes to add our signatures, and all my friends were signing theirs, so I used the back of my metal chair to scribble my name across the dotted line before marching to the front of the room to pin my promise to God and to my vagina onto a giant corkboard for all to see. The youth leader said he planned to hang the corkboard in the hallway outside the sanctuary so that parents could marvel at the seventy-five abstinence pledges he’d collected that night. It was a pretty cheap way to treat both our bodies and God, come to think of it.

The publishers have a slight problem with that passage.

It contains the word “vagina.” And not in a strictly anatomical way, either, but in a way that suggests it has a purpose outside of post-marriage-baby-making.

Rachel writes on her site:

My editor noted that it would be tough to get this particular reference to “vagina” through the Christian bookstore gatekeepers, so we took it out and replaced it with…sigh… “privates.” (I know, I know.)

The issue, Rachel says, wasn’t with the publishers so much as the fact that certain Christian bookstores wouldn’t carry the book if it contained that word. And that would hurt book sales. So she was tempted to side with her publishers (Thomas Nelson) on this one…

But then she realized that Thomas Nelson had put out some books by male authors and the same rules didn’t seem to apply. Once again, I quote Rachel verbatim:

… in To Own a Dragon, the ever-talented Donald Miller writes, “I felt as though all the men in the world secretly met in some warehouse late at night to talk about man things, to have secret handshakes, to discuss how great it was to have a penis and what an easy thing it was to operate…”

So it’s fine when he writes “penis,” but it’s not ok when she writes “vagina”?

What’s up with that? What do the evangelical book publishers fear will happen? That Christian girls are going to open up Rachel’s book and somehow realize for the first time that — Oh my god! I have a vagina!?

I hope Rachel fights to keep that word in there. Whatever she loses in sales by not having the book appear in certain Christian bookstores, I’m sure she’ll make up in online sales from people who support an author who stands up for women, fights hypocrisy within the Christian world, and has, you know, some integrity.

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  • Anonymous

    You mean to say that evangelical Christians have unequal rules for men and for women, particularly regarding sexual matters?

    You don’t say! Shocking!


  • Satia Renee

    I hope she does as well.

    I’ve been baffled by how many women on television choose to use the word vajayjay. Is it any wonder men can’t take women’s sexuality seriously when we can’t even talk about our body parts like adults?  Yet these same women could easily say penis on television.  It makes no sense.  

  • I think we all know exactly what’s going on here, no?

  • Anonymous

    There’s an even simpler solution. Dump your Christian publisher and get a real one. They will then get your book sold in real bookstores.

  • Ryan Jean

    “1) Every mention of God had to be capitalized.”

    I have never understood this fixation, which borders on unhealthy even when one ignores all the other intellectual handicaps the religious intentionally place on themselves. One would hope that most Christians would be capable of realizing that such a capitalization only makes sense in circumstances such as referring to a proper noun, and that even when it is a proper noun, it isn’t always referring to the Christian concept of a god. Alas, no, one would be horribly wrong if they assumed such a simple and sensible thing.

  • Michael

    It’s the mindset that created tentacle porn. The notion that it’s better to discuss demons than healthy human bodies.

  • There’s an excellent song by Karen Finley called ‘Suck My Pussy’ that this story reminds me of. Ms. Finley did it as a response in the 80s to gangsta rap musicians talking about their ‘bitches and hoes’ and treating women like dirt.

    It may not have made a lasting or even well-known rebuttal, but Ms. Finley did make her point on impressionable girls such as myself. (Not to mention the whole gigglefest of the matter.)

    Exercise your 1st Amendment rights, have a vagina.

  • probably because to christians (see what I did there?) God is the name they use for their god, and names in English (see what I did there?) are capitalized. So even a Christian would write Jupiter (god or planet)

  • Sharkyhook

    I had to read it twice before I realised they weren’t posting their promises onto a giant “cockboard”.

  • Who cares?

  • Anonymous

    I heard about this last week, but didn’t know about a confirmed double standard.  I’d switch to a secular publisher if it’s not too late, because a lot of Christian bookstores will probably reject this book anyway.

  • Anonymous

     It seems to be shocking to many of the Christian commenters there

  • Uzza

    Seems simple to me. The word “vagina” evokes a mental image of a woman’s vagina, and therefore stirs lustful thoughts in men, therefore  using it is immodest and sinful.   No such lustful thoughts are suggested by the word “penis”, of course, unless you’re one of those disgusting sodomites.

  • HitchsApprentice

    Christians…………….  Oh, what a lovely world without them.  Their main problem is that their religion prevents them from maturing into adult Humans, and their DOGMA  makes them treat all sexual matters from a child’s standpoint.  They don’t have penises and Vaginas….. They have ‘DIRTY PARTS’.

  • I was going to write the same thing! Capitalization is not about respect; it is about proper grammar. If the word “god” is used as a proper noun, it should be capitalized no matter who is writing it. The same if it is used as a common noun.

    “The Christian god” should be lowercase when mentioned like that, but capitalized as in “Christians believe in God.”

  • Curtst

    I  can understand the word god being capitalized in certain uses.  What I don’t understand is, why is he supposed to be capitalized when it pertains to God?

  • Brian Westley

    I think Hemant should’ve worked in a lot of asides about Mars, the God of war, this or that ancient God, etc.

  • Some one needs to read the Vagina Monologues!  I did recently and it is very empowering. Yay for vaginas!

  • Thackerie

     You do, obviously. Otherwise, why bother leaving any comment at all?

  • Anonymous

     This isn’t a first amendment issue, though.

  • Anonymous

    My concern is why we have another version of the same book of someone trying to live by the rules of the bible.  It was funny at first, now it’s just getting trite. 

  • Whizzer

    From the INVISIBLE MAN IN THE SKY HIMSELF:  “I made you in My Own Image and your body is perfect and beautiful.  NOW COVER THE NASTY THING UP!”

  • Wait a second… are you trying to tell me Christians have a double standard regarding men and women? Are you pulling my leg? I am shocked, Shocked to hear such a thing! You could never find anything, anything at all in the Bible to support such a view! Oh, wait…

    Of course you will never find any atheists with these kind of views. Well, maybe in elevators…

  • This is what I was gonna say. It annoys me when people don’t capitalize the word “god” when using it as a proper noun just trying to provoke people. I’m a grammar nazi.

  • I noticed on Glenn Beck’s website that it’s okay to say penis but vagina gets censored.

  • Curt Cameron

    Yep, when “God” is used as the proper name for the Christian deity, it must be capitalized. It’s not a marker of respect for the religion, but respect for grammar.

    On the other hand, there’s no reason for us to capitalize the pronouns like “he,” “him,” and “his” when they refer to this deity. I hope they didn’t force you to do that!

  • I DELIBERATELY refuse to capitalize “god”, even when required by good grammar. Indeed, most times I spell it “gawd”, as pronounced by the grifters you see on TV.
    Why? because I’m mean, and deliberately trying to be a jerk, and I figure that’s about all the ‘respect” chrsitianity deserves.

  • What do expect out of a Patriarchy like Religion? and it’s not just christianity, either. Look at the crap the other 2 Abrahamaic religions make their women go through in order not to “entice men”.
     Religion stunts emotional growth in men, they all act like they’re 11 years old and are just finding out what a hard-on is for.

  • Reminds me of the George Carlin line (bowdlerized here) “Okay, you f*****s, I’m going to tinkle now.”

  • I figure that muffin is just about done.

  • Anonymous-Sam

     Far better to provoke them by using the grammatically appropriate address, “Yahweh/Elohim/El/Shaddaj/Sin/Jehovah,” all words flattened into “God” as part of the monotheism movement which occurred much later. :p

  • Alex

    Yet another example of the religious prudish “morality.” Because it’s easier to look “moral” by not saying “naughty” words than… oh, I don’t know, be a decent human being.

  •  This is the same website that had a huge problem with Tim Minchin’s Pope Song being performed at the Reason Rally.  Because it’s much worse to take your children to a rally where swear words are used to describe churches/people that covered up the crime of child rape than it is to take your children to the churches where the rapes actually took place.

  • As Tim himself sings:

    But if you find me more offensive than the fucking possibility
    The pope protected priests when they were getting fucking fiddly
    Then listen to me motherfucker, this here is a fact
    You are just as morally misguided as that motherfucking
    Power-hungry, self-aggrandised bigot in the stupid fucking hat

    I think Glenn Beck lived up to that perfectly 🙂

  • Curt Cameron

    Do you also refuse to capitalize “Zeus”?

  • Troy Truchon

     The question is, would they force him to capitalize generic mentions of “god” meaning any such god? or God, when speaking about a non-christian monotheistic deity, such as certain monotheistic veins of Hinduism, or the Zoroastrian faith?

  • Jesse

    If “penis” is allowed, what about using the (admittedly clumsy) wording: “the female equivalent of the penis”?

    (Yes, I’m kidding.  Mostly.)

  • The Other Weirdo

     Don’t underestimate tentacle porn. There’s a whole lotta… discussion… going on there.

  • Drakk

    There aren’t too many Greek pantheon believers nowadays, and the ones that do exist aren’t screaming for “respect”.

  • Drakk

     Or a heterosexual woman, but gawd hates those too, amirite?

  • Michael

    It is rather discussing isn’t it?

  • Ndonnan

    Did it enter your minds that this was the advice of an indervidual working for the publisher??? Try google Mark Gungor, a christian pastor,speaking at relationship seminars, he uses the word vagina,penis,jerking your weiner and every other phrase to do with sex every 10 seconds as he talks to hundreds of people at a time,and has them rolling with laughter.Christians have no issue with sex,we love it,struggle with it and laugh about it just like everyone else

  • Does Zeus go by any he-who-must-not-be-named euphemisms?

  •  The laziest aspect of Christian practice is attributing any waste or nonsense as an act of respect.

  • Z–s please, thank you.

  • I do. I don’t think it is critical to my everyday habits; I’m not publishing any time soon through a Christian publisher. It’s good to try to get an idea of how these processes work.

    Why doesn’t it matter to you?

  • Drakk

     Doesn’t he keep insisting he’s “THE LORD”, in allcaps?

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to contest the idea that Christians have no issue with sex.  Many Christians may not have a problem with it, many may love it, even more may love it but feel afraid to practice it outside of a church-sanctioned marital context (or feel guilt if they do)…  but Christianity itself – like the other two major Abrahamic religions – has huge, huge issues with sex, and as a consequence many fanatical Christians are fanatical in dictating the sex lives of others.

    Who’s pushing for “abstinence only” sex ed?  Who’s pushing against women’s access to contraceptives?  Who’s pushing against condom use in AIDS-ravaged Africa?  Who’s  pushing against gay marriage?  Who’s pushing the “don’t say gay in school” laws in the South?  Who are pressuring their very young daughters take purity vows?

    You may be an easy-going, open-minded Christian and have no problem with sex;  you may even think that the Christians who do have issues with sex are uptight fanatics (in which case you’d be right); but it’s not remotely accurate to say that “Christians have no issue with sex” when the Bible itself teaches that the human body is shameful, women are inferior to men, homosexuality is evil, and sex shouldn’t happen outside of heterosexual marriage. 

  • Anonymous

    Yep.  The world is run by repressed white men.

  • Anonymous

    … and we all know that certain words are more dirty than their exact synonyms.  Yay for euphemisms!

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

  • Anonymous

    Probably mostly male Christian commenters.

  • Sue Blue

    That woud be the clitoris – probably also a “no-no” word to these idiots.

  • Sue Blue

    Hmmm – is it just the word “vagina” or are all the other words associated with the vagina also verboten?  How about “clitoris”, “labia”, or “cervix”? What about “perineum”, “uterus”, “mons”, “fallopian tubes”, “ovary”?  And what about….”tits” and “boobs” or just plain old “breasts”.  

    Hey if “penis” is allowed, I wonder if one can also use “scrotum” and “testicles”.

  • Ndonnan

    I just ran your post by an athiest workmate, she likens homosexuallity on par with pedophilia in its as natural as,thinks aids in Africa is a result of homosexual and beastial [sic?]behaviour,[condoms would help,i agree] and is a darn good reason why absinance outside a monogomus relationship is a good idea.Her words not mine.And no the bible dosnt teach the body is shameful at all,on the contrary,we are made in Gods image

  • Anonymous

    Of course it’s possible for atheists to be irrational, bigoted, misdirected, misinformed, or to just plain have values that disagree with my own.  But atheism itself has no doctrine to reinforce such values.  That an atheist believes these things does not mean that Christianity itself does not also promote these beliefs outright.

    There is actually not much of a reason that safe sex outside of a monogamous relationship is a particularly bad idea, but the Bible doesn’t simply say that unsafe sex outside of a monogamous relationship is a bad idea.  It says that ANY SEX outside of MARRIAGE is EVIL.  The difference is not even subtle.

    While the Bible does say that man was made in God’s image, it also encourages shame of the body – the Bible is not without its inconsistencies and contradictions.  The first thing Adam and Eve do when they become self-aware is to cover their bodies out of fear, because they are now aware of right and wrong and thus are ashamed to be naked.  

    In Exodus 28:42-43, it is commanded that the descendants of Aaron must make undergarments as a “covering for the body” and “wear them whenever they enter the tent of meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die.”

    Isaiah 47:3 says “Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen”

    Leviticus 15:16
    “If a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until the evening.”

    Then we get the shame of menstruation, because women’s bodies are even worse than men’s:

    Leviticus 20:18
    “If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people.”

    Leviticus 15:19-30
    “When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. Whether it is the bed or anything on which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening.”

    Ezekiel 36:17
    ““Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity.”

    Leviticus 15:28-30
    “But if she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. And on the eighth day she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons and bring them to the priest, to the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the priest shall use one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her before theLord for her unclean discharge.”

  • Anonymous

    Now, let’s talk about homosexuality…

    Leviticus 20:13
    “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

  •  Haha!

  •  Well, we’re supposed to be in the kitchen, right? So why would we be reading?


  •  Assuming they know it exists.

  • Ndonnan

    Heh  heres a thought,lets ask the ladies out there if they would feel un clean with blood running down their legs for a few days,now put them in a hot dusty place,no option for a shower,howd you feel ladys.The term “unclean”,isnt meant in a derogitory way.And the term “shame”could also be translated,”embaressed”,i know i would be to be seen naked publicly.As for safe sex,there was no such thing until the introduction of the pill in the 60s,so sex equalled pregnancy. In most peoples minds,that being the case,outside of a commited relationship,not a good idea

  • Anonymous

    So why is it exactly that if someone touches the bed of a menstruating women they’re considered unclean for the rest of the day?  Why is a woman clean after seven days?  Why must she bring two turtledoves and two pigeons to a priest?  Why must the priest make a sin offering?  Why must the priest “make atonement for her before the lord for her unclean discharge”?

    I realize that condoms and the pill didn’t exist in the biblical time period but, if the rules were intended strictly for the context of that time period, why do so many Christians still consider them applicable today?  Why are many Christians in the U.S. still trying to block education about safe sex, prevent women from getting contraception, and demonizing homosexuals?

    Regardless of whether it is actually true that “In most peoples minds,that being the case,outside of a commited relationship,not a good idea” [sic], what does that have to do with the notion that sex is only acceptable between a heterosexual couple who is MARRIED (not just committed)?  And who cares if it’s “not a good idea” in “most people’s minds”?  What right does anyone have to condemn someone else for what they do privately with another consenting adult, just because it might be considered a bad idea by some hypothetical “most people”?

  • Anonymous

    And why exactly is it that you are embarrassed by your naked body, when in many cultures the naked human body is not considered embarrassing?

  • amycaswell

    Nope, not unclean, you obviously have never walked down a feminine hygiene aisle at any store have you? Women have had there ways of staying clean for thousands of years, and yeah they also had sex during menstruation. BTW, sexual activity during menstruation actually helps alleviate the pain from cramps.

    It was meant as a derogatory and demeaning term,because unclean people were not allowed in public. Or did you not read that little part? That’s right, for almost a week out of every month, women were not to be seen in public.

    Your claim about safe sex is also a lie. Humans have been making use of condoms for centuries, and rubber condoms were a common form of safe sex practice before the pill came on the scene. Do you know why the pill was important? Because it gave women the power to be in control of their bodies. Condoms are essentially controlled by the man, but with a pill women can control when they get pregnant. Nifty right?

  • Ndonnan

    even in primative cultures except for young children people covered up using whatever they could.

  • Ndonnan

    I have a friend in India as we speak,posted on facebook that today they were sewing feminine pads to give women freedom to leave the house that they dont curently have. You may be able to go to the supermarket, others carnt.In New Guinea even today women go to a menstating hut during that time.Nothing to do with religion.

  •  Yeah, for protection from the environment.

    You’ll notice that the warmer the clime, the skimpier the coverings, right up to tribes that go starkers.

  • Anonymous

    First off, what exactly constitutes of “primative” [sic] culture?  Do you mean cultures where non-white people subsist without Western philosophy, religion, government, and economic concepts?  Or do you simply mean “ancient”?

    Regardless of whether the idea that some people are more primitive than us is offensive, let’s just examine the statement itself.  “…except for young children people covered up using whatever they could”

    Let’s investigate.  From Wikipedia entry on Nudity”

    “Different traditions exist among, for example, sub-Saharan Africans, partly persisting in the post-colonial era. Whereas it is the norm among some ethnic and family groups including some Burkinabese and Nilo-Saharan (e.g. Nuba and Surma people) in daily life or on particular occasions not to wear any clothes or without any covering below the waist – for example, at highly-attended stick-fighting tournaments well-exposed young men use the occasion to catch the eye of a prospective bride.”

    “In Japan, public baths are very common. Bathing nude with family members or friends of the same (or sometimes opposite) gender in public bath houses, saunas, or natural hot springs (Onsen) is popular. In Korea, public baths (Jjimjilbang) are also widespread and communal nude bathing is normal, although nudity is not permitted in unisex areas.”

    “Cultural and/or religious traditions usually dictate what is proper and what is not socially acceptable. Many non-Western cultures allow women to breastfeed in public, while some have very strict laws about showing any bare skin.”

    “The trend in some European countries (for instance Germany, Finland and the Netherlands) is to allow both genders to bathe together naked. Many German spas allow mixed nude bathing. For example the Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden has designated times when mixed nude bathing is permitted. There may be some older German bathhouses, such as Bad Burg, which remain segregated by gender, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Most German (not to mention French, Spanish and Greek) beaches and swimming pools offer FKK (clothing-optional) areas. In general, continental Europeans have a more relaxed attitude about nudity than is seen in the British-influenced world. Some have attributed this difference to the influence of Queen Victoria’s husband Albert, who was raised in a very restricting religious sect (see Victorian morality).
    The sauna, originating from Finland, is attended nude in its source country[30] as well as in most Scandinavian and in the German-speaking countries of Europe. This is true even when a swimsuit must be worn in the swimming pool area of the same complex.[30] Saunas are very common in modernFinland, where there is one sauna for every three people[31] and became very popular in the remainder of Europe in recent decades. Gender segregation is more the exception than the rule in modern European sauna facilities.”

    “For men and women, public nudity was at least permissible in ancient Sparta, and customary at festivals.”

    “In some hunter-gatherer cultures in warm climates, near-complete nudity has been, until the introduction of Western culture, or still is, standard practice for both men and women. In some African and Melanesian cultures, men going completely naked except for a string tied about the waist are considered properly dressed for hunting and other traditional group activities. In a number of tribes in the South Pacific island of New Guinea, the men use hard gourdlike pods as penis sheaths. Yet a man without this “covering” could be considered to be in an embarrassing state of nakedness. Among the Chumash peopled of southern California, men were usually naked, and women were often topless. Native Americans of theAmazon Basin usually went nude or nearly nude; in many native tribes, the only clothing worn was some device worn by men to clamp the foreskin shut.”

    “In 1498, at Trinity Island, Trinidad, Christopher Columbus found the women entirely naked, whereas the men wore a light girdle called guayaco. At the same epoch, on the Para Coast ofBrazil, the girls were distinguished from the married women by their absolute nudity. The same absence of costume was observed among the Chaymas of Cumaná, Venezuela, and Du Chaillu noticed the same among the Achiras in Gabon.”

    “A religious sect known as Naga sadhu (monk) can be seen nude. These sadhus usually remain naked or some wear a loin-cloth around their waist and ashes smeared over their body.”

    “In Jainism, there is a major sect of Digambar Jain, whose monks remain naked.”

  • Drakk



  •  Those don’t count as REAL reading, though…

    /please just shoot me now for even typing that in jest!

  • HitchsApprentice

    Knowing how christians detest cursing,  I’ve always derived great Pleasure from cursing at them.  I love calling several of the phony TV preachers up and telling them what pathetic a-holes they are, for ripping off the GULLIBLE……….

  • HitchsApprentice

    Knowing how christians detest cursing,  I’ve always derived great Pleasure from cursing at them.  I love calling several of the phony TV preachers up and telling them what pathetic a-holes they are, for ripping off the GULLIBLE……….

  • Katy

    I’ll gladly buy this book if the vagina stays.

    I like vaginas, but I don’t like all ‘privates.’

  • Anonymous

     I once accidentally capitalized “him” in a post I made on Facebook. Had I been writing about any god, christian or otherwise, I would have fixed it; however, I was writing about Henry Rollins so I left it as it was.

  • Funny how your “atheist workmate” and your “agnostic brother” are all rabid homophobes like yourself. If your co-worker actually said those things, she would be one of the most ignorant people on the planet. But somehow I doubt she even exists.

  • 1) Every mention of God had to be capitalized.

    Oh, that would have annoyed me! You couldn’t use “a god,” huh? I probably would have gotten around that by sticking to the word “deity,” LOL.

  • You sure have “friends” in a lot of places, LOL.

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