BYU Student Challenges 'No Sex' Policy and Church's Treatment of Women

Brigham Young University student Keli Byers penned a bold open letter for Cosmopolitan this month, in which she challenges her school's regressive, anti-woman ban on sex. It's an incredibly brave move, considering that, as a teen, Byers was suspended from church for being sexually assaulted by an older Mormon missionary—a nonconsensual trauma that rendered her "unchaste" in the eyes of church elders.

Though she mentions being a member of a non-sanctioned group called the Young Mormon Feminists, it sounds like Byers is committed to remaining a member of her church. So this letter is definitely risky. Good for her.

An excerpt, via Cosmo:


When I came to BYU last year, I signed its honor code and promised to live a "chaste life" — students who don't could get expelled. But my attitude changed after I joined the Young Mormon Feminists, a group that's not endorsed by the Church or BYU. We talk about how the Church doesn't see women as equal to men and how BYU is slut-shaming. The school's honor code forces women to dress modestly — no skirts above the knee — supposedly to help men control their thoughts. The group helped me reclaim my sexuality and realize my sexual assault wasn't my fault. I'm now in a questioning phase with the Church. I still think the idea of committing to someone for eternity is beautiful, but the Church could use improvement in the way it treats women.

...The truth is, I'm not a virgin. I'm a sexual woman and a proud feminist, and I don't feel bad about it. But it's hard to admit that, because women at BYU who aren't virgins are treated as inferiors and that's not fair.

Talking about this could get me in trouble, but I want to start a discussion about changing an honor code that hurts women. BYU needs to know that it's OK for women to be sexual, and it's not OK to punish them for it. I care enough about this school to want to push for change. I'd rather be judged and scrutinized than silenced and shamed.

I don't know what it feels like to have your life and community defined and anchored by a religious institution, so if I were Byers I'd cut and run and leave those dicks behind (or, rather, ahead). But, like I said, I don't have that personal, emotional, familial attachment to a church. So massive kudos to Byers for attempting to change this oppressive institution from the inside, for all the other women who can't or who don't think they deserve better.