Saying you own your body doesn’t mean you do.
On the eve of her book release, Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult, a random discovery of Faith Jones' Ted Talk revealed her philosophy of “I own me,” but not in a good way. Faith Jones survived and escaped “The Family,” aka "The Children of God," a cult notorious for child sexual abuse and other crimes, eventually becoming a lawyer promoting her new book. Although fascinated by Jones, watching her Ted Talk killed my desire to read her book.
Jones survived an unimaginable trauma and had the resilience to overcome many obstacles to become a career success. More than surviving, she has invented a philosophy or framework of human rights based on property ownership that dictates humans own themselves. She presents an ethical framework intended to alter the paradigm of rape, harassment, and abuse justification.
You can’t justify abusing people if you recognize them as property of themselves; further, if you recognize your ownership of your body, then no one has the right to that body without your permission.
This idea seems clear-cut and perhaps even empowering, but Jones sounds like she is preaching a superficial ideology derivative of many other self-help books that distill solutions into tag lines, adages, and buzz words.
“I own me.”
Sadly, Jones is wrong, and her framework for ownership is as meaningless as it is repugnant. Jones tries to counter the obvious point that relating a person with property “demeans the nature of the body.” She has missed the true demeaning nature of her discourse, having reduced the victims to black and white property considerations. Any quick study of women across the globe reveals places where women are considered property by law, and being property, they are subjected to forced marriages and genital mutilation due to religious practices without hope of escape. I mention this because, Jones’ ideology or ethical framework based on property rights, albeit inspiring, did not free her from a cult’s ownership. No, her freedom resulted directly from her leaving that cult.
What releases someone from bondage is freedom, and not everyone has that choice.
Jones thinking of herself as property and owning herself likely provides the resilience to carry on with life after trauma. Yet, we glean only pieces of the truth. Jones mentions in Salon taking part in therapy, so we know she received some form of professional treatment, and she talked to her mom about their shared trauma. Jones glazes over these points, emphasizing ownership of her body as the force that freed her from victimhood,
Even after recognizing what had happened to me, I did not think of myself as a victim. That wasn’t the role I wanted. That wasn’t the part I wanted to play. I could say, “This bad thing happened to me, but here I am taking control of my life. This is my life now.”
Being a victim isn’t a role or choice that someone makes.
Jones is the exception, not the rule, and her overcoming trauma likely resulted from skilled therapy, friends, family support, and luck. Does Jones believe that she has devised an ethical framework for ending trauma and abuse? Of course, but she is wrong. There are some simple, harsh questions no one is asking. How on earth does a trauma victim apply an ethical framework for owning her body? How does such a framework solve anything to do with sexual harassment or abuse? The fact is people in abusive situations don’t own themselves. If they did, they wouldn’t keep suffering the abuse. People who take ownership of other people are not dissuaded by the law, much less property law. If they were, the FBI would have far fewer cases of child pornography to prosecute because of people fearing the law.
Saying you own your body doesn’t mean you do.
More than wrong, Jones has applied a system of thought that is not universal but universally accepted in a capitalist-driven world. You might be asking yourself what capitalism has to do with this argument, and the answer is everything. Jones’ ethical philosophy derives from capitalism’s property rights system, which is unsurprising after suffering a communal cult that believes everything, even the person, belongs to the group. Irony glares when watching the communal cult victim, now turned lawyer, preach a property rights-driven ethic.
Under the communal cult, Jones was property, now under capitalism, she accepts the status and benefits of property law and commodifies her trauma in a self-help package that declares everyone as property.
The absurdity of this ironic journey deepens when one considers “possession is nine-tenths of the law.” Under capitalism, especially with Christianity’s influence, a man owns his home, his wife, and his kids in the same way that the cult justified owning Jones. Go ahead and tell a polygamist in Utah that he doesn’t control his family. Tell any practicing Christian he isn’t the man of his house, and he will readily correct you, citing his right to practice faith in this manner under God and man’s law. Jones has missed the point that acknowledging property rights has no bearing on a person's internalization of abuse or the actions of the abuser. Worse yet, the same system Jones rooted her ethical framework within contradicts her ethic, rendering it arbitrary.
Jones has come ideologically full circle selling her property rights cure, countering and perhaps blaming communal property (completely understandable). Having circumnavigated this ownership's sphere, she rendered both ends of property ownership meaningless concerning trauma.
Did Jones intend to take this journey into the meaninglessness of shallow philosophy selling? Unlikely. Adopting her capitalist infused ethics in rejection of the communal life that hurt her held no awareness of the ideology’s propensity to snake around her abuse with the same gaslight-reasoning once used by her abusers,
You need to be more willing to share god’s love. Your the one that’s wrong not us!
Now repackaged as,
You choose to be a victim, and it's your fault if you choose that role. You are no one’s property! Now go market your trauma because you’re a success! If anyone says your idea doesn’t work, well, that’s their fault for not taking full ownership of their body.
Trapped within regressive wisdom, Jones goes forth believing she helps, forgetting her choices were not universal, much less applicable, and luck combined with self-efficacy allowed her survival and success. Sadly, others are not this lucky. Many girls and boys never get psychiatric assistance, never have the opportunity to get an education, and never therapeutically discuss their pain with their parents or the people who hurt them: often because those who owned them don’t give a shit.
For many victims, restorative justice does not exist.
The desire to vilify Jones for selling such a nonsensical ethic wanes in light of her survival. She put much effort into finding a way to resolve her life's first twenty-two years filled with abuse, and perhaps for this reason alone, I will read her book. I hope to discover the girl who survived and the woman who emerged because that is the desired inspiration beyond the confluence of property law and economic theory that leads nowhere.
Note: I read and reviewed of Faith Jones' Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical Religious Cult