This is an independent blog and is not affiliated with any particular church, group or conference. The term Bruderthaler refers to a specific ethnic or cultural Mennonite heritage, not to any particular organized group. All statements and opinions are solely those of the contributor(s). Blog comprises notebook fragments from various research projects and discussions. Dialogue, comment and notice of corrections are welcomed. Much of this content is related to papers and presentations that might be compiled at a future date, as such, this blog serves as a research archive rather than as a publication. 'tag

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mennonite Panty Snatcher

Pettipants or Mennonite lingerie
Sondaboa oon fe’dreit

    With the recent change in sentencing of Canadian Mennonite James Duerksen of Rosenort, Manitoba, (25 April) to four years in prison, rural Mennonite teens and women can again visit church in peace, knowing that their bedrooms and their undies will remain safe in the interim. 
    In a Mennonite story straight out of fable, Duerkson, married and father of two, has been convicted of 92 counts of breaking, entering and theft over 21 years and across two Canadian provinces – the object of this criminal activity – Mennonite women’s lingerie.
    In researching this essay, I actually learned that Mennonite women actually have access to a peculiar, old-fashioned form of undergarment called pettipants or Mennonite lingerie (see photo) – a sort of cross between bloomers and a slip.  Though, according to the Winnipeg Free Press, the lingerie in this story tended to be of a more conventional Victoria's Secret style and type.
    Duerkson, however, was not motivated by mere curiosity – according to court documents, Duerksen has been diagnosed with transvestic festishism, which according to the Winnipeg Sun, is a form of transvestitism whereby the sexual interest in cross-dressing, (possible repressed?), results in a significant psychological distress or social impairment (Winnipeg Sun, see below).

according to

Transvestic fetishism refers specifically to cross-dressing; sexual arousal in response to individual garments is fetishism.[1] Occurrence of transvestic fetishism is uncorrelated to occurrence of gender identity disorder.[1] Most men who have transvestic fetishism do not have a problem with their assigned sex.
Some male transvestic fetishists collect women's clothing, e.g. nightgowns, babydolls, bridal gowns, slips, brassieres, and other types of nightwear, lingerie, stockings, pantyhose, shoes, and boots, items of a distinct feminine look and feel. They may dress in these feminine garments and take photographs of themselves while living out their secret fantasies. According to the DSM-IV, this fetishism has been described only in heterosexual men.
There are two key criteria before a psychiatric diagnosis of "transvestic fetishism" is made:[1]
  1. Recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviour, involving cross-dressing.
  2. This causes clinically significant distress or impairment, whether socially, at work, or elsewhere.
Thus, transvestic fetishism is not diagnosed unless it causes significant problems for the person concerned.

     Originally sentenced to two-years “minus a day”, the Manitoba appellate court apparently found the facts of Duerksen’s case to be “strange and disconcerting,” or “sondaboa oon fe-dreit (?), and his sentence to be a bit light.
    Court documents indicate that “[Duerksen] would identify a home inhabited by a woman, wait until the residents were at church and then enter the [normally unlocked] home to steal the woman’s lingerie.  In some cases he masturbated with the undergarments while still in the home… moreover, the psychological report done on the accused postulated that his acts arose from a desire for power over the women whose undergarments he stole,” (Winnipeg Free Press, see below).   
    News reports do not indicate how suspicions arose regarding Duerksen’s behavior, but the Free Press reports that teen-age girls attending the same church as Duerksen had become suspicious – to the point that his garbage was secretly searched by neighbors who found “garbage bags” stuffed with the missing bras and panties. 
    CBC Radio indicated that the affected communities, well-aware of the situation, had subjected Duerksen to the ban and that his punishment was the shunning. 
    Provincial courts were however, at more of a loss as to handle this bizarre crime.  He was apparently sentenced to a two-year period of probation and counseling.  Reports from the appellate hearing indicate that the court was convinced of Duerksen’s good behavior since he was first sentenced and concerned that if he was sentenced to attend sex-therapy counseling behind bars, it would simply “expose him to a broader range and more severe forms of inappropriate sexual behaviours, which could result in more harm than benefit,” (Sun, ibid).
    Carefully balancing a need for Duerksen to receive appropriate counseling away from potential harmful moral and sexual deviancies, the court was also concerned that some sort of deterrent be realized for the break-ins.  Again, Duerksen confessed to 92 break-ins in three communities and two provinces over two decades.  Normally, a breaking and entering sentence would be two years. 
    Duerksen was resentenced to four years in prison after which he will be released and required to attend specialized therapy to cope with his condition. 
    Humor aside, this is an interesting inter-section or meeting of traditional ethnic justice norms and provincial law whereby both have seemingly informed and influenced the other.  It will be instructive and useful to better understand how Duerksen handles his sentence upon release, whether he is able to retain and restore relations to his family and his home congregation, and how this whole affair will be handled by the greater Mennonite community.
Rocky Horror Picture Show
    As strange and bizarre as this story is, it definitely spotlights the potential space for the interactions of the gemeinde in petty criminal punishment and rehabilitation of its members.  Whether or not Duerksen and the impacted communities will succeed or not, or if they even pursue a rapprochement at all, will be deeply revealing as to the continued effectiveness of traditional justice norms and self-governance.  

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