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On being a female body at a Christian college

[I wrote recently about learning to love my body for Lent. Part of that loving so far has involved some deep contemplation about where the fear and hatred come from. And I’ve realized something.

Part of my body hatred, and by extension part of my self hatred, comes from the fact that oppressive people have used my female body  to justifying oppressing me.

I hate my body and myself because, deep down, I blame my body (and thus myself) for the ways in which I’ve been hurt by others.

7128_173502622984_2193630_nTwo examples stick out clearly in my mind. Both from experiences at my former Christian school, Grace College.

It was the first week of my freshman year. We had a meeting for everyone in our all-women dorm to go over the basic rules. Don’t burn popcorn and set off the smoke alarm. Be in before curfew. No sex, drugs, or rock and roll (okay, maybe rock and roll was okay. Just not during quiet hours!).

During this meeting, the husband of our Residence Director came in to talk to us ladies about, you guessed it!

Modesty.

He started out by telling us to never let any Christian man blame us for their sins. Then he proceed to…well, blame us for his sins.

He told us of his own porn addiction and of the porn addictions that other men on campus have talked to them about. He was blunt, and even made subconscious hand motions while talking about masturbation.

And what was his point?

“When you wear those tight jeans, your brothers in Christ go home and masturbate to you. Your selfish clothing choices make it hard for your brothers in Christ to break their addictions. Thanks to God’s grace, it’s been weeks since I’ve looked at porn, but it hasn’t been months. And the way women on this campus dress doesn’t help.”

I talked to many women who were present in that meeting who expressed that they left feeling ashamed and dirty. I know that every time I passed that man on campus from that day on, I wanted to turn invisible. I’d tug my skirt down and pull my jacket over my chest, and I’d resist the urge to get sick to my stomach thinking about him masturbating to me, and it being my fault.

My body was shameful. It was dirty. It could ruin lives and marriages just by existing.

This is the first thing I learned about my body at Grace College.

It was the second semester of my freshman year. We were required to attend chapel three times a week, so there I was. This week we were learning about relationships between men and women, how they were often broken in this world, and how we could fix them.

We did this by learning our roles.

And we could learn our roles, not just from Scripture, but from our bodies.

The speaker told the Biblical story of King Joash (and I’m still to this day not sure why). “Joash drilled a hole into the box,” he said. “Joash femaled the box.”

According to this man and his strange desire to associate being female with having a hole drilled into you, the reason men and women can’t get along is because men and women (mostly women) are rebelling against the nature revealed to us by our bodies.

“Men are supposed to give the life-bearing seed of the gospel to all the world,” he said, while making disturbing hand motions from his crotch to the audience. “Women are supposed to receive that seed.”

The moral was that female people were trying too hard to give when they were made to receive and weren’t letting male people to what they were meant to do (which is apparently to spiritually ejaculate on everyone).

Female bodies were not built to give life (apparently child birth doesn’t count and we’re just the incubators) but to be fulfilled in receiving life.

It wasn’t patriarchy holding me back, according to this man. It was my body. This is why I could not be a pastor, or a spiritual leader in my family. This is why I could not speak my mind too loudly or be too bold. Because I had a vagina, and vaginas are not for giving.

But I fell for it for years and years. I saw myself as stuck in this body with its sinful breasts and its useless vagina.

I saw my body as a prison.

And in seeing my body as a prison, I blamed myself.

Oppression is tied to bodies. It often happens in bodies and to bodies. It often comes from other bodies. And oppressive people use the bodies of the oppressed to excuse it.

Loving my body for Lent means recognizing that it is not my body’s fault when I am treated as “less than.” Loving my body means recognizing that others have used it to tell me I am “less than.” Loving my body means recognizing that those people were lying to me about my body.

Loving my body means affirming that they don’t decide what my body means. They don’t decide what I mean.

[Note: Though I learned some harmful things at Grace College, it was also at Grace College where I began the process of loving my body. That may be a post for another day]

 


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“Progressive” Christianity and Premarital Sex

Almost exactly one year ago, I read an article on Relevant Magazine that made me realize that I had absolutely no personal convictions to remain abstinent.

I had grown up in the dead-center of the purity movement. I’d worn the silver rings, made the pledges, condescended to the teenage mothers, read the Joshua Harris books, and all the other lovely rituals that seem to be involved in that movement. However, after an abusive partner coerced me into sex and eventually raped me, I had to let go of the basic tenets of the purity culture. The purity culture functions on the idea that virginity is the greatest gift a woman can give her husband. She is a used toothbrush without it, or a crashed car. It holds the idea that every time you have sex, you give away a part of yourself that you can never get back, and therefore you will necessarily enter into future relationships broken–your only value coming from the benevolent grace that God has on your insufficient self.

I gave up that idea and replaced it with a new “ethics of abstinence.” In these new ethics, which are often promoted in evangelical Christian circles that claim to be progressive (but usually aren’t), premarital sex was just the same as any other sin. It didn’t ruin me for life. I wasn’t broken or scarred.

But premarital sex was still universally wrong, and there were reasons. Several of these new reasons were listed in that Relevant Magazine article I read in November, 2011. According to the author, Ally Spotts (who I really appreciated during my earlier years of blogging. I don’t know that we’d agree on much now), we should wait for sex because waiting builds friendship, because “physical boundaries speak to the value you place on your sexuality,” because relationships should be about wholeness–not just happiness, and because we need to practice managing our lust.

She listed these as the real reasons God asks us to wait for sex. She talked about how other reasons–namely those held by the purity movement–didn’t satisfy her, and recognized that they weren’t satisfying the 80% of young Christians who had had premarital sex, either. So she attempted to come up with some new reasons, as many other Relevant writers and pastors and Christian bloggers (including myself) have tried to do.

But I realized something reading that article on that day.

Like Ally, the reasons the purity movement had given me didn’t satisfy me. But neither did Ally’s reasons.

Image via David Hayward

So I started asking questions in the comments section (advice: never ask questions in the comments section of Relevant. In fact, avoid that place like a cat avoids the vacuum cleaner. Your sanity will thank me). In asking the questions, I learned that no one seemed to have the answers. Instead of answers, I either got harsh judgement or other people who admitted to being just as confused as I was.

But in every comment that told me I was “abusing grace,” that I “must not be very familiar with the Bible,” telling me to “get married earlier, genius!,” to just find a fraternity house where they can set me up with a goat if all I want to do is get laid (FOR REAL), or comments that just listed every verse in the Bible that mentions sexual immorality (while failing to define sexual immorality), all I heard was “I don’t know the answers, and your questions expose that. I don’t know, and that makes me afraid of you.”

While I applaud evangelical Christians who move away from the blatantly destructive teaching that a woman’s (or a man’s) worth lies in her virginity, these new teachings that emerge in its place don’t stand up to the questions. They fall apart at the simple, honest questions of a confused recovering Fundy.

So why do Christians keep scrambling for these new reasons? Why do Christians accuse anyone who dares question these of perverting the grace of God or wanting to sleep with goats? Do these Christians who claim the label “progressive” not realize that they are just repeating the same patterns that they condemn in their more conservative brothers and sisters? Patterns of judgment, close-mindedness, denial of reality, and fear of the unknown?

Let’s get this straight, Christians. Choosing to wait until marriage is a personal choice that you can make for any number of reasons. It’s a good choice. But it’s not necessarily THE good choice. The values we place on sex can’t be universalized. Neither can interpretations of the Bible. Even the definition of marriage and of sex is fluid throughout history and culture.

We would do far better to throw away these paper-thin universal arguments against premarital sex. There are better things to focus on, like affirming one another’s humanity. Like not treating the people we are attracted to as sex objects. Like respecting the physical boundaries of other people without question. Like fighting the rape culture that’s so prevalent in the church.

We can’t universalize sexual standards. But we can treat each other well, so let’s start with that.


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Unseduced and Unshaken: A Book Review

 

 

 

The following is a book review of Rosalie de Rosset’s book, Unseduced and Unshaken: The Place of Dignity in a Young Woman’s Choices. I’ve been given a copy of the book to give to one of my readers, so if you’re interested in a free book, leave a comment! 

 

When I first began reading Unseduced and Unshaken (which one of my twitter followers joked sounded like what you’d get when you played a James Bond film backwards), though there were a few aspects of it that made me uneasy, I wanted to like it. I really did. The author made several points that stood out from typical Christian jargon and I wanted to embrace those points and write a review about how I was “pleasantly surprised.” The main idea of the book is the idea that women should be “dignified.” That word made me cringe right from the start, but the author’s initial definition of dignity actual had me nodding my head in agreement. According to Rosset, a dignified woman is strong, demands respect, has found her voice and uses it, and boldly speaks the truth. Rosset encourages women to educate themselves, study theology on their own (in opposition to asking their husbands at home, a point which made me particularly happy), and to reject the world’s attempts to sexualize and commodify women. These are all things that I want to do and be as a feminist woman.

 

However, despite the good, I couldn’t get over my unease at the idea of demanding that women be “dignified.” I was too much of a skeptic to embrace the author’s positive points. Women speaking and being bold and thinking for themselves? I just had a feeling that what I was reading was too good to be true. This is a Christian book. There has to be a catch.

 

I was right about that. The book quickly decelerated until  the last few chapters where it got so bad I wanted to throw the book across the room. Even before that point, however, there were hints as to where the book was headed.

 

One positive thing I will say about the book is that it meets its intended purpose. In the introduction,the author states, “I pray that this book will begin significant  conversations, lead to further reading, discussion, and even disagreement.” Oh, there was disagreement. But that disagreement led to discussions, with Abe and with friends on Twitter. Through these discussions, I realized that many of the points made in this book are commonly made in Christian culture, and that these points can have unhealthy, even disastrous, effects on women.

 

I’m going to list and briefly discuss a few of these points below, and I, like Rosset, hope that they lead to significant conversations. A few of these points may even merit their own blog post in the future.

 

  • Be rational!: The book consistently makes a point to demonize emotions. Emotions are usually equated with sin, and women are told to foster rational thinking so that we can combat the feelings that are leading us to sin. Rational thinking is good and important, and it’s refreshing to hear someone encourage women (and Christian women at that!) to use it. But when rational thinking is contrasted with emotion, it sets up a false dichotomy of thinking and feeling. The message many take away from that false dichotomy is “Don’t trust your feelings and don’t express them too much.”
  • God fixes eating disorders: In one chapter, the author explains how vicious society is toward women. She’s right, of course, but rather than turning her critique toward society, she critiques the women who are affected by society. She describes women who don’t feel adequate because of societal pressures as having a “pathetic greed.” She also states in another chapter that eating disorders and depression are caused, not by a society that constantly tears down women, but by women not fulfilling their longings with God.
  • Respect or sex? You can only choose one: The author states that many women “open themselves up to disrespect” by “getting physically involved too soon and going too far.” The author also tells women that they are to dress modestly so that they “are taken seriously…not objectified and don’t attract the wrong kind of man.” She then says that once we overcome sexual sin, we can return to our “self-respect.”
  • Lesbians are pathological and clingy: The author lists “same-sex attraction” as an addiction. In one of the most rage-inducing parts of the entire book, she describes lesbian relationships as mere friendships that include “attachment that is marked by emotional immaturities, crippling dependency, exclusivity, and insecurity.” She sees lesbian relationships has having some “elements of genuine affection,” but as mostly being “problems of idealization and unresolved childhood attachment that create a barrier to healthy adult mutuality.” She ignorantly suggests that lesbians are unable to “emotionally receive the presence of another without a loss of self or a dependent consumption of the other.”
  • Masturbation is evil:  According to this book, masturbation will make it hard for you to have a relationship with someone because you’ll be satisfied with satisfying yourself. I’ve heard this argument many times from Christians. I have no idea where they get it from. I’ve never heard of anyone (besides maybe John Mayer) who just couldn’t relate to a sexual partner because of masturbation. The author defends her idea that masturbation is a sin by stating that people feel guilty for doing it. This kind of contradicts her whole “don’t trust your feelings and use logic” point. Her reasoning here just baffles me. She doesn’t address Christian culture that makes people ashamed of all sexual expression, nor does she address society that shames women who are able to find fulfillment outside of men. She simply concludes that since people feel guilty for masturbating, it must be a sin.
  • Modesty. Be ashamed. Be very ashamed: The book tries to make a point for modesty outside of the tired, old “don’t cause your brothers to stumble” line. The author believes in this line, of course, so I couldn’t even celebrate her choice not to focus on it for too long. But the author thinks that our idea of modesty should come from theology, specifically the theology that states how worthless we are without God. Using the story of Adam and Eve as a reference point, the author states, “clothing confesses that humans are ‘without.’ We are…untrustworthy, vulnerable to one another, and lacking faith in the benevolence of God.” We are to dress modestly to “confess who [we] are in Christ by showing who [we] are without Him–naked and ashamed.” With this idea, the author lifts all pretense from the modesty discussion and states what it is really about–being ashamed of our bodies, ourselves.
  • Civilize the menfolk! Later in the book, another reason for modesty is given: it “changed men from uncivilized males who ran after as many sexual partners as they could get to men who really wanted to stick by one woman.”
  • “One of the most precious gifts in life is innocence,” the book states. Yet innocence is stolen from us by things like sex education and sexual abuse (yes, the author really puts those two things in the same sentence as thieves of innocence). The author praises the Lord–who protected her from ever having been touched sexually or jeered at inappropriately–for protecting her innocence, which hit a nerve for me since the Lord apparently chose not to protect my innocence when I was abused at a young age.

 

When I discussed these points with Abe, his response was, “Well, that just sounds like every other Christian self-help book for women. Why do we need to hear all that again?” He’s right. You’re probably not surprised by the above points if you’ve spent any time at all in evangelical culture. For many of us, these points have shaped, and may even continue to shape, our worldview. I’d like to spend some more time dissecting these points in the comments. Let me know if you’re interested in a free copy of the book so you can dissect it more thoroughly!

 


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On Cornerstone…

I spent last Friday at the Christian music festival, Cornerstone, and I saw some interesting things. By interesting, I mostly mean vomit-inducing. Buzz Feed recently went to another Christian music festival, Creation, and wrote a post about their findings. I figured I’d do something similar, as someone familiar with (and highly critical of) Christian culture.

People are going to say that I’m just bitter and angry because of this post. But, you know, maybe I am a little bitter and a little angry. Maybe that’s okay, because this is the stuff that’s driving people away from the church, from Christianity, from God.

Maybe we all need to get a little bit more angry.

First of all, apparently virginity is something to brag about. As my friend Dani Kelley said, “nobody brags about sex the way that Christian virgins do.” Why do we make virginity out to be some sort of trophy that we can use to morally elevate ourselves over non-virgins? Also, what happens to this (pink–likely aimed at women) shirt when its owner gets married?

Also, the idea that not-having-sex = loving-your-future-husband is weird to me. Unless your sexual past leaves you with a child or a disease, should your sexual history even be a factor in your relationship? And even if you have a kid or a communicable disease, Christ was all about redeeming our past. I don’t remember him ever holding his holiness over the heads of others like a boy scout merit badge.

Also, I really hate the Christian tendency to terrify people out of doing _____. Specifically, in this situation, getting abortions. It’s odd to see the juxtaposition of this adorable drawing of Pikachu, and this sticker of a fetus playing the guitar (what?) with a binder filled with pictures of what I’m going to guess are bloody, chopped up fetuses. No matter what your position is on the morality of abortion, I think we can agree that women don’t get abortions because they don’t understand what abortions entail. They get abortions because they aren’t ready for a child, because they can’t afford a child, because their pregnancy is the result of rape, etc. And when you’re also selling a t-shirt that says “Virginity Rocks!,” I doubt your little binder of bloody fetuses is going to help any of those women change their minds.

Also, I’m not sure who they’re try to convince, putting this binder at a booth at a Christian music festival. Abe is sure that they’re just trying to get emotions revved up in the choir so they can sell more t-shirts. I’m inclined to believe that he’s right about that. When you’re profiting off of women’s abortions, I’m not convinced you really want to stop them.

I’m really sick of Christians demonizing Planned Parenthood. I’m sure Planned Parenthood has prevented more abortions (and it has definitely helped more women) by providing affordable birth control, prenatal health care, etc. than selling stupid, dehumanizing, condescending t-shirts at a Christian music festival ever will.

Speaking of Planned Parenthood, what is track number 8 on this band’s album trying to say? That Planned Parenthood is racist? Because we can talk about Planned Parenthood’s highly problematic and racist past. In fact, I think we need to. But we can’t ignore the good it is doing in the present in that discussion. Or is it saying that Planned Parenthood is destroying Anglos? I just don’t know.

 

Why do we keep pretending our favorite Bible characters were white? Abe, who is half white and half Chinese, is less white than this Samson.

I’ve heard far too many pro-life groups go to desperately great lengths to avoid talking about pregnant women in their discussions of abortion, but this group takes the cake. Let’s not talk about sex or rape or birth control. Let’s not talk about pregnant women and the economic and social pressures they face. Let’s be all cute and say that babies come from storks! Aww!

I was very angry about this campaign so I took one of their handouts, edited it, and wrote a long, passionate response about how dehumanizing and ineffective it is to ignore women when talking about abortion. I posted it outside of the exhibition building. I wonder how long it stayed there…

I have a whole post that needs to be written about the first button. I spent years hiding my anger because anger was one of those “bad” emotions that needed to be hid (unless you were a man–then you could have righteous anger. It doesn’t seem like women are even afforded this concession). When I finally went to counseling, I learned that expressing anger in productive ways can actually be healthy. But, I think productive, healthy anger is really what Christians are afraid of. They’re afraid of anger that forces them to rethink what they’re doing. They’re afraid of anger that cuts through their preconceived worldviews and threatens their fragile, protective bubbles. They’re afraid of the anger that leads to change and they use catchy phrases like this to neuter it.

The second button…I mean…I…I’m not even going to start on this.

Finally, there’s this. Unborn children? Precious cargo. Born children, or parts of adults that retain child-likeness? They need to be beaten into submission.

That’s all I have to say right now. Cornerstone reminded me of why I left church and why, despite all the good churches I’ve found since leaving, I’ve had so much trouble going back.


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Same ol’ story.

Trigger warnings for sexual assault. 

“Once upon a time, there was a girl who was pure, virtuous, an angel in a white dress, and most importantly, a virgin. Then, one day, she met a boy and fell in love. Although the girl was committed to remaining pure, the boy kept pressuring her for more than she was willing to give. Using lies and manipulation, he convinced her to come into his bed. The girl feels dirty and worthless. Her purity gone. But then she begs Jesus for forgiveness from her sin. She no longer has her virginity, but once she is forgiven she can be pure in God’s eyes again. ”

You’ve heard this story before. It’s far from original. Our society, and especially Christian culture, loves this narrative. It’s on sitcoms, and in sermons, and in abstinence-only curriculum. We hear it from our mothers and from our friends. And many of us have lived it.

A recent retelling of this story occurs on the blog of one Cory Copeland, in his post, “Sex and the Good Girl.”  Now, I don’t know Cory, but I’m sure he’s not a sexist pig who hates women–that’s just it. You don’t have to be a sexist pig to tell this story because it’s so ingrained in our culture that we don’t even notice the problems with it. And I don’t write this post to pick on him. I write it because Cory seems to have a handle on language. He retells this tired, old tale in a way that shines new light on it.

But the things that new light reveal are disturbing. Things that have been there, all along, lurking in the dark, that we may have stopped noticing after hearing this story for the 900th time.

I want to talk about some of the problems with this “good-virgin-girl meets bad-manipulative-boy” tale, and I am going to use Cory’s piece as a framework for my thoughts, again, not to pick on Cory or accuse him of sexism, but to get us all to look at a familiar narrative in a new way.

First off, let’s talk about the girl. She’s never very human in these stories, is she? Copeland describes her as an “angel,” a “light,” and a “bastion of hope.” No where does the story talk of the girl’s sexual agency. She does not desire sex, because good girls do not do such things.

Secondly, let’s talk about the boy. Many versions of the tale will use the tale as a scare tactic and paint all men out to be just like this boy. Cory doesn’t appear to do that here. However, he does give us an obvious insight into what boys like this really are. He continues to touch the girl, even though she continuously pushes his hands away. He is “relentless and vile in his objections to her goodness,”  he “bombard[s] her wits with fallacies of unrequited love and lacking attention.” Cory even mentions that the boy “had played this game before and he was good.” This boy is manipulative and, I would even argue, mentally and sexually abusive. Not only that, but, like most abusers, he knows what he’s doing. He knows how to get inside the girl’s mind.

Let’s talk about consent. The boy didn’t have it. She pushed his hands away, she was clear about her boundaries. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. “The good girl could take no more–“when Cory states this, it is not in the contexts of the girl’s raging passions (she doesn’t have those, remember?) but in the context of the boy’s “vile and relentless” unwanted advances.

The girl does not enthusiastically fall into bed with this boy. She gives in to his constant, manipulative pressure. As my friend Dianna Anderson mentioned in a comment on Cory’s blog, “a yes is only a yes when a no is possible.” This boy obviously wouldn’t take no for an answ

Let’s talk about goodness. Several times in this story, Cory equates goodness with virginity. He talks of the boy objecting to her “goodness,” and when the girl gives in to the boy, he talks of her as being stripped of “righteousness. He does mention later that one’s goodness is not completely lost by the loss of virginity–that God can forgive and redeem. But the point of this tale has not changed throughout the years–the act of having a penis in one’s vagina makes one impure, regardless of how the penis got there.

The girl did not have to desire sex in order to be made impure from it. She didn’t have to consent. If it happened, she was guilty and in need of redemption, not from the brokenness and pain of having to suffer abuse, but from her loss of virginity.

Let’s talk about Cory’s response. One thing that stuck out to me, more than anything, was not even the story itself but peoples’ quickness to defend it. Cory himself responded to criticism pointing out the boy’s abusive tendencies.

His response was, “The story wasn’t about the boy. It was about the girl and her struggles. That’s the story I chose to tell. Respect that.”

But the story IS about the boy. It has to be about the boy, because consent changes everything. If the boy didn’t have consent (he didn’t), the moral of the story (that the girl is no longer pure and needs redemption) is wrong.

Why are we so afraid to address the fact that consent did not exist in this story?

Is it because we’re too afraid to write new stories? To tell our own stories? To ask questions about sexuality and think critically about the issues? To stop thinking in black and white dichotomies and start exploring gray areas?

What are we afraid of?

Finally, let’s talk about stories. Is this old tale merely a work of fiction? To quote Dianna Anderson again, “We tell stories because it’s how we process the world. We also learn lessons from stories…we are processing our life through metaphor and symbolism and through the characters presented within stories. Fictional or not, there is always something to be learned when a story is told.”

This story is teaching women how to view themselves, how to feel about abuse and about consent. How to feel about sex and goodness.  How to feel about God and about redemption and about men.

And what it is teaching is harmful.

Cory asks his readers to respect his retelling of this old tale. That’s something I cannot do. In fact, I’d like to reclaim this story.

Because it’s my story.

I was the girl who said no. I was the girl who pushed the boy’s hands away again and again, until out of fear and manipulation, he managed to get an “okay, I guess” out of me. I was the girl who had to feel worthless because I had heard this story so many times growing up. I was the girl who new so little about consent because of this story that, even when I managed to finally say “No,” and he did it anyway, I thought it was my fault.

I’ve heard this story from the preacher and the male blogger and the abstinence-only teacher and the father and the television show.

But, as my Twitter friend Ally Clendineng points out, it’s not their story. They don’t get to tell it however they want. They don’t get to make it about “just the girl.” They don’t get to ignore the absence of consent. They don’t get to make it about the girl’s goodness or purity. They don’t get to choose the moral of this story.

This story needs a new moral. One about what consent looks like and what healthy, consensual sex is. One about holding abusers accountable and about assuring victims that they do not need to feel at fault. One where goodness does not equal virginity. Where women are complex, sexual human beings who can have a sex drive (unless they are one of the 1 in 100 adults who are asexual) and still say “No,” rather than glowing angels of light who would never even dream of wanting sex.

This is the story of all women who have been manipulated, coerced, and sexually abused. This is our story.

We get to decide what to take from it.


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The church needs to do a better job of talking about sex, and it knows it.

The evangelical church (in general–every time I paint the church in broad strokes like this I get people who share church experiences that look nothing like the picture I’ve just created, and that’s awesome! I love hearing about your positive church experiences!) needs to do a better job of talking about sex.

I think we all know that. I think even most churches know that. In fact, a lot of churches will admit it up front.

I went to a church once where the preacher even began his sermon by saying, “The church needs to do a better job of talking about sex.”

Of course, his version of “doing a better job of talking about sex” involved playing an artsy video that included a Salt N Pepa soundtrack (“Let’s talk about sex, baby!”), and then proceeding to say (I took notes, so this is word-for-word):

Sex is the best gift you can give your spouse, so don’t let anyone else unwrap it before marriage.

I believe many evangelical churches take a similar approach. “We need to do a better job of talking about sex” usually means “we need to dress up the same  discussions we’ve been having so that they seem more modern and cool and appeal more to young people.” But here’s a news flash, churches:

Young people aren’t stupid.

We know these types of churches aren’t doing a “better” job of talking about sex. They’re doing the same job, but with cooler music or flashing lights, or some newlywed preacher with a fauxhawk who mentions every five minutes how hot his wife is and how great his sex life is because he waited.

That’s not what this young person wants, and I think I speak for many others. So, here’s a few ways in which the church can really do a better job of talking about sex:

*Stop acting like people are ruined when they lose their virginity

*Stop blaming women’s “immodesty” for men’s lack of control

*Stop saying, “The Bible is clear about premarital sex.” It’s not.

*Stop saying, “The Bible is clear about homosexuality.” It’s not.

*Stop telling us that men are visual and women are not. Seriously.

*Stop talking about lust and porn as if they are men’s issues only.

*Realize that marriage is not a reasonable option for some couples. Many cannot afford to get married in this economy. Others are not allowed to get married. It’s not as simple as, “Well, just get married and you don’t have to worry about it.”

*If you want people to view pregnancy as a gift, stop talking about single mothers like they’re being punished by God.

*Don’t pretend that marriage is like pressing a magical, “All sex for the rest of your life will be great!” button.

*TALK ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL

*Quit opposing sex education in schools.

*Quit pretending that abstinence-only programs are sex education.

*LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN to young people.

These are a few of my suggestions. Anyone have any to add?

 


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Why I’m not signing a petition against Mark Driscoll

*Trigger Warning for rape and spiritual abuse (but don’t worry–if you get upset, just click on any mention of Driscoll’s name for an adorable fluffy bunny)*

In case you’re not as obsessed with the Christian blogosphere as I am, there’s been a petition going around asking Liberty University to keep Mark Driscoll from speaking there. When I saw the petition being circulated by several progressive bloggers, you know this radical feminist had to check it out. So, I clicked, and I read and…

(are you sitting down for this?)

I’m not going to sign it.

Go ahead and check your calendars. It’s not April Fool’s Day. I mean it. I’m not going to sign that petition and let me tell you why.

First, let me share with you some of the text of the petition, found, in whole, here.

How would your founder Jerry Falwell respond to a preacher who taught this in his writing and speaking?

“In conjunction with the rhythm method of birth control, it is possible to use anal sex as an option.”

“Jesus Christ commands you to [perform oral sex on your husband]…

Some of you are sitting here going, “Is this happening? Is this really happening?” Yes it is. [Laughter from audience.]…And he says that, “Your vagina is a garden.” It has wonderful smells and it has wonderful tastes. It’s a garden. . . . He talks about how much he loves her vagina. Many women feel awkward about this. The husband needs to tell the wife, “It’s beautiful. It tastes well. It smells well. You keep yourself well. I enjoy it. It’s a garden to me.”

I see only one problem with the words of Mark Driscoll that are mentioned in this petition (and it’s a huge problem) and that is the line, “Jesus Christ commands you to [perform oral sex on your husband].”

My response to this line is a resounding f*** you, Mark Driscoll. Because, this line is advocating rape. Using a woman’s religion to hold her head down when she doesn’t want to perform a certain sex act is NOT consensual sex. Threatening a woman using her religion is just as wrong as threatening a woman using a gun. It IS rape. And Driscoll influences thousands of young Christian men–he is teaching them to use Jesus to rape their partners.

It’s hard to put this sickening thought aside, but I’m going to for a moment. Because the rest of Driscoll’s words that are quoted in the petition actually do not advocate rape. They actually advocate healthy, positive, consensual sexuality.

Why can’t more Christian leaders do this?

How affirming would it be for a Christian gay male couple to hear that the sex acts they were participating in were not inherently perverse, as some in our culture would believe? How freeing would it be for any couple wanting to try new things to know that Jesus wasn’t going to strike them down for getting a little freaky in the sheets (note, though. Anal sex is not really a reliable alternative to birth control like Driscoll claims. Use a condom, you crazy lovers!)? And, as a woman living in a world where the word “vagina” is banned from Christian bookstores, I can tell you first hand that it would be extremely liberating if my genitals were not treated as taboo and dirty.

But other Christian leaders aren’t doing this. The only man who is doing this is also teaching men to use Jesus as a date rape drug.

Mark Driscoll is taking beautiful, healthy, positive sexuality and lumping it in with rape. That absolutely disgusts me.

So why am I not signing this petition?

Because the writers of this petition are doing the same thing.

As much as I would love to see Mark Driscoll be held accountable for his deplorable words, demonizing healthy sexuality at the same time is only going to set us back, Christians.

I read this petition and I hear, “Anal sex? Gross! Isn’t that what the gays do?” and “Why is he talking about vaginas? Eww! Who does he think he is? Rachel Held Evans?”

This isn’t right. By demonizing these sex acts along with the command from Jesus for women to give out oral sex, the writers of this petition are, like Driscoll, equating rape with sex. And world…

Rape does NOT equal sex!

We need leaders who can tell the difference between healthy sexuality and rape. We need leaders that are neither Mark Driscoll nor Jerry Falwell in their approach to discussing human sexuality, who stand up and say that rape in Jesus’ name is wrong, but that consensual sex acts, even if they seem abnormal to some, can be positive and healthy and fun.

We can fight Driscoll’s misogyny by being more clear and open about healthy sexuality and by comparing it to Driscoll’s harmful power-hungry, coercive means of manipulating women. Putting healthy sex in the same category as rape only perpetuates the problem. No more blurring these lines. The ends here do not justify the problematic means.