Sexual Conquering is Rape

There’s been quite the brouhaha over the piece published last week by the Gospel Coalition. The post pines for the good ol’ days, when men were men and women were women (and therefore subject to all the whims of men’s desires) especially in the arena of sex.

It cites the following from Douglas Wilson:

In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage.

I’m not kidding.

The Wilson quote then goes on to say that men fantasize about raping women because society won’t allow them to exercise the power that is rightfully theirs in the “egalitarian” bedroom.

I’m not kidding.

To cut to the chase, here’s what Wilson misses: when you sexually conquer someone, this is rape. The connection Wilson draws is too much on target: he has, in fact, described all sex as an act of rape. It is therefore not surprising that he sees such a connection between rape outside of marriage and not finding the sort of satisfaction that he suggests is coming to men in their exploits of power.

I am embarrassed for Christianity that such an advocacy of rape (marital or otherwise) could find itself onto a websites that boasts of being one of a “Gospel” coalition.

This is one reason why we narrative theology is so important: it reminds us that the story that makes us who we are must always be the story of the cross.

When Jesus came and showed us what Christian manhood was all about, he did not conquer, but allowed himself to be conquered; he did not pierce, but allowed himself to be pierced; he did not plant by scattering his seed forcibly, he planted by giving up his own life–the grain of wheat falling to the earth and dying that it might produce a crop 100-fold.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

You want to be a man in the bedroom? Learn what it means to give up your power rather than clinging to that primal desire to conquer.

You want to be a Christian man in the bedroom? Go and learn what this means: “The husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Cor 7).

Even the bedroom is to be part of the way of the cross. Play the part of the Roman centurion, and you’re not telling the Jesus story any longer.

Historical footnote: the comparison between the conquering, piercing Roman and the conquered, pierced Christ is not mere poetic license, as often as I do riff on such language when it comes to the cross. Wilson’s description of power, penetration, and conquest is a conjunction of themes that the ancient Greco-Roman world used to depict power and social hierarchy. Conquered peoples were displayed as ravaged women in Roman art. Homosexual sex was ok, so long as you were “penetrating” someone of a lower social standing than you and not “being penetrated by” someone of such lower status.

99 thoughts on “Sexual Conquering is Rape”

    1. Qualifications aside, as someone else wisely inquired, if marital sex is not an “egalitarian pleasuring party” — and its not rape,– what is it?

        1. This is very disingenuous of Mr. Wilson. Trying to say that “egalitarian” means something other than it’s established and widely understood definition of equality. Equality in value, rights and opportunity.

          Mr. Wilson would have us believe that, in spite of HIS OWN CONTEXT, he meant “egalitarian pleasuring party” as “gender-non-specific pleasuring party,” where men and women could be switched out like so many algebraic x’s and y’s.

          Yet his own context places this between a man and a woman. The opposite of sexual congress egalitarianism is that the man is conquering a woman who surrenders.

          And the sentence establishing this is his very own, “This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage.”

          He’s contracting authority and submission rightly with egalitarianism here, as everyone understands it. Authority = hierarchy. Equal submission = egalitarian.

          He’s not writing about homosexuality here, but that egalitarians remove the authority of one over another.

          I’ve heard this tripe my whole life. One man even told me that sex is obviously a man’s prerogative because of the anatomy. Because … apparently women can’t initiate sex acts?

          I’m not saying Mr. Wilson hasn’t had sex, but maybe he’s doing it wrong.

  1. And notice Doug Wilson’s post there about “conquer”-type language:

    ““Penetrates.” Is anyone maintaining that this is not a feature of intercourse? “Plants.” Is the biblical concept of seed misogynistic? “Conquer.” Her neck is like the tower of David, and her necklace is like a thousand bucklers. “Colonize.” A garden locked is my sister, my bride. C’mon, people, work with me here.”

    His “conquer” reference refers to Song of Solomon 4:4, which reads: “Your neck is long and thin
    like David’s tower.
    That tower was built to be decorated [b]
    with a thousand shields on its walls,
    with the shields of powerful soldiers.”

    Notice there that the imagery refers to shape and beauty and strength and the worthiness of adornment, not to conquest. Wilson’s taken it in the obviously opposite manner: rather than a tower withstanding conquest (the biblical image), it is one that must be conquered. Bizarre, unwarranted, unethical, utterly irresponsible eisegesis (and proof-texting).

  2. That is quite shocking stuff.

    But, also, not to get too graphic and all but why does Wilson extrapolate his own apparent experience to all humanity: “however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party”? Maybe he doesn’t really know how to do it…I feel sorry for his pin cushion wife.

  3. Daniel, thank you, again, for speaking clearly and assertively against the lies that continue to be told and re-told vs. women. In life before seminary, I co-directed a shelter for abused women and their children. The garbage that abuse victims were fed by men and, yes, by “men of god” was rank and fetid of death. The church is smeared with these lies. A plumber sat in my kitchen, today, and told me how his wife had been told by a pastor that she should “work it out” with her first husband who went to prison for raping one daughter, and sexually abusing 2 of their other children. My heart grieved as I told him, with no equivocation or prevarication, THAT is NOT the church of Christ. I can no longer count the people who’ve shared honestly that they have no idea what it means to be Christian or what a true church looks like.

    Lord God, have mercy on us, sinners, and raise up the Body conformed to your Son!

    1. Ann, I am so sorry. Sorry for all that these people have been through, the lies they’ve been told and for you having to find some way to minister to them and assure them that THIS IS NOT JESUS. My heart is breaking over the abuse that has taken place, sanctioned by the Church in the name of ‘submission’. I don’t want to overstate, because I know the Church is doing a lot of good in the world, but if the Wilson post and your comment are any indication, the Church is in crisis.

  4. Thanks for your response, Daniel. I appreciate the voices that you and Rachel have raised against this idea. It was personally shocking to read Wilson’s post as well as his clarification (which began with the comments closed…this tells me that he or someone at the Gospel Coalition has little confidence in what he is writing). This type of thought – both the idea of conquering and that he thinks that there is a blanket Scriptural argument for the submission of women in the bedroom – is asinine. It embarrasses me to be associated with as a fellow Christian.

  5. Honestly, I’m not surprised by Wilson’s position. It’s really nothing different from any sort of Christianity that doesn’t allow women to preach, or fails to see men and women as equals in Christ.

    I’ve come to have a different perspective on Eph. 5:21-6:9 than I had some years back. It seems to me that you cannot read “wives, submit to your husbands,” “children, submit to your parents,” or “slaves, submit to your masters,” without the context of “(Everyone!) Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

    I think the same applies here. The idea of wives submitting to their husbands in the bedroom will always be within the context of both parties in the relationship submitting to each other, something I don’t see in Wilson’s presentation.

    1. Two things stand out to me:

      1) The comments section is closed. The two comments visible are ones that agree with the post itself. True dialogue.

      2) In his response, Wilson insulted MORE people insinuating people who didn’t agree with him (in conclusion or comprehending what he meant as opposed to what he wrote) needed to go back to their ESL classes. The list of offended people seems to grow the more he talks – but, evidently, it’s not his fault; we are misunderstanding him.

      1. I apologize! This is in reference to his rebuttal linked by Dan earlier in the comments section, not this post. I’m sorry for the confusion.

    2. “It’s really nothing different from any sort of Christianity that doesn’t allow women to preach…”

      I think that this statement is a bit broad and perpetuates unfair caricatures. Certainly there are many mysogynists in the group that you mention, but I also know many people who attend such Protestant churches that would never hold to such a position of sexual conquest as that of both of the Wilsons. Besides Protestants, your statement, as is, would include the entirety of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. I agree with your outrage, but think that it is helpful to temper our responses so as not to cut off conversation with those who disagree with this position on ordination, but agree that mysogyny, in any form – and especially a sexual form – is absolutely unacceptable within the body of Christ.

      1. Ah, I apologize. Don’t mistake my comment as outrage, anger, or an attempt to squelch conversation with hasty generalizations.

        Maybe it’s more appropriate to say that I would expect anyone who’s perspective on sex mirrors Doug Wilson’s to also be opposed to women preaching. Obviously, not everyone who is complimentarian in the pulpit is complimentarian in the bedroom, but a correlation wouldn’t surprise me.

        So seeing someone speak from this perspective doesn’t really shock me that much. As much as I disagree with Wilson, I get the impression that the “no women in the pulpit” sentiment is pretty common and so the “women submitting to men in the bedroom” sentiment should be pretty common as well. That’s all I meant to imply.

        1. Thanks for reworking that, Aaron. I apologize for reading outrage into your comment. And I do agree that it is highly probably that there is a strong correlation between those who hold Wilson’s view on sex and those who hold the view that women should not preach. I just have not witnessed a strong converse correlation. In fact, this is one of the first times that I have ever heard someone try to extend submission to sexual conquest. No one whom I know that holds a position that a woman should not preach has ever tried to defend any such position as Wilson’s on sex. Of course, this is only based upon the circle of people that I know. It very well could be the case elsewhere. Thanks again for your thoughts.

          1. I have heard Wilsons ideas before but not recently from “mainstream” Christian groups like the Gospel Coalition.

            These ideas are shocking now but we should remember that even when I was a child you could give a couple on their wedding day a wooden spoon with an engraving of “wife tamer” on it. (I’m 37) Women have been seen as needing regular discipline as much as children in the past.

            Don’t forget the Taming of the Shrew is a “classic” and there are a lot of old movies where spanking a woman or carrying her off forcefully is just what she needs and wants. I just saw “Pillow Talk” from 1959

            Basically when these guys talk about feminism wrecking everything and men’s right to lead their wives the wife beating is at the very least being forgotten. Jared Wilson shows it may even be being encouraged. “Just a little love tap to show her who’s boss, officer.”

  6. Thanks for this excellent rebuttal. I hope it is widely read. Too often we forget just how Jesus saw authority. If we love anyone as Christ loves the church we give up power, we don’t assert it.

  7. Doug Wilson continues to amaze me with what he thinks a follower of Christ does. I pray that his eyes be opened and he repents.

  8. Re: Your historical footnote. Tripp Fuller said on one episode of TNT something like, “When you defend the powers of the world in the name of a crucified, homeless Jew, you have to ask, ‘How did we get here?’”.

    A similar question may be asked here, only the terms would be different.

    But then I would expect nothing less than this from someone with as militant a post-millennial Calvinism as Wilson espouses. Christ loved the church and gave himself for it but only because he was determined to show these sinners what’s what, not because the Father and Son mutually loved each other and determined to save the world. The type of “intimacy” Wilson describes is exactly in line with this perspective.

  9. Thanks for this post.

    I think that both men and women are harmed when sex is viewed as solely about the instrumentality of the male. Too many men, in particular, are out of touch with their need for touch. They’re cut off from the strength that comes not from subduing the body but from aligning with it. When that happens, the body – his and hers – becomes nothing more than something to be conquered, a state of being out of touch with our bodies blocks access to feelings. Those who are unable to feel their own pain are more likely to inflict pain on others.

  10. Your point is wrong and your abuse of scripture is distressing. 1 Cor. 7 also talks abut the wife yielding her own body to her husband but you conveniently left that out. Not good.

    Oh read what scriptures say about not withholding sex as well. There is no such thing as marital rape but i sense you listen to te secular word over God.

    1. David, I referred to the part of 1Cor 7 that demonstrates the unbiblical nature of his position. I wasn’t arguing for women to have the abusive power Wilson advocates, bit for the sort of mutual self-giving that’s on the page there and in Eph 5.

    2. I’ll just repost this comment here to show just how truly detached from reality some people are:

      “There is no such thing as marital rape.”

    3. The perspective in this statement must be wholly formed by believing that a legal document or vow negates any events, dishonor or content within the relationship: “There is no such thing as marital rape…”

      By that measure, physical circumcision should have been enough. Paul disagreed. (Rom. 2:25-29)

  11. Dan, are you saying that Christian men shouldn’t engage in penetrative sex with their wives?

    What then?

    I think Wilson is riffing off of the physical givens of heterosexual sex, which have huge psychosocial impact.

    Taking Jesus as the one who was pierced doesn’t mean that men don’t penetrate any more, though it will mean that sex doesn’t exist in New jerusalem. But don’t immanentize the eschaton!

    I don’t think calling this rape apology is the most charitable reading one could give to Wilson, even if you don’t think he deserves a charitable reading.

  12. “because society won’t allow them to exercise the power that is rightfully theirs”

    Where does Wilson say that it is the fault of society?

    “here’s what Wilson misses: when you sexually conquer someone, this is rape.”

    So if Wilson *misses* that, and has a non-rape understanding of a term he can call ‘sexually conquering’ he’s not a rape apologist, except as you read him, not how he reads himself, right?

    1. “I’m not a racist–I love my slaves!” Of course Wilson is going to say that he doesn’t see sex as rape. Of course he isn’t going to say that married conquest and colonization of his wife is an abuse of his power. But he has put forward a model of the place of power and authority in the bedroom–a model that he sees being misdirected in [other] rape and rape fantasies. What I want to say is that the problem in these power games is not that rape and rape fantasies are perversions of true male dominance, but are instead a different expression of the same power game Wilson insists is “Christian.”

      Sex as conquest and colonization and lording over another is rape.

      I confess to not reading his response: did he apologize for using the language of conquest and colonization?

      1. No, he didn’t, though he put in so many qualifications I wonder why he used ‘colonize’ and ‘conquest’, even cititing the way a wife can ‘conquer’ her husband erotically.

        It seems like the way you want to characterize Wilson, you’re inevitably claiming he rapes his wife, because he’s using the *same* power game.

        What about my Q about the unavoidable symbolism of penetration in normal non-rapey het sex? Does jesus being pierced change that in terms of what happens in sex? Could it?

        1. pduggie, I’d respond to your question with another question. Does Jesus bearing men’s sins change the unavoidable symbolism in terms of what happens when women bear the “sins” of men’s ambitions, sexual lust or violence? We believe in new life, new creation, and the incoming reign of God, don’t we? “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”
          (John 1:12-13)

          1. Id like to answer your question, but I have to say I don’t understand it. Could you clarify?

            What is the “symbolism” in any case of women bearing those sins?

            1. By your analogy, pduggie, Jesus’ being pierced for our sins wouldn’t “change …what happens in sex[ual intercourse].”

              I asked you then about another biblical analogy: Jesus bearing the sins of humanity unto death on a cross, as a woman bears the sins of men’s ambitions, lust, violence, even unto their own death (in childbirth or later).

              If you cannot see that God-in-Christ, the male Jesus, explodes and reframes male’s natural analogies and offers the view from what is more naturally the female perspective, ISTM you’re missing one of the paradigm-shifting messages God gives all humanity in Jesus and the cross, in toto. The Wilsons have missed it completely, too.

              1. So you’re making a physical analogy between bearing sins and bearing a child?

                The term sounds the same, but there is no physical analogy that i can perceive.

                Both men and women are sinned against by both sexes. Jesus bears all those sins.

                And even if the bearing of sin by jesus needs to “explode” something, it doesn’t explode that women ‘bear’ children. Men won’t start having babies just because Jesus died for sin.

                or what *are* you saying?

                1. So you’re making a physical analogy between bearing sins and bearing a child?

                  ISTM John and Paul both see Jesus as having culturally reframed that analogy, against the dominant male myth, spiritually. (So, no, I don’t consider that “I” am making the analogy.)

                  Practically, are you disagreeing with the spiritual metaphor that women who bear the children of men have been required physically to bear the burden of human sins – particularly in cases “of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man”? (NB: I’m not discounting women’s sins, here.)

                  The nutshell of what I’m saying is Gal. 3:27-29.

                  1. I think that’s just a hash of a pun on bearing/bearing.

                    When jesus bears sins its like bearing up under a load of sin. A burden of sin. He is not exuding sins from his womb.

                    Yes, there are new people born of the Spirit, subsequent to the bearing of sins by Jesus. But the ‘bearings’ are just a linguistic coincidence, since the referents are different.

                    It would be like making a pun on a fan (cooling device) and a fan (enthusiast on a topic); Can’t really get a theology from it.

                    The woman experiences pain in childbirth, and that’s a result of Adam’s sin (but note: God overcomes the aprons of fig leaves and shame they feel to allow there to be ANY children: the race was done for after the fall, and God restores adam and eve)

                    But the ‘thorns and thistles’ that the land brings forth is not a ‘women bearing the burden of sin’: its man raising up sinful kids: thorns like cain. etc.

                    1. pduggie, you don’t seem to understand that a woman risks death, every time she became/becomes pregnant. (We’re not talking about societies w/ advanced medical interventions or info, at the time this was written. Even now, the stats are grim in many countries.) Given the groundedness of the Hebrews in God’s creation of all things, it would seem to me that a mere pun to you is profoundly disconnected from the reality of what women faced/face, daily. Bearing sins and laying down her life for new creation weren’t puns or metaphorical excesses of imagination to women…

        2. Someone pointed out on Rachel Held Evans’ blog that it’s equally accurate to say the woman “envelops” the man, and that the man is enveloped by the woman. It’s just that we’re so used to the male-centric idea of penetration that we’re not used to thinking of it this way.

          1. The “way of a man with a maid” involves the repeated back and forth motion, of the man, like a serpent on a rock, or a ship in the ocean. It is ‘too wonderful for me’.

            The man, in general, is not repeatedly enveloped as he lies passively.

            (that’s in Bruce Waltke’s commentary BTW)

            1. That’s a very odd interpretation. As far as I can see, the Proverb writer was talking about “things I do not understand.” How a serpent moves on a rock. That does occasion some wonder, how a serpent can move without legs. How a ship moves in the sea. Again, a sense of wonder is involved– how/why does a ship float? Finally, the way of a man with a maid. How and why do two people fall in love? What makes him want her more than any other maid? Even in a patriarchal society, the idea of a man being delighted with his wife, of loving her, described in the Proverbs, and of course in the Song of Solomon.

              But instead this commentator wants to make it all about physical movement while in the missionary position, and equating that to the movements of a snake and a ship– which are manifestly not the same at all.

              No, I can’t accept this interpretation. And if intercourse other than in the missionary position is allowed (the Bible never forbids it, but religious men have)– yes, the woman does repeatedly envelop the man in some cases.

              1. PS. I note also that this commentary leaves out “the way of an eagle in the sky.” Eagles have a soaring, circular motion that is not back-and-forth in any sense. Again, this is a thing that causes wonder: how is it that a creature can fly through the air? It cannot be simply talking about physical movement, because the physical movements of a man during intercourse are not in the category of things that cause wonder– surely any man would understand them very well!

  13. Much more could be said, but his own “clarification” only hang him further. The fact that he can string a bunch of passages that allude to procreation, poetic devices from Song of Songs as Biblical warrant for his views is abhorrent. There is a conservative culture afoot that seems to be bolstering and defending white male privilege and putting the most sacred of the most sacred aspects of human life and the Christian story at risk. You are right to cry out against this. This is hardly isolated…whenever the truth of the gospel of grace is lost in making Jesus a wall street capitalist…where concern for the poor is subverted with the language that God made us to be wealthy, when American exceptionalism is touted as revelatory, when the giftedness of our sisters is lost to a vision of the order of creation that upholds male power, and when the act of marriage reaffirms male dominance…we have lost the gospel of grace where there is no Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. Such stupid arguments from scripture and from nature were until the not so distant past trumpeted to maintain the status quo of slavery. You’re not a voice in the wilderness Daniel, and those who see in the Christian story, that narrative of one beggar telling another where to find food, an elan vital towards wholeness, inclusivity, and the renewal of all things say our amens to this post. AS for Douglas Wilson, he and his cohorts have my pity that they have so wandered from the gospel of grace that they articulate such rubbish…truly dwarfs in the stable squabbling over refuse be they.

  14. If a woman in sound mind and under no duress consents to be conquered how is that rape?

    As a married woman who loves her husband, this makes sense to me. While I am not entirely certain I agree with all Wilson says here, I do not think he defines conquer and penetration within the context you are adding to his words.

    1. pensrose, you just made the very same argument about consensual adults and “harm” that is the hallmark of John Stuart Mill’s utilitarian view of morality. According to JSM, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

      If we are truly the Body of Christ, then failing to be conformed to God-in-Christ harms the Body, and compromises the witness of the whole community. I’d suggest that this is an analogous situation to that of the immoral man in 1 Cor. 5.

  15. Fallen Mankind’s/Satan’s most urgent desire is to conquer, control, manipulate, and overpower someone or something outside and other than themself.

  16. For all their idolatrous love of Augustine, they missed the parts where St. A describes domination and the drive to dominate as a primary expression of sinfulness in humans.

    Is just reveals how, for all their claims to critique the culture, these TGC folks are deeply compromised. There is no Gospel to be found in Wilson’s post.

  17. The defense of these comments by both Messieurs Wilson can be summed up in this:

    “We didn’t mean what we said, you just misunderstood us.”

    Or:

    “What we said didn’t mean what you understood it as.”

    This is the same thing racists say when they argue for segregation. “I didn’t say that white people are superior to black people. I just think they’re different, and so they should be treated differently.”

    Well, Messieurs Wilson, your mothers were whores.

    Oh, I didn’t mean it that way. Obviously words have different meanings, and you chose to take the negative meaning. I just mean that your mothers may have just acted as whores metaphorically and metaphysically when you were conceived.

  18. I think I had a decent grasp on what he originally intended to say, though I disagree with it. But to carry that forward and insinuate that rape — whether in fantasy or in actuality — is somehow the fault of women who aren’t submissive enough is grossly offensive.

    His weak attempt at an explanation is even more offensive, however. I draw a parallel in this situation to sexual harassment in the workplace. It matters not what the intent was, only how it was received. A higher caliber man with a shred of integrity would have apologized for the way his message came across, and would have kindly explained what his original intent was. Instead, though, he launches an offensive against the people who took it that way, and essentially says that they are all either on a witch hunt, or they have no command of the English language. I beg to differ, sir. He shows an astonishing lack of humility, and clearly holds himself up on a pedestal. Shameful.

    1. Doug Wilson claims, “Anyone who believes that my writing disrespects women … really need to retake their ESL class.”

      Yet here he is defending himself over the term “egalitarian pleasuring party.”

      “…the kind of party where the sexes of the participants don’t matter…”

      Since when has egalitarianism been about how the sexes/gender don’t matter? Egalitarianism is about equality in value, rights and opportunity. Equality in power, wealth and influence.

      And Mr. Wilson knows this is true as evidenced by his very own attack on egalitarianism in the very passage he’s tryign to defend,

      “This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage.”

      He knows that the contrast to egalitarianism is hierarchy (“authority and submission”), and say as much in this passage, but in his defense he’s pretending that’s not the contrast he was making at all.

      And of course if that one phrase within all of that context meant what he’s now claiming it does, the whole paragraph is thus ruined of all meaning, and he would be the one deficient in the English language.

  19. Superb response Daniel. You and others have been taken to task by some at the Gospel Coalition as though making the clear connection between what the Wilsons have called sexual conquest and rape were just sooo far beyond the pale. You’re right on though and your cross-centered response couldn’t be more apropos. The cross is the death of all power grabs, all systems of oppression and inequality and is the reason that no matter how pedantically some cling to the illusion that their treasured privilege is God-ordained the last *will* be first.

  20. Along the lines of Daniel’s historical footnote, do we think the Wilsons are aware that they’re (somewhat) reproducing certain ancient Mediterranean sensitivities about men and women here? They’re just not being consistent about it.

    For example, many of our extant Greco-Roman ancient sources construe “gender” in terms of a continuum.

    The masculine end of the continuum is defined by active, authority, control, rationality, moderation, hard, hot, dry, and yes…penetration.

    The feminine end, conversely, is characterized by passive, submission, being-controlled, being dominated, irrationality, excessiveness, wet, moist, porous, and penetrable.

    Such sensitivities are part of more holistic-ly produced and maintained ideologies involving positions about physiology, “anthropology,” cosmology (e.g., “science”), politics, etc…all enmeshed in blatantly misogynistic dynamics. Ideal men should dominate and control others because they can control and dominate themselves. “Women,” however, should not because they cannot. This relates to how Daniel brings up, for example, Romans depicting conquered peoples as ravaged women.

    From this standpoint it’s easier to understand common slandering tactics: e.g., accusing another man (or group of people) of being effeminate (common Greek word: malakos). It’s saying that he’s a “girly guy” who displays more feminine traits of being dominated than he should for his social position (especially that of being penetrated rather than being the penetrator; i.e., a slave should be penetrated because even male slaves are not considered to have the qualities of men such as autonomy, ability to control self and thus others).

    Where am I going in the context of this discussion? I wonder if the Wilsons are aware of the context of these claims about male and female that they’re reproducing? Various writings of the Bible participate in these sensitivities in varying ways, but people such as the Wilsons (and the Biblical Council on Manhood and Womanhood, and so on) only want to latch onto some of these ideas seen in the Bible, not all of them. Ironically they are thus quite selective in the parts of the Bible to which they will “submit.”

    Though such folks claim to want to uphold all “the Bible’s” views of men and women, they don’t really want that. It would require them to hold that women are not actually separate (roles) but equal (basic “Complementarianism”) but instead separate because not equal. It’s right there in, for example, their favorite passage, 1 Tim 2.12-15. The passage does not say that women cannot teach and exercise authority over men because they are truly equal in God’s eyes but just have different roles. It’s because (read the passage!) Eve is derivative from Adam and transgressed (because she’s inclined to being deceived) unlike Adam: read “men.” Instead women are supposed to stay at home and have kids…please pardon my 1950s American-izing paraphrasing.

    Back to the Wilsons, if they’re claiming to get their ideas from the Bible, they should come to grips with how a straight “one-to-one” move from these ideas in the Bible to normative gender idea(ologies) for today involve some blatant misogyny and inhabiting (and reproducing!) views that have been text-book strategies of subjugating and oppressing women and others for thousands of years. Perhaps this illustrates, among other things, how we need a new model of how the Bible is authoritative.

    1. Perhaps they are followers of the Great Humpty Dumpty who prophetically opined that words mean what he chose them to mean. I refer the interested reader to the following selection from “Through the Looking Glass.”

      “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
      Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
      “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
      “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
      “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
      “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.”
      Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!

    2. Unless of course we’re missing the nature of Paul’s point in the first place. Based on the fact that the same passage appears to our eyes to being saying that women are saved by having babies, I think it’s quite likely that something different was originally meant, than what the traditional interpretations claim.

      1. Howdy Kristen,

        Why should we assume that the passage is likely saying something quite different than that women are saved by having babies (with the other things mentioned in the final clause of 1 Tim 2.15)? 1 Timothy is a writing that, among other things, is very concerned to establish proper Christ-devotion versions of generational continuity, “household” living, and other such matters. Thus one should not be surprised to find precisely such ideas about the place of wives among households of Christ followers.

        Don’t get me wrong, I am as much a fan as anyone of taking seriously how the Bible, precisely as ancient writings from vastly different cultural contexts, often means something in whatever passage very different than our first glance reading.

        At the same time, however, another dynamic also often operates that can obscure the meaning of biblical passages for us: sometimes our religious commitment to the Bible results in us deciding that a passage can’t possibly say what it looks like it’s saying since that would mean the Bible saying something outlandish relative to our religious/theological expectations of what the Bible can and cannot say.

        1. I see your point, but when the face-value meaning of a passage directly contradicts the most fundamental tenets of the faith, I think it’s probably ok to say, “That can’t be what he meant.”

        2. Some bible translations translate in the vein of ‘being saved through chilbearing’, so it’s not about salvation as ‘not going to hell’ (sorry, caricature) but very specifically that the women will be safe through the actual process of labor when the baby is born. Makes much more sense to me.

  21. Dr. Kirk,

    I just came across this post and think this line is the best response to the Wilsons I’ve read so far:

    “You want to be a Christian man in the bedroom? Go and learn what this means: “The husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Cor 7).”

    P.S. I’m a PhD student in theology at Baylor, and my NT colleague, Lindsey Trozzo, turned me on to your blog. When I saw that you were a “listener of The Mountain Goats,” I knew your blog had to be worth subscribing to!

  22. After I got sent this by a student, I read this to my husband, who was stunned. Your comments are right on target. That we somehow have lost sight of the cross as pertaining to sex (as to all of life) is stunning; that one can shamelessly advocate for “conquering” women in a Christian context (let alone that all sex is penetration — another subject for another time) displays poignantly that the ways of the world continue to press upon us. So banal, boring, and predictably oppressive. So in contrast the creativity of Christ, whose self-offering love is ever fruitful, imaginative, and surprising — even when it comes to learning to love another sexually.

  23. Its such a tired game: grabbing some “inflammatory” quote and gasping — Oh my Gosh! Look what he said! Can you believe it?
    We can do better than to pick and choose such things and play with semantics. There’s nothing unbiblical about what was said as far as I can see, if you read it in context.

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