Roman Conquest

Man Rape and Homosexuality

This is a rant.

It is a rant about how we process various passages in the Bible that shed light on ancient Israel’s understandings of gender, sex, and power. In particular, it is a rant about how we deal with passages such as the Sodom and Gomorrah story in which part of the horror of what the bad guys do includes (attempted) rape of other men.

It seems completely, patently, and blindingly obvious to me that no passage about rape can serve as a declaration about the propriety of those same-sex acts in situations where the sex act is engaged in freely.

Put differently: unless the horror of men raping women means that heterosexual sex is out-of-bounds, then the horror of men raping men can not tell us that homosexual sex is out-of-bounds.

Rape is about power. It is an abuse of power. In situations of war or other tribal conflict, rape is way of claiming dominance, like dogs who mount other dogs to establish and maintain their alpha status.

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Shawshank Redemption

But what about the fact that in the Sodom and Gomorrah story, and its parallel in Judges, the idea seems to be that raping the women would be a lesser offense than raping the men? Doesn’t that signal that somehow homosexual sex is more inherently abhorrent?

There are two answers to this. And they are related.

First, the indications that raping a man are worse than raping a woman are generated by a condition that beset many, perhaps most, yea, darn near all of the biblical writers. The technical term for this condition is “gender stoogery.”

The Bible, being written by men, does in fact reflect the bias of the authors to the effect that being raped as a man is worse than being raped as a woman. Indeed, the gender stoogery at one point stoops so low as to mandate that a rapist must marry his victim.

The incapacity of an ancient man to realize the trauma of a woman’s rape is no reason for us to continue the selfish notion of thinking that being raped as a man is somehow worse than being raped as a woman. If we see such attitudes reflected in the text, we can acknowledge them as present but it would be abhorrent for us to embrace and embody them in our own theology and practice.

Second, a largely overlapping category with “gender stoogery” is “patriarchy.” Patriarchy maintains that men are inherently more valuable than women. This means that it is inherently degrading for a man to be treated like a woman—because women are worth less than men. In the eyes of a patriarchal culture, it is inherently devaluing for a man to be womanly because a woman is of lesser value.

So, yes—for an ancient, the rape of a man would carry the extra horror that the man had been made womanly. We can see that reflected in the text, and acknowledge it as the ancient posture. But, if we continue to embody this in our own theology then we are denying the notion that men and women are created equal, and that we are recreated equal in Christ.

So if you find yourself reading along and someone is using male rape arguments to create a picture of homosexual sex being abhorrent, please resist any powers of persuasion you might find drawing you to the text.

If Ham raped Noah then what’s wrong with that is that Ham raped Noah. He took advantage of a drunk man. He attempted to exert a power that would put him in charge of his father’s house.

This is about power. It is about abuse and conquest as a way to leadership.

It has nothing to do with being gay.

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9 thoughts on “Man Rape and Homosexuality

  1. I suppose that’s true as far as it goes, but other OT statements against homosexuality are NOT about rape.

    As Richard Hays puts it, whenever the scripture speaks about homosexuality, it is against it.

    1. I agree with this. The questions, then, become: what is scripture speaking about when it speaks about homosexuality, and why is it against it? That’s where things get more complicated than they might look on first blush.

  2. Daniel, I concur. One thought to add though. In the context of Sodom an Gomorrah could the action of the host who offers to send out his daughters also be seen as an atrocious offering and merely add to the injustice and need for judgment that God is exaction on such a place. I have recently been challenged in my thinking that ancient people were all archaic in their thinking and could not see or be appalled by such a story as this or the parallel in Judges. This is as an aside to what you are offering here though, but connected to the way in which we read or read into scripture.

  3. Homosexuality is a sin throughout the Bible, in addition to fornication. Unfortunately, this culture abhors homosex or fornication. Both are a sin which ultimately separates us from God. I believe it is fair to say that a sexual relationship between the same gender is not natural. If fact, I think the Bible refers to it that way. However, being a sinner myself, my job is to love God with all my heart and others as myself. Obviously love comes in different forms, including rebuking those we love. I’ve learned to leave the judging to God about a person.

  4. Excellent point. One thing, though. Dogs are not pack animals with hierarchies, and mounting each other has nothing at all to do with dominance. It’s a sign they are either socially inept or they are overwhelmed.

  5. Good article.

    But I see a few potential flaws in the argument.

    First, I think it should be pointed out that the Biblical authors saw men raping men as a worse sin not just because of their patriarchy but because of something more fundamental that they saw in nature. I think the passage in Romans 1 clearly illustrates this. If Paul were simply talking about the power domination of males over males [which was the main source of homosexual behavior in the ancient world presumably], he would never have mentioned relations between two women. I think this shows that they also connected such behavior to idol-worship, and the dehumanizing that comes with idol-worship [which is also why I think Paul connects the homosexual behavior described to other sins such as malice, anger, gossip, and basically sins against one’s neighbor].

    Of course, I do see your argument that rape is wrong because it is rape. In fact, I do think the Bible shares this perspective as well. Simply because it isn’t punished in the way that we think it should be in the Torah doesn’t mean that they didn’t share our abhorrence with rape. But I also think that this doesn’t mean that all passages in the Bible which condemn homosexuality are based upon the idea that male-on-male rape is somehow worse than male-on-female rape, and I think this is best illustrated in the New Testament.

    But overall, I think you make some good points.

  6. Those “nature” arguments… such a slippery slope towards long hair…we need to remember verses like this!
    1 Corinthians 11:14 “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him”

  7. Dr. Kirk,

    The actual ‘primary’ sin of Sodom is, as I’m sure you know, a disputed topic. As gay apologists perhaps rightly point out, when Jesus refers to Sodom, it is in the context of being inhospitable to God’s messengers. Assuming that is so, what purpose does the mention of the male rape of angels play? I can think of at least four.

    1. Rejecting God’s Messengers
    Seems legit, though this does not really answer why sex was part of the equation.

    2. Repeating the Nephilim Thing
    Sex with angels (perhaps) created the giants of old, something the Bible seems to condemn. Perhaps this was one of the great sins of Sodom.

    3. Gang Rape as a Marker of Depravity
    Perhaps the preponderance of gang rape was an indicator of the overall gross immorality of Sodom. And perhaps the fact that it was homosexual rape was inconsequential, unless the males of the community were somehow representative of the leadership of the town, and so acting on behalf or as representatives of the state of the entire town.

    4. Homosexuality as a Marker of Depravity
    It seems likely to me that while rape is reprehensible, in Jewish thought, homosexual rape would be the pinnacle of sexual immorality. Viewing homosexuality as the indicator of total rejection of God, his imago dei in the form of man and woman as part of creation, is a theme which seems to emerge directly from Romans, and may be indicated in the list in 1 Tim. 1, where Paul arguably recapitulates the 10 commandments, using apogetitcal sins to represent many of the commandments, and perhaps using homosexuality as the grossest example of sexual immorality/adultery.

    I have discussed this further at the link below. Comments?
    http://www.wholereason.com/2014/04/5-possible-reasons-sodom-was-destroyed.html

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