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.
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.