Mutuality is Not a Curse Word

While the extremely offensive quotes continue to go around the internet, I suppose I shall continue to comment on them. This newest “gem” was posted on Doug Wilson’s (the same Doug Wilson that was the perpetrator of yesterday’s highly offensive quote) blog on Thursday:

“Sex, as commonly conceived, is something a couple do together.  But the sexual act itself is not quite like that.  It is, and remains, something a man does to a woman.  They are not both working at the same thing.  He is giving, she is receiving.  He is the lover, she the beloved. Now, if they both set out to “have some Sex,” the whole delicate balance is wrecked, and neither can find his own role.  What is happening is that the difference we all love so dearly is taking a bad beating.  The wife is being backed into a decreasingly feminine role, even in overtly sexual matters, and the husband is finding that he has less and less of an object to be masculine toward.  He is getting what he wants, but not what he needs.  He asks frequently enough, but he has lost sight of what to ask for; and that is deadly” (Robert Farrar Capon, Bed and Board, p. 51).

What these men appear to have a hard time understanding is that sex is supposed to be about love, not about control. When the agenda of sex is to control, that’s when sex starts to turn into rape, because rape is ultimately about control. What these men don’t seem to realize is that their entire philosophy is offensive to women. I would try to argue that men who make statements like these obviously know nothing about sex, but it’s very possible that they do know something about sex and are really just control freaks, it could go either way. It’s at least obvious that control is very important to proponents of patriarchy. I will also say that men who truly love their wives wouldn’t feel any need to control them.

However, let’s move on to the quote itself, as there is so much that is wrong about Capon’s philosophy here. To be fair, Capon’s book was published in 1970, and I know that people thought differently back then, however, I don’t see why Wilson would be approving of this quote in 2012. Capon claims that sex is something a man does to a woman. Although I’ve been sexually active for a lot less time than these men have been alive, I do know that both partners give and take in a sexual relationship, and if they don’t, there’s really no point of having a sexual relationship. Usually, a couple has a sexual relationship because they love each other. It’s not just the man who decides he loves the woman and therefore showing his love to her, no, it’s them both showing love to each other mutually.

Mutuality, however, appears to be a curse word in patriarchal circles. What I fail to understand is how the equality of men and women is a bad thing. Why does there have to be any “roles” in sex? If a man and a woman truly love each other, why would they be vying for control in sex or in anything else? This is, in fact, one of the issues I am working on in my own marriage and in my daily life…that love means releasing control, and that I am not as important as I think I am and that I have no right to try to control what my husband does, or what anyone else does. If I truly want to love my husband, truly want to be in a mutual relationship with him, and truly respect him, I will relinquish control. Trust me, it’s much easier said than done, but any of you that are married probably know that.

I’m not sure how these men think that a woman initiating sex is “unfeminine”. Women have sex drives too, women enjoy sex too, it is not merely an exercise for a woman to give her husband pleasure and receive none herself, although this appears to be exactly what people who subscribe to these hyper patriarchal ideas appear to believe. This is one of the problems with extreme patriarchy, the belief that the man must control everything about the marriage relationship or he is not masculine. Sex, despite what Capon seems to be insinuating, is not merely an activity for the man to “get what he needs” but for the couple to give to each other.

After all, marriage is about oneness, marriage is about mutuality. In a good marriage, this would mean that both the husband and the wife mutually submit to each other out of a desire to make sure their spouse is happy, and that both relinquish control of the other, and worry about controlling only themselves. 


Capon, RF 1970, Bed and Board: Plain Talk About Marriage, Pocket Books.

50 Shades of Abusive Relationships…uhh…Grey

I’m trying to figure out what the attraction is with 50 Shades of Grey. As a Christian feminist who is passionate about equality for women, I am concerned about how many women love this book, and what messages this book is sending those women. From what I have read, the book started out as Twilight fan fiction, and from the sounds of it, is worse that Twilight. It appears as if popular culture is currently trending towards romanticizing abusive relationships, and that’s sad. 50 Shades of Grey is also a very poorly written manifesto on being in an abusive relationship.

And talking about abusive relationships, there’s a blog firestorm right now that I am entering late about a leader in the Christian patriarchy movement, Doug Wilson, who seems to think that men need to conquer women in bed. To me it sounds like he’s advocating abusive relationships also, but then again, in my opinion the entire patriarchy movement just does that. Here is a quote from Douglas Wilson’s book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man:

“Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. 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. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.”
Looking around online, I see that I’m not the only one disgusted by Doug Wilson’s words. First of all, I want to know why exactly sex can’t be “an egalitarian pleasuring party”. I think my husband and I could have a lot of fun with our own private egalitarian pleasuring party, not that any of it would be any of Doug Wilson’s business.

 At any rate, Wilson goes on to say that a man is to “penetrate, conquer, colonize and plant” and that a woman is to “receive, surrender, and accept”. See, that sounds like abuse to me. The words conquer and colonize are violent imagery. When my husband and I were in pre-marriage counselling, the pastor told my husband that he was to “ravage” me on our wedding night, and told me that I was to “submit”. So this violent rape imagery isn’t exclusive to Wilson, it seems to be exclusive to abusive men who use patriarchy to put a religious label on their abuse in order to try to make it ok.

I think that telling a woman to submit and surrender to violence is horrible. For far too long now, women have been blamed for their own rape, with the men who raped them claiming that they enjoyed it, or they were asking for it by what they were wearing, or that they shouldn’t have been in a particular location. For some reason, culture still tends to blame rape victims for what happened to them, and reading things like Wilson’s quote and 50 Shades of Grey just makes this kind of thinking worse, not better.

Wilson states that his writing is offensive to all egalitarians, and I can say that this is probably the only part where I agree with him. However, I would hope that his writing is offensive to more than just people who claim the egalitarian label. Women are not something to be conquered; we are a person to be loved.

I really think that Wilson’s views are dangerous, but so are the current portrayals of relationships in popular culture. We need to throw out Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey along with the likes of Doug Wilson, and stand up for ourselves and refuse to buy literature which exploits women and teaches them to remain in abusive relationships.


Wilson, D 1999, Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man, Canon Press.