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.
Disclaimer: This post deals with the experiences of me and other young ladies who group up in fundamentalist churches. It is not indicative of all fundamentalist churches; however, I do believe that this post describes the general attitude of a lot, if not most, fundamentalists when it comes to rape.
The final straw in leaving fundamentalism for me came with the 20/20 story aired about the rape of Tina Anderson, and the subsequent trial and conviction of Ernest Willis. This program opened up my eyes to the fact that the things that I and others I knew had experienced in fundamentalism concerning rape were typical experiences, not abnormal ones. I had already become disillusioned with fundamentalism, but hadn’t had the courage to escape until then. I finally figured that if this is what fundamentalists thought of me as a rape victim, I didn’t want to be hanging around, and I didn’t want my daughter to be taught such things about herself.
And just take a look at the current fiasco surrounding Dr Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. He had sex with a 16 year old girl and the accusations are that she was a slut and she seduced him. You can’t tell me that a 54 year old man can’t resist the charm of a 16 year old young girl, even if she did seduce him. Sadly, in these circles, slut-shaming is the common defence; I believe they tried to do the same to Tina Anderson.
I say that to say this: the common ways that fundamentalists dealt with the rape of people I knew as well as myself were slut-shaming and cover-ups. A lot of us were even disbelieved entirely and were told that we were trying to tear down God’s work and God’s men.
Let’s start with the things I was told every time I tried to get someone in a fundamentalist church to care that I had been raped. I was first told that it was my fault because of what I wear (at the time I was fond of miniskirts and fishnet tights which granted, I would not wear today, but I had just hit the threshold of adulthood and didn’t have a clue). I was also told that I wasn’t raped; it was consensual, for the simple reason that I wore an anklet and I was told that wearing an anklet on that particular ankle was an invitation for me to “do me” and that that is the only reason any woman wears anklets on that ankle. I was even told that if I tried to get the rapist charged and it went to court, when the judge found out about the anklet, I would lose.
I was also told (and so were several others that I know) that because I didn’t “cry out” like the Bible says somewhere in the Old Testament, that meant the sex was consensual and I had committed adultery with a married man and that I was in rebellion. Women scared into silence while being raped made the sex consensual according to these particular pastors. And this is the very reason I cannot respect anybody who says that if a woman has a “legitimate rape” that it won’t end in pregnancy because her body will shut everything down. The ignorance surrounding rape is astounding really, and I’m sure if rape affected mostly men, people would have different attitudes towards it. If men were the main victims of rape, there wouldn’t be any slut-shaming, or any blaming of the victim and rape would be prosecuted more often and people would actually care about how the victim felt.
Both I and another woman I know were told that we weren’t raped, because we were supposed to submit to men, and, both of us being single and not living with our fathers, our authorities were the men in the church. Therefore, for us to not give consent to a man in the church that had “needs” was rebellion, and if we wouldn’t consent to the sex, he was entitled to take it by force because he had “needs” that women were created to fulfil for him. Yes, despite the fact that all these churches preach pre-marital abstinence, we were also told we should have submitted to the men.
So the churches sent double messages regarding pre-marital sex. Although, those of us who were considered “impure” by the church were regarded as sluts and nobody cared if sluts were raped, apparently we were asking for it because we were “easy” (even if we weren’t actually “easy” and that most of what people had heard was good old gossip).
Fundamentalist women who have been raped are often seen as “damaged goods” and so the virgin young men don’t want to date them because they are “impure”. I was actually told by a young man that he would not date me because he had “saved himself” and therefore he felt like he deserved someone who was pure and that God would give him someone pure.
Fundamentalist churches are all about the men. Their women are disposable and therefore every time a man sins, they will try to blame it on a woman. I know this has been the experience for many women, and I just want to clear up any misunderstandings that you might have been fed by certain fundamentalists.
1. Your rape was not your fault.
2. Your rape was not your fault, no matter what you were wearing.
3. Your rape was not your fault, despite what accessories you had on.
4. Your rape was not your fault, despite how many consensual sexual encounters you have had.
5. Your rape was not your fault, even if you had sex before marriage.
6. Your rape was not your fault, even if you were shamed into silence.
7. Your rape was not your fault.
And most importantly: You are beautiful, you are loved, and you are precious in the sight of God.
So I know I haven’t blogged in over a week which is sad because I try to blog every day. Truth is, life has bogged me down and being a writing major in college and taking two writing courses this semester, I’m totally spending a lot of time already writing. 🙂
I did, however, want to talk some about comments made by a certain Republican Senate Nominee Todd Akin. His words have caused a firestorm, and, in my opinion, rightly so. What he said was that women who were “legitimately raped” don’t usually get pregnant from it because their bodies have an automatic defence against getting pregnant as the result of rape. His comments just blow my mind, because a woman’s reproductive system works the same no matter whether the sexual experience was “legitimate” or “illegitimate”. If a woman has sex, she is at risk of getting pregnant, it doesn’t matter how the sex happened, if the timing and conditions right the woman will conceive.
The problem here, (a problem I intend to write about very soon), is that a lot of people seem to discount science and intellectualism and academia even if the facts are proven, simply because it doesn’t fit with their ideology. So instead of changing their ideology, they try to pretend the facts don’t exist. Ignorance of this variety is not pretty. Choosing wilful ignorance is an awful thing for people to do to themselves.
I’ve seen several comments from Republicans that have been offensive, sexist and downright degrading to women. But, when I make a statement to this effect, even giving examples, I’m told that I shouldn’t blame the whole group for the actions of some. The problem is that these people are speaking for their party, which means that while it’s possible that not everyone in the Republican Party agrees with these statements, these statements were made by Republicans on behalf of the Republican Party, and therefore we can in these kinds of cases blame the whole group for the actions of some.
The problem here is that the Republican Party’s groupthink is what is wrong; its entire party’s attitudes and beliefs concerning women that are the problem. I don’t think that so many Republicans would say things like this if they weren’t sexist. I don’t see how it is possible for them to use the kinds of offensive statements they have been using if they weren’t sexist. See, the problem isn’t necessarily what these people are saying, it’s what they believe. We need to look beyond what they say and look to what we believe.
Also, their actions will also reveal what they believe, and the fact that a lot of Republicans want to make sure women can’t get their birth control paid for on their insurance (yet Viagra is covered), it means they are more than likely against birth control, no matter what they say. The blatant sexism is appalling here. Medicine to help men’s sexual function is covered by insurance, but medicine that helps enhance women’s sexual experiences (and a whole heap of medical issues), they don’t want covered.
I’m really not trying to bash the Republican Party here, I’m trying to make a point that we need to look at what politicians say, and what they do, to determine what they believe. Chances are, most of the politicians in the same party agree with them to some extent, it was, after all, the fact that their ideals and beliefs were similar and they could work together that brought them together. While I’m not trying to bash the Republican Party, I will speak out against sexism and male privilege no matter who is endorsing it. For the record, sexism in the church is just as bad to me, and I speak out against it too. In fact, sexism in the church, where we should know better, is actually worse.
Being a sociology student, I study social trends; I study how the elite, those that have a lot of money and are in power, manipulate society for their own gain. This is a passion of mine, it’s what I do, and it’s why I decided to study sociology in the first place. I’m supposed to scrutinize social situations and analyse them and comment on them. Not that I want to turn this into a sociology blog or anything, but my point is that I talk about these things because they are interesting to me and are part of my passion.
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. 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.
. 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.