One of the things I enjoy talking about (with the right people that is), is sexuality.
Sexuality is seldom talked about by faith communities, it’s a topic pushed under the rug or spoken about only when abstinence or purity is on the agenda. Yet sexuality is something we should talk about. I learned the value of understanding Godly sexuality when I was a post-graduate student in Bible college. Part of my electives for my honours program was an intense course given by an amazing woman on kingdom sexuality. Doctor Darlene’s research was not conservative, shy or theological. It was deep, practical, refreshing and completely biblical. She even told us that the best sex would happen when you reach your 6’s, (but I digress!)
Sexuality in the church has equalled sex, that’s the beginning and end of it. Just because the word starts with these 3 letters, does not mean that it ends there. In contrast sexuality by definition, is how we understand ourselves as male or female and how we express ourselves as male and female in terms of sexual desire and intimacy, even in terms of our socialisation and personality. The definition does go deeper but this is all that is necessary for what I need to share.
Today, I came across a message by a hugely popular female bible teacher on women and sexual purity. The message in itself was limited and clearly came from a distinct theological viewpoint of male dominance over equality. There were many statements this teacher said that were shocking, two statements horrified me and I have to address them.
Firstly, she said “we are not supposed to introduce our sexuality until it is going to be available on a regular basis.”
Wow. I have listened to the teaching over and over to discover the context of these words and still I cannot fathom this way of thinking, especially in light of what we are witnessing in the world today with regard to female sexual assault. These words almost pave a way for assault to happen or for rape to be condoned based on a woman’s clothing or actions. In other words, if a woman walks down the road in what is considered sexually alluring attire, then she is making herself “available,” and needs to take responsibility for that. In no way can a believer condone rape in any form, or believe that a woman’s actions or clothing should initiate rape or others thinking she is available. Perpetrators of that kind of activity need to take responsibility for their actions and society needs to learn that regardless of action, assault is never condoned. If a Christian woman is seen as a beautiful female, then that should not mean that people think she is making herself available sexually. This is terrible thinking. Yes, we are to be obedient to the word of God and live our lives as sexual beings in accordance with God’s ways which protect and guide, but never should we condone any way of thinking that suggests sex is expected. This is true for marriage as well. This teacher’s words further suggest that sexuality (in her way of thinking that means sex) within a marriage relationship should always be available, especially from a woman. This viewpoint is damaging to say the least.
In my work with abused women, I met a number of women who were raped by their husbands. When they approached their respective churches for help, most them were told that rape did not exist in marriage, because a woman’s body belongs to her husband. Again, bad theology which we will not go in to right here, but it is safe to say that no one’s body belongs to anyone else but themself. No one has a right to your body or to mine, without our complete consent, this is true for marriage as well. Sex is not automatically available when a woman is considered sexy, or a sex symbol.
Secondly, the other disturbing quote went that God told her, “a father is the protector of virtue for the daughter.” In the context of her talk, she indicated that God told her she should tell woman that their fathers protect their sexual virtue and they should not do anything with their boyfriends that they would not do in front of their fathers.
This is a narrow viewpoint of life that is highly faulty for a number of reasons. Again, this teaches that a father has the ultimate control over a woman’s body and that he is the one who should protect it. This does not teach the correct perspective that women are in control of their own bodies and that they have every right to say no to anything that makes them uncomfortable. It doesn’t teach little girls how valuable their bodies are and how in control of their own bodies they should be. No, our bodies are never entrusted in to the care of someone else, they are ours alone. In this narrow viewpoint the speaker has also not considered the tens of women in that audience whose fathers sexually abused them, raped them or abandoned them. She has not considered the absent fathers, the dead fathers, the missing fathers and the fathers who sold their daughters, or neglected their fatherly duties. Again, I’ve met women whose fathers left them alone at home with their boyfriends just so their boyfriends could “enjoy themselves.” I’ve met women whose fathers have done countless atrocities I would not even write about here. These realities may be the consequence of a grossly fallen world and we should try and work against them, however they are our reality and we cannot overlook this especially if we are ministering to others. Fathers are not the protectors of our virtue or our bodies, we are. Let no one teach you differently, let no one convince you that body ownership or consent is not in your hands, that’s an incorrect interpretation of the word of God and it’s damaging. Period.