Blaming Rape on the Ideal of Egalitarian Marriage

Influential Evangelical pastor Doug Wilson goes there.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Bret

    … and there are more male than female atheists because…

    • sambarge

      Because the secular world gives women the exact same message?

      Because women are raised from day one to believe that they are less important than men and their opinions don’t matter – in the church, in school, at work, at play.

      Because the notion that men are the conqueror and women are to wait to be conquered is woven into our culture at every turn?

      Because this attitude is nothing new if you’re a woman and many women rely on the community of their church for support that they cannot provide for themselves because it is still legal to pay a woman less than men for the same work and women are still effectively shut out of high-paying blue-collar jobs.

      Because women are taught it is more important to be liked than it is to question or risk censure with original ideas.

      Do you need me to go on?

    • sambarge

      Sorry – that should be comparatively high-paying, blue-collar jobs.

    • Bret

      Because the secular world gives women the exact same message?

      What secular world are you living in? Are you looking for and focusing on every example you can find within the secular world where men say something that clearly offended women, or are you actually looking around broadly and seeing a real problem with misogyny among the non-religious? Please don’t be insulted, I just genuinely can’t believe someone could look at the atheist community and honestly say it is unwelcoming to women on the whole. I can point to plenty of very angry, man-hating women in feminism, but I’m a male feminist who doesn’t see feminism as being hostile to men; I see it as a large group that includes a few really annoying people and a lot of people I like, and all of them are working towards something I agree with (so even those who “hate” me [and I use that term lightly, since I'm not sure how anyone can hate someone they don't even know] are still at least on the same side as me).

      Because the notion that men are the conqueror and women are to wait to be conquered is woven into our culture at every turn?

      I’m not sure what that has to do with anything… and I wouldn’t say that’s entirely true(of course that claim can be supported with anecdotal evidence by anyone, but it’s not universal that every segment of “our” culture [which I'm reading as "American" culture or "Western" culture] is belittling of women).

      Because this attitude is nothing new if you’re a woman and many women rely on the community of their church for support that they cannot provide for themselves because it is still legal to pay a woman less than men for the same work and women are still effectively shut out of high-paying blue-collar jobs.

      The attitude is nothing new for anyone. We’re all familiar with it, some of us just see this attitude as a repugnant remnant of an era that should pass into history. I’m sure you can relate.

      The economic situation is one I can understand. I think the solutions are pretty clear (legislating for equal pay and against gender discrimination), but I might also add we in the secular community should be more open to helping those who are less fortunate (not that many aren’t doing a lot already).

      Because women are taught it is more important to be liked than it is to question or risk censure with original ideas.

      I’ve never heard this one. I asked my wife, and she thinks women speak out more than men (at least in the classes she teaches and in her experience in political groups… that was her opinion).

      I don’t know if I’d go that far… maybe since women are more often liberal, I can see women speaking out more on some things. I think the idea that a person should “Shut up and do as you’re told” is not particularly gender specific on a societal level, though that message is traditionally directed at women in the context of a relationship (like when women are told to obey their husbands). Although, consider that millions of people (probably a lot on this blog) were raised quite the opposite, in families where the mother called all the shots and the father just said, “Okay.” I know that was the case for me, anyway, a popular media is full of examples where this is the case.

      Do you need me to go on?

      Go for it. Just realize there’s no need to be hostile towards me (not that you were here; thanks for being so civil to a moron like me). I’m on your team. I am genuinely curious what reasons people can present for why there are less women outside of religion.

    • sambarge

      I’ve never heard this one. I asked my wife, and she thinks women speak out more than men (at least in the classes she teaches and in her experience in political groups… that was her opinion).

      You have never heard that women are punished for breaking social norms and speaking out against the status quo more harshly than men? Really?

      And appealing to your wife’s opinion as support for your argument? Really?

    • Daniel Fincke

      And appealing to your wife’s opinion as support for your argument? Really?

      His wife’s a sociologist, I think. (Not that that makes his argument airtight, but it relates to a lot of what he says.)

    • sambarge

      I see.

      You would assume a sociologist would understand the difference between the willingness of comparatively privileged university students discussing issues in class for advancement and women in general society expressing dissenting views and being punished for it.

      In any case, my first post (which, in retrospect, does sound snippy) was a reaction to the implicit suggestion in the first post that women are stupid to maintain social norms (like a belief in religion) against their own personal interests. I was trying to point out that women, unlike men, are neither encouraged nor rewarded for breaking social norms. Quite the opposite, actually; women are regularly reminded of the social and economic punishments in store for them should they step out of their expected roles.

    • brenda

      @ Bret – “and there are more male than female atheists because…”

      Because women are more heavily socialized than men are. Young and adolescent males rebel against institutions of authority as a normal process of individuation. Being different and standing out from the crowd is how young men attract young women and that is important because in humans it is the females who control access to reproduction.

      Or in other words, the nano-second that 18 year old women stop finding smart, edgy, rebellious males who buck authority sexy will be the moment those young men will do whatever it takes to catch their eye.

  • leftwingfox

    Sickening, but unsurprising. Few people invested in an ideology are willing to accept the negative consequences of that ideology in practice, and these traditionalist christians have a LOT of consequences to deal with. It’s like the Catholics blaming pedophile priests on the sexual revolution, or neo-nazis downplaying the holocaust.

    As the women on FTB have pointed out repeatedly, the more faithful cultures are towards a patriarchal religious view, the worse the treatment of women becomes. Modest dress doesn’t lead to increased respect of women, but to increasingly stringent demands made on them. “Dress modestly” quickly becomes “sit at the back of the bus”, “stand behind your husband” and often “shut up”. Those who rape are not restrained by modest clothing, nor are rapes punished more severely in places where women are forced into a submissive role. Instead, we see rape victims murdered fas adulterers, and the horrific numbers of honour killings, acid attack and other acts of violence, sexual assault and mutilation.

    Of course, Doug Wilson doesn’t feel like accepting that pile of data points against his faith. So like every other priest supporting the patriarchy, he blames equality, freedom, and women, while giving cover to abusive assholes looking to excuse their sadism through the bible.

  • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven

    That reminds me of the time I had to get skin grafts after being burned by water from a fire sprinkler system.

  • F

    Because there was so much less rape when women were more widely considered to be chattel. Here’s a hint, Doug: Even if there were some evidence that there was less reported rape before marriages were more egalitarian, that would be because there were less reports, not less rape. And rape was largely ignored. And a lot of rape wasn’t considered rape at all. (Only if you offended some other dude with good ol’ patriarchal authority over the victim and greater social standing than the rapist was it deemed rape.) Certainly, there could be no rape within the bounds of matrimonial bliss, either, right?

    • Steve

      Take Muslim countries. They are highly patriarchal, but rape is just as common. The difference is that it’s hardly reported. One reason is that the women are frequently blamed for not being virgins any more. In some countries that leads to them being imprisoned, in others it can get them killed by a mob or even their families. Sharia law is also stacked against women, in that they need several male witnesses to a crime, which is usually impossible with rape

  • im

    so did this horrific idiot really SAY that about the SLAVES? HE should be turned into A WOMAN SLAVE AND SUBJECTED TO EACH DISGRACE HE PRAISES AND FEEL THE SOUR GRAPES LIKE THE DESPICABLE kYRiARcH HE IS!!!!!!!!!!

  • F

    caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence

    What is this i don’t even

    • teh_faust

      Sounds like these dudes are referring to themselves.

  • Sheila Crosby

    Women are to be “cherished and protected and served humbly by men” by always doing exactly what their husband wants, when he wants. And slavery “was a relationship based on mutual affection and confidence.”

    It’s positively Orwellian. But then, I suspect that The Gospel Coalition are totalitarians.

  • Tim Riches

    We’ve been discussing arranged marriage in my English class. Even though there are several Muslims in the class, the verdict was unanimously against the practice. The ‘devil’s advocate’ position offered by the teacher sounded an awful lot like Wilson’s rationale. It’s a good thing Wilson waited until Hitchens was safely dead before dropping this steaming turd, because Hitchens would have made him pick it up with his bare hands.

  • Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

    I mean the logic is waterproof:
    Declare that wives have to submit themselves in bed, ergo all sex with properly submissive wife is good ergo not rape.
    The problem is those uppity bitches wanting to have a say in when or how to have sex.

    As for his “men have to penetrate and therefore dominate” thingy, I have a different narrative.
    I have a lovely house you’d like to spend some time in. You polietly knock on the door. If I want to, I open the door for you and let you stay for a while. Mind you, I could change my mind about that and tell you to please leave. Also, you have to wear these slippers.
    Now, what about domination and forceful penetration now?

  • Ariel

    Just a quickie and I’m gone (it’s holidays after all!)

    The pastor said:

    A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

    Notwithstanding the source, I find it strangely reminiscent of the following passage from Andrea Dworkin:

    … intercourse itself is immune to reform. In it, female is bottom, stigmatized. Intercourse remains a means (…) of physiologically making a woman inferior: communicating to her cell by cell her own inferior status, impressing it on her, burning it into her by shoving it into her, over and over, pushing and thrusting until she gives up and gives in

    (Andrea Dworkin “Intercourse”)

    It seems that both the (ultra-conservative) pastor and (ultra-feminist) Dworkin would (or should, given what they say) take issue with the following passage from the blog entry linked by Daniel:

    Next, it’s very hard for us to understand what dominance and submission in the marriage bed means outside of our conceptions of either rape or consensual BDSM.

    • Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

      It seems puzzeling how little imagination they actually have.
      I understand that Dworkin had a really, really bad life and that her views on this might be more than tainted by that.
      Also the difference is that one sees this allegedly inherent violence as good and right and that isn’t Dworkin

    • amhovgaard

      Some people live in a black and white world, apparently – no nuances, no room for individual variation. For some reason, a man tied to the bed and being used as a dildo substitute by his Mistress doesn’t look particularly dominant to me… it’s still “penetration”.

    • sambarge

      This is an often cited canard. Dworkin has repeatedly denied this mis-representation of her work and has explained that she was discussing the attitude of people (men and women) like Wilson who believe that inequality (man=strong & conqueror, woman=weak & conquered) is necessary for sexual pleasure. She argues that sexual pleasure can and, indeed, will survive equality; that human sexual pleasure does not require the dichotomy of male dominance/female submission to be pleasurable for both parties.*

      If you follow the link in the post, a lengthy rebuttal with a quote from Dworkin is provided by calsitacat.

      *Of course, this whole discussion is heteronormative.

    • Ysanne

      I seriously wonder whether in the writing of the quotes by Wilson and Dworkin the respective authors were aware of the existence of penetrative sex that is not of the “man on top, controlling everything” variety.

      (To the point with what the Dworkin paragraph means: The argument that she is only explaining how culture interprets the mechanics of intercourse as forcing women into submission, and wants to eliminate this interpretation, not intercourse itself, sounds reasonable until one includes “intercourse itself is immune to reform”, which seems to contradict this. However, Dworkin later emphasized that she’s going for the “eliminate the cultural interpretation” version, so whatever her intention was when she wrote this paragraph, it’s not good example of her life’s work.)

  • daenyx

    [ segfault ]

    Nggh. Alright then.

    I suppose being a moderately women-preferring, moderately dominance-preferring female just makes me have penis envy, then? (Or hellspawn. I’d rather be hellspawn. Can I be hellspawn?)

    Re: Ariel’s note about the ‘ultra-feminist’ point of view on intercourse – Calling someone ‘ultra-feminist’ implies an agreed-upon hierarchy of feminist actions/positions, and that hierarchy does not exist. (Said point of view, however, is certainly an understandable take on the act as carried out by the traditional Judeo-Christian patriarch.)

    (Side note: I’m unpleasantly reminded of Natalie Reed’s post about trigger warnings from a few days ago, and the observation that many of us with the operative triggers will read the warnings and go on to read the article anyway, as I just did. At least I was ready for it, I guess. Ugh.)

  • Eamon Knight

    Shorter Doug Wilson: The reason women are being raped in the street by strangers is they’re not being raped enough at home by their husbands.

  • smrnda

    First, given the guy’s views on slavery which are totally inconsistent with the facts, it’s obvious this Doug Wilson is an authoritarian who believes that the only evil comes from upsetting the ‘natural hierarchy,’ and as a white man he’s on top of it.

    He also seems to argue that the need to dominate others is innate in males, and that if they don’t get it their fragile little egos will be hurt and they will turn into rapists. I think that’s setting the bar awfully low for men, as if men couldn’t prefer a more egalitarian society and more equality in marriage. Perhaps he’s projecting himself and assuming everybody is like him.

  • eric

    Your Thoughts?

    I’m not going to the link, is my thought.

    And since other posters have reported that he adds slavery-defense to his whole rape defense schtick, my second thought was that my first thought was a good decision.

  • brenda

    This is all very silly.

    “God [read: Nature] set marital sex up to be about authority and submission.”

    Some cultures see marital sex to be about authority and submission but that hardly means that is what it *is*. In truth “marital sex” does not have as it’s intentional object “authority and submission”. DNA does not posses intentionality. Which would be what it would need to have in order to be “about” something.

    “Men have a need to dominate just as women have a need to be dominated.”

    Sounds like yet another Evolutionary Psychology Just-So story to me. Elephantine Men got their long “I need to dominate” noses by those crafty Crocodillian Women pulling on it all the time.

    “Most people now practice egalitarianism and mutuality in the marriage bed.”

    [citation needed]

    “Men and women are therefore not having their sexual needs met.”

    Sexual desires, misunderstood as “needs” here, are not facts. That Humans need air, food and water is a matter of fact. That we “need” our sexual desires fulfilled is not. It may feel like you’re going to just DIE when your lover rejects you… but you’re not actually going to.

    “As a result, men become rapists and women fantasize about being raped.”

    There is no causal connection from frustrated sexual desire to rape. Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power and power is not necessarily the same as sex. Men do not rape in order to fulfill their sexual needs. They rape because they feel powerless and believe they can take it back through rape. But this is because their culture tells them they *ought* to be powerful in order to be “a real man”.

    “Therefore, we need to make marital sex be based on authority and submission.”

    No, the argument is invalid because the premise, that sex is about authority and submission, is false.

    Oh and Andrea Dworkin is full of shit, also… too.

    • sambarge

      Seriously, read Dworkin’s work before you comment on it. I mean, actually read her work, not what Playboy and Time magazine or some other second or third hand sources says her work says.

      The closest Dworkin comes to saying “all penetrative sex is rape” is when she argues that laws that compel married women to have sex against their will with their partners (ie. raped) take sexual agency away from married women. That’s it.

      I can’t believe we’re still dragging up that mis-representation of her work 25 yrs later.

  • martalayton

    Dan, is he really that influential? I’d never heard of him before this whole blow-up. Granted, I do run in mainline Protestant rather than evangelical circles, so perhaps I just haven’t encountered his influence.

    Also, people from all over the Christian blogosphere have been denouncing him as loud as they can. I’ve seen posts even from other complementarians, who are dismayed one of their own would say this. His own site even took the post down. It seems like fairly fringe stuff to me.

    • Daniel Fincke

      He is huge in dominionist circles.

    • Daniel Fincke

      (He also did a tour debating Christopher Hitchens. COLLISION: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson

      Earlier they debated in Christianity Today

    • Daniel Fincke

      I am also told that this theocratic video is making the rounds among fundamentalists right now:

    • brenda

      Daniel said: “He is huge in dominionist circles.”

      There is no such Christian denomination called Dominionism. It is entirely the creation of frightened liberals and has been debunked (I believe it was a Vanity Fair article). There are people who’s theology more or less fits the description but there is little reason to believe they pose an existential threat to our freedom here in the US.

      Just as conservatives sometimes let their fears run away with their imaginations so liberals do the same at times. The Illuminati isn’t coming with their black helicopters and Dominionists are not about to stage a coup d’état. Both are insane conspiracy theories.

  • Raging Bee

    Men dream of being rapists…

    Um, no, I dream of having sex with women who WANT me, not women I hate and want to hurt for any reason. And from what I’ve been hearing nearly all my life, most other straight men want the same thing.

    This guy must have a very broad and vague definition of the word “rape.” That’s the only excuse I can see for this nonsense.