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Sex is What I do WITH my Wife, Not TO my Wife: A Response to the Wilsons at TGC

What is gaining notoriety around the blogosphere is a TGC post by Jared Wilson which gives an extensive quote from Doug Wilson about rape and sexual pathology. The huge grievance many folks have, and I’m one of them, is that the sexual act between men and women is described in terms of domination and power. Read this:

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.

Okay, this is gonna be one of those posts.

Let’s remember what is being advocated here, neither of the Wilsons here supporting sexual violence against women, they are decrying it. There is no malicious intent towards wives or women here. The issue is more about patriarchy in sexuality than anything else. They do make a genuine effort to explain themselves here, esp. with their ethos that a husband should “serve and protect” his wife. Let’s recognize their explanations! However, the problem is that what is being advocated is still really, really, really bad: bad theology, bad marriage advice, and a bad view of marital sexuality. So let’s get to the criticism.

(1) What is being advocated is not remotely biblical! 1 Cor 7 talks very, very, very clearly about mutual submission in matters of sex in marriage, not male domination,  not male conquest, not female subjection, but submission to one another in matters of sex. And for the record, Song of Songs does look a wonderful egalitarian party in the bedroom with man and wife enjoying each other mutually. In addition, our Lord himself spoke about the two becoming one flesh, not one penetrating or colonizing another. We should use Jesus’ language for sexual intercourse, not patriarchal power language.

(2) The biggest problem I have is that some guys just do not understand the link between sex, language, and power. They do not comprehend that there is a cross-section between the way you use language about sex and the way you think about the opposite gender and the way that you treat your sexual partner. The language of penetrate, conquer, and colonize imply aggression, control, and disempowerment. What is more, the men who talk this way do not think about, consider, or perhaps even care about how this description of sex sounds to women.

(3) I thought the whole deal with complementarianism was that men and women were different but complementary. What is being advocated by the Wilsons is not complementarianism, but it is an extreme patriarchy that defines gender roles by power and subjection, not by their God-given distinctions. Could the real complementarians please have the testicular fortitude to stand up and rally against this perspective. Otherwise you chaps are gonna drift to the right and end up looking like a cross between Dr. Phil and the Taliban.

(4) Someone at TGC really needs to give an serious explanation as to why this post remains up, because this is harming the witness of the gospel, the offending language advocates grossly unbiblical views on sex, and it is demeaning towards the sexual relationship that men have with women. There is no shame in saying, we made a mistake.

(5) Sex is not what I do to my wife, it is something we do together.

See some more posts about this from Rachel Evans, Scot McKnight, and Daniel Kirk.

Nuff said, let the comments begin!

 

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/cameronjwest Cameron West

    Mike – I expect that you’ll disagree but this Nietszchean kind of obsession with power and domination (sexual or otherwise) is inherent to reducing God and divine attributes to sheer sovereignty. But I do applaud your speaking up – and will be very interested to see whether the ‘moderates’ at TGC follow suit (Keller? Carson?).

  • J. R. Daniel Kirk

    Good work, Mike!

  • KatR

    First wanted to say thank you so much for speaking up about this.

    Also this:

    “Let’s remember what is being advocated here, neither of the Wilsons here supporting sexual violence against women, they are decrying it. There is no malicious intent towards wives or women here.”

    I strongly disagree. The language they used does support sexual violence towards women, and their refusal to listen to criticism does show a hostility towards women.

    • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

      I suspect it’s not fully conscious, though. They aren’t openly advocating violence and rape, they just don’t care enough to react properly when told that their words support it.

      Yeah, yeah, intent is not magic and they’re still in the wrong and should still be criticised. But if you’re trying to get through to them past their protestations of aggrieved innocence, you should probably bear that point in mind, which is probably why Michael made that point.

      TRiG.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lynne.tait Lynne Tait

    I would like to also add my thanks. The moment ‘power’ language is used in regards to sex, that same moment the other party (gender) is disempowered in the very place where they are most vulnerable. What disturbs me most is that they cannot see how distressing this choice of language is to many women. How they equate this with their concept of protecting and guarding women is completely beyond me.

  • http://twitter.com/MichaelPBarber Michael Barber

    Perhaps some ecumenical dialogue would help here. Catholics have a lot to learn from Protestants, especially in the area of Scripture study. But Protestants would do well to read John Paul II on marriage and sexuality, in particular, “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body.” This is truly fantastic! The intro by Waldstein alone is worth the price of the book. http://www.amazon.com/Man-Woman-He-Created-Them/dp/0819874213

    Just give a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stefanolusuardi86 Stefano Lusuardi

      We also have to consider that there are actually serious problems inside the catholic church, a struggle between the ones that want to evolve catholicism to ecumenic views, dialogue, instruction in bible for everyone, etc… and another group, spreading very fast, that simply wants to go back to the XVIII century, when Church had the full control of the life of the baptized (almost the poor ones!). This big struggle is dividing our local churches and our bishops and in a big mess with it, because also them are divided in the two ideals. From that are coming very opposite ideas of the relationship between man and woman. The hardest thing is that we should do things like the Vatican II Council dictated, so the right way to speak is the one of John Paul II but, still, the struggle remains…

      Stefano Lusuardi (friend of Myrto Theocharous)

    • William Barto

      I disagree, Michael. Having just finished “Man and Woman He Created Them,” I noticed a great deal of language like that used by the Wilsons throughout the work, notwithstanding the notion of “mutual gift” that is found throughout the work. JPII attempts to distinguish gender roles in sexuality through the same sort of active-passive distinction that Michael is criticizing.

  • kellyhogaboom

    As a practicing Buddhist not unfriendly to Christians, I think it’s awesome you put this post together. The patriarchal view espoused by Wilson is hardly exclusive to just one faith, sadly. Thanks for a great rebuttal!

  • Natasha

    I think the problem in Christian circles is that people can’t conceive of sexuality that is for the mutual enjoyment, participation, and PLEASURE of both parties, but still involves complementarian roles. You mentioned the Song of Solomon, and surely in that book the couple is mutually enjoying one another – but still, the language of conquering for the male is still there, in its subtleties – “I said, ‘I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of its branches.” ” It’s all over the book.
    And in 1 Corinthians 7, you are correct that both parties share an equal RIGHT to one another’s bodies, but still, while there is equality in access to sex, the NATURE of the act still involves male insertion and female penetration. Not sure how we could get too far away from that, although I’m sure really imaginative people could construe some methods, but still, overall, biology remains….and biology and psychology are really not that far apart.
    The overall point was that “50 Shades of Gray” taps into something that exists in peoples’ sexual desires, thus it is such a bestseller. What is it men want? What is it women want? They buy the book for SOME reason.

    • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

      Contrary to what I’ve seen floating around the blogosphere these past few days, Song of Songs does not present the man as the conqueror and the woman as the conquered.

      The Shulamite girl is the first to speak in the poem, declaring, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” (1:1). She actively seeks out the handsome shepherd in his fields, saying “Why should I be like a veiled woman beside the flocks of your friends?” (v. 7). When the two are separated, she goes out into the streets, looking for him, and at one point is accosted by the city guards. When she finds him, she brings him into a private room. There, she says, “I held him and would not him go” (3:4). It is she who initiates a sexual encounter in a vineyard in the countryside, and it is she who offers her lover a frank invitation to drink her wine and to enter her “garden” to taste its choice fruits. Her lover confesses “you have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride.”

      The lengthiest and most detailed description of sex found in scripture is characterized by mutuality and shared pleasure, not one person “conquering and colonizing” the other.

      • http://mysite.verizon.net/~vze2tmhh/ pduggie

        the FIRST description of sex in scripture is that of a man doing something to a woman: Adam knew his Eve.

        Song of songs is also the most metaphorical; not sure I’d call it ‘detailed’ It leaves many things out.

        • AmyS

          In order to know something, that thing must be internalized by the one who knows. The knower is affected by the thing which is known, not the other way around.

          That Adam knew Eve implies that Adam was affected by the presence of Eve. If anyone did something, Eve (being the one which became known) did something to Adam (as he was the one affected by the one who became known).

          Even if the grammar were shifted to a passive form (e.g., Eve was known by Adam), nothing in the content of the sentence would indicate that Eve was impacted (literally or figuratively) by Adam’s act of knowing.

          1) Does a student “do something” to the academic material which he/she comes to know? Or is the student affected by the academic material?

          2) Did Abraham “do something” to God when he “believed the Lord” (Gen 15:6)? No! Abraham was the one who was affected by his belief.

          3) If you see someone who looks familiar, but you can’t quite think of why, you might say, “Don’t I know you?” or “Didn’t I meet you once before?” Would you be implying to your listener that in knowing or meeting that person you were taking an action toward them? Hardly. Yes, the verb is in a simple active form, but the meaning of the sentence implies no action directed at the object. The meaning has a reflexive flavor (I don’t know the linguistic term, but there is one).

          Am I saying that all Adam did was contemplate or memorize the notion of Eve? Of course not. It’s a euphemism. But, if you are arguing that the imagery of Adam knowing Eve is essentially an active image that situates Adam as one who enacts a behavior toward Eve, I just don’t buy it. If anything, Adam was the one who was impacted by the internalized “knowledge” of Eve.

    • Joel Bethyada

      Spot on Natasha

  • http://www.nearemmaus.com/ Brian LePort

    Well said Mike, the Christian view of sexuality is far from one person conquering another. It is about love and mutuality. I wish more evangelicals were as clear thinking as you!

  • Jeremy

    Michael, you’re having a failure of the imagination here. This doesn’t seem that hard to get. Doug Wilson helps here, though: http://www.dougwils.com/Sex-and-Culture/flatter-my-heart-three-persond-god.html

  • Gregmetzger

    I especially appreciate your point about men and language. You brought good light to this by really hitting on that point.

  • http://www.dennyburk.com/ Denny Burk

    Mike, a few thoughts:

    (1) Egalitarians [e.g., McKnight, Held Evans, and Kirk] are out in full-force claiming that Doug Wilson, Jared Wilson, and TGC are openly supporting rape and abuse of women. If authorial intent means anything, then that is a slander. That is not what Doug Wilson meant, nor is it what Jared Wilson intended by quoting him. We can quibble over the language, but the false accusations need to stop.

    (2) I don’t care for the martial imagery either, but I haven’t read Wilson’s book or seen the whole thing in context. Maybe I still wouldn’t care for it even if I had read the whole thing. Maybe context would mitigate. I don’t know. But I’m guessing the vast majority of the people commenting on this don’t know either. What we do know is that both authors are telling us what they intended, and neither of them intends to advocate rape or abuse of women. In fact, quite the opposite.

    (3) Your “link between sex, language, and power” concedes too much to the feminist metanarrative. “Power” is a watchword for feminism, which is a worldview that is rooted in deconstructing inequities of “power.” For feminists and egalitarians, all gender hierarchies are inherently evil. Held Evans’ post from Wednesday is a case in point. She says that male headship stems from the Fall, not from God’s created design. That means that every gender based role-hierarchy will always be evil to egalitarians. It will always amount to the oppression and abuse of women, whether or not it has anything to do with sex. This is a worldview that is incompatible with a Biblical worldview. I think you concede too much to that point of view.

    • http://www.dennyburk.com/ Denny Burk

      Scot, A “flat out lie” would mean that I meant to misrepresent you. If I have, I will stand corrected and apologize. What did you mean by “inculcates justified violence…against women”? I understood that to mean that Jared’s quotation of Doug on the TGC site “inculcates justified violence…against women.” Am I wrong about that?

      • http://www.dennyburk.com/ Denny Burk

        I’m a night owl. This is normal for me. But I might ask the same of you!

      • http://www.dennyburk.com/ Denny Burk

        I’m sorry that I misrepresented you. It was unintentional. I thought you meant physical violence.

        • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

          I also have never said that the Wilsons are advocating rape. I repeated it again in today’s post: http://rachelheldevans.com/sex-submission-response

          These accusations are detracting from the original content of our critiques.

          • http://www.dennyburk.com/ Denny Burk

            Roger that.

    • Faithfulmeg3

      While what they write may not directly support rape, the Wilsons depiction of what sex is is completely ignorant an insensitive to victims- both women and men- of sexual abuse. How is it possible for anyone in ministry in this era still be so ignorant to the abuse suffered by so many?

    • Mbird

      Denny,

      1. I wonder if critics of the Wilsons are also being misunderstood.

      2. I tried to make clear that I don’t think the Wilsons are malicious or deliberately trying to liken martial sex to rape. But I think these comments are incendiary, needless, hurtful, unbiblical, insensitive, and do not help the complementarian cause.

      3. On sex, language, and power … mate you don’t have to buy into the whole package of Foucault and company to recognize that language can be unconsciously freighted with positions about sex and power. For case in point, if some guy sees an attractive young woman and says, “Man, I’d love to hit that,” we know he’s talking about sex, but he’s doing so with the language of violence, that implies a set of values about the woman he’s talking about. But these things are so culturally ingrained that we don’t always see it.

      • http://mysite.verizon.net/~vze2tmhh/ pduggie

        And if a man says, in a ‘sporting’ way with his wife in the bedroom, knowing she likes that kind of thing:

        “I’m really going to give it to you”,

        is he an ogre?

        What *did* Robert Farrar Capon mean when he said that the act of sex was, technically, done to a woman by a man? Was he out of his mind?

  • Natalie Frisk

    “Testicular fortitude” is one of the greatest phrases I have seen in some time. All in all I totally agree and appreciate this post.

    • AmyS

      I don’t have testicles, nor do I want them, but I do have fortitude :)

  • craigbenno

    It’s been well stated and commented on about the problems with their theology. All of which I agree. I also have problems that Wilson truly believes that the Egalitarian church is to blame for high level of sexual violence that happens to men and women within our society.

    Really!

  • Maryelizabethfisher

    Thank you for one of the moSt, respectful of all involved responses. tHANKYOU

  • V Lovell

    This is a really remarkable exchange. The quote above, to my mind, is making an argument based on anatomy. The world is a certain way, i.e. the woman is penetrated and conquer etc are synonymous with that. In other words it is an essentialist argument which feminism deplores for precisely that reason, i.e. the “biological essentialism”. This is why sexual intercourse between a man and a woman cant be an egalitarian pleasure party because surely it is an instance where the sex of the parties involved must matter. Homosexual relations, on the other hand, can only be an egalitarian pleasure party and nothing else; i.e. not love or marriage or sexual intercourse.

    It is precisely this cultural repudiation of sex – gender anyone – that is the critical issue of the day in relation to Christian teaching. It is true that feminism repudiates all question of authority and submission in marriage and since feminism begins with the question “has God really said” surely a Christian is automatically put on guard by the assertian of a feminist argument. What then is the Christian reponse?

    I cannot comment on the views of either Wilson on anything else not have read any books or other blogs but I cant help but be shocked that Christians find the inevitably sexual nature of marriage shocking. Sex means something and neither the feminists nor homosexual can say what that is

  • http://twitter.com/seantleroy Sean LeRoy

    Wilson’s post is another reason – and I didn’t need another – why I don’t identify with the neo-reformed movement.

  • Joel

    Thanks so much for this post! I thought point #2 was especially valuable in light of the broader discussion.

    Someone may say something hurtful/racist/sexist not intending it as such. When the community around them makes clear the connotation and effect of the language involved, a couple of options are opened. 1) Double-down by clarifying (“No, you see what I meant was…”) and defending (“You are slandering”) or 2) Apologizing for the unintentional pain and reconsidering the language.

    My hope is that TGC and Jared Wilson do more of the latter. This is especially important when members of majority culture (e.g. American white males) make statements causing the women and/or minority members of the community to protest.

  • CindyM

    Thanks for this post – you were “fair & balanced” AND biblical – an elusive combo at this juncture. Hopefully the folks at TGC read it!

  • http://twitter.com/Ryan_LR Ryan Robinson

    Amen on all. To comment on a couple of them:

    3) I posted the article on my Facebook and a complementarian friend completely agreed with me that it was disgusting. So some complementarians are being clear that they this is not what they mean by complementarianism.

    4) Exactly! If they really are being misunderstood by every single reader as they claim, why do they keep it up offending more people? They’ve acknowledge there is a communication failure, although they think it is the fault of every reader and not of their choice of words. So why continue to perpetuate the failure by leaving it up? What it comes down to is that so long as they leave it up and don’t apologize to the thousands of women (and some men) they’ve hurt, I’m going to assume they really did mean what they said.

  • JG

    In all honesty, I can’t describe what it feels like to have a man upholding the equality and value of women – this post is what “serving and protecting” women looks like, outside of a context implying that women NEED to be protected. I feel empowered, and protected, at the same time. And that is so valuable. Thank you.

  • Vicki

    I agree with so many comments here that it’s hard to begin. I find it hard to believe that the Wilsons have even tried to defend this post and continue to be blind to the message that they are perpetrating.

  • David

    Does your own post here set a context for this whole discussion? If biblical language for “female” contains within it penetration ideas, where do we go? Do we have to eradicate the Scriptures of such language? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2012/02/christ-crucified-makes-christ-feminine/#disqus_thread

    • AmyS

      Interesting post on the atonement and femininity. I appreciate that the vulnerability of Jesus is highlighted. The insightful comments about the violence-charged language of sexuality in English are encouraging to me. Kuddos to Michael. Many people (both men and women) don’t even see that our language is infused with sexually charged violence.

      At the same time, the Bible study that follows is a bit iffy. I find the translation of neqebah and Michael’s interpretive comments that follow, to be rudimentary and misleading. A quick glance at the roots of the word indicates “pierce” as a possible implication, but also designated, specified, pricked off, or appointed. In the light of Genesis 1, I’d be more inclined to consider “specified” over “pierced” as a connotation. But, these are only influences, not definitions, and I don’t have enough information or expertise.

      The connotation of piercing, if it indeed applies in this case, could simply mean that the female has an anatomical opening which the male is lacking, a piercing or perforation. That is not to say that the female is, necessarily, pierced by a male, but that she is one who has a piercing (opening). As such, the piercing has nothing directly to do with the male, except as the male benefits from the piercing through intercourse and birth.

      Would one say that a baby penetrates or pierces his/her mother in order to be born? No, the baby emerges, exits, or is delivered. The mother is not pierced by the baby. Why are some more inclined to use “penetration” over against “entering” in reference to the male action in sexual intercourse? Penetration, while certainly applicable to the physical act, isn’t the way that scripture characterizes it at all. Rather, union/one flesh, and intimate knowledge are the most prominent images in the OT.

      Nonetheless, what if neqebah does imply that the female is, by design, the recipient of “piercing” from the male? Does the first creation narrative utilize this word to specifically describe the sexual relationship of female and male? Genesis 1 is full of complimentary pairings (heaven and earth, light and dark, land and see, etc.) and immediately following the creation of male and female, the Lord instructs them in their reproductive duty. Sexual intercourse is implied here. Perhaps the word for “man” in this creation account is somehow complimentary in nature or definition compared to “woman.” If she is the pierced one, maybe he is the one who pierces?

      Okay, here’s the text:
      “So God created humankind (adam, roots: red, ruddy, earth-colored) in his image, in the image of God he created them; male (zakar, roots: think, remember, memorialize) and female (neqebah, roots: to pierce, perforate, or appoint) he created them” (Gen 1:27, NRSV).

      While the specific connotations of both zakar and neqebah are, no doubt, significant details in this account, there hardly seems to be a peg-and-hole pairing here. Whatever the relationship between the two in the pair, this is not about the physicality of intercourse. Perhaps, the female gives birth to the next generation while the male remembers the ones before–figuratively pairing the past and the future. Just a thought.

      Genesis 2 doesn’t even use neqebah for woman/female. There, we find ishshah, which is used 780 times in the OT to mean wife, woman, or female (n.). It is the feminized form of iysh, meaning man, husband, or male (n.). By contrast, neqebah is used only 22 times in the whole OT.

      I sincerely doubt we can make any inferences regarding ancient Hebrew concepts of sexual intercourse or gender on the basis of this crude word study.

      • David

        Amy, the reason I linked to Mike’s post on piercing and sexuality was to highlight how silly this whole discussion/controversy has been. There is no end to the possible views on sexual language used in the Scriptures. If someone as cool and acceptable as Mike can be caught out, then there is no chance for the Wilsons of this world.

        What is clear is that many people are just uncomfortable with how parts of the Bible describe sex. For example, in the whole coverage and reaction to the Wilson article, I havent read people discussing the classic “going into your wife” language of the many English Bibles. Is that old territory, so well covered that we dont need to revisit it? Or, could it be that people just dont want to recognise and admit the language that the Bible uses?

        • AmyS

          Gee, I almost feel sorry for them now. Is this a “weaker brother” issue?

  • Andrew Thule

    Sorry, you’re not in fact responding Wilson (either Jared or Douglas). You appear to be responding to a straw man.

    Both Wilson’s have clearly said their position is not what you are portraying it to be.

    Quoting Jared Wilson:
    “Here is what the excerpt is NOT saying:
    Forcing a woman against her will is okay. (Indeed, it’s saying the opposite.)
    Sex is just about a man’s “getting his.”
    Sex is about a man dominating (or otherwise taking advantage) of a woman.
    Those things are not in the excerpt but have to be read into it against all context.”

    He also says:
    “Penetrates.” Is anyone maintaining that this is not a feature of intercourse? “Plants.” Is the biblical concept of seed misogynistic? “Conquer.” Her neck is like the tower of David, and her necklace is like a thousand bucklers. “Colonize.” A garden locked is my sister, my bride. C’mon, people, work with me here. (last two were quotes from Song of Songs)

    Quoting Doug Wilson:
    “And why? Well . . . follow me closely here . . . it was because I am opposed to the degradation of women as represented in the 50 Shades phenomenon, and have been consistently opposed to that kind of thing throughout the course of my entire ministry.”

    .. and goes on to say this ..

    “the problem is not the language I used about penetration or conquest, but rather who is in charge of the whole thing. The objectors have wanted to slander me by pretending that I put the man in charge of it, but I most emphatically do not. What I actually do (as she accidentally acknowledges here) is to say that God is in charge of it.”

    While the ‘Wilson critics’ worry about ‘sex, language, and power’ the Wilson’s ponder ‘sex, language, and authority’, where ‘authority’ is a biblical word and ‘power’ is a humanist one.

    • AmyS

      First, I’m curious about the idea that “power” is a humanist idea, over against the biblical idea of “authority.” There are 250 incidences of the English word “power” in the ESV, 122 of them in the New Testament. The word is applied to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit, Heaven and Hell, human beings, earthly institutions/nations, and spiritual entities alike. And, power (in the Bible) is used for both Godly and ungodly purposes. How is power an unbiblical concept in relationship to this particular conversation?

      Second, Michael Bird explicitly states that he does not infer any malicious or violent intent on the part of the Wilsons: “neither of the Wilsons here [sic] supporting sexual violence against women, they are decrying it. There is no malicious intent towards wives or women here.”

      With those assumptions made explicit, the points which Michael Bird makes are useful for pointing out how the language that the Wilsons use is not effective for communicating their intended meaning. If their intent is to support loving protection of women and wives (and Michael grants that to them), they might listen to their critics in order to learn how to communicate those things more effectively.

      My understanding of Michael’s post is this:

      A: The particular vocabulary that the Wilsons use to describe the sex act is replete with unintended connotations of violence and domination. Not only is this an unbiblical description of sexuality on the whole (although I have nothing to say in this forum about the preferences of any particular mutually consenting married couple), but also a stumbling block to the Gospel for women who often victims of sexual violence.

      [I don't know any women who have not received sexual abuse in one form or another, including sexual mistreatment and humiliation from their husbands (for example, emotional coercion to have sex or perform certain sex acts despite protestation, uninvited frotteurism and groping, voyeurism, unsolicited invitations to illicit sex, forceable rape and drug-facilitated rape, to name only a few). The Christian church is not immune from such things, sometimes even at higher levels than outside the church. Don't try to tell me that "liberalism" is a cause or instigator of this (as Jared Wilson implied in the original post) or I will be tempted to dig out the research on the positive correlation between fundamentalism and sexual abuse within churches :)]

      B: Reader/listener applications of such language easily bolsters those who already misunderstand a husband’s leadership as unilateral and absolute without regard for a wife’s needs, preferences, or personal experience. It’s not difficult to see how such a perspective can reap harmful consequences (especially when also internalized by the women on the receiving end of such arrangements). Although, I suspect that many husbands are unaware of how diminished their wives really are (I know that was true for my husband, and even myself, until our perspectives changed. But that’s another story altogether).

      Michael Bird does not critique the Wilsons’ intent or purposes. Nor, as you seem to be saying, does he misrepresent their position. Rather, he expresses good will and allows them to speak for themselves. He then challenges them to use more effective language in order that they be understood as saying what they actually intend. Your analysis is based on the idea that Michael Bird has simply burned a straw man, and in doing so you have effectively said that he is lying about his deference to the Wilsons’ self-description. It sounds to me as though you have built your own straw man. How about addressing Michael’s arguments on the basis of their merits?

      Finally, If the conquest/penetration imagery and language used by the Wilsons defines the limits of their theology of sexuality, then I disagree strongly with their conclusions and believe that their opinion in this matter is unbiblical. If, on the other hand, the limited vocabulary and imagery provided in the contested article is not fully representative of their understandings, then I would suggest that they (and their cohort) consider a adjusting their language and rhetoric, in order to communicate more clearly and accurately. Both the senders and recipients of communications have a responsibility to work toward understanding one another.

  • http://www.humanismandculture.com/ Joshua Lee Harris

    This is probably the best response I’ve seen yet on this issue. Thanks for it.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/janetdavis/ Janetgdavis

    “Sex is not what I do to my wife, it is something we do together.” It feels like there’s real wisdom in this note… it reminded me of a lecture (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/harvey-lecture-series) I heard not long ago by Rev. Sam Wells who characterized the love of God as being more about being “with” us than “for”… Immanuel, God with us… Lo, I am with you always… some small words very worth pondering.

  • AmyS

    The lack of sexual imagination that the Wilson quote inadvertently conveys is pretty sad. I have been surprised, over the last two/three days, that very few responders (both affirmative and negative) have challenged Wilson’s assumption that penetration is the natural description of sexual intercourse. There are many other good and, quite frankly, far more erotic images to describe the act of intercourse.

    Furthermore, there are lots of good ways to bless our marriages with sexual pleasure, comfort, love, fun, ecstasy, creativity, fervor, and sharing–some involve genital intercourse, some involve various “non-penetrative” genital stimulation, and some don’t involve the genitals at all. If Christians value marital sexuality as much as we claim to, we should be the top experts in the world on the subject. As it is, we are probably the most ignorant.

  • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

    This is spot on and takes us back to the heart of it all. I applaud your paragraph about sexual language and how it speaks to how we really view power roles in sex. This gives good perspective on why some common phrases have always driven me crazy and made me feel weird.


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