Some time ago, a reader offered the following comment on one of my posts.
You emphasized in other posts that you were taught that all that men think about is sex, but that is not true.
In this post, you feel sorry for your brother because everyone knows that all men think about is sex, and fundamentalists tell him not to.
I was taught that men are basically sex crazed monsters. I was taught that the solution is to train boys and men to never think about sex at all, except within the context of marriage. Neither of these positions – men obsess over sex every moment of the day / men must avoid every sexual thought or else they are “sinning” – is healthy. Neither is realistic either. The first positions guys as sex crazed maniacs and the second creates an enormous amount of guilt and self-loathing. But what my commenter misses is that these are not the only two options out there.
My reader sets up a false dichotomy: either all men ever think about is sex or else they must, as they are taught by their religious leaders, strive to never think about sex. Neither of those options are healthy, which is the point I make in the posts where I address each (I added the links into the quote). However, these two are not the only options, and that’s where my reader completely misses my point (a point I do make in each post she refers to). Men do frequently think about sex, but they don’t generally obsess over it to the point where it messes up their lives or controls their every action. In other words, most men DO think about sex but are NOT sex crazed maniacs. And this is healthy. This is as it should be – and the same for women.
This is a recurring theme in Christian Patriarchy. They see one extreme that is a problem and run to the other extreme in response. For example, they look at the hypersexualization of women in the media and advertising and conclude that the solution is to dress women in baggy shirts and ankle-length jean skirts. Similarly, they look at bratty, uncontrollable kids and conclude that the solution is authoritarian parenting and corporal punishment. They completely neglect to as whether there is any option outside of hypersexualization and hypermodesty, or between permissive parenting and authoritarian parenting.
Let me give another example of where Christian Patriarchy does this. First, here is an excerpt from a news article called “Silicon Valley’s Brogrammer Problem.”
Many of the dozen or so people I interviewed for this story pointed to the rise of the brogrammer—a term that seeks to recast the geek identity with a competitive frat house flavor. The essence of it comes through in comments on the question-and-answer site Quora. “How Does a Programmer Become a Brogrammer?”: Brogrammers “rage at the gym, to attract the chicks and scare the dicks!” They “can work well under the tightest deadlines, or while receiving oral sex.” And they have their priorities straight: “If a girl walks past in a see-through teddy, and you don’t even look up because you’re neck-deep in code, expect to spend a lot of time celibate no matter how bro you go.”
My point here is not to dissect the above paragraph but rather to point out that Christian Patriarchy would point to this sort of thing as an example of what naturally happens if you set women adrift without the “protection” of their male authorities (i.e. fathers/husbands). Christian Patriarchy would point to this sort of overt sexism and conclude that the solution is reinstating women under the protection of their male authorities, or, in essence, restoring their role as the property of their male relatives (a la the law of coverture).
It’s like I said when I talked about how Vision Forum tries to fix problems by turning back the clock rather than, well, actually solving problems:
Vision Forum tells women that they can be valued and have their position in society elevated – if they surrender their rights and accept male authority. Vision Forum does not see misogyny as the problem, but rather blames women’s objectification on the way families today “push” their young women out of the home at age 18 and launch them “unprotected” into the dangers of society. Young women will be protected from the debauchery of college men, Vision Forum promises – if they stay home and obey their fathers. Middle aged women will be free from the pressure to conform to an idealized image of sexy, Vision Forum asserts – if they stay home and obey their husbands. What is this? You will be valued and protected if you surrender all your rights and obey your male authority? THIS is the solution Vision Forum offers!
Meanwhile, feminists believe that women can be valued and have equal rights. In fact, feminists hold that the key to ending the devaluation of women is not accepting women’s subordination to males but rather bringing about true equality. Accepting a second class status for women only furthers the root problem here, which is sexism and misogyny. Vision Forum doesn’t see this, because it believes that women are “weaker vessels” which need protecting. Furthermore, feminists work to fix the problems in our society today by actually working to fix them. The solution is not to turn back the clock or to ask women to surrender their rights in return for protection. The solution is to combat sexism and misogyny and work toward actual equality. But somehow, Vision Forum identifies that as the problem.
To bring this back to where I started, I believe it’s possible to have a world where girls are not taught that men are sex crazed monsters and boys are not taught that any thought of sex is some sort of grave moral wrongdoing. There is a middle ground where people are sexual beings but also so much more, and it is that middle ground I have staked out for myself. Similarly, there are possibilities out there besides hypersexualization and hypermodesty, and besides permissive parenting and authoritarian parenting. Trying to fix what is a very real problem by adopting another problem in its stead makes no sense, but that is what Christian Patriarchy does.