Marital Rape? Doug Wilson on Dominance and Submission in the Marriage Bed

*Trigger warning for survivors of sexual or domestic violence*

The blogosphere I follow has lit up in horror over the last day or so in reaction to a blog post which makes a connection between the prevalence of rape in our society and sex as practiced in the marriage bed today, and, some have argued, responds by endorsing marital rape. This post, which contained a lengthy quotation by prominent conservative evangelical reformed pastor and leader Doug Wilson, was posted by Jared Wilson of The Gospel Coalition, a conservative evangelical organization that involves such prominent evangelical leaders as John Piper and Mark Driscoll, on that organization’s website. Here is the quotation:

A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. 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. 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.

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.

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. 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.

This post immediately received a lot of attention, so much so that Jared Wilson then wrote a follow-up post. Did he retract his endorsement and praise of the quotation of Doug Wilson quoted above? No. Instead he said this:

If I could summarize the excerpt — as I have already — I would do it this way:

The Bible lays out complementary roles for men and women in covenant contexts, in which men are meant to be the heads of the household and the church and women are meant to be their helpers. Because of the fall, this authority/submission design has become perverted. It has even become perverted in the arena of sexuality when authority/submission becomes about violent rape and even “rape fantasies” as found in role playing by kinky husbands and wives or in popular pornography for women.

That is why I was tying it into 50 Shades of Grey’s popularity. I thought it a deft point; perhaps what we see in this sort of BDSM fantasy garbage is a perverted overreaction to God’s good design of authority and submission.

I am a proponent of marriages that mutually edify, marital sex that is mutually submissive, and Christian relationships in general that “serve and protect” rather than “devour.” If someone keeps finding that sickening, horrifying, deplorable . . . well, I’ll just keep finding that bewildering.

For all his accusations that his readers had reading comprehension issues regarding Doug Wilson’s words, I think Jared Wilson is actually the one with reading comprehension issues. I read and reread the Doug Wilson quote, and I most certainly did not get the idea that sex within marriage is to be mutually submissive!

What exactly does Doug Wilson say, then?

He says the opposite. What Wilson says is that it’s that egalitarian mutuality in marriage that is causing men to be rapists and women to have rape fantasies, because when it comes to sex men have the need to dominate and women have the need to be dominated, and when they don’t get that in the marriage bed, well, they look for it in perverted ways, i.e. becoming rapists or dreaming of being raped. In other words:

  • God set marital sex up to be about authority and submission.
  • Men have a need to dominate just as women have a need to be dominated.
  • Most people now practice egalitarianism and mutuality in the marriage bed.
  • Men and women are therefore not having their sexual needs met.
  • As a result, men become rapists and women fantasize about being raped.
  • Therefore, we need to make marital sex be based on authority and submission.

Let me paraphrase Doug Wilson one last time: You think marriage should be an “egalitarian pleasure party” rather than about “authority and submission,” the male “conquering” and the female “surrendering”? Then you’re the problem! Because if men don’t conquer in the marriage bed, and if women don’t surrender to being conquered in the marriage bed, then they will look elsewhere to have these god-given needs for domination and subjugation filled, finding fulfillment for these needs in dreaming of raping or being raped! Doug Wilson is saying the opposite of what Jared Wilson seems to think he’s saying!

Is Doug Wilson endorsing rape? 

Doug Wilson’s argument is not that husbands should rape their wives, but rather that wives should submit willingly in the sexual act to their husband’s god-given need to conquer and dominate, and that in submitting she will find her own god-given need to be conquered and dominated fulfilled as well. In other words, Wilson would argue that we’re not talking about a man having sex with his wife against her will. Rather, we’re talking about the man and woman willingly carrying out their roles in the marriage bed and through that having their needs fulfilled.

There are some problems here, though. First of all, it’s very easy to see how someone could hear these ideas and see them as justification for marital rape. After all, he has just been told that he has a god-given need to dominate in sex and his wife has a god-given need to be dominated in sex. If she doesn’t want sex and he forces it on her, well, isn’t he ultimately fulfilling her needs, giving her what she really wants whether she’ll say so or not? Or even more simply, what if the wife is simply not so very interested and would prefer not to have sex that night? After reading a passage like this, what’s to stop a husband from pressing the issue and the wife from feeling that she must surrender even if she doesn’t want it? Even though Doug Wilson would inveigh against this sort of activity, its easy to see how his words could be used in this way as an endorsement of some form of marital rape or coercion.

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. Doug Wilson assures us he does not mean marital rape, but he is also emphatic that he is not talking about BDSM:

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.

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity.

In other words, it is because married couples have stopped making making authority and submission the norm in the marriage bed that BDSM has developed. BDSM and rape fantasies, he says, are a natural perversion of the way God set sex up. All married sex must, as God designed it, be wrought through with authority and submission, with conquering and surrendering. He’s saying that is what sex is naturally supposed to be. 

But what does that even look like, really? If a man is sexually dominating his wife and his wife is being sexually conquered by him, well, how do we understand that outside of BDSM or rape? The truth is, we don’t have any other way to see it or understand it. To any normal person, the sort of sex Wilson is endorsing sounds extremely rape-y.

And indeed, the things Doug Wilson says in that quotation promote a culture of rape in several ways. First, Wilson says that women have a need to be dominated, thus playing into the idea that even if a woman resists sex, it’s not rape because she’s actually enjoying it. Second, Wilson argues that rape is prevalent today because women refuse to submit to men, thus blaming the victim and making rape the woman’s fault. Both of the Wilsons can inveigh against rape as much as they want, but that won’t stop the fact that the ideas they are promoting here actually help to promote rape.

Oh, but they’re all about servant leadership!

I want to come back to something Jared Wilson said in his defense of his quotation from Doug Wilson:

In the final analysis, I come back to my original analysis, which is that Douglas Wilson’s view of women is that they are to be cherished and protected and served humbly by men, even men in authority over them. This is the kind of authority the Bible prescribes, the kind that edifies and helps wives to flourish, not wither. That is my view of complementarian relationships in the home and the church, as well.

Maybe it’s just me, but promoting the idea that men need to conquer in the marriage bed and women need to be conquered doesn’t sound very much like the men “cherishing” “protecting” or “humbly serving” women. Doug Wilson says in his excerpt not that men are to serve women in the marriage bed, but that they are to “conquer” and “colonize” them. And somehow, this is “protecting” and “cherishing” them?

I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising, really. Doug Wilson did write this gem, after all:

Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based on mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. … Slave life was to [the slaves] a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care.” (Southern Slavery As It Was, pages 23 to 25)

Links to other posts on this issue: 

The Gospel Coalition, Sex, and Subordination, by Rachel Held Evans

If This Is What Christian Sex Looks Like, No Thank You, on the Friendly Atheist

The Men of the “Gospel Coalition” Really, Really Hate Women, on the Slacktivist

More on the Bad News Boors of the Gospel Coalition and Doug Wilson’s demented views on slavery, on the Slacktivist

Rape: A Punishment for Egalitarians? on Sarah Over the Moon

The Writer’s Burden, on Dianna Anderson

Doug Wilson, The Gospel Coalition, and Sanctified Rape Culture, on Are Women Human?

Doug Wilson Is in Need of a Good Blowjob, on Incongruous Circumspection

A Matter of Patriarchy
Red Town, Blue Town
On Indiana
The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • from two to one

    Libby Anne, I would just ask that you include a trigger warning at the top of this post as it has certainly traumatized many survivors of sexual and domestic violence over the last few days. I would also point you to Dianna Anderson’s post on how words and metaphors matter:

    • Libby Anne

      Thanks for the pointers! Done and done. :-)

  • Alison Cummins

    Have you read Dworkin’s Intercourse? Doug Wilson isn’t the only one who sees domination and colonization in “the sexual act.”

    Actually, you might be interested in Dworkin’s “right-wing women” if you haven’t already read it. She points out that feminists and anti-feminists agree that it’s a man’s world; they only differ in what they think the answer to that problem is.

    • Libby Anne

      Yes, I know of Dworkin’s views on intercourse, and I actually thought about them when reading Doug Wilson’s comments. I didn’t feel like they fit in this post, though. :-P And thanks for the book tip!

    • ScottInOH

      Apologies if you know this already; I wasn’t quite sure of the implication of your post, and I’m still trying to work some of it out.

      The issue is that there aren’t just two categories–feminist and patriarchical–but rather four: those two plus sex-positive and sex-negative. In theory, one could pair either of the first two with either of the second two (although the patriarchical, sex-positive person is hard for me to imagine).

      Feminist: All people deserve the same human and civil rights.
      Patriarchical: Men and women deserve different sets of rights. (The patriarch who doesn’t want to look like an a-hole will talk about how the rights women deserve are just as awesome–maybe even better!–as the ones men deserve, but s/he still thinks they deserve different rights.)
      Sex-positive: Sex is a pleasurable activity two or more people can enjoy together with each other’s consent.
      Sex-negative seems to have two main categories, which may overlap:
      (a) Sex in most circumstances is Wrong because it offends God.
      (b) Sex, even in approved circumstances, is transactional–at best it is an even exchange; at worst it is degradation of one side by the other. (Note that plenty of what Christians would decry as “mainstream culture” is pretty sex-negative in this sense.)

      Anyway, my point is this: Dworkin is a sex-negative feminist, but sex-negativity and feminism don’t need to go together; they don’t seem to in Libby Anne’s writings. (And again, I’m not saying you were implying that they did.) Wilson, of course, is a sex-negative patriarch.

      • Froborr

        Would Nice Guy Syndrome be an example of sex-positive patriarchy? The typical Nice Guy ™ doesn’t judge women negatively for having sex, but he still treats women in a way that implies they are less than.

      • ScottInOH

        Interesting thought! I think there are probably some Nice Guys who think of sex as a zero-sum activity, which I take to be sex-negative, but there might be some that at least imagine it as a great experience for both partners.

      • Noadi

        No, “Nice Guys™” see sex as extremely transactional which is sex negative. This is the guy who thinks women owe him sex for being such a Nice Guy™ and when he doesn’t get it blames the woman for being a dirty slut who only like “bad boys”. They do judge women for having sex if that sex isn’t with them and it’s the woman they think owes them sex.

      • Scotlyn

        Very interesting piece of sideways thinking, there. Food for thought.

      • callistacat

        Bullshit ScottinOH. Andrea isn’t a “sex-negative” feminist. She has repeatedly said she was misquoted and had her words twisted to mean “all sex is rape”. Please do your research. She was criticizing the exact attitudes toward sex mention in the OP:

        Michael Moorcock: After “Right-Wing Women” and “Ice and Fire” you wrote “Intercourse”. Another book which helped me clarify confusions about my own sexual relationships. You argue that attitudes to conventional sexual intercourse enshrine and perpetuate sexual inequality. Several reviewers accused you of saying that all intercourse was rape. I haven’t found a hint of that anywhere in the book. Is that what you are saying?

        Andrea Dworkin: No, I wasn’t saying that and I didn’t say that, then or ever. There is a long section in Right-Wing Women on intercourse in marriage. My point was that as long as the law allows statutory exemption for a husband from rape charges, no married woman has legal protection from rape. I also argued, based on a reading of our laws, that marriage mandated intercourse–it was compulsory, part of the marriage contract. Under the circumstances, I said, it was impossible to view sexual intercourse in marriage as the free act of a free woman. I said that when we look at sexual liberation and the law, we need to look not only at which sexual acts are forbidden, but which are compelled.

        The whole issue of intercourse as this culture’s penultimate expression of male dominance became more and more interesting to me. In Intercourse I decided to approach the subject as a social practice, material reality. This may be my history, but I think the social explanation of the “all sex is rape” slander is different and probably simple. Most men and a good number of women experience sexual pleasure in inequality. Since the paradigm for sex has been one of conquest, possession, and violation, I think many men believe they need an unfair advantage, which at its extreme would be called rape. I don’t think they need it. I think both intercourse and sexual pleasure can and will survive equality.

        It’s important to say, too, that the pornographers, especially Playboy, have published the “all sex is rape” slander repeatedly over the years, and it’s been taken up by others like Time who, when challenged, cannot cite a source in my work.

  • Lisa

    I read the original post but here’s something that came to my mind when I just read your post on it: A few months ago I read a piece on the symbolism of QF in respect to authority/submission structures – I cannot find it right now but if I do I’ll add the link.
    Either way, that particular pieces has striking similarities to “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.”. What was described there was the fact that QF, and only QF lifestyle, offers a satisfying sex life for both parties – the fact that a woman’s inability to control her own body (in relation to pregnancy) is in fact the central aspect of rightful authority in a marriage. Only through the active knowledge that a woman is completely at her husband’s mercy when it comes to having children can the man be fully satisfied. I do not know Wilson’s stance on this, but after reading all this I’m convinced he’s not actually talking so much about rape/BDSM fantasies, but much more on the aspect I just mentioned.
    I think it’s clearly indicated by his wording (“planting”, “conquering”; “receiving”, “accepting”) that he does hint at this expression of “ultimate authority” over a woman.
    Well, just wanted to throw this in. Maybe I’m wrong – then I’d like to blame it on my three feet tin foil understanding of poetry.

    • Libby Anne

      But the whole “active knowledge that a woman is completely at her husband’s mercy” doesn’t sound very consensual – it sounds kind of rape-y. And yes, I agree that he’s hinting at this idea – the “ultimate authority” over the woman even in sex – but again, I’m not seeing how to understand that idea outside of some form of rape, conquering, dominance, etc.

      • Jay

        “the crime, committed by a man, of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with him without their consent and against their will, esp. by the threat or use of violence against them; figurative the wanton destruction or spoiling of a place or area; poetic/literary the abduction of a woman, esp. for the purpose of having sexual intercourse with her.”
        This is the definition of rape. I also have looked up and researched conquer and dominate as well. These definitions do not support the issue that have been brought up against what Wilson has written. I do not understand how talking about healthy and legitimate relationship between a husband and wife is any different than a citizen and the law. The law is not raping it’s citizen (I would say the government but that’s made up of people and people are capable of doing horrible things as they have).

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        The only way the similarities aren’t apparent is if you’re insisting on being incredibly literal-minded, which I guess you are. Conquest, for example, implies overcoming a resistance, taking for yours what belongs to somebody else and doing it by force. The conquered does not have a choice. No, I did not look that up in a dictionary, but I do happen to know what words mean and how they are commonly used, and connotation is as important as denotation. (Although, in this case, I’m not seeing much of a disparity between the two.) Do you still not see how this sounds like rape?

        As for your talk of the “government raping its citizens,” I simply just don’t have the time or patience for simplistic, libertarian paranoia right now.

      • Lisa

        Oh yes totally, it’s a bit hard to work around that one.
        I think he has more in common with BDSM practices than he would like. I mean, doesn’t actually and genuinely being fulfilled by the sex life he describes mean that you’re somewhat into BDSM? And on those lines, it’s always rape when someone does something you don’t agree with, yeah. Quite a tricky one you found here!

  • smrnda

    Nauseating. I also feel bad for people into BDSM as people not in the know might actually think he’s writing about the BDSM scene and not something entirely in his own head. People who do BDSM are all about egalitarian pleasure parties and1 full mutual consent and rules to keep people safe.

    I also think he’s taking a slam at men by assuming that they can’t actually want to interact with women as equals – it’s like he’s making the statement “I want to dominate women and treat them like property, so I want people to think that’s normal masculinity so that I won’t have to change.” If he’s arguing that there exist men out there who are raping women because they can no longer dominate them in socially acceptable ways, isn’t that a problem with the man and not society? I think the need to dominate others is pathological and wrong; why should society have to cater to this?

    I think lots of men have a right to be offended by writing like this as much as women do – it makes the worst assumptions about them.

    • Fina

      BDSM is consensual because you can always say “no” or “stop” (often in the form of a previously agreed upon codeword), and then your partner actually STOPS and the whole one-sided authority becomes even again.
      There is no such option in patriarchy.

    • Rilian

      I like your comment.
      And, I know some men who seem to really think like that. Can I just divorce myself from the human species now?

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Glad somebody’s brought this up. This quote is all over the interwebs but few people have pointed out that a desire to rape is very different from a rape fantasy. If a person has a rape fantasy, it means they want to act out a rape fantasy. FANTASY! Meaning not actual rape! There’s nothing precluding a person from being both into rape fantasies and/or BDSM and wanting an egalitarian relationship. Wanting a relationship, sexual and otherwise, to be egalitarian does not mean that all egalitarians need to have sex the same way. It’s religious patriarchs who think that everyone needs to have sex the same way. Maybe that’s why pigs like Doug Wilson can’t get this concept.

      • Libby Anne

        Absolutely. I maybe should have emphasized this more, beyond simply pointing out that BDSM is consensual and is something that is affected, not something that characterizes all sex between two people ever (unless two people only like BDSM, but you get what I mean).

    • Sue Blue

      Right on. I’ve long argued that patriarchy is harmful to men as well as women. It treats human beings like drones, cookie-cutter stereotypes, as mindless group members rather than individuals. Wilson is also guilty of overgeneralizing – not every man seems to have a need to dominate. There are plenty of men who want to BE dominated, and plenty of women who like to dominate; it’s natural, not a result of some kind of social decay. Sexual desires and tastes are individual, not cut-and-dried by gender. This is just such typical black-or-white fundamentalist thinking – everything is either all bad or all good; we can’t have individuals with individual tastes.

      I’d like to know how this asshole blames women for male prison rape.

  • ScottInOH

    I am often struck by conservative Christians’ need to categorize groups of people, rather than allowing individuals to act in accordance with their own self-perceived interests. In this case, Wilson argues that “women are like this,” and “men are like that.” Why can’t he acknowledge that *some* people *sometime* in *some* circumstances like to dominate or be dominated? Instead, he’s got to project his own fantasies onto the entire population and tell them that’s how God wants them to act. (Some people would say I just described St. Paul…)

    • Froborr

      I recommend reading The Authoritarians by Bob Altemayer, it presents the research on this topic in a very clear and compelling way.

      But basically, it comes down to this: There is a particular personality type that is drawn to authoritarian movements, and one of its main features is discomfort with complexity and choices. Sweeping stereotypes eliminate complexity and narrow options.

      The really weird part of the research is that, paradoxically, it is possible to both have the authoritarian follower personality type *and* have a strong drive for social dominance. The results are scary: You get a person who fervently believes, “Complexity and choices are bad, strict hierarchies are good, everyone needs an authority above them to tell them what to do, and the highest authority is directly above me, chose me as its mouthpiece, and always wants exactly the same things I do.”

      Exactly what that highest authority is varies by culture and circumstance, but it is generally whatever gives the dominance-seeker easiest access to a hierarchy to control: the Zeitgeist, the Party, God–any abstraction the dominance-seeker can claim to speak for.

      • Libby Anne

        I’m not sure if you’re the one who keeps mentioning The Authoritarians or if that’s someone else, but if you keep it up I’m going to have to find time to read the thing. :-P

      • Akzeal

        I’ve mentioned The Authoritarians before as well. I dunno if I can link here, but I’ll try the addy anyway. And you want the ‘whole book’ link. It’s -well- worth the time, and only a couple hours worth of reading, depending on speed.

    • Jay

      “Why can’t he acknowledge that *some* people *sometime* in *some* circumstances like to dominate or be dominated?” Acknowledge or not that some people just like to torture and kill people. Torturing and killing for fun is still wrong regardless of the “acknowledgement” of the liking or not. Rape is a horrible thing. Why “pretend rape” someone then turn around and say that “don’t use rape cause those of us who were rape relive our past experience and it’s hell for us.” Don’t rape, don’t pretend rape, and don’t pretend that “pretend single dominance is okay” if you what claim is dominance of one over another (which it’s not) is the very thing you are saying, “*some* people *sometime* in *some* circumstances like to dominate or be dominated?”

      • cupcake_break

        Wow, Jay, obviously you have no concept of…anything ever?
        I’m a rape survivor and a domestic abuse survivor, and I have rape fantasies that I talk about regularly with my husband, who is also a rape survivor.
        We are not emotionally at a point where we can act on these urges yet, but we talk about them at length, because it’s sometimes therapeutic.
        It’s sometimes difficult. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we don’t. It’s very much about trust.
        Your mileage may vary. People and relationships are very different.
        My husband and I are also in a consensual BDSM relationship that is sometimes TPE (please google. I don’t have the wherewithal to explain it to you. Google is useful. Google is your friend).
        There is nothing wrong with these activities, as long as they’re in a consensual relationship full of communication. This is what this is all about–consent. When something or someone is “conquered,” there is not necessarily consent involved. It’s a very sex-negative term. It involves passivity on the part of the woman (speaking in heteronormative terms for the sake of brevity; however, this is applicable to pretty much anyone).
        Once again, your mileage may vary, because people and relationships are very different.
        That’s what this issue is about–men are in the active role, and women are passive. Objects. Things to be patted and dusted and occasionally sexed up, but never, ever an active participant in something that affects her.
        However, I’m also pretty sure that you’ll reply with a lot of semantics and literal interpretations, judging from your previous postings.
        I guess that’s just my two cents.

  • Bix

    Rage-making. So much rage-making. Man ‘colonizes’ and woman ‘surrenders’? What kind of imperialist meta-rape fantasies does Doug Wilson have? And it is (or should be) beyond comprehension that someone in this century could claim that slavery was based on ‘mutual affection and confidence’. I guess when masters raped their slaves, the slaves were just expressing their natural desire to be dominated. This man is heinous.

    This is unrelated, but Libby Anne, I know how much you like Tangled, and I saw that the Botkin sisters criticized it for all the reasons you like it. They also advised girls facing arranged marriages (a la Brave) that there’s a more Biblical way to deal with it.

    And the scary thing about these people is that they have an actual effect on the lives of real human beings.

  • perfectnumber628

    Thank you for this analysis. I think the original point that Jared Wilson was trying to make is “our culture’s obsession with ’50 Shades of Grey’ comes from a perversion of men/women’s God-given roles of conquering/surrendering”- and most people missed that because of the huge problem about “men are supposed to conquer/colonize their wives” and how terrible and offensive that is. (I’m not saying “oh everyone missed the point, they shouldn’t be getting all angry about this”- no, everyone who was upset about this had valid criticism, because yeah, that idea does promote rape.) But anyway, I’m glad you pointed out that Doug Wilson was, in fact, making the argument that egalitarian marriages cause rape.

    And people can talk about “well they have different roles and the wife has to submit, but that doesn’t mean it’s inequality” all they want, but I just don’t see how that’s going to play out in a practical sense. They say it doesn’t mean the husband can force her to do things she doesn’t want, they say it doesn’t mean he can force her to do something against the law or against God- it sounds to me like she has to “submit” when she judges his request to be reasonable- so, she’s just using common sense, not automatically submitting because she’s a woman- so what’s the point of saying “wives submit to your husbands” then?

  • Dianne

    This is rather frivolous, but I can’t help wondering what the Wilsons make of male sub/female dom porn, of which there is quite a lot. Heck, the high powered (male) exec with a desire to be whipped is a stereotype. How does he explain that in his world view?

    • Anat

      Or just plain men who find the idea of dominating their respective wives abhorrent?

  • Rohmeo

    I’ve been following your work for some time because I love diversity within the body of Christ. You remind me of our age group disenchanted with the 80′s conservative church ways of the baby boomers. My only fear is for you not to overcompensate and swing too far in what we want “freedom in Christ” to be, question everything (not test everything), then end up doing some of the same things you blog against.

    The fact is Doug Wilson, with his unfortunate choice of words, in the end is probably not the prick that many now think he is. In fact, I bet if u 2 sat down u would agree on most things for a biblical marriage. I get where he is going with his over-arching thoughts instead of most judging on his clif notes version but I get your points of critique as well.

    Once again this has delved into Complementarian vs. Egalitarian which to me is an open handed issue…not a closed fist cornerstone of the Gospel. I get we are all passionate of the things of the Lord but I’d hate to see someone from the “outside” have an excuse to say screw all this crap if that’s what these folks are all about.

    Appreciate ya

    • Minnie

      Oh, he is a prick! And any one who makes up excuses for him is a prick too. Doug Wilson is odious, and so are his putrid followers. These people, quiverfull people, are in the same category as Warren Jeffs, just a cult of of extremely sadomasochistic misogynistic serial perverts.

    • Carol

      Who thinks about what kind of sex people are having THIS MUCH. Nobody. Doug Wilson sounds like a sex obsessed pervert who has constant rape fantasies himself and so projects that all men have rape fantasies to try to make himself feel mainstream because he’s afraid he’s going to spend the rest of his years in jail. Slavery was a happy time of joy and plenty for all? Sorry, you can apologize for him all you want, he’s a sick prick.

      • Steve

        Projecting is really all the leaders in fundamentalist religions ever do

    • WordSpinner

      You are aware that the author of this blog is an atheist, right?

      And no, I don’t think that she (or I) would agree with Doug Wilson on much beyond “the sky is blue”–especially when it comes to sexuality. For example, I’m a liberal feminist, I support same-sex marriage and egalitarian marriage and the right not to marry.

      • Libby Anne

        I think Rohmeo may have me confused with Rachel Held Evans, and may think he’s posting on her blog rather than mine.

      • WordSpinner

        That makes sense. I was like “whuh…?”

    • Sue Blue

      Oh, golly, gosh, and gee – I guess I was wrong when I read, “misogynistic rape-obssessed perv” into Wilson’s little article. Please tell me how I’m wrong about his views on the joy of slavery, too.

  • Minnie

    Christian men make me sick! I feel so sorry for little girls who have to grow up with these Pro-Rape monsters. Men who love the bible love it because it is pro-rape. I was sexually abused the first ten years of my life by a bible loving man, this man told me Jesus Christ never said, do not RAPE, and the ten commandments does not say, do not RAPE. I did not believe him at the time it was only when I read the the pro-little-girl-rape bible for myself did I see it was true. The bible tells wife beaters and rapist everything thay want to believe. The bible condemns women and girls from start to finish about not being virgins, the pro-little girl rape bible does not condemn men from start to finish for raping women and little girls, making us none virgins.

    My father a man raised by a southern baptist preacher and was a deacon and sunday school teacher at church mocked rape, he basically said it was not that big of a deal.

    Libby please post this artical at ex to warn more women. Every time one of these shit christian men open their vile mouths, I cry. Christian men are so, so sexually sadistic, and so is their beloved vagina pain mongering pro-little-girl-rape sky tyrant christian bible god.

    Christian bible god saves man, Lot, who offers, NO begs, that a gang of rapist men take his two virgin daughters and gang-rapes them.

    Genesis 19:8
    “Look now, I have two daughters who are virgins; let me, I beg of you, bring them out to you, and you can do as you please with them. But only do nothing to these men, for they have came under the protection of my roof.”

    31:17 “Now therefore, KILL every male among the little ones, and Kill every woman who is not a virgin.

    31:18 “But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.”

    Christian bible god telling soldiers to rape twelve and thirteen year old virgin girls.

    Peter one of Jesus Christ chosen twelve calls Lot, a man who offered up two virgin girls to be gang-raped, righteous. Did Jesus Christ know Peters character before choosing him? Yes he did, and he chose a man, Peter, who called pro-gang-rape of virgin girls “Lot” righteous. Jesus Christ did not pick any sexually abused women as apostles, only rape is irrelevant men.

    2 Peter 2:7
    “And He rescued righteous Lot, greatly worn out distressed by the wanton ways of the ungodly and lawless.”

    Obviously gang rape of virgin girls is very Christian-bible-god, godly.

    This crap is extremely offensive to me, but it gives christian men a thrill and they are all that matters.

    • Chris

      This isn’t much, but I’m really sorry that happened.

    • Fina

      My condolences, and i hope that what that monster did doesn’t prevent you from living a happy life anymore.

      The Bible is a very good example of rape culture – it doesn’t turn non-rapists into rapists, but it DOES encourage would-be and actual rapists. It tells them of socially accepted rape, of how what they did wasn’t actually (that) wrong. Your quotes show that really well.

    • callistacat

      “My father a man raised by a southern baptist preacher and was a deacon and sunday school teacher at church mocked rape, he basically said it was not that big of a deal.”

      That’s horrible Minnie! I was raised Eastern Orthodox Christian and they only focused sermons on Nice Jesus, so I never heard any of the rape apologism or read the part of the bible that says it’s totally cool to throw your virgin daughters to an angry mob until I was an adult. I was told the bible was all about love and integrity and compassion. Reading those passages was such a disillusionment, it was kind of like finding out your sweet kind grandmother that raised you is actually a serial killer.

      It was the final straw for me, needless to say.

  • Rilian

    Blech. If men want to rape and women want to be raped, then whence cometh the conflict? Obviously your disgustingly stupid premise is false.

    • Scotlyn

      “…women [want] to be [raped]….”
      *computer analyses sentence*
      *computer downloads all available language databases*
      *computer analyses sentence again*
      *computer crashes*

  • Rilian

    “Second, Wilson argues that rape is prevalent today because women refuse to submit to men, thus blaming the victim and making rape the woman’s fault.”

    *throws up*

    “I have to force you because you won’t consent.” GAAAAAHHH!!!!! STUPID!!! It’s kinda like when your parent says that you can’t be trusted to make your own decisions until you make “good” decisions, and by “good”, they mean the exact same decision that they would make for you.

  • Rilian

    I’m just having an epiphany… these men are like… aspiring dictators. They don’t see right and wrong, they just see having what they want and not having what they want, which is why they hate feminism and really do see it as a zero-sum game. They want to punch you in the face, and you don’t want to be punched in the face. I actually had a scream-inducing “debate” with someone last night where he actually called into question the claim that you have a right to not be punched in the face out of nowhere.

    You know, once upon a time, I wanted to watch something on tv, and my brother wanted to watch something else. I could see that his show was more important to him, so I let him have it. A “loss” for me, but I have the amazing ability to consider other people’s feelings and to care about them.

  • Minnie

    Rape is rampant in christianity, the child raping catholic church, the southern baptist wife beating convention.

    “TIME ranks Southern Baptists’ rejection of sex-offender database as a top “underreported” news story of 2008″

    Christians have taken over the military, rape galore there. Is it no wonder our christian soldiers feel so comfortable gang raping third world little girls when the pro-little-girl-rape bible is peddled the way it is in the military.

    ~ Numbers 31:17
    “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who is not a virgin. “ ~

    ~ Numbers 31:18
    “But all the young girls who have not known a man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.” The Christian god telling soldiers to rape thirteen year old and twelve year old virgins. ~

    Queen of christian women Phyllis Schlafly does not believe in rape in marriage, christian men love her.

    This is what we were taught in the southern Baptist wife-beating convention about marriage and divorce.

    A wife cannot deny her husband sex, EVER! If her husband rapes her it is not rape, there is no such thing as rape in marriage. If her husband beats her it is her fault for not being submissive enough, a wife cannot divorce her husband for beating her, the only reason one can get a divorce is adultery, but if a husband cheats it is because his wife is not thin enough, or attractive enough.

    • Sandy

      Minnie, First let me say that I am SO SORRY that this happened to you. I am not going to deny that there are some difficult passages in the Bible, like the ones you are quoting above. That would do nothing to help. But I want to assure you that what you are describing here does not describe all of Christianity. Yes, it is far more rampant and accepted than it should be, which is exactly why this piece has angered so many people and why so many of us are trying to speak out against it. This IS NOT what God intends for marriage. Jesus elevated women. I know that is sometimes hard to see, especially with people claiming to be his followers doing such unspeakable things, but if you can’t hold on to anything else, hold onto the truth that Jesus died for you. You, in every bit of your female-ness and beauty, just the way you are. God has not denied His daughters a place at the cross, even if men sometimes try to. I am not a counselor, so I am sure I am not speaking to your situation as I should. Please, try to find a counselor who can help you with the work of grieving and restoring and moving forward. Jesus did not dominate or control. It is His example that we are to follow and husbands are specifically told to do so. Please know that the Jesus they claimed wanted your abuse is not the same Jesus we are serving. He was a Jesus of their own making.

      • Taryn Fox

        “Please get help; you are reacting to injustice and your personal crisis in a way that makes me uncomfortable.”

  • Incongruous Circumspection

    “For all his accusations that his readers had reading comprehension issues regarding Doug Wilson’s words, I think Jared Wilson is actually the one with reading comprehension issues. I read and reread the Doug Wilson quote, and I most certainly did not get the idea that sex within marriage is to be mutually submissive!”

    Freaking brilliant. Just brilliant. Brilliant as all get out.

    • Libby Anne

      Thanks. :-)

  • Sarah

    When I was going to church the message was that when Jesus came/died on cross the rape laws that were mentioned in the book of Numbers was made irrelevent, just like the tradition of sacraficing an animal was no longer done. But I could not understand why God would make these rules in the first place. I know now that the Old Testament is actually the oral traditions/folklore of a patriarchal society and the whole Bible is actually full of contraditions and translation errors.

    • Judy L.

      It does seem to be the case that Christians pick out the bits from the Old Testament that support their various biogotries and prejudices and awful behaviour, but conveniently get to ignore the bits that don’t suit them.

      My understanding is that Christians can’t wholly jettison the Old Testmament, or Jesus’ messianic identity gets called into question.

  • Omorka

    I’ve been calling my ideal sex-positive political party the Guilty Party for years, after a line in Timbuk3′s “Legalize Our Love,” but I think the Egalitarian Pleasuring Party may in fact be a much better name for it.

  • Alexandra

    I’m not sure if it is completely tactless to be bringing this up, but I am wondering how this relates to the issues you have shared Libby – that when you began having sex with your husband you could only climax if acting out a rape fantasy.

    Based on what you have shared, it seems almost like the kind of fantasies that Wilson is condemning stem from encouraging people to believe that sex is impure and that a marital relationship should be about power and control. Do you have thoughts?

    • Libby Anne

      I have indeed been trying to think on how that fits into this whole thing. For me the issue was seeing sex as something that was so forbidden that the only way I could let go psychologically and truly enjoy it was to indulge in a rape fantasy. I couldn’t enjoy it if it was done without a fantasy, simply in an egalitarian and mutual manner. But it wasn’t so much a need to be dominated as it was – and still is to some extent – a psychological hangup where I can’t enjoy sex if I’m in an active female role, based on all the stupid crap I was taught about sex and gender roles. I’m going to have to think on this some more and maybe write a post on it as it relates to the whole kerfuffle. I will say, though, that I know at least one guy who was raised similarly with regards to sex and ended up having fantasies where he was, if not raped, then at least the more passive partner. He had these fantasies for the same reason I did – sex was something that was so forbidden that actively pursuing it, even in pure fantasy or in the marriage bed, was less sexually exciting than accepting it passively.

      • Scotlyn

        Libby, there is another slant on this, which relates to your chosen term “active pursuit” – the active pursuit of sex or pleasure having so thoroughly been put beyond reach by one’s upbringing. Here in Catholic Ireland, where people were traditionally much more forgiving of alcohol overuse than of sexual indiscretion, it is still common for girls’ initial sexual dalliances to be taken in the context of a great deal of alcohol – they’re still more comfortable self-identifying as “boozers” than as “forward”.

        I think the same mechanism is at work – the alcohol distances you (provides you with an alibi) from your active desire for sex. A rape FANTASY may be as simple as allowing oneself the pleasure of sex without having to accept the SELF-DESCRIPTION of being an active pursuer of sex/pleasure, a hedonist.

        Think of what we so often say when not wanting to appear TOO eager for that last cupcake on the plate) – “well, if you twist my arm…” Do you really think that ANYONE who has ever agreed to be pleasured by the last cupcake on the plate with the words “if you twist my arm” actually WANTED to have their actual arm actually twisted?

      • Julie42

        Please do write more on the topic. Your post gave me an epiphany about my sexual thoughts.
        I never understood why I would always imagine myself being raped because I definitely never wanted to be raped. I struggled to understand for so long, but when I saw your post, it all dawned on me. Now when I remember back to when I first started fantasizing, I remember that I felt so guilty when I thought about sex that I had to imagine someone forcing me to have sex, otherwise I felt dirty.

  • Heather Munn

    Alexandra, I agree. Based on my own experience.

    Libby, I think that you are right that Jared Wilson hasn’t read Doug Wilson correctly. In an email conversation he told me that when Doug said “Authority and submission are therefore an erotic necessity” he read it as meaning God as the authority and the couple submitting to God–doing their sex life according to his will, basically. That’s not what I read AT ALL, or anyone else I think, but I really think Jared Wilson is telling the truth, which explains why he doesn’t understand the outrage.

    All that to say, I think we should pile on Doug, who’s the originator of this bullcrap. Doug REALLY deserves anything that’s coming to him. Especially considering his latest post stating–not implying–that the reason his critics are mad is that he condemns BDSM.

    • Libby Anne

      I totally agree. Jared Wilson’s problems lie in not responding well to his criticism (and of course in his embrace of complementarianism in general) – I honestly do think he genuinely supports an egalitarian relationship of mutual submission in the marriage bed. I think he simply saw something in Doug Wilson’s writings that he liked – the idea that rape and rape fantasies are a result of a failure to follow God’s plan for marriage, i.e. within the marriage bed – and totally misunderstood the rest. I would almost feel sorry for him if he hadn’t responded so badly to the criticism. Doug Wilson, on the other hand, means every word he said. But, since the guy has condoned slavery and argued that gay people should be either stoned or banished, I’m not sure why this is so surprising, really…

  • smrnda

    I guess what this means to me is that many religious men can’t stop thinking about two things: Sex, and Power, Authority and Submission.

    I could spend a lifetime doing mental gymnastics to try to convince myself that the Bible doesn’t really regard women as chattel, but I’m incapable of that level of self-deception. Too many Christian teachings can be twisted so easily – I find the whole talk of ‘sexual sin’ – which, on a moral level, equates consensual, respectful sex with things like rape to just bothers me too much. Maybe that’s not the correct understanding, but I’ve found the secular world to be much more loving, caring, accepting and compassionate. I mean, the Bible doesn’t contain ‘difficult’ passages, it contains passages of absolute barbarism that I don’t think there could be any justification for, except for the idea that large amounts of the book are just the product of fallible people. It’s just that to me, the world of liberal, secular humanists doesn’t seem to have the same problems at the world of Christians.

    Though a word of advice – my take on the Christian scene in the states is that women are taught to be submissive and to be non-critical of men, so men never really seem to learn to be sensitive to women’s perspectives. The spokesmen for the faith should really start taking the critiques of women seriously – plenty of us haven’t been socialized to be doormats and to give every man the benefit of the doubt when he puts his foot in his mouth and should know better.

    • Taryn Fox

      Where by “fallible” you mean “awful.”

  • Christine

    There was another subtext I got from Wilson’s message, particularly his “egalitarian pleasuring party.” and that is, WOMEN SHOULD NOT DERIVE A LOT OF INTRINSIC PLEASURE FROM SEX. They should submit “joyfully” to their husband’s desires, but I’ve never seen anything about husbands ensuring their wives get pleasure from sex.

    Which gets me thinking… see, I’ve actually read the steaming pile of dog-doo that started Jared Wilson off on his rant. Namely, 50 Shades of Grey. Well, I read about 10 pages of the torrented copy I had before my eyes wanted to leap out of my head in terror, before I hit that Delete button and cleared it out of the Recycle Bin. Wilson insists the popularity of that book is due to “the world” perverting the biblically assigned sexual roles. *I* can’t help thinking the popularity of that …book, and pulp romance in general, stems from women who are actually dissatisfied with their sex lives. So maybe it’s adherence to biblically assigned sex roles that makes these books so popular! Seriously, the whole thing makes me glad to be asexual.

    And like so many, I threw up in my mouth when I read the whole thing about conquering and accepting. Can they not hear what they are saying?!

    • Britt Perkins

      I feel the same way. If I thought sex couldn’t be had without the man “colonizing” and “dominating” me I would never have sex. And when I read shit that makes sex out to be that way I wish I WAS asexual!

  • Judy L.

    I couldn’t even read all of that. The premise itself is completely ridiculous (I mean, besides the ridiculous premise of the God-being itself): “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.” That doesn’t sound like healthy, consensual sex; that sounds exactly like a rape to which a woman has resigned herself. Healthy, consensual heterosexual genital intercourse is an act where both parties are active participants: a man penetrates, but a woman also penetrates herself with the man, she takes him into her body. He doesn’t “plant” as if a woman’s uterus was simply soil in which his seed will grow, he ejaculates and sometimes one of his sperm gets lucky and a woman’s ova allows it to enter and the cells become one.

    Let’s be very clear on this: rape is not a force of nature, it’s not a natural phenomenon, it’s not something that has anything at all to do with consenting adults expressing their erotic imagination, regardless of how those erotic imaginations developed. Rape is something that mostly men DO to mostly women and children, and the Judeo-Christian bible sanctions it. This kind of biblically-ordained male authority/female submissivness dynamic simply creates its own perverted little niche within rape culture where rape is deemed as not just okay, but the ideal arrangement where God is raping everybody in a sick little ménage à trois: women submit to God by submitting to men who themselves submit to God by being his sexual proxy. It makes me sad that girls and boys and men and women are having their sexuality repressed and warped like this.

    • Minnie

      Judy L you are so smart, thank you.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Wow, that’s someone with a wide range of repressed sexual fantasies there.

  • jordin

    “The Bible lays out complementary roles for men and women in covenant contexts, in which men are meant to be the heads of the household and the church and women are meant to be their helpers. Because of the fall, this authority/submission design has become perverted.”

    This doesn’t even make sense. In Genesis 3, the complementarian roles are a _result_ of the fall, not a pre-existing perfection that was corrupted by the fall.

    “And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ … To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife and eaten from the tree, cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.’”

    Before the fall, there is no indication of a hierarchy between the man and the woman. In the Genesis narrative, patriarchy is not a created order that was perverted by the fall — patriarchy is itself a perversion, on the same level as death and thorns.

    If we are under the new covenant, and if we’re going to sing “No more let sins and sorrows grow / Nor thorns infest the ground / He comes to make His blessings flow / Far as the curse is found” and “And we are raised with Him / Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered / And we shall reign with Him /For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead”, then we ought to be proclaiming the death of the kyriarchical gender roles just as loudly and just as joyously. For in Christ there is no Jew or Greek; there is no slave or free; there is no male and female.

  • OneSmallStep

    Do these two realize how frequent rape was prior to the feminist movement? When women did in fact have to submit, they were still frequently raped? Or that rape is really, really common in countries where there aren’t egalitarianism relationships?

    They can say they aren’t promoting rape as much as they want, but rape is tied to the idea that men are entitled to sex from women, and women aren’t entitled to bodily agency.

  • lucrezaborgia

    Totally late to the game thanks to a vacation without internet, but he’s scrubbing the internet of his posts. It would be a good idea to edit this and add screen shots of the entire post. Google cache FTW

    • Scotlyn

      I believe he has removed these posts due to a campaign asking that he do so.
      The second one can still be found here, though.

  • Scotlyn

    Shorter Doug Wilson:
    “Rape is a beautiful thing God has designed for us humans, but He meant rape to be kept within marriage. Extra marital rape is not sanctioned by God and leads to social chaos.”

  • Jayn

    It sounds like he’s trying to promote consensual submission (like we see in BDSM play) without giving the woman room to choose whether she actually submits or not (rape). Basically, the wife’s choices are refuse to submit and get raped, or submit even when she doesn’t want to, which is still rape. It’s an interesting semantic exercise, but the short of it is that he’s not allowing a woman to refuse to have sex.

    When you only have one option to choose from, it’s not a choice.

  • KM

    I am a Christian, and I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, but I am extremely ashamed/afraid of attitudes like the one expressed by Wilson and others who think like him. These type of attitudes bring shame upon the gospel. It doesn’t represent Christ at all. Utterly sickening, and I think we are giving it too much praise and attention by continuing to discuss it. It’s negative attention, but still too much attention.

    King Solomon said, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” Proverbs 26:4
    I think that about sums this up.

  • ik

    I’m a little bit worried that nobody is talking about the SLAVERY PART! Which is, IMO, WAY WORSE! (althouhg I wonder what he would think about rape of slaves :/)

    • smrnda

      True, and if the guy defends slavery as a benevolent institution, it’s basically a sign that he’s probably 100% wrong on everything.

      There were people who defended slavery as benevolent back in its day – Edward Fitzhugh comes to mind, but they painted a totally false picture of slavery. I’m glad you pointed out that slaves were raped by their masters since they were, basically, property with no rights.

      I’d also like to point out that even outside of slavery, employers have historically been quite eager to force women to have sex with them as a condition of employment. Inequality of any kind always leads to abuse. There is no such thing as ‘benevolent authority’ – only mutual accountability with checks and balances can prevent those in authority from abusing those beneath them.

  • JOR

    DW, at least, is defending marital rape, make no mistake. JW may well be also.

    The trick, see, is that they refuse to define it as rape. If the wife doesn’t submit to her husband’s advances, then he’s not raping her if he disregards her wishes, since her body is his property.

  • Jennifer

    That’s it, he has now crossed an unpardonable line. I didn’t think he was one of those, but he is. That man is one of the biggest, most wickedly disgusting and unBiblical fools I’ve EVER seen in my life. May he receive a divine slap from above. That little monster.

  • Jennifer

    And of course, his intelligent little daughter comes cheerily to the rescue, acting like it’s just a big blown up matter and she’s taking the high road by not being all offended at her smart Daddy’s words. She never even really offered a proper defense for them, just attacked Evans.

  • Luster Green

    First of all,sex & submission fantasies are a fetish,shared my husbands & wives.Second of all,this new,so called marital rape law is insane.A woman should never have the right to say no to her husband & VICE VERSA.It’s not just about men having absolute authority,in the marriage bed.If she sings an ongoing contract of consent,then so does he.The U.S. Government needs to reverse this law & stay out of people’s marriage,unless someone’s being beaten like a dog or murdered.

    • Squire Bramble

      “If she sings an ongoing contract of consent,then so does he.”

      Beneath the bluster of the simpleton’s rant is an exquisite image. I’m picturing an opera by Puccini or Verdi!