“A truly loving husband won’t take advantage”

A twitterer recently tweeted this at me:

“In marriage it is her duty but if her husband truly loves her he will never make her have sex just because they are married.”

If I had a dollar for every time someone said something like this, I’d be rich. It goes like this (and Debi Pearl’s books are really chock full of it): God requires women to submit to their husbands, but truly loving husbands won’t take unfair advantage of that. 

Let’s dissect this, shall we?

Requirement: According to those who embrace patriarchy, whether they actually use the word “patriarchy” or instead call themselves “complementarians,” God requires women to submit to their husbands. No qualification to that. It is women’s duty to have sex with their husbands. Again, no qualifications. Statement of fact. Absolute requirement. God’s command.

Problem: Now of course supporters of patriarchy are faced with a problem. If women always submit, well, it’s really easy for a husband to take advantage of that, to make his wife do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants. Basically, it’s totally set up for the husband to become a dictator. And this goes for sex, too – if a woman always consents because that’s her duty, her husband can have sex with her even when she isn’t into it, or even if it’s painful for her. Anyone, including supporters of patriarchy, can see that this is a problem.

Solution: Supporters of patriarchy solve this problem by saying that a good and loving husband will not take advantage of his wife. A good and loving husband will not dictate to his wife, and will involve her in decisions and think of her well-being. A good and loving husband will consider whether his wife wants to have sex with him or not. In fact, a good and loving husband will put his wife’s needs before his own needs.

See! Problem solved!

Or not.

See, there are several problems with this solution.

1. Men can say they are being “truly loving” even if they’re not

Because love is an emotion and submission is an action, it’s easy for a man to claim that he loves his wife even when it doesn’t look like it, but it’s impossible for a woman to claim that she is submitting when she isn’t. I’ve explained this in depth before. Here’s a quote from my previous post that gets to the heart of it:

It’s a heck of a lot easier to tell if a wife is not submitting to her husband than it is to tell if a husband isn’t loving his wife. The one is an action, the other is an emotion. If a man is being dictatorial to his wife and, say, ordering her to do this or that a certain way or believe this or that as he commands, well, he can say that he is acting out of love for her because his orders are all for her own good. He’s protecting her, keeping her safe, making sure she stays on the straight and narrow. Isn’t that what a loving person does? If a wife refuses to obey her husband, in contrast, it’s obvious. And there’s no escape gate.

In other words, it’s easy for a man to make whatever decisions he wants, regardless of his wife’s needs, and yet claim that he is acting in his wife’s best interests. To say that he is being a loving husband, even if it doesn’t look like it at the moment and even if she doesn’t feel like he’s being very loving.* The result is that it’s easy for a man to claim he is acting out of love for and in the best interests of his wife even when he is absolutely not.

Edit: A reader has pointed out that evangelicals and fundamentalists often state that “love is an action, not an emotion.” This is absolutely true, and I heard this growing up as well. This does not, however, change the point I’m making here. Just like a parent spanking a disobedient child can say “this may not seem loving, but it really is for your own good, and if I didn’t love you I wouldn’t be doing it” (something I heard all the time growing up), even so a husband can say to his wife “taking control of the checkbook/cutting off your contact with one of your friends/whatever may not seem very loving, but it really is for your own good, and if I didn’t love you I wouldn’t be doing it.” Love being an action does not change my argument because love is a subjective action while submission is nothing of the sort.

2. The idea that “truly loving” men somehow automatically know what’s best for their wives is ridiculous

This whole system is premised on the assumption that men will automatically somehow know what’s best for their wives. Even if a man really does love his wife and really does want to do what is best for her and really tries to do it, well, why do we assume he somehow knows what’s best for his wife? The answer, of course, is because of patriarchy. Because of this idea that men are somehow superior to women and need to take care of them, and women are somehow inferior to men and need to be taken care of. The idea that a woman doesn’t even truly know what is in her best interests – her husband or father does. Now of course, complementarians insist that men and women are equal, they’re just different. But if men know what’s best for women and women are too silly to know what’s best for themselves, well, the claim that this is somehow “equal but different” is shown for the lie that it is.

3. What about men who don’t give a shit about being “truly loving”?

Even if we assume that “good and loving” men will truly act out of love for their wives and actually know what’s best for their wives, we still have a problem: What about the men who are not “good and loving”? Here is where supporters of patriarchy have no real answer. They may argue that their ideas work fine by pointing to couples where it appears to work – where the husband “thinks of the wife’s needs” to the extent that he involves her in decision making and defers to her when he realizes that her suggestions or advice are sound. But what about the couples where this is not the case? What about the couples where the husband takes up the mantle of dictator and takes advantage of his wife’s submission? There is no exception clause for those women.

In other words, the whole “women are to submit, but loving men won’t take unfair advantage of that” line fails for men who are not “loving” – and it doesn’t let women in those situations off the hook. Instead, it still requires them to submit. In other words, supporters of patriarchy, including those using the term “complementarian,” command women in abusive marriages to just buckle under and accept the abuse. As in, buckling under and accepting the abuse is their duty, and is commanded of them by God.

In fact, people like Debi Pearl and Mark Driscoll insist that by submitting to their abusers, women in abusive relationships will help bring about the conversion of their abusers. The more you submit, the more likely the abuser will see that there is something different about you, something that he wants too, and to come to see that the Christianity you follow – and submit in the name of – has something to it. This is really and truly what they say, and part of how they encourage women married to abusive men to buckle under and take it. Because, you know, that’s what God commands of them.

Conclusion

So no, I’m sorry, but saying “if the husband truly loves her” he won’t require his wife to have sex with him does not somehow make the claim that “it’s her duty” okay. No actually, I’m not sorry. I’m angry.

I’m angry about the number of women who have been tricked into living lives of inequality out of the backward notion that their husbands somehow know better than them what is best for them. I’m angry about the number of women who have been conned into believing that God has called them to submit to their husbands with the promise that good and loving husbands won’t take advantage of that. I’m angry about the number of women in abusive relationships who stay there and endure horrors I don’t even want to imagine because they believe that is their duty to God.

This is not okay. Someone please make it stop.

———

* The whole “it might not look like I’m acting in your best interests right now, but I really am” line is really lifted straight out of the evangelical playbook. Over and over pastors and evangelical advice books and Bible study leaders tell evangelicals that God is doing what is best for them even if it doesn’t look like it. Oh, your house burned down? You may think that’s awful, but it’s actually for the best in the long run, because it’s part of God’s greater plan. Oh, your child just died of cancer? It’s God’s will, and God knows what’s best for you, even what he’s doing doesn’t make any sense to you right now. So if a patriarchal husband uses this line on his wife – “this may not seem like it’s the best for you, but I assure you, it is” – it’s something she has heard over and over again and is conditioned to accept.

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.

  • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

    I’m frequently reminded of a video I watched in university about women in Islam (I think…) when this comes up. One of the women in the video explained this idea as, yes her husband has the final say, but that doesn’t mean she won’t have input, which would put her into more of an adviser role than purely submissive. Where this got really interesting for me was when the possibility of her husband pulling their daughter(s) out of school, she said flatly, “I wouldn’t let him.” I’m not sure she realised the contradiction between this sentiment and her previous statements.

  • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

    This issue doesn’t just come up w.r.t. sex and marriage. I once read a proposal for a Christian absolute monarchy — the whole thing was arranged as a pyramid, with each man accountable to the man above him (women, of course, are accountable to their husbands or fathers), and so on up to the King, who is accountable only to God. That last bit is what makes it all OK.

    Yeah, right.

    These people seem unable to conceive of human relations — of any kind, at any level — as arising out of negotiation between equals, rather than being imposed by authority.

    • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

      That’s not a proposal, that’s history and the “Divine Right of Kings”. Most monarchies in Europe ran along those lines right up until a few centuries ago. When the monarch was responsible and just the kingdoms flourished but it led to all manner of problems when there was a weak or despotic monarch and after enough of them you get revolutions and beheadings.

      • Uly

        The revolutions justified because obviously God had withdrawn his approval for this monarch and this other monarch was the divine choice.

      • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

        It was, IIRC, called the Great Chain of Being.

  • Aaron

    Libby,
    It might also be a good point to bring up another common evangelical debate point, that the reason God sends people to hell is because his love is “tough” and “holy”.
    What’s to stop a husband from “loving” his wife the same way they are taught that God “loves” us?
    Surely if an all loving God can send someone to hell for not believing the right thing, it is the loving thing to do to beat my wife if she gets out of line.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    This is exactly why I could never be complementarian- I could never get a straight answer on when a wife should and should not submit. I’ve heard teaching that “wives must submit to their husbands, the husband is the leader” but then they throw in the disclaimer “if he wants her to do something illegal or go against God, then she shouldn’t submit”- so to me it sounds like a woman should use common sense and evaluate if whatever her husband is saying is a good idea or not. And if he wants her to do something that she thinks is a good idea anyway, then where is the “submitting”? The whole thing just doesn’t make sense.

  • joeclark77

    The error in your first point is that “love” in Christianity is not “an emotion”. Christian love is the Greek “agape”, often translated as “charity” when we want to explicitly distinguish it from erotic love, “eros” (which may be the emotion you’re thinking of). Charity is self-sacrificial love that puts the good of the other person ahead of one’s own good. The teaching is that wives should sacrifice themselves for their husbands, and husbands should sacrifice themselves for their wives. Of course both sides “take advantage”… that’s what we call “sin” and we all do it sometimes. That’s not an excuse to abandon the idea of charity/love altogether.

    • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

      No, but it’s a good reason to abandon the idea of authority/submission. Though I agree Libby’s post misstates the idea of “agape”, as generally taught in Christian circles, this does not alter the larger point: that under Patriarchy there are no practical checks and balances on what the husband does, except his own conscience. And as you yourself point out, even a well-intentioned man is frequently going to be “sinful” — but the wife has no legitimate recourse. And if the guy is a selfish, controlling, abusive bastard, well….he’s got the perfect cover story.

      Now if you want to make it about mutual charity and sacrifice, then by all means do — but then patriarchal authority is irrelevant, and we’re getting into egalitarian territory. Kindness and consideration start becoming mutual, a negotiated interaction between moral equals, not a benefaction bestowed by a superior on a subordinate.

      • joeclark77

        Christianity does treat men and women as “moral equals”, but not as physically “the same”. I’m not sure I see why “authority is irrelevant” or who would benefit if husbands and wives both simultaneously abandoned their natural duties. Wives need their husbands to act as leaders, and husbands need wives to be their support, if families are to thrive.

      • joeclark77

        By the way, it’s worth noting that Christian marriage is meant to be a type or symbol of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. I’m trying to imagine how that would work without authority, submission, and willing giving of self…

      • Christine

        joeclark77 – the discussion of your interpretation of Christian marriage is at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/08/if-hes-jesus-and-im-the-church-thats-not-equal.html.

      • butterfly5906

        This is to joeclark below, but it won’t let me reply directly:
        “Christianity does treat men and women as ‘moral equals’”… “Christian marriage is meant to be a type or symbol of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church”

        These two statements are mutually exclusive. Christ and the Church are not moral equals. There is a clear hierarchy, with Christ being more moral and more valuable than humanity or the Church. How can anyone who views the husband as analogous to Christ in a marriage also view the wife as equal?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      The teaching is that wives should sacrifice themselves for their husbands, and husbands should sacrifice themselves for their wives.

      If that is the case, why does the Bible tell wives to “submit” and husbands to “love” rather than simply telling both to “sacrifice”?

      You are right to make the distinction between love as an emotion and love as an action. Let me clarify what I was trying to say, though, because making that distinction does not actually invalidate my point. You know how sometimes a parent punishing a child tells the child “I know it feels like I’m just being mean, but I’m really doing this for your own good, out of love for you”? It is possible to carry out an act that seems very unkind – say, a husband ordering his wife not to see her best friend anymore – but still say that he is doing whatever he is out of love for her (or charity, or whatever you want to call it) – i.e., he doesn’t think that friend is a good influence, or he thinks her spending time with her friend is getting in the way of her caring for the kids, etc. Essentially any act can be justified in this way. “I know it might not feel like I’m being loving, but I really am, and in the long run you’ll see that what I’m doing is for your own good.” THIS is the problem I was referring to, and arguing that love is an action, not an emotion, doesn’t change that.

    • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

      Yes, well now you’re (joeclark77) trying to justify Christian theology to someone (me specifically, but several others here as well) who has firmly rejected the whole shebang as a load of donkey’s kidneys, for all sorts of excellent reasons.

      And no, someone who is required to unconditionally obey is *not* the moral equal of the authority figure they’re submitting to, not if that term is to mean anything. A benevolent dictator (which is exactly what CP makes the husband), even if truly benevolent (the fact that none are is an *additional* problem), is still someone who grants favours from on high.

    • mary

      Quick point- the bible never says that a marriage is analogous to Christ and the church. It says that men are to love their wives as Christ loves us, specifically to sacrifice for them. If marriage was supposed to reflect Christ and the church in general, we would have to admit contradictions in scripture, because the bible also advocates mutual submission and mutual authority within marriage. My husband is not God, and folks, I’m no church. =) Also- scripture never says that husbands were created to lead, or that women need that leadership. In fact, the bible takes pains to announce and celebrate women who were in positions of leadership- like a deacon, an apostle, a judge and general, a prophet, a businesswoman….take a look through the bible, and try to find an example of a woman who was condemned for not being submissive enough. I have never found any, but I do see blessings and praise for disobedient wives, (Abigail, Esther..) property rights granted to women who demanded independence, and a woman praised for ditching housework and hospitality in favor of sitting with Jesus and the rest of the men. As to sex- the bible explicitly says that sex is 100%mutual. Always. As in I have just as much, or just as little, =) authority over my husband’s body as he has over mine. Which kind of implies that it is all kinds of WRONG for a wife to feel pressured into sex. EVER. If you read the bible in such a way as to get patriarchy from it as a prescription for life, you may as well be any religion you like- because you can’t possibly defend the inerrancy of scripture or yourself as a follower of Christ in the face of such glaring contradictions. Patriarchy is about as defendable as slavery and polygamy.

      • todd atkinson

        patriarchy is satanic, it tears families apart. There is a reason why secular marriages have less abuse and less divorce than christian, its all a satnic deception. Think aout it, is evil going to come as evil or diguised as God.

    • todd atkinson

      you completely missed the point. Patriarchy is wrong period. Men are not in any way more capable of leading and makeing decisions than are women though i may say the opposite is true. Seriously with all the war and violence and destruction, the greed the suffering and on and on. If God were our employer we’d have been fired a long time ago. If you buy the whole inerrant b.s. of the bible than you are a lost cause-thats been the biggest deception from powers that be on mankind if there ever was one. wives submitting to their husands, the people that make this argument that the are arguing with God’s word will have to admit that they would have to make the same argument in favour of slavery, if not thats hypocricy, you realize you belong to the group thats een lead into captivity by the devil. Down with patriarchy up with eutiful glorious matriarchy-the whole earth, animals, and humans will e able to breath a long refreshing sigh of relief.

  • http://brokendaughters.wordpress.com Lisa

    Here’s what I don’t get: The belief that a man won’t take advantage of a wife submitting to have sex with him whenever HE wants implies that he must somehow know that she wants to sleep with him – or not. And here’s the problem, you’re supposed to submit “cheerfully”, meaning that when he asks for sex, you’re supposed to be cheerful and involved, which, in the end, prevents you from expressing that you do not want to sleep with him at that point.
    Hence, if the man is not a mind-reader, he cannot know whether she is actually cheerful and eager to sleep with him or if she is just “cheerfully submitting”. Two vastly different concepts which will look exactly the same to the man.
    But, hey. I suppose, since all men are constantly being led by God, he would tell them that their wife doesn’t really feel like it – despite the fact that she put on sexy stuff, lit some candles and is now dancing seductively, because heck, she knows how to cheerfully submit!.
    Yeah, right. Totally smart concept.

    • Rosa

      haha. Yes!

      Also, putting no limits at all on a person will totally help them learn to be a better person! That’s why we raise children with no rules and never say no to them…oh wait.

      Cheerfully submitting to everything a person says will make that person a worse person. Not only will they be unable to learn about the people submitting to them because of lack of feedback, which leads to bad decisions, they will have no feedback when they are doing something wrong or hurtful, so even the best-natured and best-intentioned person will do more and more hurtful things over time.

      It’s just an absolutely terrible system except for the man who values control over all other values. In practice, more people give lip service to it than actually practice it – and even then the ideal system causes conflict as people try to work the reality of their individual motives and talents around these ridiculous ideas.

      • http://brokendaughters.wordpress.com Lisa

        Yes, isn’t it funny how fundemntalist men get to act exactly like those “unruly liberal kids”? And if you speak up against the man, or don’t do as he says, well, he’ll just go out and cheat on you, because, well, it’s your fault and you deserve it! Whenever you don’t do as they tell you, they act all whiney and hurt and very much like unruly liberal kids who don’t get their way.
        With the major difference that kids don’t do things because they want to “pay you back” or “rule over you” – but simply because it seems fun at the time. And, most kids react positively to loving correction. Unlike the fundy men.

      • todd atkinson

        exactly, subbmission is the position that takes extreme inner strength and patience and is actually the position Jesus himself described as true leadership. With patriarchy its all about haveing thetitle of leader to fead the fattened ego like their all spoiled entitled children. Its amazing that mature adults can’t see this for the scam it is.

    • Ashton

      This is exactly what I was thinking. If a woman is to submit always, the husband won’t know when he’s taking advantage.

  • Christine

    I think that point 3 is really the strongest of your arguments. In theory, in a “merely” complementarian marriage, there is lots of room for disagreement, for the woman to make her opinions known, give input, complain, etc. The “In theory” is where this falls down on points 1 and 3. Point 2 is an issue with families that go all the way to admitting that they’re patriarchal and say that women should automatically agree with their husbands, and show enthusiasm no matter what they want themselves, which makes a difference between complementarianism and full-blown patriarchy. I don’t actually see a lot of difference between point 1 and point 3, although point 1 seems to be more of a supporting point for the really terrifying truth you’re putting down in point 3.

  • Landon

    This points out very well the way the whole, “submit, but don’t worry about it” theory can go wrong/be abused, but there’s a deeper problem – the whole idea is incoherent.

    Let’s start with two fundamental premises of this position.

    1) If a husband wants the woman to have sex, then even if she doesn’t, it’s right that she submit.
    2) The wife is not required to obey anything that would involve leading someone (presumably including her husband) into sin.

    If (1) is to be considered consistent with (2), then it follows that

    3) It cannot be sinful for a husband to ask the wife to have sex even if she doesn’t want to.

    Now, this makes the following premise

    4) A husband who “really loves” his wife won’t ask her to have sex when she doesn’t want to.

    puzzling. WHY wouldn’t a husband who “really loves” his wife do this? Libby Anne does a great job of showing how a guy who is a jerk, or a jerk in the moment, or just clueless even, can wind up making unwelcome demands. But let’s grant the Christians their premise of a well-intentioned, perceptive husband in this situation. Even giving them that much leeway, they can’t make (4) sensible.

    What is the husband doing wrong if he asks for sex when the wife doesn’t want it? It can’t be anything genuinely serious – anything serious enough would count as sin of some kind, which would mean the woman is not required to obey, per (2). But she is required to obey, per (1). Ergo, on pain of inconsistency, requiring sex even when the wife does not wish it cannot qualify as sinful. At most, Christians who take this sort of attitude can perhaps hold that requesting sex when the woman does not want it is a SOCIAL transgression – it’s “rude” or “gauche,” in other words. They can’t assign any moral opprobrium to it, because “sinful” is the only term of moral censure available to them. Once we establish that the practice isn’t sinful… they’re stuck.

    joeclark77 tries to take refuge in the notion of “agape,” though he doesn’t do much more than wave his hand at it. The problem with this is that “agape” is insufficiently substantive to rule out this kind of behavior. A thoroughgoing adherent of this kind of complementarian ideology could always construct a narrative in which the husband’s requiring sex from the reluctant wife is actually GOOD for her, inasmuch as it helps her learn to truly submit to her husband, etc. etc., ad nauseum (literally). I’ve met a lot of Christians who think that “agape” will ‘paper over’ the holes in their theology, but there’s not enough substance to it to meet this burden.

  • Aniota

    At first, this reminded me of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, where one can always say “oh, yeah, but he only abused her because he didn’t truly love her” to insist that the basic premise of patriarchy still works (after all, it’s taught by God, how could it possibly not work?) even if it not only opens the door for abuse, but kicks it down.
    But your footnote really got me thinking (thanks!), because I’m all to familiar with this line of reasoning. If the God-guided husband by definition does know what is best for his wife and does “truly love her”, then there can’t be – by definition – any form of abuse going on, no matter what he does. After all, his every action is ultimately in her best interest, no matter the amount of suffering he might put her through.

    This reasoning goes to show how men are idolized to be like God by patriarchy movements. The tactics of theodicy being applied to men to define abuse out of existence. This doublespeak really frustrates me in discussions about theodicy, but oh so much more when now seeing it being used not simply to explain suffering, but excuse it by explaining it away.

    Yeah, anger seems to be the reasonable response. Reminds me of a line in Serenity (the Firefly film) :
    “The Operative: Do you know what your sin is, Mal?
    Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Ah Hell… I’m a fan of all seven. But right now… I’m gonna have to go with wrath.”

    • Charlesbartley

      Aniota. I love your first paragraph. I design computer systems for a living. If a system can’t deal with its failures, i.e. it only deals with the ‘happy path,’ then it is a failure. If God is the greatest designer ever, then how come his system fails to ‘catch’ the *obvious* easy systematic failures. If patriarchy, and “wives submit, husbands love” ruleset actually worked it would have descriptions on what to do if either part failed in their role to mitigate or manage the unjust outcomes that will happen. It would be more concerned with the many varieties of failures than it would be with the ‘cross your fingers and hope everything works as designed’ route. Not dealing with those guarantees abuse.

      • Aniota

        @Charlesbartley:
        Thank you for your kind words and further insight.
        I’ve long ago started to notice these immunization techniques, i.e. rhetorical techniques trying to insert doublespeak, in discussions about theodicy in order to evade being pinned down on something you said earlier, thus immunizing yourself from any criticism. Of course, this can be applied to numerous topics.

        Most of the time, this goes unnoticed by the very believers making such statements, due to what I identify as doublethink (Orwell really hit a nail with this one). Going meta and explicitly pointing this technique out is the only approach I’ve seen to work at least somewhat.

        If you’re not already familiar with it, you might enjoy this point – put far more eloquently than I could ever express it – being made by Sam Harris in his debate with William Lane Craig:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HthQ6a7FZeA
        He makes the above point at 3:10, but the whole video is worth watching.

        At 4:30 he points out how this ultimately revolves around narcissism (anyone else reminded of Libby’s previous posts on how men are idolized in Christian Patriarchy?), to the point of solipsism I would add, thus making this sort of faith “obscene”. While I wholeheartedly agree with this classification, seeing this tactic applied to abusive husbands has me at a loss for words, for my knowledge of the English language (or any other language for that matter) has not yet equipped me with the vocabulary necessary to adequately express the disgust and rage I feel when thinking about how very real abuse is redefined as love in this patriarchal environment, essentially stripping the wives of any means to defend themselves without losing support in the very community that ought to be protecting them.

    • todd atkinson

      did anyone ever consider how the story of lucifer wanting to be above God sounds disturbingly similar to the patriarchy. Lucifer is the dark light of the male ego while decieving people into thinking that by serving him they are serving God when in actuality they are commiting husband idolatry. Didn’t Jesus say you can’t have 2 masters, and not to call any earthly man your father-which is exactly what patriarchy is. Think about it, the dark light want to keep the worship for himself so he cons people into believing this male worship is what God wants but what it actually does is cause the male ego to lord it over the right hemisphere of the brain which has been called the God brain because this is where direct knowing comes through due to its neg. polarity which allows it to connect with the higher light of God. Two postive polarities will repell one another. This explains why it was so important to the God of this world to oppress women. And if they haven’t noticed patriarchy is not unique to christianity and if all the other religions are wrong than shouldn’t they be doing the opposite. Something to think about. The dark light is the part within us that rebells against God’s will thats the male ego of the lft hemisphere the lower adam mind.

  • jose

    So what charges/punishment/consequences face the man who is not truly loving and rapes his wife in this religion?

    • Rosa

      None. Especially if she goes to the pastors/elders instead of secular legal authorities. Which she is of course taught to do.

      There are actually no consequences for any bad behavior by the husband, in practice, unless the wife is willing to sin. Because the one power (short of murder) that a traditional wife has is divorce. And that’s taken off the table even in most complementarian churches.

      In practice what I’ve seen is that to escape a bad marriage – my own parents marriage, where my dad was an alcoholic, my stepsisters where there was lack of financial support due to the husband spending all the money on drugs and recreational activities, my friends’ where her dad was an addict who mortgaged all the family assets and committed financial fraud, other friends where there was violence in the marriage – to escape, one partner must first leave the church. Sometimes, it’s even been the man, because some men recognize that absolute power is not good for them, either. And these are regular evangelical and nondenominational churches with complementarian teachings, not big-P patriarchal churches.

      • Rosie

        This really strikes me: “There are actually no consequences for any bad behavior by the husband, in practice, unless the wife is willing to sin.” It very eloquently speaks to my experience. That is, that it is actually impossible to be both good and female in a patriarchal system, and remain alive.

      • Michelle

        I once heard a complementarian pastor respond to this problem by suggesting that a woman in this position could/should pray for God to end her husband’s life. I guess desiring a person’s death is somehow less sinful than divorcing him, while at the same time, hating that person in your heart is as bad as murder. Not sure how this is supposed to work.

      • smrnda

        It might be in line with the desire to avoid scandal. A divorce would be a scandal, but if the husband dies, nobody has to know the wife was praying for his death. But yeah, given the ‘thought crimes’ nature of Christianity it doesn’t make sense.

  • Red

    The idea that women need leadership and men need assistance to that leadership for marriages to thrive doesn’t make any sense to me. I have seen many long-term marriages that were egalitarian, without leadership role distinctions, that thrived for many decades. My parents are one such marriage–30-plus years and going strong.

    Their marriage was one of the main reasons that this argument never made sense to me (well, that and the fact that my parents taught me to categorically reject it any time I heard it at church, LOL). I ran into this when I started dating church guys. I remember one boyfriend telling me that if we got married, he would know what was best for me. When I told him that it didn’t make sense for HIM to know what I needed better than I knew what I needed, he got this startled look on his face and said “Oh…I never thought of that before.” Sadly, I know many people who haven’t thought that way before.

  • Sue Blue

    @joeclark77: My mother was a submissive Christian wife and my father a “leader”, and our family was certainly “thriving” – if you call an abusive, rigidly-controlled autocracy ruled by terror “thriving”. When I escaped from our patriarchal “family”, I became a single parent and an atheist. Although it was financially difficult to raise a young son by myself in the wilds of Montana, my son later recalled those years as the “happiest in his life”. He grew up healthy and happy and went on to a happy marriage – all without the benefit of a male “leader” for the first 12 years of his life. My husband – his stepfather – became a friend and role model to him, but his formative years were religion and father-free.
    Families can be whatever people want them to be – the only requirement is that the members treat each other as individuals deserving of love, respect and autonomy.

  • ButchKitties

    Patriarchal notions of authority/submissiveness in marriage may actually encourage men who wouldn’t otherwise be abusive to become so. Think of the Stanford prison experiment. Giving people direct authority over others who have no recourse against that authority, husbands over wives/prison guards over prisoners, is psychologically conducive to making otherwise decent people turn into abusers. Ideologies of inherent authority/submission are corrosive to empathy and morality.

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      I’m also reminded of Frederick Douglass recounting his experiences with the wife of one of his owners. She didn’t come from a slaveholding background and she was initially kind to him and started teaching him to read, but was prevented from doing so by her husband. Douglass said that she became a very cruel person when she embraced the slaveholding mentality.

      Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Dressing it up in nice, soothing language about love and duty and sacrifice doesn’t change that.

      • Aniota

        @Bix:
        “Dressing it up in nice, soothing language about love and duty and sacrifice doesn’t change that.”

        Not from an outside perspective, no, but it helps to understand how people inside the system can even begin to see this justified. Like with the two boxes about consent and “God’s will”, people here are operating on wholly different moral foundations.

    • Aniota

      @ButchKitties:
      Thanks, hadn’t even thought of this before. Makes this whole system even more depressing, but thanks for pointing this out.

  • Sarah

    I waited around for my ex-husband to have a divine revelation. I was going to church, reading my Bible, reading Stormie OMartin books, praying, and taking the counsel of older, wiser women. They all promised me that if I submitted consistently and showed my ex patience, grace and love even after he’d denied me food, sleep, access to the bathroom, taken away my cars keys, my cell phone and choked me repeatedly, he would be convicted by the Holy Spirit and he’d change.

    Instead of waiting around forever and possibly getting murdered, I ran like heck and got divorced. I’m much happier now, and most importantly, I’m alive.

  • Rosie

    What’s weird is that my family is pretty opposed to abuse, even emotional abuse, and yet still uses all the fungelical arguments to excuse God for unpleasantness, and even believes in patriarchy-in-name within a marriage (though not so much in practice). But they can’t understand how those teachings about God taught me that my proper role was “victim”, nor how when I finally got around to rejecting those arguments within a romantic relationship, I rejected them for God too. They were happy to see me leave my human abuser, but not my supernatural abuser. And I think they’re still confused as to why the one led directly to the other.

  • Fina

    The whole thing is logically inconsistent anyway:
    If the husband never takes advantage of the submission – if everything he does is under full consent of his wife – then submission is unncessary anyway*.
    So if he wants sex, and his wife wants sex – then submission is redundant. She only has to submit if she doesn’t want sex, in which case he is taking advantage.
    The same applies to other situations – if both agree on a decision, submission is redundant. If she does not agree with him, but he goes along with it anyway because she is supposed to submit, then he is taking advantage.

    *This does not apply if submission does include a way to opt out, such as a safeword – in that case it can turn into a default submissive state that does not allow abuse, since the submitting person can opt out if it turns into abuse. It’s essentially a safeguard that acknowledges that the submissive person does have independent will and needs, and that any submission is not allowed to cross into certain absolute territory because then it would be abuse.
    That this is not acknowledged by christian patriarchy (submission for them means that a womans will and needs are absolutely identical copies of her husband) is whats wrong with their concept of submission.

  • wanderer

    This submission/authority discussion reminds me of some friends who told me about doing premarital counseling with an obviously complementarian minister.
    He said “it’s like riding a horse. Two people may be riding, but one has to be in front.”
    They were like….”why does it have to be a horse?”
    Apparently there’s no answer for that.

  • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

    True Scotsman fallacy, through and through, mixed in with a healthy dose of victim blaming.

    • Aniota

      @Nathaniel:
      Like I’ve written above, I also first thought of this. But thanks to Libby’s footnote, I now see this as something far worse than a simple logical fallacy.

  • thalwen

    Complimenatarianism is a crappy deal. It’s all the crape of the master-servant relationship without any of the benefits. I work for an employer, so in that regard I submit to her authority, and she makes the final decisions. However, I still have my personal human rights as well as worker protections. And I get paid for my submission and can leave relatively easily should I find the need to.
    In a “Biblical” relationship, there aren’t those protections, just the hope that the husband wont be abusive. While the wife maintains her legal rights, the community discouraged her from using them. So it’s more of a master-slave relationship and the word equality is just used to make it all seem less anachronistic and sexist than it is in reality.

  • smrnda

    The belief in different roles for men and women in marriage is going to affect how they communicate. If a wife is taught that she should submit, she’s going to internalize the idea that she needs to support her husband’s decisions even when she doesn’t like them, and that since the burden on her husband to lead is so great that she shouldn’t be critical of what type of leader he is. This impacts both big things and little things. If the husband says “let’s get Chinese food tonight” the wife who is taught to submit isn’t going to ask herself is she would really prefer Italian. If the husband decides to quit his job, move to another state and start a risky business, the wife is going to support rather than saying it sounds like a bad idea.

    I really see no reason why men need to be leaders or why women need leaders. Plenty of people function as single adults until in their late 20s and 30s these days, and they function well enough without having a partner to fulfill these roles. If a woman can make it to 30 without a man’s leadership and without disasters, it kind of indicates that she doesn’t need what a man ‘traditionally’ brings to marriage. If a man can make it that long without a wife supporting him (or padding his ego) then men don’t need the ‘traditional’ wife. The whole way of thinking is outmoded, if it was ever relevant at all to begin with.

  • nifty

    What really stands out to me is the limited connection to God that women (are allowed) to have. If a Godly woman – who regularly communicates with God and yields to the Holy Spirit – decides to get married, does this mean she gives up her relationship with God? Now that she is married, her husband does the communicating with God (becomes the middleman so to speak), and she willingly accepts whatever he says.

    If she decided to continue her relationship with God, and both husband and wife prayed about decisions that needed to be made in the household, what happens if they get 2 different answers? Does the husband get the final say because she must submit, even though she feels the Holy Spirit is telling her something different than the husband is?

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    Any system which require a person to always be “truly loving” for it to work is from the start completely flawed. It is a machine built to generate victims, and I don’t say that lightly.

  • Merbie

    Yes, yes, yes to #2! (Well, and the other points also.) Patriarchy can limit both women AND men with its stereotyping.

  • Don Gwinn

    I love my wife. I would go so far as to call myself a loving husband. But I can’t imagine thinking I know she wants or needs sex and is only telling me she doesn’t for . . . . some inscrutable lady reason, who the hell knows what dames think, right?

  • mary

    My marriage almost fell apart before my husband and I ditched the bondage of complementarian/patriarchal ideology. Now, we are happy egalitarians, though we still have to fight ingrained responses from our upbringing. All of the benefits that women are promised with patriarchy- protection, companionship, respect, happiness, fulfillment of destiny, knowledge of purpose, happy and well-ordered home, etc. didn’t really happen for me until patriarchy was banished from our house for good. Submission and inequality breed distrust, abuse, and manipulation in marriage- not teamwork or communication! Oh- I feel way more “protected” with a good partner who has my back than I did with a guy who was always second-guessing me and who had to be in charge. Men don’t respect women who are “submissive, feminine, responders”- at least in my experience, they respect women who are their equals and act like it- women who won’t sit back and let them mess stuff up, and women who won’t take any crap off of them. And not being pidgeon-holed into a destiny (permanent sahm-hood) that isn’t mine is pretty fulfilling if you ask me. One more thing- divorce is not a sin, but rape and abuse are. It is a crying shame that women can’t find a safe haven in their churches and a connection to appropriate legal protection instead of victim-blaming. Let me be clear- if your husband is pressuring you for sex, divorce him. If he coerces you to have sex, HAVE HIS ASS THROWN IN JAIL. There. =) That is what women should be hearing in church, IMO.

  • Darklighteryphon

    You know not of the Great Father Of All (praise be upon him) He made us (men) to protect this world and we did with are unseen brother the jinn (male demons) but the evil goddess the lie made something that looked like her and acted look her just who men and jinn looked like their maker. “From her (the lie) is the race of women and female kind: amongst mortal men (and jinn) to their great trouble, no helpmates in hateful poverty, but only in wealth” You know The Great Father of All “prlaise be upon him) is so kind to you because even though you don’t like him, he gave you all you have now. and even though he didn’t make your soul are will still treat you as hid own.

    to many who did follow him bad thing did happen but did they blame anyone or say “why me?”or Why is this happening?” NO they just got on with their lives because they know God (Praise be upon him) would never leave them and will wecome them all.

    it’s feminism that has made this would bad not relingion because the feminist say lies about everything. it’s the root of ever. it’s the tool of the lie and it was never about equality and never will be.

    sorry if what I say unsets you but it’s the truth and it’s batter youknow this now befor you lose yourself.

    • Niemand

      Poe? Is that you? It’s always so hard to tell.

      • Darklighteryphon

        No, I”m Darklighteryphon.

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  • http://beholdconfusion.wordpress.com/ Sara

    “No actually, I’m not sorry. I’m angry.” Is my favorite thing I’ve read on this blog yet.

  • troy

    what happens if the husband does anything his wife asks and she has attitude after attitude and after 1 argument she threatens wit a knife

    • Anat

      If anyone threatens with a weapon it is time to get a restraining order. And to part ways asap.


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