In an effort to deflect accusations that his patriarchal teachings give shield to abuse, Wilson has been writing a series of letters to Gabrielle, a fictional survivor of sexual abuse perpetrated by her father. In one of the most recent installments, Wilson gives Gabrielle advice on handling relationships during college. His advice included this cringeworthy passage:
Whether or not you feel that way on any given day, you are a beautiful girl. And others will notice this, whether or not you are noticing it. Boys will start coming around. And—here is the Dutch uncle part—you have to recognize that when young men are singling you out, paying you focused attention, one of two things is happening. I am not talking about if a guy says hi to you in passing, or if another guy holds a door for you going into the Student Union. I am talking about if he is paying you guy/girl attention. Either he is trying to figure out a way of getting you into bed dishonorably, or he is trying to figure out how to do it honorably.
I’ve seen this same basic idea suggested over and over and over again. Indeed, I heard it growing up—I was told that “boys are only interested in one thing” before I even knew what that one thing was. Believe me, it was confusing! It also does not reflect my experience in college, or with my husband.
Sure, there are one-night stands where the physical attractiveness of the other party is ostensibly the only factor of importance. But relationships typically involve far more than sex. They’re based on shared interests, compatibility, life goals, and so forth. I initially got to know my now-husband through long discussions of politics and religion during college. We were both intellectual, and never seemed to run out of subject matter. Would Wilson seriously suggest that all of this was simply an elaborate pretext to bed me?
Evangelicals often decry the “sex obsessed” world, but frankly, they’re the most sex obsessed group I’ve ever come in contact with. The sex drive is, yes, strong and important and not to be discounted. But men and women are capable of approaching each other as people, and not simply as objects of sexual desire. Not all men are as shallow as those Wilson has had the misfortune of knowing.Growing up, I was told not only that boys only think about one thing, but also that once they got what they were after, they’d leave. If I wanted a guy to marry me, and not just hang around for the benefits and then take off, I had to withhold sex until marriage. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how horrifying this line of thought is—who would want to be married to a man who only married her so that he could get under her skirt? And what kind of message does that send about relationships?
Promoters of abstinence frequently speak about pheromones. The idea is that unmarried couples who are having sex with each other are in some sense bonded. When I was engaged to my now-husband, my disapproving parents told me I was incapable of making a good decision because I was blinded by love, but what they really meant was lust. It wasn’t that they thought I was having sex, it was that they believed I was blinded by my feelings. What is the solution, then? Arranged marriage?
My sister approached me, years ago, asking me if I didn’t think that early marriage (say, age 18, 19) was perhaps a good idea, because waiting to have sex until marriage was otherwise so difficult and impractical. At the time, I rather agreed with her—it made sense. Today, all I can think about are the negative consequences of this obsession with sex and love affair with abstinence.
If young people are likely to make unwise decisions about love and marriage due to their hormones—and if bedding girls is really is the only thing guys are thinking about when they approach them romantically—doesn’t it make more sense to allow premarital sex and encourage young people to put off their decisions about marriage until they find someone they want to marry for reasons of companionship, support, and shared interests and purpose, rather than sex?
What a toxic soup.
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