“You Are Not Your Own:” So, whose are you?

This post is part of a series called“You Are Not Your Own,” focusing on rape and sexual assault in Christian relationship/dating books

Trigger Warning for rape, sexual assault, victim blaming, and dehumanization

Note: this research mainly focused on female rape, so I am not sure if the same trends toward rape myth acceptance would apply in cases of male rape. If anyone wants to see if research has been done on that subject and report back, feel free. Though it is not the focus of my project, male rape is a huge problem as well–1 out of every 10 rape victims is male. I wanted to make it clear that, despite the focus of my study, it is not only women (and definitely not only cisgender women) who face sexual violence. 

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I Corinthians 6:19 of the New Testament says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…and you are not your own?” Eric and Leslie Ludy use this verse in their book When God Writes Your Love Story to discuss how much choice a person should have it comes to deciding on how to navigate romantic and sexual relationships. (Note: I’m sure there are other interpretations to this passage, but this blog post is based on how the books I’ve researched used it)

Actually, this is a theme throughout all of the books that I researched. You are not your own, therefore you do not have autonomy over your body. You are an object to be owned, a treasure to be protected, and a prize to be won. You cannot make your own decisions, but must remained confined to your set gender role. You don’t have the right to choose if/when you have sex.

You are not your own. Over and over the authors of these books try to remind their readers of this fact.

I started out my research project wondering what the Christian dating/relationship books I chose to research had to say about rape and sexual assault. I learned that the answer to that question is “not much.”

I analyzed four books (chosen for popularity and availability):

  • Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll
  • When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy
  • I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
  • Dateable by Justin Lookadoo and Hayley DiMarco

Out of these four books, only one contained any lengthy discussion of rape/sexual assault. Another had one chapter that briefly discussed the issue. The remaining two books mentioned rape or sexual assault in passing, but didn’t actually discuss it.

So, research over, right?

Well, no. As I’ve mentioned in other posts in this series, we’re talking about a complicated issue here. We’re talking about rape myths that are supported by many people in our society. We’re talking about institutionalized sexism that treats women’s bodies as property. We’re talking about a serious lack of understanding of consent and a serious lack of understanding what rape is, vs. what consensual sex is.

Even with only a few direct references to rape/sexual assault in this books, we can still look at the ways that these books either work to reinforce or tear down (spoilers: it’s mostly the former) the rape culture that we all live in.

I came up with four significant findings related to issues of rape and sexual assault and to this idea that “you are not your own.” I’ll list them out here so you can know what to look forward to, and then I’ll spend a few weeks giving you the details.

  1. These books create an environment ripe for rape myth acceptance
  2. They create a context in which no one truly has ownership over his/her own body
  3. They ignore the importance of consent, or create an illusion that consent exists where it does not
  4. They blur the lines between rape/sexual assault and consensual sex.
In my next few posts, I’ll talk about how these books create an environment for rape myth acceptance, by promoting benevolent sexism, including traditional gender roles and dehumanization.

 

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  • Marta L.

    I once had a youth pastor paraphrase “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and thought it was flat-out insane. Meaning I never had any drive or inclination to actually explore these books, as they didn’t seem worth my time. (I lean asexual myself, so dating and romance was never really a big issue for me anyway.) So perhaps I’m showing my ignorance here. :-)

    That said, is there any reason this non-ownership of body has to be genderized? Even if you interpret the verse to be talking about sexuality (which I never did, personally), I don’t see anything in it that points to men or women. I can see someone reading that verse and thinking: the woman does not own her body, but the man doesn’t own his either, and the man surely can’t own any woman’s. All belong to God, and are only entrusted to the individual person. You know, stewardship.

    I can see how this would lead to some messed up sexuality in other regards like premarital sex, but if anything it would up the ante on rape: that would in effect be stealing from God, which if you’re religious enough to think in these terms I think would be a pretty serious deterrent. On top of that, you’d also be using your body to do something morally horrendous, which is stealing from God yet again since God is supposed to own your body as well.

    I’m not defending this approach since I like my autonomy, thank you very much, and think it’s horribly dehumanizing to think of our bodies this way. But I’d be very interested in future posts to see how this gets turned around into a gendered expectation that says men can own women. I just don’t see that in the text, at all

    • Alice

      I agree this text is gender neutral, but perhaps it becomes dangerous when it is linked with the texts in the Bible about female submission?

      On a slightly different topic, I think 1 Corinthians 7:4 is an interesting and problematic verse about consent. “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” How does that make any sense?

      Husband: “Wanna have sex?”
      Wife: “Not tonight.”
      Husband: “The Bible says you have to.”
      Wife: “The Bible says you can’t touch me or anyone else unless I give you permission.”

      ????

      • Marta L.

        That whole chapter is pretty messed up, IMO. Paul starts out by saying it’s best to remain single and celibate, I’m guessing (based on other texts from him) so they can stay devoted to doing the work of the church rather than dealing with their family’s needs. But he then goes on to say if you must have sex, at least be respectable, get married and be faithful and devoted to that one spouse.

        In that context, he isn’t talking about people in general. He’s saying: lady, you found yourself so driven by lust you had to get married. You couldn’t take control of your own body through internal force of will, so how about a little external restraint. Trust it to your husband. And man, switch that up and the same applies, rely on the external constraint your wife can provide if you can’t trust yourself to control yourself properly. That whole “You do need to get it on every now and then” bit is because in this context the whole purpose of marriage is so you don’t end up so randy you’re burning with passion. Paul’s very clear, first of all, that this is him speaking rather than God (and at least in my church, that affected how we interpreted it and the weight we give it), and also that not everyone should do this.

        But I do hear what you’re saying that a lot of Christians read this kind of thing out of context which leads them to have *cough* some not-exactly-empowering ideas about the proper role of women. There can sometimes be a gap between the impression people have from the Bible (or more likely, how the Bible has been used and abused by our fellow humans) and what it actually says on its own terms. Not that there’s anything new there.

        One of these days you guys should get me talking about the ginormous ways Christian history has misrepresented the curse of Eve. But not tonight. It’s late and it would take too long.


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