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.
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.
- These books create an environment ripe for rape myth acceptance
- They create a context in which no one truly has ownership over his/her own body
- They ignore the importance of consent, or create an illusion that consent exists where it does not
- They blur the lines between rape/sexual assault and consensual sex.