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
Today, I’m continuing my series in which I share the results of my undergraduate thesis on rape and sexual assault in popular evangelical Christian dating books. After reading Real Marriage, When God Writes Your Love Story, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Dateable, I came across four significant findings:
- These books create an environmentripe forrape 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
I’m going to spend one more post talking about point number two:
2. No one owns his/her body
In case you missed it, in my last post, I talked about how the authors of these books take 1 Corinthians 7’s idea that spouses do not own their own bodies to an extreme that objectifies everyone in the relationship–men and women.
But this loss of autonomy doesn’t start when you say “I Do.” No, for the authors of these books, it starts long before that…
People Belong to Their Partners…Even Before Marriage.
In When God Writes Your Love Story, author Eric Ludy tells a story of an experience he had in high school, before he’d even met his wife. He was sitting at McDonald’s with some friends, and he began daydreaming, wondering about the girl he’d one day marry, who she was, and what she was now. In his daydream, he pictures his future wife spending time with another man.
I imagined this sweet-talking imposter pulling my wife close…and kissing her…I was ready to kill this guy! He was touching something that was solely mine! (pgs. 73-74)
Let me remind you again that here he is talking about a woman that he has never met before. He describes her as a something, and claims that this something belongs to him.
You see, according to these books, not only do you belong to your parents before marriage (at least, if you’re a woman), you also belong to your future spouse before you even meet him. Having sex with, or even kissing a person to whom you are not married is potentially a crime against your future spouse. Single men and women should, according to When God Writes Your Love Story, “give your future spouse your heart, mind, and body now.” (pg. 80)
But what happens if you “give yourself away” to someone who is not your spouse or future spouse?
Joshua Harris, in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, tells the story of a woman who has a dream about her wedding day. In this dream, her fiancé’s ex-girlfriends stand up from the crowd, and take their place at the alter as her fiancé says his wedding vows. She asks her fiancé who all these women standing at the alter with her are:
“They’re the girls from my past,” he answered sadly. “Anna, they don’t mean anything to me now…but I’ve given part of my heart to each of them.”
“I thought your heart was mine,” she said.
“It is, it is,” he pleaded. “Everything that’s left is yours.” (pgs. 13-14)
Harris suggests avoiding casual dating in order to avoid giving so much of yourself away that you have nothing left to give a future spouse. Again, men and women are talked about as if they are objects, as if their hearts are rare treasures that once given away cannot wholly love again. Their bodies are talked about as if they are products that must be kept in pristine condition and virginity is talked about as if it is the most important currency one can have as they attempt to purchase another person’s body.
There is no discussion of choice, because objects don’t make choices. When people are products, sex is currency, and marriage is an exchange of goods, there is no room to talk about consent.