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
Note: this research mainly focused on female rape. 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 could think of a better time to write this post than the first full day back from my honeymoon. Writing this now makes me want to say a prayer of gratitude to God that she delivered me from the kind of relationships promoted in the Christian dating books I used to read.
Since it’s been awhile since my last You Are Not Your Own post (I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately), let’s play catch up real quick. We’re going through four significant findings related to the area of rape and sexual assault that I came across while researching four popular Christian dating books (Real Marriage, When God Writes Your Love Story, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Dateable). These four findings are:
- 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.
Let’s continue our discussion of finding number two now.
2. No one owns his/her body
I’ve already talked about how, in the context of these books, unmarried women are often portrayed as being owned by their parents. But what happens when a woman marries? Is she finally old enough and responsible enough to have autonomy over her body? Is she finally able to make her own choices?
I’ll bet you can take a guess as to what these books say about that.
People Belong To Their Partners
Throughout these books, the authors promote the idea that being married means giving your body over to the ownership of another person. This actually seems to go both ways, at least in word, for heterosexual couples (which are the only couples present in these books)–the wife owns the husband and the husband owns the wife.
This idea is probably best summed up in a verse from I Corinthians 7 that the Driscolls quote in Real Marriage:
“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body but the wife does.” (161)
Joshua Harris states in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, “A husband and wife may enjoy each other’s bodies because in essence they belong to one another.” (94) This idea that they “belong to one another” is used as the sole reason why husbands and wives are allowed to have sex. Sex is about ownership and property, not choice and consent. It is about who owns who, which serves to further objectify both men and women.
Dateable even compares marriage to buying a car, encouraging men and women to keep themselves “new” for when they are owned by their future spouses:
Would you buy a beat up old used car at a new car price? Think about it. Would you look at this car that is all scratched up with dents and high miles on it, pay the full sticker price and think, ‘Wow, what a great deal!’ No way. (213)
When marriage means owning another person, consent isn’t really a “thing,” something that I’ll talk about more later in this series. No one really has autonomy. In fact, even before marriage, romantic partners can claim “pieces” of you. I’ll talk about that in my next post.
You may gain (oppressive, patriarchal) power by “owning” someone else (partner, children, etc.), but no one gets to own him/herself, according to these books.