“You Are Not Your Own:” Is Rape Just Another “Sexual Sin?”

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

Content Note: rape, sexual assault, victim blaming

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This is the LAST post on the findings of my series on rape and sexual assault in Christian dating books (Dateable, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Real Marriage, andWhen God Writes Your Love Story). I may have a wrap-up post or two after this, but we’re coming near to the end!

If you are behind and need to catch up, you can do so here.

Alright! Let’s do this. Here are the four findings.

  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

We are finishing up today with finding number four!

 4. Blurred Lines Between Sexual Assault and Consensual Sex

In my last post, I talked about how these dating books describe sex in ways that are one-sided, or even violent. They use metaphors like “hunting animals,” “driving a car,” or “conquering a piece of land” to talk about was is supposedly consensual sex. This is one way that these books blur the lines between rape and sexual assault.

There’s another way these books blur those lines, though. We’re going to talk about that today.

Is Rape Just Another Sexual Sin?

I believe I’ve mentioned before that most of these books don’t actually spend that much time talking about rape or sexual assault directly. Real Marriage actually does the best job of talking about this issue, and discusses it throughout the entire book. When God Writes Your Love Story has one discussion on rape/sexual assault. Dateable and I Kissed Dating Goodbye mention the issue only in passing and don’t really discuss it. But when rape and sexual assault are directly discussed, the way they are discussed is revealing.

Not only is consensual sex described in sometimes violent language that ignores the autonomy of one partner , but rape and sexual assault are described using language that makes it hard to differentiate between rape and other “sexual sins.” Rape and sexual assault are presented as having the same consequences, having the same motivations, and being on the same level as other “sexual sins” such as premarital sex.

Both Real Marriage and When God Writes Your Love Story have chapters that tell the story of someone who suffers from rape or sexual assault. In Real Marriage, Grace Driscoll tells the story of her own sexual assault. She states outright that she did not deserve to be sexually assaulted, but she also compares her sexual assault with “sexual sin”of premarital sex that she committed. She talks about the two things as if they are on the same level. One is “the sin I committed” and the other is “the sin committed against me.” The result is language that blurs the lines between rape and sexual assault:

“I committed the sin of commission, by having sex outside of marriage. At first it was voluntary, and later he assaulted me. Both types of sin are hurtful.” (p. 135)

Under a section called “The Masks of An Abused Person,” Grace asks,

“What mask(s) are you wearing to avoid dealing with the pain of life?…All these masks lead to continued hiding of our sin and the sins against us, which is equivalent to ‘suppressing the truth in righteousness.‘” (p. 131)

And again, and again:

“Perhaps you don’t want to see how much [abuse] has affected your life in negative ways. But we each need a new identity so that we don’t feel condemned by our sin. Jesus loves us…We did nothing to deserve His love and can’t do anything to lose it…As you respond [to His love] the condemnation will begin to fade.” (p. 132)

I needed to confess…the sins I committed and the sins committed against me…As daughters of Eve, we all have the propensity to put on fig leaves to cover our sin.” (p. 137)

These aren’t the only instances of “blurry” language. Throughout the entire chapter, Grace uses language typically used to describe sin (forgiveness, grace, confession, etc.) to talk about her history of being abused, and talks about the premarital sex she had in the same context as her being abused.

When God Writes Your Love Story takes a similar approach. In a chapter called “Too Late? A Glimmer of Hope in a World of Lost Virginity,” Eric and Leslie Ludy tell the story of a 12 year old girl who is raped. Immediately afterward, they tell the story of two adults who consensually decide to have premarital sex.

The emphasized results of both stories? “Virginity lost.” (p. 238)

These stories are followed by more “blurry” language:

The vast majority of young people who have grown up in church have allowed some form of sexual compromise into their lives or have had their innocence stripped away by someone else… (p. 238)

The rest of the chapter, a chapter that began with a story of a 12 year old girl being raped, deals with how we must acknowledge the serious of our sexual sins before we can “fully comprehend the hope and restoration [God] offers.”  (p. 238)Nowhere does it address rapists, asking them to acknowledge their sins, so the language used appears to be addressing this 12 year old rape victim as if she is in the same position as a couple of college kids who decided to sleep together. 

It never addresses how to respond to being raped, except to say that rape victims, like those who have had consensual premarital sex, must forgive.

Todd cannot forgive himself for falling into sin. Karly cannot forgive herself or Todd for allowing this to happen. Rebecca cannot forgive Jason for destroying her innocence. (p. 245)

Again, two totally different issues are dealt with in the same chapter, at the same time, and the language that results verges on victim blaming and shaming. The books imply that rape victims must seek God’s grace and forgiveness, must confess their past, and must realize the seriousness of sexual sin.

They imply that rape is just another form of “sinful” sex and that the results of both are similar.

The solution to rape/sexual assault and sinful consensual sex are the same as well. Both books emphasize letting Jesus “wash you clean, white as snow, and give you a fresh start” (When God Writes Your Love Story, p. 245) for both the sins you committed and the sins committed against you.

  • http://gaychristiangeek.blogspot.com Rainicorn

    Ew. This is *so* disturbing.

  • Melissa Petersen

    Thank you for writing this series.


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