“You Are Not Your Own:” When Metaphors For Sex Sound A Lot Like Like Rape

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, violent imagery, discussion of colonialism/imperialism

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We’re getting toward the end of my series on rape and sexual assault in evangelical Christian dating books (Dateable, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Real Marriage, and When God Writes Your Love Story). If you need to catch up, you can find older posts here. Here are the four findings I came across in my research.

  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

Believe it or not, this exciting journey is nearly at an end and we are on finding number four!

4. Blurred Lines Between Sexual Assault and Consensual Sex

No, we’re not talking about that weird ass Robin Thicke video. The authors of these Christian dating books might be surprised to see themselves compared to THAT guy, but they are also guilty of blurring the lines between consensual sex and rape. If you’ve been reading the rest of my series, this won’t surprise you. This point is really the cumulation of all the other points.

When women (and men) are objects or animals

When no one has autonomy over their bodies…

When consent is only an illusion

…It’s hard to tell what is consensual sex and what is rape.

When Metaphors For Sex Sound a Lot Like Rape

The metaphors the authors of these books use to describe sex often involve one living, breathing one human capable of making decisions and one object/animal who cannot make such choices. Sex is described as:

  • Hunting (Dateable p. 182)
  • Driving a Car (Dateable p. 213)
  • Winning a Prize (When God Writes Your Love Story p. 122)
  • Exploring a Piece of Land (Real Marriage p. 51)

For the sake of time and space (I lost my notes and don’t feel like going back through all those books to note ALL the examples right now–stick around for the ebook version, possibly coming soon), this is not even a comprehensive list.

Many of these metaphors bring to mind not just non-consensual but violent imagery. 

On sex as hunting, check out this quote from Dateable (p. 182): 

Guys love the battle. They love the adventure. The chase. It goes way back to the caveman days of clubbing Dino in the head for food. It’s built into that Y chromosome. Hunt. Chase. Conquer. Ugh! We’re the same when it comes to girls. We want a challenge. A chase.

“Clubbing Dino in the head”?

“We’re the same when it comes to girls.”?

I don’t think I need to add to that do I?

On sex as driving a car, well, we have another winner from Dateable. In a metaphor that sets up the reader as a car and the person they choose to have sex with as a “test driver” of a car, this book compares “touching, kissing, fondling, grouping, anything except intercourse” to “scratching the paint. Breaking the window. Poking holes in the seat.” It then uses an image of a doodled car that has obviously taken a beating:

From Dateable p. 213

On sex as exploring a piece of land, I think commenter ColorlessBlue said it best on an earlier post: “The language of uncharted territory to be explored is also colonialist, imperialist, and racist, besides the gender implications.”

This is not just an innocent metaphor, especially coming from a white man like Mark Driscoll. The idea of conquering and colonizing land is strongly wrapped up with sexual violence and genocide. As Andrea Smith discusses in her book, Conquest (which you NEED to read RIGHT NOW), colonizers use rape to conquer, dehumanize, and ultimately attempt to destroy the people they wish colonize. In fact, according to Smith, colonization itself is a process similar to sexual violence.

Colonization is not romantic.

Especially coming from a white man in a country built on colonization and genocide, this language of “exploring uncharted territory” cannot describe consensual sex.

At best, these metaphors describe a sexual situation in which one person is dehumanized. At worst, they call to mind horrific images of sexual violence. Without humanity, autonomy, and consent, these are the images of “sex” that we are left with in these Christian dating books.

  • neal

    Guys love the battle. They love the adventure. The chase. It goes way back to the caveman days of clubbing Dino in the head for food. It’s built into that Y chromosome. Hunt. Chase. Conquer. Ugh! We’re the same when it comes to girls. We want a challenge. A chase.

    Ugh indeed. What audience are they writing for, kindergartners?

    • Jenny E

      Even my kindergartner knows this is crap!

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

    I agree that these metaphors are by nature dehumanising. And I fail to see how they work within a Christ-influenced worldview actually. And the “scratching the paint. Breaking the window. Poking holes in the seat.” kind of stuff is really dehumanising.

    But the same kind of metaphors are used from the other side too in secular culture. Women in popular TV-programs for example like to ‘hunt’ for men too, (Or think of the dido-song ‘hunter’)

    And what about the word ‘man-eater’?

    Btw, is the ‘clubbing dino’ part a joke or a naive Young Earth Creationist would-be-historic fantasy? It is pretty weird…

    • Andrea_Videographer

      The phrase “Man Eater” was coined by a man. It’s along the lines of being in the friend zone or calling a girl a tease. It shows entitlement on behalf of the man. Women *can be referred to as a hunter in popular game shows, but a very high percentage of all shows are created by men, signed off by men etc and it doesn’t necessarily actually turn the tables of a woman having the power. She may be given some choices, but in general, men have that power and women are normally shamed for trying to take that power.

      • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

        As a non-American, and non-native English speaker who probably has written English (from all over the world, not just American) as a second mother-tonge , I have the idea that the word ‘hunting’ is used a lot as a metaphor for a lot of things (more than in Dutch), like job-hunting, or hunting for a house or a partner, or think about the English term ‘head-hunter’ (which always reminds me of this Belgian electronic music classic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1cRGVaJF7Y)
        While most of these terms are about humans looking for something non-human, I don’t see anything insintric negative in the term, and I get the idea that (a female person) hunting for a boyfriend is used alongside (a male person) hunting for a girlfriend, so I don’t see how it would be assymetrical. Which is not to say that the ‘club dino’ quote isn’t problematic and sexist towards both sexes.
        Since I probably do not get all the nuance of your culture, what would you say about a show like ‘sex and the city’ in this regard? I would see it as (consumerism having power over) women who want to have all the power themselves, and not much gender equality at all.

        • sarahoverthemoon

          I don’t watch Sex in the City, and it’s not a Christian dating book so has nothing to do with this blog series.

        • http://oddestnotions.blogspot.com/ Ginger

          Christian girls aren’t supposed to hunt for boyfriends. We are supposed to wait, make ourselves godly and desirable. So, yes, it’s asymmetrical.

          • sarahoverthemoon

            Right, also the fact that these books don’t just talk about hunting as another word for looking and searching. They talk about men being cavemen beating up animals for food and larger animals preying on smaller animals. It’s not just hunting as searching, but hunting as killing and devouring.

          • http://oddestnotions.blogspot.com/ Ginger

            terrifying.

        • Lana

          I’ve never heard people say “I’m hunting for a boyfriend” like they do “hunting for a job.” I’ll have to listen to conversations, I guess.

      • sarahoverthemoon

        Yup. That phrase started as just another way of putting shame and blame on women who step outside their gender roles. If women aren’t magically both pure and virginal AND sexually available, we are the “Bad Girls” that men need to watch out for. Aaand, now I have Hall and Oates stuck in my head.

  • http://aztecqueen2000.blogspot.com/ AztecQueen2000

    Scratching the paint? Breaking the windows? Poking holes in the seat? Who *does* that to a car? That sort of language makes sex sound not only outside of a woman’s agency, but downright abusive.

  • Elisabeth M

    Great series, btw!


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