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
We’ve come to the last post in my series about rape and sexual assault in evangelical Christian dating books. Yup, that’s right…
…It’s time to kiss dating books goodbye.
To sum up, there were four significant findings related to rape and sexual assault in these books:
- 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
I do have to add a few more thoughts. First of all, although these books were largely silent on rape and sexual assault, and although when they did talk about the subject they often did so in an unhealthy way, one of these books actually did contain some good discussion on the subject.
Guess which one?
Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll.I know, right?
Now, remember, this is also the book that told women that saying no to sex during marriage is sinful and selfish, and blurred the lines between rape and the “sin” of premarital sex. I’m not saying it should be a manual for how to deal with rape and sexual assault. But it talked about it frequently, which is much more than you can say for the other books, and some of the discussion was actually good.
The book strongly condemns marital rape (again, though, women aren’t supposed to say no anyway), even giving victims permission to seek legal help in the case of marital rape:
Under no circumstances is sexual assault of any sort acceptable in marriage…If there has been a sexual assault in your marriage, you need professional and possibly even legal help. (pg. 202)
It also provides definitions of rape, sexual assault, and even consent. It’s hard to see this as progress, since these definitions are then followed by blurred lines and shaming of women who say no, but it’s there.
Also, my research was focused on rape committed against women. However, I think further research could definitely be done that looks at rape against men in these books. Men in these books are told that they always want sex, and that they are animalistic in their desire for it. I would not be at all surprised if this thinking reinforced rape myths about rape committed against men.
I hope that this series has, and will continue to spark conversations about rape and sexual assault in different Christian environments. Maybe not all Christian groups adhere to the teachings found in these books, but rape culture affects us all.
Are our churches treating men like out-of-control animals?
Are they treating women like animals to be preyed on or objects to be used?
Are they threatening those who step outside of benevolent sexist roles with hostile sexism?
Are they denying bodily autonomy?
Are they putting limits on people’s right to consent or to withhold consent?
Are they blurring lines between rape and sexual assault?
I wrote this series, not to tear apart all churches, (though I must admit, it was kinda fun ripping into these dating books!) but because I love my religion. I love my church. I want to be able to thrive in freedom and safety in my church as a woman and as a survivor of rape and sexual assault. I want others to be able to do the same.
I want churches everywhere to step up and use the power they hold in our society to tear down rape culture instead of building it up. I don’t think we can deny that churches have power to shape how many people in our society think and act. We’ve too often used that power to reinforce sexism, rape myths, and other forms of oppression and violence.
What if we used it to tear down rape culture instead?