Fifty Shades of Lipstick on a Pig

Woooo! Pile on!

It starts with a conservative Christian site called The Gospel Coalition, where a blogger by the name of Jared Wilson posted The Polluted Waters of 50 Shades of Grey. The blogger’s got some problems with the books, and it’s not because they’re bad Twilight fanfiction.

Jared Wilson quoted a bit from a book by Reformed theologian Douglas Wilson, which tried to psychoanalyze rape as a side effect of our rejection of old-fashioned gender hierarchy in sexual relations. The quote has managed to offend damn near everyone.

[EDIT:] Following Libby Anne’s lead, I think I’ll put a trigger warning here. If you are likely to be upset by discussions of sexual violence, please enjoy this baby lynx instead.

Here’s the heart of it:

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.


True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.

There are some issues here, with Jared Wilson essentially equating the domination and submission in Fifty Shades with rape and Douglas Wilson essentially stating the rape is an unintentional side effect of society’s embrace of women’s equality. But Douglas Wilson’s way of expressing the problem makes the faulty logic – actually, lack of logic, since it’s just a bare assertion – even worse. What do you say to a person who uses military terminology to speak of what is supposedly consensual sex? It made people’s heads go all ‘splody.

I think Rachel Held Evans was first out of the gate, but she’s been followed by scores of other bloggers. As always, James McGrath does the yeoman’s work of rounding up links. As always, Fred Clark has his own list, plus some worthwhile comments of his own. Even Hemant sticks his own oar into these polluted waters.

From Fred Clark, I found out that Douglas Wilson is also the co-author of a pamphlet called Southern Slavery as it Was, which is a work of slavery aplogetics. If I were to write this up into a novel, I’d get thrown out of the “Subtle Fiction Writer’s Guild” at this point.

I’ve glanced through the pamphlet, and it seems to be a fairly standard piece of Lost Cause apologetics: slavery wasn’t that bad, it had some good features, slaves and masters got along, the real problem was the way it was ended, etc. At no point that I can find (though I may be missing something) do the author deal with the core problem: is slavery itself, regardless of how it was carried out, just?

The abolitionists were clear on this point. While they focused on the whippings, the rape and the collars, most always maintained that for one man to own the person of another man was inherently injust and immoral. My favorite argument, just for the cleverness of it, was Lincoln’s spin on Genesis. He suggested that God’s curse on Adam, that he would have to work for his bread from now on, meant that every man was responsible for his own labor.

Just the same, in the inevitable response to the outrage, Jared Wilson tsks-tsks that people are focusing on Douglas Wilson’s brutal characterization of sexual relations and missing the point. He responds – as such authoritarians always do – by putting lipstick on the pig:

In the final analysis, I come back to my original analysis, which is that Douglas Wilson’s view of women is that they are to be cherished and protected and served humbly by men, even men in authority over them. This is the kind of authority the Bible prescribes, the kind that edifies and helps wives to flourish, not wither.

And slavery was really a happy, friendly relationship and the slaves were better for it. There is no compromise on the essential authoritarian structure, and there never will be. I suspect, as Corey Robin points out in The Reactionary Mind, the high place of men in this structure has become part of their self understanding, and to give it up would lessen both Wilsons in their own self perception.

When preaching to the choir, they will state it bluntly. When preaching to the unconverted, the will pretty it up with language like “cherish” and “served humbly.” Regardless, the hierarchy stays in place. Those of us who reject the hierarchy as unjust and corrupting can see straight through it.

You Can’t Keep a Bad Man Down
Where the Fire Comes From
Bob Cargill on the Holy Grail
All Cycles Come to an End
  • Heather M.

    Wow. As far as I’ve heard the book is a train wreck of bad writing (much like the actual Twilight series itself) but we can all easily ignore some bad erotica. Now these men writing nonsense about consensual sex being some kind of battlefield..? Yikes. That takes me back to the bad old days when I was mired in a patriarchal religion that insisted I submit to my husband in all things! Eww. The assumption that women’s equality is flawed and leads to rape? Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot. over! Yeah, that “argument” falls apart at even a moments thought about it. Rape has been committed in every kind of culture you can imagine; many of which were all about male authority. The ignorance of these people is breath-taking.

  • vasaroti

    I read part of the Wilson drivel. Hard to follow, but apparently he thinks that women get raped because they’re not submitting fast enough. He;s mentally ill, and I hope everyone in his community is aware that he’s a weirdo.

  • Bill

    essentially religion only exists to justify submission of women to insecure men who need female freedom restrained in order to feel worthy themselves. A woman who owns her sexuality is a threat to these men. In addition women who are afraid of freedom, which unfortunetly there are many, serve as useful fools for the continuation of religous stupidity.

    • Jaz


  • Mieke

    Baby Lynx so cute! :)

    • Raymond

      So true! I’m also glad to know of the site for Zoo newbies I wasn’t aware of before this.

  • Noelle

    May I say your trigger warnings with alternate links to baby animals are the best I’ve seen.

    Ugh, don’t make me have to read Shades of Gray to see what all the fuss is about. I like erotica as much as the next lady, but slogging through bad writing is so painful. There should be fan fiction to elevate the writing levels of popular works.

    • vorjack

      My wife picked it up and couldn’t get more than 10 pages in. After that, I didn’t have the guts to try.

  • cowalker

    So what’s the explanation for men liking to be submissive in BDSM role-playing? I’ve read comments from the dominant women who do it for pay that the men who most enjoy this sex play are the men who wield power in real life–executives, for example, or widely lionized church leaders. So what thwarted Biblical truth is striking back by making powerful men beg to lick the pointy boots of women wearing leather bustiers? What do these men REALLY need?

  • Paul

    Damn, as a southerner who grew up during the worst of the fight for civil rights with family members on both sides of the arguments, I hate to see anyone use slavery as a parallel of anything else. While slavery is something that historically is still quite common, we like to see it as something from the “bad old days” here in the US.

    Hearing rape blamed on women’s rights is just so far out on the looney fringe that I am surprised he can find an audience for his nonsense. Though I guess I shouldn’t be. I’m sure there are still a few of my relatives out in the country that have an extra set of white sheets for Saturday night meetings. I hope not too many, but hate, stupidity and entitlement seem to go together well.

    I would like to see the world grow up, the only problem is there are so many folks with different ideas about what “growing up” would entail. Unfortunately it would almost certainly, in the US anyway, involve religion as a major factor.

  • Caroline

    Rape is the filthiest act….horrible than murder. Since you are said no to your proposal does not give you the right to rape a women and just to satisfy your male ego you have no right to rape her. Horrible!!!

  • flapjack

    People, there is a severe drought going on in the mid west! Fields are barren! Cattle are being sold at a loss for want of straw and here y’all are piling straw up just to tear it down! If you really believe Doug Wilson thinks rape is dandy you owe it to his wife and his daughters to get them out.

    I pop in here every once and a while b/c there is the potential for some interesting conversations but the pattern is straw man//repeat. Maybe y’all could rent a theist from the local co-op.