Slut-Shaming, Patriarchal Abuse, & A Call to Revolt

Slut-Shaming, Patriarchal Abuse, & A Call to Revolt June 24, 2014

There’s always been this weird stigma within conservative sects of Christianity that anything remotely sexual outside of the confines of marriage is wrong.

Kissing, touching, holding hands, or even the biological effect of naturally being attracted to someone, sin! 

[If you didn’t know that before you found my blog – you are probably well aware of this, as I talk about sex and conservatism pretty often, here, here, and Hannah talks about it here]

So to avoid “sinning” one must do everything within their power to never feel anything remotely sexual. All the way up to, but not as far as, castration [although if God is calling/leading you to then by all means – your small group might “prayerfully” stand behind it].

To be fair, I don’t think the problem was conservatism or Christianity so much as it’s the culture in which was created by well-intentioned Christians within conservatism. Out of this culture have come modesty wars, sexual dysfunction within marriages, the concept of “courting,” and a very sexually-repressed generation of millennials.

Furthermore, I think this has effected our greater cultures terrification [not an actual word] of women’s nipple, stigmatizing and shaming breast feeding women, and of course, the infamous “slut-shaming” primarily aggressed on women at large who dress “immodestly” or choose to engage in consensual sexual relations…

A recent U-M study notes that, “Women like casual sex as much as men if the stigma is removed from accepting the offer and the experience involves a “great lover.” Although women are less likely to accept a sex with a stranger than are men this study shows that, “The gender differences, however, diminished when both men and women considered sexual offers from an attractive person or unattractive famous individual.”

So to be clear there are two reasons women are less-likely to embrace “casual sex”:

  1. The stigma associated with engaging in casual sex for women also explains their reluctance to accept offers for casual sex;
  2. Women are perceived more negatively than men for accepting casual sex, she says.

Before I get judged, and labeled as a “man whore,” my point is not that we need to be kinder to women in order that men “get laid more.” That would just be manipulatively wrong in a different kind of terrible way. My point is that when it becomes normative to shame others for breast feeding their child in public because it’s “immodest,” or we continually blame another for causing us to “stumble” because they were dressed too scantily… we might have gone too far.

In the words of Emily Maynard“We have confused biological sexual attraction with lust and called it sin.” 

It’s turned into this meaningless nomenclature that is meant solely to degrade another. It’s no longer about one’s level of promiscuity so much as it’s become about the level of [primarily, but not limited to] a class of women. It’s the question of, “Where do they land on the social scale of hierarchy?”

The rampant slut-shaming… was only a symptom of the women’s entrenched classism,” says Elizabeth Armstrong, a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, in a recent Atlantic article

As a male, I greatly hesitate at writing such a post, but I think that this goes beyond the ignorance us males possess in regards to the experience of a woman. In other words, I don’t believe that this is a gender issue, nor do I believe it’s socioeconomic, racial, religious, or even an issue of sexuality.

I think that this is an issue of authoritarianism. I think this is a problem having to do with our human innate desire to enact dominance, power, and control over whatever, or in this case, whomever we can. 

What if we didn’t do that?

Jimmy Carter on Patriarchy

The point here is equality. The problem here is humanity, or rather, the lack thereof. Us. You. Me. Them. It’s as if we’re all in this big fight to figure out who is better than the other [I think Darwin would want to chime in here, but he’s dead, so moving forward…].

What if we, in humility we counted others more significant than ourselves.

It’s this crazy idea that a patriarchal Christianity who’s pious elite has decided upon what orthodox morality is, might incarnate the core of a morality that is orthodox; that being the life of Christ, the very perfection of humility.

You see, up until the last decade or so, the marginalized have not had a chance to be heard, or a platform in which they can speak from, or the slightest ability to make social change, in their favor, a possibility. Rachel Held Evans says so well, “One of the advantages of the Information Age is that the internet has provided a platform from which those typically marginalized by the Church can speak and be heard.”

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize maybe the church doesn’t need a reformation, but rather, a revolution.

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  • I almost bought into that culture when I was hanging out with some families who believed in courtship. I’m so glad I didn’t push that on my kids but offered it as an option-they opted out.

  • April

    Hi Andy,

    While I appreciate your viewpoint on this I have to say that as a woman, and a follower of Christ, I am called to a standard of modesty, not for you, or any other man or woman out there, but for God because He calls me to not give anyone an occiasion to sin on my behalf and to Glorify Him with my body mind and spirit which are His… and yes, they should be able to control their own minds but I am only responsible for me and doing my part. That being said, not all women view this the same, and this does not exclude women in Christian circles.

    So, for me as a married, christian, woman… I understand the importance of modesty and encouraging other women to embrace a modest life in a world of secularity, blurred christianity, and a magnified importance of sex and sexuality.

    I chose to live out my faith in EVERY aspect of my life, even the ones that are inconvenient bc its harder to find things that are cute and modest at the same time (even though i am DEFINITELY NOT perfect at it!) AND will encourage other women to do the same.

    These women that you say people are “slut-shaming” have the choice to dress the way that they do and I, having done that, understand the need for attention that it comes from.

    In a world that tries to tell all of us women that we need to try to be SEXY all of the time and says that how sexy/attractive we are determines our value, I would hope that men like yourself would instead of shaming the women who are trying to be modest and live counter-culturally, as Jesus did, would change your desires to value modesty rather than devalue it and expect us to embrace immodesty sex and lust as a “biological sexual attraction.” Yes, “biological sexual attraction” is a real and natural thing but we should not use that as an excuse to dress however we want which shows complete disrespect for the sanctity of others’ marriages and increases the opportunity for that “biological sexual attraction” in places where it shouldn’t be.

    Your main point is wrong in my opinion. It’s not an issue of authoritarianism but and issue of the individual. For women to live their lives to glorify and please Him and no one else (whether self or men) and for men, like yourself, to VALUE MODESTY and point out and encourage women trying to do that for God, for themselves, for men like you and their sexual struggles, and your wife or future wife.

    Sincerely,
    April

  • April, first off, thank you for the comment and willingness to share. Secondly, tell Jordan I said hi. Third (but not last – I’m running out the door and will type more later), it seems I failed to communicate that my main point was just as you were saying, “It’s an issue of the individual.” – though we might disagree on the second half of it, that being where the root of the issue is coming from within the individual, and I’m suggesting it is from a craving of power, and that we must [Female or Male, gay or straight, asian or hispanic, rich or poor] acknowledge the individual and do our best not to shame anyone for their lifestyle. Though, with that said, It’s a very thin line between rebuking/correcting/teaching and guilting/shaming – I haven’t figured this out, and I do want to apologize to you specifically as an individual, if you felt at all shamed by this article. My goal and hope is to acknowledge one’s humanity, autonomy, and individuality regardless of demographic (More later, but just wanted to apologize now).

  • April

    Thank you Andy, I will tell him hi for you.

    I understand that you are speaking to the extreme conservative church, but I think a little more balanced approach to this post could’ve been more effective… speaking to them but confirming that you do value modesty and the way women dress seductively is not what you as a follower of christ value… maybe just needed delved into a little more.

    Thanks for taking the time to apologize, you don’t need to respond back.

    Sincerely,
    April

  • Okay – I know you don’t need a reply back – but this is just finishing my thoughts above. People with privilege and people who benefit off of a Eurocentric patriarchal “gospel” are in intense support of this “gospel” because it works for them, is good news for them, and gives them power/control. but what they are not aware of is that it is good news for them and for them and unfortunately them alone… So they take this “gospel” and spread it into Africa, Asia, and various other 3rd world countries which many would label as, colonizing. I’ve recently noticed working in evangelical, mainline, and even liberal Churches (that are wealthier) there is a disconnect and a lack of understanding as to how this is not good news for people of color, 3rd world, LGBT, etc. – which wraps me back around to my point, it’s about the individual, this article was not about women alone. This article is using this “slut-shaming” done to women as an example of the larger issues of racism, prejudices, classism, and a lack of respect (because of power) done through and by what many might label as Eurocentric colonization, and patriarchal abuse, so I do want to lovingly push back (while attempting to respect your heritage) and suggest that this is balancing things out, when we consider the history of, again, Eurocentric oppression – which has lacked “balance” for centuries on end… (boldface only to highlight this as another primary point)

    This is why I put the quote in by Rachel Held Evans – saying that there has been a lack of balance, and with the internet, the balance is beginning to shift…

    Again thanks for the dialogue, blessings!

  • Sam

    What does this have to do with Hillsong?

  • Sam

    The link I clicked for this said: Hillsong and the end of evangelicalism….

  • Emmeline

    Great article, but please don’t refer to women as “females”, it is dehumanising.

  • haha – weird, where’d you click the link? Here’s the actual Hillsong link: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/andygill/hillsong-and-the-end-of-evangelicalism

  • Emmeline, my apologies – but thank you for letting me know :)

    I took out all of my uses of female and replaced them with “women.”