Complementarianism’s ugly relationship with rape

Complementarianism’s ugly relationship with rape September 25, 2012

[Trigger warning: rape apologism]

[Update: I’ve changed some mentions of “evangelical leaders” to “complementarian leaders” to clarify that I am referring specifically to complementarians in this post. I have a habit of using the two interchangeably because of my experiences in evangelicalism, but there is a growing number of awesome feminist evangelicals out there who don’t deserve to be lumped in with complementarians]

Over the past few months, I’ve called out evangelical Christian leaders and bloggers like Douglas Wilson, Jared Wilson, and Mark Driscoll (all of whom made Church Relevance’s list of Top 200 Church Blogs, by the way–these men are extremely influential in evangelicalism) for using rape to control women. Some commenters understood exactly what I was trying to say. Others became extremely offended. I’m still getting feedback on those posts that accuse me of slander, hatred, and lies.

But I stand by my words.

In fact, I’ll expand them to say that most complementarian evangelical Christian leaders use rape to control women. I’m aware that this is a serious accusation, but I stand by it.

I don’t believe that most complementarian Christian leaders actually rape women (although, I hear stories all the time that make me question that belief). I don’t believe most of them approve of rape or like rape. Here’s what I believe and what I am claiming: complementarian leaders, despite their personal feelings about rape, need rape to exist and for it to be a serious threat. 

Many of my critics mentioned that the leaders whom I accused of using rape to control women were totally against rape. That these men had written or preached elsewhere condemning it. I believe my critics. But I want to ask two questions:

1. What does the word “rape” mean to these leaders?

2. How do these leaders propose we solve the problem of rape?

By answering these two questions, I will reveal how rape becomes an extremely useful tool for complementarians. Whether they are themselves rapists (and, again, I don’t believe most are), any group of people who wish to control women and keep women in certain gender roles benefits greatly from rape.  

First, let’s look at what rape means to complementarians.

I will argue that most complementarians have an extremely narrow definition of rape. What is rape, according to a complementarian?

If you want to know the answer to this question, consider what they say about women who have been raped. Consider one rockstar of the evangelical world, Donald Miller (who, as far as I know, is not even a complementarian but certainly reinforces patriarchy in the church with his writings), who once told women to stop trying to claim victim status because “nobody gets drunk and accidentally sleeps with a hamster.” Though the legal definition of rape would say that penetrating a woman who is too drunk to consent to sex is rape, that definition of rape does not meet complementarian standards.

Or, consider Mark Driscoll’s recent introduction to his sermon series on Esther, which set off a firestorm on the internet a few weeks ago. According to Driscoll, Esther should have resisted being taken into the king’s harem, even though doing so probably would have cost her her life. Though the legal definition of rape would say that forcing a woman to “have sex” with you by threatening her life is rape, again, this definition does not meet complementarian standards.

So, who can be raped, according to complementarians? What hoops must a woman jump through in order for complementarians to believe that her experience “counts” as rape?

In Jessica Valenti’s book The Purity Myth (which is problematic in some ways but still an important exposition of the evangelical purity movement), she states,

Under the purity myth, the only women who can truly be raped are those who are chaste–and given how limiting the purity myth is, and how few women actually fit into its right mold, the consequence is that most women are seen as incapable of being raped.

Yes, complementarians will vehemently claim that they are against rape. But listen more closely, because when they say they are against rape they don’t mean all rape. 

The woman who got drunk and woke up in a strange man’s bed or the teenage girl whose boyfriend wanted more than just the makeout session she had consented to. The woman in the mini-skirt or the wife who tried to tell her husband no. The woman who shouldn’t have been alone with that man or in that bar or that hotel room, who shouldn’t have been wearing this or doing that. These women can’t be raped because they are already impure, therefore, have nothing to lose according to complementarianism.

If complementarian leaders even admit that these women are victims of rape (which they likely won’t), these leaders will make sure this admission mentions that the victim was not “totally innocent.” The victim did something to “provoke” rape and therefore needs to apologize for her sin.

Secondly, let’s discuss how complementarians suggest going about solving the problem of rape.

Drawing conclusions from the answer to “What is rape?,” we learn that, according to complementarian evangelicals, “real” (shall we say “legitimate?”) rape can only happen to a limited group of women. Other women who claim to be raped are either lying to avoid owning up to their sin, or they need to take responsibility for “bringing rape upon themselves.” 

So, according to complementarians, the most efficient way to stop rape is for women to change their behavior, their lifestyles, or their clothing. 

How convenient that many of these changes women must make in order to “prevent being raped” line up perfectly with complementarian goals and values. 

Complementarians would say that immodest dress causes rape, therefore women should dress according to complementarian standards. They would say that women who express their sexuality are making themselves vulnerable to rape, therefore women should be passive and chaste when it comes to sex–another complementarian idea. They would say that women who spend too much time in the public world are risking rape, therefore more women should stay home, etc.

Some complementarian evangelicals go beyond this to actually blame feminism for the very existence of rape. Douglas Wilson, for instance, believes that when feminists deny men the opportunity to practice “godly” authority over women, men react by taking back the authority that they deserve using violence.

“When we quarrel with the way the world is,” Wilson says, “we find that the world has ways of getting back at us.”

Whether or not complementarians approve of rape, the fact is that many women adhere to complementarian gender roles because complementarian leaders have told these women that these women will be raped if they step outside these roles. Rape is a tool that rapists use to control women, and complementarian leaders (along with many other people in powerful positions) benefit from the fear that rapists create. In fact, they harness that fear in their books, blog posts, and sermons and use it as a tool to keep women in their place.

Complementarian evangelicals rely on rape to keep their systems of power firmly in place.

It’s an ugly, ugly truth, but a truth nonetheless.

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  • Powerful stuff. I’m not familiar with the guys you name but media in the UK does the same thing of categorising different levels of rape. I’m disgusted by this “she was asking for it” and the people who perpetuate it. Fear is an incredbly strong tool for controlling people and I will join my voice with anyone who takes a stand against it.

  • Elizabeth

    Definitely agree. It also seems to be tied up with this idea of “women as keepers of sexual restraint” idea – that men are just full of virility (or something) and that is the job of the woman to restrain/avoid tempting/contain the overflowing sexuality of the man. So if a woman is raped, well obviously it’s because she wasn’t doing her job properly – she was neglectful of her rightful duty to avoid being raped so she just got what she deserved. Similarly, that if sexuality takes any form a woman complains about (eg date rape, etc) then obviously she wasn’t taking enough care and was really just asking for it… 🙁

    And of course, let’s not forget the woman’s responsibility for contraception/avoiding abortion. If she slips up there she is rightfully shamed and refused an abortion. And for the rest of both their lives the bastard will mark her impurity and let every other more righteous person look down on her. As one friend of mine says “I’m not a single mother, I’m a woman who had a baby and the gutless wonder left us both.” Why else is “single mother” a pejorative term but “abandoning father” is an *unknown* term?

    • Larissa

      This is amazing: “this idea of ‘women as keepers of sexual restraint’ idea – that men are just full of virility (or something) and that is the job of the woman to restrain/avoid tempting/contain the overflowing sexuality of the man.”

      Can’t tell you how many times I was told in high school that I needed to protect the guys by dressed modestly. Or with an old boyfriend how it was my responsibility to say no.

      And this one, too: “let’s not forget the woman’s responsibility for contraception/avoiding abortion.” It has always annoyed me that birth control is the woman’s responsibility and that there isn’t more talk/science of male birth control. This was definitely part of the conversation my husband and I had before getting married.

      • I thought there *was* more talk of the male responsibility. I mean, don’t a lot of public schools do the condom-on-the-banana thing these days? Or is that not a thing any more?

        I dunno; every time I run into a conversation about these things, it’s in regards to the guys wearing condoms more so than the woman taking birth control.

        It’s the responsibility of both parties, far as I’m concerned.

        • Abby Normal

          Depends on what public school you’re talking about.

          • Honestly, just whichever ones allow sex education classes.

            If that’s even a thing these days..?

          • Yeah…here’s the thing. A lot of sex ed classes don’t start until high school (often the junior year), and a few states don’t teach anything beyond abstinence (Sixteen states have abstinence only sex-ed). In my high school (ten years ago or so), they didn’t teach how to put a condom on anything. There was nothing about birth control pills. There was nothing about alternative forms of contraception (shots/IUDs/VCF/etc) and NOTHING about homosexuality. It was damn near “Don’t have sex until your married or your lady-parts will dry out and no one will ever want to have sex with you. Also, you’re a slut if you have sex.”

            My sex ed came from my parents, who were very frank about the subject. The conversation went sort of as follows: “You’re a teenager, and I was a teenager once. I know what teenagers do when adults aren’t looking. So if you have sex, don’t be stupid. Make your boyfriend wear a condom. And if you get pregnant, understand this: Your life as a teenager is OVER.” Better than any abstinence education, because I knew my mother would follow through with it…

            So, even more than what public school you’re talking about, Sex ed is determined by the state and the county.

          • That still would have been better than the half-truths I gleaned from an odd family life, media, and well-meaning college friends.

            I honestly wish my parents had been that frank. Maybe it wouldn’t have freaked me out for so long (and still does, to a point!)

    • Abby Normal

      What’s possibly just as messed up is that not only are women supposed to be “keepers of sexual restraint” in that culture, but that once they ARE married and “allowed” to have sex, they’re suddenly supposed to be sexually available any dang time.

      How is a woman who’s been constantly told that 1)she’s the one that has to keep the men from “sinning” and 2) if she (God forbid!) actually WANTS to have sex that makes her a filthy hussy supposed to be ready for sex any ol’ time her husband wants it?

      • Kat

        So true. Young women get such twisted ideas from evangelical culture.

        They are taught growing up that their bodies are dangerous, evil things that can easily harm the boys around them regardless of their intentions. They are likewise taught that male sexuality is dangerous, but they have to accept it and find ways to avoid it because the boys sure aren’t expected to take any responsibility. They are taught that a “lady” must always be a coy and passive participant in relationships, and any sexual desire or autonomy on her part is the mark of a whore. Because if you dare to say yes even once, that means your freshness seal has been opened and you consent to all sex with any man at any time, ever, so you were asking for it.

        And despite everything they are suddenly supposed to feel comfortable in their own skin and be sexually open and vulnerable with a man as if a ring and a piece of paper (AKA the approval of patriarchy) will fix a lifetime of fear, self-loathing, sexual anxiety, and repressed emotions? Yeah, right. I imagine that most women in those types of marriages live with body image problems, lots of guilt after sex, and the constant fear of their man cheating on them if they don’t perform well enough.

        • seebster

          HAHAHAHA freshness seal. That’s awesome!

          It’s so sick how a woman’s sexuality is considered not a part of her humanity but a thing, something to protect until she can gift it to her husband. Even in secular realms, in which it is not a grave religious sin to lose the status of virgin before marriage, a girl is expected to “give it up” only to someone who is worthy. Not share an emotional and physical connection with another human being, but “give it up” to someone.

          And, as Abby said, how messed up is that stark sudden reversal upon marriage! If a woman has “succeeded” in preserving her purity until marriage, that means she has likely conquered her own human sexual impulses, as well fended off any predatory males she encounters. (1 in 20 is the estimate I’ve heard, 1 in 20 men being rapists or attempted rapists. 3 out of 4 to 5 out of 6 of her sisters were not so lucky.) In other words, she has maintained bodily autonomy, established and held on to a sense of self, a sense of control over that which happens to her own body. And then…poof. The reigns of her very body are handed over to her husband to do with as he will, at will. The psychological gymnastics must be great in order to impose passivity on oneself like that after knowing what it is to have the ultimate say in what happens to your body.

          My Aunt told me the other day she doesn’t see how marital rape is possible…

  • Very smart analysis, Sarah. And of course, it reveals more that patriarchy is about control and power, not some type of God-ordained set of gender roles and relations. I can’t wait for you to write a book!

  • I wasn’t sure what “complementarian” meant until I looked it up. I thought it had something to do with complementing a person, i. e., “you look very nice today”, etc. lol

    I haven’t read all of your post, but in general, I just don’t think that rape and complementarianism have as much to do with each other as you’ve presented here; I think a great deal of traditional Christians believe in gender roles not so much as an active way to subjugate each other out of malice, but rather because they honestly and truly believe that fulfilling these roles brings honor to God. And those same people very much do NOT believe that rape (or the threat thereof) honors Him.

    As for Mr. Driscoll, well, he’s either crazy, an idiot, or just a bad blogger. It’s hard to tell which; I tend to ignore his shenanigans. His kind (if he’s the kind you describe here) feed off attention, whether positive or negative.

    Another reason to ignore him: I’m not getting any younger, and stressing out about what stupid people are doing is something I try to avoid now, unless it really is a big, immediate problem. I. E., if Mr. Driscoll and his ilk ever decided to militarize themselves and go after the President or something, THEN I’d get upset. Or if he turned out to be a child pornographer or a serial rapist/killer or something.

  • BTW, the font on your blog is TINY. Another reason it may take me some time to read. lol

  • First Point:

    Hoo boy, where to start! First off, please don’t think that just a couple of people speak for “all evangelicals”. Those are the personal opinions of a couple of people. Are they influential? Sure! But do not believe that simply because a couple of people wrote a book means that ALL Christians EVERYWHERE believe THAT EXACTLY. I mean, there’s been books and books written from the CoC about the evils of instrumental worship…but that doesn’t mean every Christian or even every CoC member believes that; you have to take the opinions of someone’s book and realize that they are their own, personal opinions.

    As for the woman who got drunk and slept with the wrong man, well…there’s a problem there that even you have to acknowledge. The problem is that there *are* women out there who will accuse a man of rape in that situation, even if she consented the night before. However, because both were drunk, and because rape can be particularly hard to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt in that situation, it’s hard to tell WHAT happened. Is it always a case of mistaken circumstances and bad memory? Of course not! However, I think there’s a lot of women out there who confuse regretting that they *consensually* slept with someone as actual, non-consensual rape.

    However, I COULD BE WRONG. I’ve never been drunk or raped, and tried my hardest to avoid being alone in skimpy outfits with creepy men, so I could be completely off-base.

    Second Point:

    Wow, that Douglas guy’s an idiot.

    No, but seriously, no preacher I’ve ever known (and I went to a Bible college where they were a dime a dozen) has ever used rape as a way of telling me what to do. In fact, the harassment I got for being the way I was (i. e., contrary to the Church of Christ norm in just about every way), was more from the WOMEN, and less from the men.

    The men were, for the most part, weirdly okay with my odd nature. The other ladies, not so much.

    And trust me, everyone there was VERY complem-…no. Traditional. I’m just going to say “traditional”. Better word anyways. lol

    Anyways, they were very traditional concerning gender roles in the church. So, go figure.

    (This has been “My Two Cents” with Liz Alexander.)

    • 1. I never claimed that all Christians act this way. I very specifically called out evangelical complementarians.

      2. I really hate it when people tell me to ignore Mark Driscoll. Men and women listen to him. His books make the New York Times best seller list. This happens whether people call him out or not. Mark Driscoll is powerful and he is loud. By telling me to be quiet, you are just helping him maintain that power. If you don’t have the time to call out Mark Driscoll, fine, but why the hell take the time to call me out for “wasting” my time on Driscoll?

      3. The fact that you personally have never heard a preacher try to scare women into sticking to certain gender roles to avoid rape does not negate the fact that I (and many others) have encountered this on multiple occasions. You try to paint the preachers who HAVE said this, in writing, as crazy or stupid. But the fact is, most evangelical complementarians take their word as second to gospel. These men have thousands of followers who read their books/blogs and listen to their sermons. Mark Driscoll probably has more than a million.

      4. It’s not just men who can use rape to control women. Women internalize sexism and become tools of patriarchy that can be used to keep other women in their places.

      • 1. When you’re talking about “evangelicals”, you’re talking about Christians, unless I missed something somewhere. Even if it’s a specific group of Christians, you’re still claiming that ALL of the people in that group believe the same thing.

        2. I’m sorry if that’s what you got from that, because that wasn’t my intention at all. If you need to speak out against Mark Driscoll, then do so! My point was more that you can’t let these folks stress you out and shorten your lifespan. ABSOLUTELY speak out against idiocy and injustice…but try to do it calmly and rationally, because he’s not worth the energy to stress out over.

        For instance, point out how he’s wrong Biblically. Talk about how Jesus called us to be loving towards one another, and how Paul said husbands are supposed to love their wives as they love themselves. Both of those together make rape, and the threat of rape, sinful acts in and of themselves, thereby making Driscoll (if that’s what he truly believes) the one with the Biblically sinful attitude…not the women he’s accusing.

        Fight his insanity with the Truth of God’s Love, and you’ll convert a lot more people than just saying “He’s an idiot and needs to go away.” Even if that statement is true, it’s not going to change the minds of those under his spell.

        Ya gotta fight fire with water, know what I’m sayin’? 🙂

        3. I’m not painting the picture; I’m saying right out: They ARE crazy and stupid. Lots and lots of cult leaders are crazy and stupid, which is pretty much what these guys are. But being a foolish lunatic doesn’t mean you aren’t also highly charismatic and seductive.

        Also, Stockholm Syndrome.

        This is why I’m telling you to fight not just with pointing out their faults as a feminist, but pointing them out in the Bible. Like you said, the people who listen to them take their word as Gospel truth. So, the only way to fight back in many of those cases is with ACTUAL Gospel truth, which I’ve already covered in #2.

        I’m sure there ARE some preachers who use that really misguided method of control or what-have-you….but I wouldn’t be able to stay in the same room with them without getting violently angry. Seriously wouldn’t put up with such shenanigans.

        4. Yeah, I suppose. But then there’s folks like me who, even if they WANTED to go along with the norm (who have, on many occasions, attempted and failed miserably), find ourselves wholly unable to.

        I think it would almost be easier for other folks if I was a lesbian/trans-gender, because then all my oddities would make sense to them, and even would make sense to me! Unfortunately for them, I’m not; I’m 95% attracted to men, and love my husband intensely, and have a weakness for things like “My Little Pony”..

        • No, not all Christians are complementarian evangelicals. I am neither complementarian nor evangelical, yet I am a Christian. There are egalitarian evangelicals. There are progressives. There are mainline denominations. There are Catholics, fundamentalists, etc. I specified the exact Christians I was speaking about.

          I drew a claim from past research on a subject. I backed up my claims with quotes and links to quotes. I analyzed said quotes through a feminist academic lens. How is this irrational?

          I am a Christian. I hate when the gospel is diminished because people twist it to oppress certain groups of people. Continuing from the biblical prophetic tradition, I am compelled to denounce people who ruin the gospel of freedom in Christ–people like Driscoll and the Wilsons and anyone who tries to control women using rape. How is that failing to respond Biblically?

          • I meant as in literally quoting it when you’re talking about them. Finding the verses and linking to them on or quoting them in your post.

            Also, links or quoted definitions for unusual words would be helpful in drawing folks towards your blog, and thus towards healing. Honestly, if I didn’t already know you were a great blogger, I would have turned right around at the sight of a huge, largely unfamiliar word like “complementarian”. That’s not exactly something that people use in everyday conversation, y’know? And you use it several times.

            I am NOT telling you “don’t use big words”. I’m also NOT commanding you *do* anything. I’m just giving you some observations as an outsider as to what would have helped me more to understand where you were coming from, were I completely new to your blog.

          • Grr…no edit button..

            blah blah blah “…words”. What I *am* saying is, if you use mostly uncommon ones, just link to a definition so folks have easy access to find out what they mean. 🙂

          • bigwheel

            Google took me straight to the Wikipedia page on Complementarianism. I didn’t know what it was either, but I took the time to find out.

            Thanks Sarah, because you used big words, I had to put effort into understanding what you said. Plus, I don’t have to rely on you to define what Complementarianism means, where it comes from, implications, etc.

            Some things can’t or shouldn’t be made into sound bites.

      • The fact that you have, on multiple occasions, encountered preachers who try to scare women into sticking to certain gender roles to avoid rape does not of itself indicate that “most complementarian evangelical Christian leaders” do it. It indicates that several, or many, have done it. Nearly anyone will take offense to generalization of their subculture not backed by legitimate research.

        I hate rape culture and oppressive doctrine as much as the next person, but let’s not engage in logical fallacies.

      • Ann

        So, because I (their 53-year-old mother) tell my teenage/20-something daughters to dress modestly, avoid getting drunk and going to wild parties, I must be blaming rape on women’s behavior? I guess I am just a tool of patriarchy. Actually, you egals are pushing me closer and closer to the complementarian point of view. I am liking Dennis Wilson more and more. At least he uses common sense. Read this, and try to do it with an open mind:

        • Haaaaa. Try to read Doug Wilson, a man who thinks the slave owning South was the most racially harmonious society the world has ever seen, with an open mind? Funny. Turns out Doug Wilson isn’t so persuasive if you’re, y’know, black. Like me.

          That aside, a man who thinks sex with his wife is conquering and colonizing her (I know a little bit about history, conquest and colonization aren’t so great) is about the last person who should be saying anything about sex.

          Oh, and he thinks a woman’s body is comparable to a wad of cash. That’s totally not objectifying or anything. I guess I’m not reading with an open enough mind?

          You can tell your daughters what you want, but the truth of the matter remains that a woman is much more likely to be raped by someone she knows and trusts than by some stranger at a party. “Modest” dress won’t protect anyone from that. And you know, women still get raped in parts of the world where they cover up a lot more than “modest” women in the U.S. do.

          • Ann

            You obviously did not read the link I posted You really should try.

          • oh, I read that. love how he proves my point for me (this point, specifically: “If complementarian leaders even admit that these women are victims of rape (which they likely won’t), these leaders will make sure this admission mentions that the victim was not “totally innocent.” The victim did something to “provoke” rape and therefore needs to apologize for her sin.”)

          • Val

            Ann, as a parent myself, of course I want my kids to learn to protect themselves from their peers, avoid parties (often just excuses to go get high and sleep around), and not dress provocatively – however, what Sarah is saying is: rape happens to anyone. Only, say, 2% of rapes happen at parties (the large witness group with iPhone cameras deters many would-be rapists). But society focuses on those rapes to keep teens in line (“if you do that, don’t blame anyone if you get raped”).

            The problem is, rapists don’t take a survey of a woman’s past, they don’t care if she is innocent or “wonton” – so no action can 100% protect against rape (or cause rape). Society doesn’t do all it can to curb rape – educating young ppl that sex is a choice, not a right, (something Doug Wilson blatantly disregards in his tirade against women not being submissive enough = causing men to go rape/S&M whatever – nothing causes anyone to rape anyone else, ever), educating people that humans are not sex objects, educating people that how someone dresses means nothing in the court of law, and shouldn’t mean anything to a would-be rapist/ comp using would-be-rapist as a method to control behavior (I lived in India for a year, trust me, all of us westerners look like prostitutes to them, and that was with my legs and ankles covered). So, do men need to apologize if women see them as rapists when they aren’t? Do women need to apologize when men see woman as “asking for it?” No.

            What we do need to do as a society is: quit lying to people about rape in order to modify their behavior. Rape is not caused by the victim, one is not protected from rape by their clothes, peers or curfews. Rape is about power, but it is not the victim’s or women’s or minority’s fault if the rapist feels powerless or threatened.

        • Abby Normal

          That’s not even what she said, Ann. Grow up.

          Here’s a news flash–Amish girls get raped. IFB girls in ankle-length skirts get raped. Women in burquas get raped. Rape doesn’t have much to do with how “available” a woman is.

          It sounds like you’re too used to seeing straw feminists around every corner that you completely missed the point.

      • Michael McKinnon

        If a drunk guy wakes up in a strange woman’s bed, then was he raped?

        • If this strange woman forced sexual acts on him without his consent, yes.

    • KatR

      “However, I think there’s a lot of women out there who confuse regretting that they *consensually* slept with someone as actual, non-consensual rape.”

      I think there are a lot of men who get away with rape because of attitudes like this.

      • yup. a LOT of men.

      • I’m going to guess that far more men are getting away with rape than women are getting confused and accidentally calling consensual sex rape.

        • If it helps, I’m not excusing drunk rape in the least; as you said, ANY rape is a terrible, horrifying thing.

          However, a woman falsely accusing a man (or heck, the other way around even), can and does happen as well.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            So…what exactly is your point? Are you saying that this should change our attitude towards rape in some way?There are false accusers of every crime. Should that fact also change our attitudes towards those crimes? How so? You must have SOME reason for pointing out the obvious fact that it is possible for a person to accuse somebody of doing something that they didn’t do and that rape is a “something.” So what is it? What implications do you see the existence of false accusation as having for the way we view rape?

      • Funny; I thought men (and, occasionally, equally violent women) get away with it because the victim doesn’t report it in time to gather the proper evidence.

        I understand it’s a terrible and traumatic thing, and the victim isn’t always thinking clearly; I just wish there was a better way to convict such folk in a court of law, y’know? It’s such a hard thing to prove in court. (Not talking about getting friends and family to believe here; talking about actually convicting the criminal and sending him to jail.)

        • Why do you think victims are so hesitant to report?

          • Because after a serious trauma most people aren’t thinking clearly about gathering evidence?

          • does shaming women being “getting raped” and perpetuating the lie that women frequently lie about rape help them think more clearly?

          • Let me put it another way: Gathering solid evidence as soon after the event happens – pics of bruises by the police, semen samples from the doctor, that sort of thing – is exactly what these victims need to do to further KILL the myth.

            Staying quiet helps NO ONE, leastwise the victim. Getting solid evidence that is more likely to hold up in court, and then bringing the accused BEFORE the court AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE, is the BEST way to fight the myths and the lies you’re talking about.

            That’s why I keep mentioning it.

            Get what I’m saying now? If we’re going to get rid of these myths, then we need to do it in a PHYSICAL way, not *just* an EMOTIONAL way. Even if it’s been years and years after the fact, women still need to REPORT WHAT HAPPENED.

            Can I understand all the underlying reasons why someone may not report it?


            But by STAYING SILENT, no matter what the reason, the victim is only FURTHERING THE MYTH AND THE LIES.

            Victims have more power than they realize. But, I know that first they have to REALIZE that.

            Ignore the lies and the myths. Fight against them in a tangible, public way, and make it as legal as possible. Bring the guilty party to court. Present evidence. Tell him off in the middle of a crowded mall. SOMETHING.

          • How are you helping to create a better environment for victims to come forward? It’s all good and well to pontificate about what being a good victim entails, but unless you’re doing something to explode the myths yourself and support survivors, it’s a bit rich to put so much of a burden on the people who are themselves the victim of the crime. Perhaps you have more power than you realize, and you should recognize it? But the fact that you flippantly throw off the suggestion of a survivor confronting someone who raped her in public tells me you know very little about what you’re talking about.

          • Rae

            Reporting sex assaults is good. I’m going to go onto another topic, but I’ve found articles online implying that the reasons that progressive countries like Sweden have such an apparently high rate of sexual assault is that people there aren’t afraid to report it.

            Otherwise, there are several major problems with what you’re saying:
            One, rape doesn’t always result in “solid evidence”. Especially if the rapist uses a condom, doesn’t produce sperm, uses threats or weapons rather than physical force, chooses a victim who is unconscious or incapacitated. The flip side to this is that if the rapist is an intimate partner of the victim, then their DNA has no evidentiary value because everyone expects it to be there if they’d had previous consensual sexual encounters.

            Two, the police have to investigate rape cases seriously. All the evidence in the world won’t help if it sits in a storage locker, un-tested for ten or fifteen years. New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston, San Antonio – each of those cities alone have had scandals concerning tens of thousands of untested SAK’s sitting in storage, so that’s easily hundreds of thousands of victims across the country who did report their assaults promptly, only for law enforcement to take no action.

            Three, although the victim can decide not to prosecute a sexual assault, the victim can not decide that the case will be prosecuted. Provided that a suspect is arrested, that’s up to the District Attorney’s office. And this circles back to my first point, which is that if there is no evidence, or nothing of evidentiary value, it’s very unlikely that the case will ever make it to trial: Most likely, the DA will drop the charges due to insufficient evidence, and then the next most likely outcome is that that the DA will reach a plea deal with the perpetrator’s defense attorney.

            In short, the victims are the *last* people who should have responsibility for changing the system. The law enforcement and judicial systems in this country really need to step up and take sexual assault more seriously, which we are fortunately starting to see, but only just barely and in the past couple years. (LA and NYC are near eliminating their backlogs, and Detroit has already discovered several unknown serial rapists)

          • These are all good points you’ve brought up, and I confess that I didn’t consider the different scenarios that might have occurred.

            That’s very strange about Sweden. O_o Logically, it would seem like it would be the other way around..

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            What if there are no bruises because the rape did not actually involve a lot of physical struggle? What if the rapist used a condom or did not ejaculate? What if the rapist was a date, boyfriend, or husband and the only thing that could be proven by a semen sample is that intercourse took place with a man with whom the woman was romantically or sexually involved, thus making the woman’s own word the only indication that it was not consensual? There are many reasons that women don’t report rape–many more than you seem to realize–but one of them is that many rapes are not provable through physical evidence.

            And therein lies the problem with looking to the legal system as THE solution to rape, even if it were perfect–and it’s not. The legal system can only help after a rape has taken place, and only if the rape involved particular circumstances that just don’t apply to all or most rapes. This is why the real solution to the problem of rape is to fight rape CULTURE–the ideas and beliefs and standards that encourage and normalize rape and make it so common. The law would be a nice thing to have on our side, but it will never solve the problem itself.

            Also, nice victim-blaming there. “Victims have more power than they realize. But, I know that first they have to REALIZE that.” Ha. Ha. HA! Please educate yourself about how rape is frequently handled by law enforcement and the legal system. If you’re such a believer in it as THE solution, maybe you should know something about how it works in actual reality, not in your fantasy in which all a woman needs to do is grow a spine (the wimp!) and everything will be hunky-dory.

          • While that’s certainly (potentially) part of it, a bigger issue is that AN ENTIRE POLITICALLY POWERFUL AND VISIBLE SUBCULTURE THINKS THAT THEY WEREN’T ACTUALLY RAPED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

            Good grief, this shouldn’t be that complicated. No behavior “encourages” rape any more than someone simply being a woman encourages rape. Rape apologetics poorly masked as benefit-of-the-doubt are destructive and perpetuate this entire rape culture.

          • Wait…is this a reply to me?

            Now I’m completely confused..

      • Larissa

        Amen to that.

    • Bix

      Rape is a serious crime. Rape trials are incredibly tough, and put the survivor through a lot of relived trauma. Getting to trial in the first place is incredibly tough, since according to the analysis linked to below, only 37% of reported rapes result in prosecution, and rape is a terribly under-reported crime to begin with. Obtaining a conviction isn’t easy, either–18% of those cases end in conviction. The idea that false rape claims are prevalent is absurd, and it creates a climate in which survivors are afraid to come forward, because they don’t think they’ll be believed, and because the entire criminal process is extremely daunting. Saying, “I think there’s a lot of women out there who confuse regretting that they *consensually* slept with someone as actual, non-consensual rape” contributes to this climate and is actively harmful. It tells women they can’t trust themselves and are unable to understand their own experiences. You do not get to decide how other people should feel about their experiences, or which assaults are–yes, I’m really going to say it–more ‘legitimate’ than others.

      I really recommend reading this link.

      • Bix

        This was meant in reply to Liz Alexander.

  • Yes. This. A thousand times, this. When being raped or sexually assaulted or sexually harassed is described as “allowing yourself to be in a compromising position” (something someone very close to me said to me about being harassed/assaulted by a friend)…that’s wrong. That’s so far beyond wrong I don’t even have words for it.

    As far as why people don’t report – I didn’t and haven’t because the odds are completely stacked against me and in his favour, and because for 6 years I listened to people tell me that it was either my fault or wasn’t a big deal. These people were all, 100% of them, evangelical Christians. And most of them were women.

    • But see, you can STILL report it to the police. You don’t even have to tell anyone you’re doing it, or leave a name.

      Go to the police station. Fill out the paperwork.

      Do something about the situation.

      The more women who report against him, the higher the chance these myths will be killed and the accused will pay for his crimes.

      But doing nothing SOLVES nothing, and continues to perpetuate the problem.

      • Considering all you’ve said about rape and assault victims, I’m not inclined in the slightest to consider anything you have to say to me about how I deal with it. Thanks.

        • Considering that we’re pretty much strangers on the Internet, there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to MAKE you do anything.

          Then again, that sort of goes without saying. Like, literally. That should be a given, ESPECIALLY on the internet. No one HAS to do or believe something just because someone tells them to…which is my whole point. 🙂

          • Given that you’re talking about something you haven’t experienced and clearly haven’t read that much about, perhaps you should take some time to consider how your comments might come across to someone who is a rape survivor.

            I’m not a rape survivor, but I do know something about living with the after effects of abuse. Surviving IS doing something. It’s easy to tell someone to do more when you have no idea what their life might be like.

  • Joe

    The reality is women can’t define exactly what rape is or what rape isn’t. It’s that simple. Therefore, rape becomes whatever the woman says it is at any particular moment.

    • So…who defines it? Whose definition is the one we take seriously?

      • I think a better question is this: Are we talking about the legal definition of rape, or sexual abuse in general?

        Rape is one kind of sexual abuse, but it by no means covers it all. Rape isn’t a catch-all phrase like everyone seems to think it is. A better term for what’s being discussed here isn’t just rape, but ALL sexual abuse, including molestation.

        THIS is where things get confusing; a lot of people, just in general, don’t fully understand what all of these terms mean. And it has nothing to do with pretty language.

    • LM

      Wow, that’s rude. Tell that to a friend of mine who is a nurse who regularly treats sexual assault victims. Tell the woman (or better yet, the prepubescent girl) whose body is wounded and bloodied after a rape that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Tell it to women who, years after a violent attack, still can’t sleep at night. Yeah, women don’t know when we’ve been violated. BULL!

      • Here’s my question: Is being violated and being raped the same thing? (I’m serious; all these terms, and I need some straight-forward, cold answers.)

        If a man forces a woman at gunpoint to give him a blowjob, is that rape? In my book, no. Is it sexual abuse and a violation of all things good and holy having to do with sexual intercourse? ABSOLUTELY!!

        • Naomi

          Legally, that’s rape. I think you need to go read up on rape culture, not to mention the legal system and barriers to reporting and convictions. No rape victim is required to report a crime and go through the justice system. That is always their choice, and they should make it based on whether they are in a place where they can survive that system in addition to the assault. It is very naive to think that reporting crimes and having a rape kit collected is going to result in prosecution, much less conviction, and much less jail time.

          • Hm. Well, I didn’t know; perhaps I WILL read up on rape culture. 🙂 Though a link as to where to start would be helpful..

            I didn’t say that it would absolutely result in prosecution and conviction. However, there is a BETTER CHANCE for those things to happen than if the victim does absolutely nothing at all.

            Because if you do absolutely nothing, then there’s an absolute 100% chance that nothing will be done. But if she/he at least TRIES to do something, then there’s at least a chance…however minuscule…that something will happen.

          • Naomi

            Sure! Here’s a great one:

          • I was just about to post that link to Shakesville! Awesome!

          • Are you aware that in many, many cities the vast majority of rape kits aren’t even processed (e.g., That’s before you even get to the question of prosecution (even fewer cases) much less conviction (dismally low rates).

            Going through a legal case – often having to be in the same court room as the person who assaulted or raped them – can be a very traumatic and draining experience for survivors. If we’re going to yell at survivors about their supposed obligation to report, shouldn’t we also be agitating for a system that actually does something when people report? Because as things stand, even setting aside the psychological factors and the issue of victim blaming, it’s perfectly reasonable for a survivor to conclude that the vanishingly slim odds of their attacker even seeing the inside of a court room isn’t worth the pain and trouble of reporting.

        • In the book of the department of justice it is:

    • This comment is sickening and abusive. Future comments by you will be deleted.

  • I think we could concede that (a) there are sometimes gray areas in rape, and (b) there are some common-sense safety measures women (and people in general) could take.

    However, and this is a big ‘however’:

    1) What right do these “pastors” have to generalize about situations they’re not familiar with, in a field they’re not trained in?

    2) If it were true that rape is a byproduct of liberal, feminist culture, then we’d expect rape statistics to follow this trend. In fact, of course, rape has always existed, and it exists today in religiously conservative countries, in numbers we’d probably find shocking. I’m sure the reasons for this are complex, but one probably is that in a culture that doesn’t respect women’s agency and/or believes women are property, a huge amount of spousal rape will be tolerated — because, you know, it isn’t “legitimate” rape. I believe it was Doug Wilson who said “a wife’s body is the man’s garden, and a man can’t trespass in his own garden.” Ergo, I’d probably say that “complementarian” culture probably would result in a higher incidence of rape– although they’d call it something else.

    After all, the type of guy who would rape someone will find endless “reasons” for his actions. In our culture, this “reason” is often “she was asking for it by dressing slutty”. But having grown up in a religiously-conservative commune myself, I know that even when women are “modest”, the excuse “she was asking for it” gets applied to women who show their ankles… or upper arms. Y’know? It’s all relative.

  • Klayton

    I think I understand some of the feedback you’re getting here. In several places, you elide part of the audience you are talking about. For instance:

    >> So, who can be raped, according to evangelicals? <> What hoops must a woman jump through in order for evangelicals to believe that her experience “counts” as rape? <> Yes, evangelicals will vehemently claim that they are against rape. But listen more closely, because when they say they are against rape they don’t mean all rape. <<

    Surely you don't mean all evangelicals. Right? You're talking about most of their leaders–or, at least, the vocal media ones. I think. But by this time, you've generalized it so many times that I'm not so sure any more. Maybe you are saying that all evangelicals are like that.

    • Klayton

      Okay, that didn’t work. Try again:

      I think I understand some of the feedback you’re getting here. In several places, you elide part of the audience you are talking about. For instance:

      “So, who can be raped, according to evangelicals?”

      Now, what you meant to say was “So, who can be raped, according to most evangelical leaders.” But what you said, instead, was “evangelicals.” I’m not an evangelical, but I can understand if one read that and said, “what a minute, I thought you were talking about the Driscolls, but now you’re talking about me?”

      Or again, you say: “What hoops must a woman jump through in order for evangelicals to believe that her experience “counts” as rape?”

      But you didn’t mean “evangelicals,” which is a broad category embracing all sorts of people. Rather, you meant what you forgot to include: “[most] evangelical [leaders].” Again, the evangelical is going to scratch their head and wonder if you’re including them.

      Or here: “Yes, evangelicals will vehemently claim that they are against rape. But listen more closely, because when they say they are against rape they don’t mean all rape.”

      Surely you don’t mean all evangelicals. Right? You’re talking about most leaders. I think. But by this time, you’ve generalized so many times that I’m not so sure anymore.

  • Thought-provoking post, Sarah!

    I agree with your points, and totally get what you are saying. However, I get tangled up here: “In fact, I’ll expand them to say that most complementarian evangelical Christian leaders use rape to control women.”

    There is no doubt that the threat of sexual assault can and is used as a way to silence, subdue, and control women, everywhere from school busses to war zones. However, I don’t see this divided down the lines of comp/egal so much as people who operate in a mindset of fear and shame and use it as a form of control (often subconsciously), and those who don’t. These attitudes regarding rape might get more airtime in complementarian circles (probably because evangelical egalitarians have had to do a LOT of thinking about gender and power issues to throw off the “default value” of complementarianism), but I would be awfully uncomfortable assuming that “most” evangelical comp leaders are coming from that perspective.

    That said, if I never read another thoughtless, ham-handed treatise regarding sexual violence from church leaders, it will be WAY too soon.

  • Excellent post and replies to comments. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis, Sarah.

  • abekoby

    I think the people arguing against Sarah, and then showing they don’t support women who have been raped by questioning “legitimate” rape are showing that it’s more than just evangelical leaders who use the threat of rape to oppress women, whether it’s on purpose or just by sheer ignorance. Many evangelicals I personally know, whom I generally consider good people (maybe I should reconsider that) fall into the same trap of questioning the legitimacy of rape, using the same language and same arguments. It’s seriously like some Stepford-style shit going on around here. How can one claim this isn’t a common problem when it seems to be endemic?

    • I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m not trying to say it isn’t a common problem. I’m saying that having had several, or even many, encounters with this kind of thinking is not legitimate grounds for employing the word “most”—whether about evangelical leaders or even, as Sarah has amended her wording, complementarian leaders.

      I think maybe people get used to using the word “most” as a synonym for “many”, but they mean different things. “Most” is more technical and means “at least 50 percent”. “Many” is subjective, and I think nearly everyone here would agree that “many” complementarian leaders employ this type of abhorrent thinking.

      I will not agree that “most” do, though, because we have insufficient evidence of that fact. Our collective “many” encounters with rape apology from complementerians do not add up to “most” because that is not how good logic or research works.

      • It’s always interesting to see how discussions about oppression get derailed by these kinds of comments. As someone who grew up complementarian I agree entirely with Sarah’s statements here, but you know what? I don’t have numbers, and obtaining those kinds of numbers would be impossible. This is a post about a culture and about implicit and explicit attitudes, not something that can be quantified in the way you seem to be asking for.

        The bottom line to me is that sanctified rape culture is implicit in most complementarian theology – the seeds of it are there in most complementarian churches even if how it’s expressed runs the gamut from an unrepentant patriarch like Doug Wilson to “softer” statements. Any church that preaches submission theology and gendered purity and modesty theology that puts a disproportionate burden on women to display these “virtues” is preaching a sanctified rape culture. It’s absolutely the case that most complementarian leaders are rape apologists or rape culture enablers in some form; it’s inherent in the theology. That may be tough for some to hear or accept, but y’know, ideas have consequences and not always the ones anticipated.

        • I grew up complementarian as well, but that doesn’t mean that my opinions on the subject are perforce valid. I’m not asking for this to be quantified; I admit that would probably be impossible. And since it can’t, I submit that people should not use words like “most” when discussing the subject. This seem moderate and non-burdensome and should not be construed as an attack on you, Sarah, or her larger point, which I find to be valid in the main.

          I don’t get the impression that Sarah’s intent was to prove that all complementarians are reinforcing rape culture, as you seem to contend, and I don’t think that your mere assertion of the idea bears any weight. If you present an actual argument, and I will be happy to listen and consider it. Until then, insinuating that anyone who disagrees with you does so because your opinion is “tough to hear or accept” is condescending and ad hominem.

          • I’m going to borrow the moving sidewalk analogy that Beverly Tatum discusses. We live in a system of domination in our society that relies on rape culture to perpetuate itself. Without the fear of rape, it would be more difficult for oppressors to keep marginalized people in their place. Beverly Tatum argues (specifically about racism, but I’m going to expand her analogy to discuss rape culture as well) that this system of domination is like a moving sidewalk. You may not be running full-speed along with rape culture, but unless you are running in the opposite direction, you’re still contributing to it, getting pulled along by the moving sidewalk.

            Complementarianism, as a belief system, is–like larger society–a system of domination (one that is a tool of larger society, I’d add). Every complementarian stands on a moving sidewalk of rape culture. Some, like Driscoll and the Wilsons, are jogging along this sidewalk, promoting rape in so many subtle but powerful and dangerous ways. Other complementarians are standing still. To run the other way would not get you many points in complementarianism. Maybe some have found a way to do this, but I doubt it’s many. So, yes, I am arguing that most complementarians passively go along with rape culture. They benefit from it. It gets them where they want to go, even if they don’t recognize who built the sidewalk under their feet and what is powering it.

          • Jim-N-NC

            Just how does this:


            Promote rape? You need to repent of bearing false witness.

          • I’ve never heard the moving sidewalk analogy before; it’s interesting, and I will have to give it some thought. This is definitely a different point than you made in your original post, though, which point I took to be that most complementarian leaders are actively preaching ideas that contribute to rape culture, whether they think that’s what they’re doing or not.

            The “moving sidewalk point”, if I may call it so, is much easier for me to credit and seems to be an argument from philosophy rather than an unverifiable assertion, and I like that. I know you care ever so much what I like. 🙂

          • nah, I’m glad I was able to explain my thoughts more clearly. working on a follow up post. I have to include this analogy

  • Roger

    Though I want to engage with your sentiments here, I find it difficult. You argue your point with strength, though your argument is weak. I say this because, though you quote some of the above leaders, you seem to inflate what they say to suit your purpose. You have not, by anything said above, supported your claim that “complementarian leaders . . . need rape to exist and for it to be a serious threat.” I have no desire to defend them here, but you take their comments and, on their behalf, take liberty to redefine their definitions of rape. After your redefinition you then take these comments to be their entire view on the issue. I find many of your comments incongruous; is it not true that alcohol and “expressing one’s sexuality” are factors in rape? Does identifying this condone or in anyway acquit the individual, or indeed state that by this we might “solve the problem of rape”? Heck no!

    This is a sensitive issue, and I in no way condone any form of rape, in its broadest possible sense. However, there are many factors that contribute to a social issue, and any discussions on possible, or probable, social factors does not acquit an individual of his/her legal responsibility. By fusing these two facets, you have expressed naught but your discontent with how you understand these “complementarians”, and that badly.

  • abekoby

    In addition, Sarah, I also see a concerted effort among evangelicals to create a general distrust of women. The ideas in complementarianism are that men have to lead women and that women are too emotional to make rational decisions, along with telling them that whatever bad happens to them is their own fault, though it would even seem those are contradicting ideas. It seems to lead a lot of women to a place where they feel they can’t even trust themselves. And then, it’s easy to see how people would commonly deny cases of rape with the typical excuses, and because women are believed to be untrustworthy, in the end they have no case because no one will believe them, and sometimes they’ll even start to question their own experiences. It’s a self-perpetuating system that affords no means of escape, especially for women.

    • abekoby

      And I’m not saying women are easily fooled, either, because men buy into the same system. It’s just easier for them. They can’t see anything wrong with it, and since it’s not harmful to them, it’s easy not to question, and to slam the door on any arguments made to the contrary.

  • bigwheel

    ‎”If the girls were dressed respectably, no-one would touch them,” one of them said. “It’s the way girls dress that makes guys come on to them. The girls came wanting it – even women in niqab.”

    from this article:

    and the analysis why:

    “Religious fundamentalism arose, and they began to target women. They want women to go back to the home and not work.

    “Male patriarchal culture does not accept that women are higher than men, because some women had education and got to work, and some men lagged behind and so one way to equalise status is to shock women and force a sexual situation on them anywhere.”

  • Lawrence

    You are confusing our responsibility to understand and warn people about what the world is actually like, with a need to prop up a lie in order to control women. I believe that “no” means “no” and when that is violated it should be prosecuted as rape.

    When I warn our college women not to dress like Lady Gaga and hang out at the frat house, you think I’m using rape to control behavior. Actually, I’m using the truth to warn them that such places are loaded with predatory jerks just waiting for an opportunity to abuse them.

    Oh, and a more accurate version of your fourth paragraph would read:

    “I don’t believe that most egalitarian bloggers actually want women to be raped (although, I see posts all the time that make me question that belief).”

    • Jenn

      Lawrence, while I believe your cautioning about the attire comes from a well natured place it is misguided and even quite hurtful on two accounts. One a woman is more likely to be assaulted by someone she knows, which is to say it will happen when the perpetrator wants to, regardless of clothing. And further regardless of what I woman or man is wearing they are not responsible for the actions of others against them – whether I am wearing a burka or bikini it is not my responsibility if another person chooses to assault me. To suggest such is shifting the blame from the perpetrator on to the victim.

      I don’t think Sarah is confusing anything, but rather discussing the world view that has permeated her faith experience and the experience of countless men and women within the same spheres, one that has placed women in a role of shame fuelled subjugation and where their value is in their ability to maintain their purity and the controlled sexuality of the men around them until a man chooses to take a woman’s virginity. There is no discussion of agency or sexual identity apart from the role she serves in relation to a man and that is a problem. A big problem.

    • Anon

      No, actually your second paragraph is exactly the same thing. You are using the threat of rape to control behaviour.

      Don’t do this. Don’t go there. Don’t wear that. OR ELSE RAPE (and most of it’s your fault – because even if you don’t say it, it’s implied).

      How about talking to college men about not raping women? About how no type of dress, previous consent or possible number of sexual partners on the woman’s part gives them ANY licence to abuse or rape her? About how it doesn’t matter how ‘provoked’ you were, or how drunk you were, or how drunk she was, it is still RAPE? About how it’s not ‘playing hard to get’, it’s RAPE?

      The truth is that it’s not what women wear or where women go which causes rape. It’s rapists.

  • Annazon J

    Wow. Did it get hot in here or am I just feeling the hot air from the rape apologist comments?

  • Seth

    No make-outs or nookie without enthusiastic consent from all of the involved parties. To facilitate the recognition of the presence of genuine consent everyone should lay-off the Jägermeister and Boone’s Farm.

    The evo-psych folks will point to rape as a reproductive strategy. It is true that every fluffy mallard duckling is the product of what looks like gang-rape to me, but I don’t see the existence of coercive sex in the animal kingdom as “just the way things are.” I see it as evidence of THE FALL.


      So, how were mallard ducks doing it before THE FALL? eHarmony?

      • LOL!

      • Seth

        🙂 I’m not sure. I wasn’t around before the fall. I’ll bet coffee shops and Wes Anderson movies were big stuff, though.

        It says in Isaiah that the “wolf will dwell with the lamb,” etc. The violence of the world is not “natural” and God’s original intent. There is a lot of coercive sex in the animal kingdom. Ducks are just one species with “forced copulation” . . . a fancy term for rape. Sometimes the female is attacked by a large group, and occasionally she will be killed by the onslaught.

        Humans also have a history of reproduction via rape. In many wars, sex has been considered just a part of the spoils. For instance, Ghengis Khan and his family have millions of direct descendants. A lot of that mating was not anything close to consensual. It was flat-out rape via force or economic coercion. Some evo-psych folks see rape a highly successful mating strategy. I’m unapologetically Christian in my beliefs. Even rape it is often successful at creating new life, I don’t see it as God’s will among humans or animals.

        Muller and Wrangler’s book “Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans” is an interesting look at the topic written from an evolutionary viewpoint.

        • Abby Normal

          That’s an interesting thought, but although I “believe” in evolution (just like I “believe” in the germ theory of disease), I’m a little skeptical of the whole evolutionary psych thing.

          I also find it a bit of a stretch to try to apply human morals to animals. I mean, whether or not animals even have souls is up for debate in some circles–does it really make sense to apply a human moral standard to the stuff that they do?

          (This reminded me of a patient I once saw who was convinced that the presence of bacterial flora on human skin was a result of “original sin”. This did make treating MRSA infections in him a little difficult. I mean, shoot, bacteria need a place to live, too–am I now to assume that there were no bacteria in the garden of Eden?)

          Not only that, but doesn’t equating “forced copulation” in the animal world with rape in the human world kind of mischaracterize the human version? I mean, a male gorilla may forcefully mate with a whole mess of females because of an innate biological imperative to spread his genetic line around as much as possible. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the motivation for Ghengis Khan–it was more about intimidation and showing conquered people who was boss (basically, the same reasons rape is used today as a weapon of war in the Sudan and the like.) Big difference, in my book.

  • Kristen


    I have read many of Doug Wilson’s books, heard dozens of his sermons, I know his wife and daughters. I have never ever read something he wrote or heard something he said that causes me to do anything out of fear of being raped if I don’t follow his advice. I can’t understand why you would say that complementarians need rape to exist as a serious threat to enforce their views of gender distinctiveness. I am sure the men you mention are not unaware of the damage caused by rape in the lives of real women. They are pastors after all and counsel many people who find themselves in evil circumstances.

    Since others have posted Doug’s response to your article I won’t do that but I want people who have read this far in the comments section to know that I know Doug Wilson better than Sara Moon does. I have never had reason to believe these things she claims to know about him. I don’t see that she has supported her claim with anything other than her own opinion and a few quotes torn out of their context.

    • Jenn

      I cannot speak for Sarah but I will say that I completely agree with her point and I find it hard to believe, regardless of how well you know him or his wife that you can one as a woman, in a culture that dis-values your voice/agency and equality, speak freely. Furthermore to say that they are nice people and they would never do such a thing is the same endless garbage that is spewed in the Church by those with their heads in the sand about the effect that rape has on victims.

      Further and again I cannot speak for Sarah but as fellow pastor I am ashamed that another who holds such a title would use the demeaning, hateful and vile language as Mr. Wilson does – to do so speaks nothing of Christ, the Gospel, of love, or even decent moral character. For that reason alone regardless of complementarianism or not, he is not a man to be followed or respected and as such I find his abusive rhetoric null and void.

  • JK86

    Just for the sake of context, are you married, and what is your concept of marriage as an institution? I think that’s relevant because without a clear understanding of the way God created marriage to be one can never fully understand how womena and men should relate to each other sexually. It’s just a question for you…

    • I’m engaged, in an egalitarian relationship. I see marriage as an institution that has (and is still) evolving from an oppressive structure that viewed women as property to a loving, consensual partnership. I relate very well sexually to my partner. We enjoy each other, respect each other, and lead one another

  • Andromeda

    I was sexually assaulted. My comp therapist told me it shouldn’t matter because he didn’t stick his penis in me and thus I was ‘fine’

  • axelbeingcivil

    This post, and the one you referenced it in recently, are a pretty shocking and eye-opening glance at this sort of world; where people use a threat that doesn’t originate within themselves as a means to keep people in line. It’s that sort of “follow the next step” thinking that can so often lead us to realizing the full extent of the effects of a policy or statement that was otherwise not quite so obvious.

    Please, carry on writing. The world needs people like you in it. Thank you for what you said.