“You Are Not Your Own:” Men Are Animals

“You Are Not Your Own:” Men Are Animals July 15, 2013

This post is part of a series called“You Are Not Your Own,” focusing on rape and sexual assault in Christian relationship/dating books

Trigger Warning for rape, sexual assault, victim blaming, sexism

Note: this research mainly focused on female rape. Though it is not the focus of my project, male rape is a huge problem as well–1 out of every 10 rape victims is male. I wanted to make it clear that, despite the focus of my study, it is not only women (and definitely not only cisgender women) who face sexual violence. 

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As a quick recap, I analyzed four Christian dating books (Real Marriage, When God Writes Your Love Story, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Dateable) and I came up with four significant findings related to the area of rape and sexual assault:

  1. These books create an environment ripe for rape myth acceptance
  2. They create a context in which no one truly has ownership over his/her own body
  3. They ignore the importance of consent, or create an illusion that consent exists where it does not
  4. They blur the lines between rape/sexual assault and consensual sex.

Today, I’m going to continue discussing the first finding:

1. An Environment Ripe for Rape Myth Acceptance

 In my last post, I discussed how these books reject hostile sexism, but their solution to hostile sexism is benevolent sexism and traditional gender roles. Stay in your place, women, and you’ll be fine! Leave your “role” and mess around where you don’t belong and you make yourself a target.

By embracing benevolent sexism and traditional gender roles (and using hostile sexism as a subtle threat to those who transgress their roles), these books promote mindsets that are strongly correlated with rape myth acceptance. Today, I’m going to talk about another way in which these books promote attitudes that correlate with rape myth acceptance.

Men are Animals

Another way that these books create an environment ripe for rape myth acceptance is by promoting dehumanization of people, which is related not only to higher rape myth acceptance but higher rape proclivity. Surprisingly, however, these books did not just dehumanize women. In two of the books, men were dehumanized as well.

Where women were talked about as if they were objects or animals in ways that made them seem passive, men were talked about as if they were animals in ways that made them seem aggressive. This animalization of men was used to either absolve them of some of the responsibility for doing harm, or to present their doing harm as natural (though still wrong).

Dateable contains the most blatant animalization of men. They compare men to Pavlov’s dogs, horses, cavemen, and multiple times refer to the “male species,” as if males are somehow a species other than human. This is done, not to degrade men necessarily (although such words certainly might have that effect) but to excuse any inappropriate  behavior they show toward women. Young women are told, concerning men:

“Don’t tease the animals…Please, PLEASE don’t tease us [men]. To show us your hot little body and then tell us we can’t touch it is being a tease. You can’t look that sexy and then tell us to be on our best behavior.” (p. 117)

Read that again: “Don’t tease the animals. You can’t look that sexy and then tell us to be on our best behavior.” It literally calls men animals. It tells women flat out that they can’t expect men to treat women that they find attractive with respect.

When God Writes Your Love Story also describes men as having an “animalistic…attitude toward sex,” compared to women (p. 97). The authors, Eric and Leslie Ludy, do call men to respect women despite their “animalistic” nature, however, they still perpetuate the idea that an uncontrollable, dangerous, devouring approach to sex is what is natural for men (especially non-Christian men). This point of view supports what we talked about in my last post on this topic–benevolent sexism as the solution to hostile sexism. Most men are animals, so if women don’t want to be hunted down by them, they should submit to the protection of those “good Christian men” who have learned to control their animalistic desires. 

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  • “Rebecca”

    So strange that they do this. I remember lots of Christian conservative materials saying that if we accept evolution, we tell kids they’re animals, and that leads to horrible sin. Yet here are Christian conservative books saying exactly the same thing -that men are animals- to impressionable youth.

    • Leah

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. While all these “godless scientist” sorts that supposedly are “leading us to see ourselves as nothing but animals” are out saying humans are beautiful and the world is an exciting and wonderful place, and you as a human have this great remarkableness to be able to enjoy and explore nature; and the “anti-life feminists” are saying that people are rational and good and that it is not natural for people to commit barbarous acts against one another but against our own good natures that explore sexuality in a beautiful and loving way; the supposedly human/life-affirming Christians are calling men sub-human animals and women passive receptacles, treating sex as this cold, clinical impulse based on a mindless desire to breed with what we (or rather males) see as bearing viably fertile physical traits. It’s the group that claims humans are created in the image and likeness of a loving and wise being that have turned people into nothing but impulse driven animals without the sense to have standards or the capacity of love and awe required to enjoy sex in a healthy manner. While the group that supposedly sees humans as “nothing but animals” holds people to a high standard and admires humanity for our capacity to reason and love and explore the wonders of the world.
      I don’t know… Is this an improper use of the word “ironic”? Even in a dramatical sense?

  • Kristen Rosser

    Undergirding this, I think, is the historical mindset that while women are supposed to be kept under control, men should not be subjected to having to be under control. And it’s a short step from “he shouldn’t be controlled” to “he can’t be controlled.”

  • Anthony Bulldis

    I’ve seen this too, both in books and in talking to people. As much as men are encouraged and commanded to “flee from sexual sin” and “make a covenant with their eyes”, there’s always that sort of wistful undertone of “if only women understood how hard they make it for us to not lust for them”. And I can’t help but feel that the constant reminders of how out of control we are and how much we need to obsess about not committing sexual sin is just priming us for more problematic behavior.