“You Are Not Your Own:” People Belong To Their Partners

“You Are Not Your Own:” People Belong To Their Partners August 20, 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

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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I could think of a better time to write this post than the first full day back from my honeymoon. Writing this now makes me want to say a prayer of gratitude to God that she delivered me from the kind of relationships promoted in the Christian dating books I used to read.

Since it’s been awhile since my last You Are Not Your Own post (I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately), let’s play catch up real quick. We’re going through four significant findings related to the area of rape and sexual assault that I came across while researching four popular Christian dating books (Real Marriage, When God Writes Your Love Story, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and Dateable). These four findings are:

  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.

Let’s continue our discussion of finding number two now.

2. No one owns his/her body

I’ve already talked about how, in the context of these books, unmarried women are often portrayed as being owned by their parents. But what happens when a woman marries? Is she finally old enough and responsible enough to have autonomy over her body? Is she finally able to make her own choices?

I’ll bet you can take a guess as to what these books say about that.

People Belong To Their Partners

Throughout these books, the authors promote the idea that being married means giving your body over to the ownership of another person. This actually seems to go both ways, at least in word, for heterosexual couples (which are the only couples present in these books)–the wife owns the husband and the husband owns the wife.

This idea is probably best summed up in a verse from I Corinthians 7 that the Driscolls quote in Real Marriage:

“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body but the wife does.” (161)

Joshua Harris states in I Kissed Dating Goodbye, “A husband and wife may enjoy each other’s bodies because in essence they belong to one another.”  (94) This idea that they “belong to one another” is used as the sole reason why husbands and wives are allowed to have sex. Sex is about ownership and property, not choice and consent. It is about who owns who, which serves to further objectify both men and women.

Dateable even compares marriage to buying a car, encouraging men and women to keep themselves “new” for when they are owned by their future spouses:

Would you buy a beat up old used car at a new car price? Think about it. Would you look at this car that is all scratched up with dents and high miles on it, pay the full sticker price and think, ‘Wow, what a great deal!’ No way. (213)

When marriage means owning another person, consent isn’t really a “thing,” something that I’ll talk about more later in this series. No one really has autonomy. In fact, even before marriage, romantic partners can claim “pieces” of you. I’ll talk about that in my next post.

You may gain (oppressive, patriarchal) power by “owning” someone else (partner, children, etc.), but no one gets to own him/herself, according to these books.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I believed my husband owned me for years. Fortunately he’s adjusting to the new, more autonomous me quite well 🙂

  • Liz

    I’ve been following your series from the beginning and I really like what you’re doing. My family read I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Out loud. In the living room. Ugh.) and everyone around me was reading the same book and endorsing it, so all of these ideas are so familiar I feel like I should be inoculated against them, but–ugh. The Driscolls’ quote about the car… just, no. There’s nothing “damaged” about me because I’ve chosen to have sex. Just, NO.

  • caroline

    This whole series coincides with what I’ve realized in the past years about myself and my potential. A few years back, I thought that all Christian women were supposed to do is marry a godly man, bear children, and joyfully become submissive. Then I sort of had an epiphany and became very angry with my church/denomination for allowing those silent implications to alter my view on life itself. Now I have no intention of marrying extremely young, nor do I want hide myself behind a sickly, plastic smile. I just want to be myself, whether or not that fits in or not.

  • Leigha7

    They’re right, I would buy a used car at new-car price. You know what else I wouldn’t do?

    1. Buy a car without test driving it, because that’s just stupid.
    2. Buy a new car when I can get a lightly used car instead, because
    a. used cars are cheaper, and
    b. I would actually feel safer in a car that’s been on the market for a couple years with no recalls, rather than one that just started being sold.
    3. Have someone else choose my car for me, with no consideration as to what kind of car I might want.
    4. Absolutely refuse to ever let anyone else drive my car, because it’s MINE and they can’t have it.
    5. Keep the same car for the rest of my life.

  • BHG

    Just curious–have you ever read the Pope John Paul II’s writings on the theology of the body? Might make for better discussion that these books which really are quite dreadful, however well intentioned.