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“You Are Not Your Own:” When Metaphors For Sex Sound A Lot Like Like Rape

“You Are Not Your Own:” When Metaphors For Sex Sound A Lot Like Like Rape September 17, 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

Content Note: rape, sexual assault, violent imagery, discussion of colonialism/imperialism

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We’re getting toward the end of my series on rape and sexual assault in evangelical Christian dating books (Dateable, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Real Marriage, and When God Writes Your Love Story). If you need to catch up, you can find older posts here. Here are the four findings I came across in my research.

  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

Believe it or not, this exciting journey is nearly at an end and we are on finding number four!

4. Blurred Lines Between Sexual Assault and Consensual Sex

No, we’re not talking about that weird ass Robin Thicke video. The authors of these Christian dating books might be surprised to see themselves compared to THAT guy, but they are also guilty of blurring the lines between consensual sex and rape. If you’ve been reading the rest of my series, this won’t surprise you. This point is really the cumulation of all the other points.

When women (and men) are objects or animals

When no one has autonomy over their bodies…

When consent is only an illusion

…It’s hard to tell what is consensual sex and what is rape.

When Metaphors For Sex Sound a Lot Like Rape

The metaphors the authors of these books use to describe sex often involve one living, breathing one human capable of making decisions and one object/animal who cannot make such choices. Sex is described as:

  • Hunting (Dateable p. 182)
  • Driving a Car (Dateable p. 213)
  • Winning a Prize (When God Writes Your Love Story p. 122)
  • Exploring a Piece of Land (Real Marriage p. 51)

For the sake of time and space (I lost my notes and don’t feel like going back through all those books to note ALL the examples right now–stick around for the ebook version, possibly coming soon), this is not even a comprehensive list.

Many of these metaphors bring to mind not just non-consensual but violent imagery. 

On sex as hunting, check out this quote from Dateable (p. 182): 

Guys love the battle. They love the adventure. The chase. It goes way back to the caveman days of clubbing Dino in the head for food. It’s built into that Y chromosome. Hunt. Chase. Conquer. Ugh! We’re the same when it comes to girls. We want a challenge. A chase.

“Clubbing Dino in the head”?

“We’re the same when it comes to girls.”?

I don’t think I need to add to that do I?

On sex as driving a car, well, we have another winner from Dateable. In a metaphor that sets up the reader as a car and the person they choose to have sex with as a “test driver” of a car, this book compares “touching, kissing, fondling, grouping, anything except intercourse” to “scratching the paint. Breaking the window. Poking holes in the seat.” It then uses an image of a doodled car that has obviously taken a beating:

From Dateable p. 213

On sex as exploring a piece of land, I think commenter ColorlessBlue said it best on an earlier post: “The language of uncharted territory to be explored is also colonialist, imperialist, and racist, besides the gender implications.”

This is not just an innocent metaphor, especially coming from a white man like Mark Driscoll. The idea of conquering and colonizing land is strongly wrapped up with sexual violence and genocide. As Andrea Smith discusses in her book, Conquest (which you NEED to read RIGHT NOW), colonizers use rape to conquer, dehumanize, and ultimately attempt to destroy the people they wish colonize. In fact, according to Smith, colonization itself is a process similar to sexual violence.

Colonization is not romantic.

Especially coming from a white man in a country built on colonization and genocide, this language of “exploring uncharted territory” cannot describe consensual sex.

At best, these metaphors describe a sexual situation in which one person is dehumanized. At worst, they call to mind horrific images of sexual violence. Without humanity, autonomy, and consent, these are the images of “sex” that we are left with in these Christian dating books.


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