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Sex, Submission and 50 Shades of Grey

July 19, 2012

I want to open by thanking all those men and women who have spoken up against the outrage of Jared Wilson’s original post. These posts are linked to by Kurk, Rachel, and James among others. I especially appreciated Eric’s response and thought that it best articulated my own reactions.

I have read enough of Douglas Wilson’s book, available through Google books, and spent enough time with complementarians – most of my life – to know that this is not about physical rape or violence. This is about having an authority and submission relationship in marriage in which the husband performs headship over the female, and she in return seeks to please him in every way and deny her own self. It is a pathology. However, the husband may be sexually demanding, quite average, or incredibly cold and withholding, not necessarily violent or oversexed. But the overarching feature is that sex takes place within a hierarchical arrangement and this is what our society deplores.

There are sanctions against sexual intercourse within the following relationships, teacher/student, doctor/patient, clergy/parishioner, adult/child, employer/employee and so on. In fact, within any relationship of boss and subordinate, sexual intercourse of any kind is considered to be highly irregular. So why is marriage taught as a relationship of authority and submission? Why should women permanently live within a 24/7 situation of performing sexually within an authority and submission framework?

I disagree that Douglas Wilson in any way promotes physical dominance over women, or is an outlier in this respect. He is an outlier in his use of language and that’s about it. All and every single male in the church who has ever preached the authority of the husband over his wife, and the obedience and submission of the wife to her husband is responsible for promoting the deplorable practice of sex in a hierarchical arrangement.

The good thing is that most complementarians are, in effect, egalitarian, and invoke male authority on special and infrequent occasions, if they want to keep the peace. So I am not attacking all complementarians. I am saying that every single preacher and theologian out there who promotes sex within hierarchy is guilty of just that, promoting sex within hierarchy. So, no, I don’t think Wilson and Wilson are promoting rape and violence, but they are promoting sex within hierarchy. Another pathology.

I can’t say much more without losing my equanimity. I left. I am glad I left.

Does this mean I am rejecting the Bible? Hardly! It contains enough narrative of husbands and lovers gently lying between their lover’s breasts. And to carry this metaphor further, didn’t Jesus allow a dear friend to lean on his breast, doesn’t the child rest on the parent’s breast, and the Son on the Father’s? (Unless you have a Bible that has edited this out.) If we need to use metaphors, can’t we use the metaphors of biblical poetry, of tenderness and love, rather than the metaphors of “penetration and colonisation?”

6 Comments leave one →
  1. jayseidler permalink
    July 19, 2012 7:02 pm

    Indeed a pathology. It makes me sad that such pathetic stuff is coming from the mouths of anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus. Perhaps it would be better for some of these to make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of God lest they continue to abuse the rights of women as did those in the times of Jesus who were so eager to discuss the legal loop holes in the acquiring and ridding themselves of wives.

  2. jayseidler permalink
    July 19, 2012 7:10 pm

    This reminds me of a joke I once read. It goes something like this: A new husband addressing his new wife about authority in their relationship took a pair of his pants and told his wife to put them on and wear them. The wife responded that she could not wear them as the trousers were much to big for her. To this the husband responded, “That is right, you cannot wear them and just remember that, I am the one in this house who will be wearing the pants” Then the wife took a pair of her pants and told the husband to put them on. The husband replied, “There is no way I can get into your pants” To this the wife replied, “That’s right, and until you change your attitude there is no way you will be getting into my pants.”

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    July 19, 2012 8:24 pm


    Thanks for the joke – always so much appreciated.

  4. July 19, 2012 11:16 pm

    Thanks for your measured response, Sue. I could not believe that I had actually read this verbal pornography from someone who thought he had authority. To me his words reflected a Levitical abomination. This hetero domineering attitude is contrary to Torah.

  5. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    July 20, 2012 12:36 am

    Oh well. I have always thought that this is the way they think. Now others see it too.

  6. July 25, 2012 6:32 pm

    In other news: “Hotel Replaces Bibles With … 50 Shades”

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