Sex, Submission and 50 Shades of Grey
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?”