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purity culture

Feminism

I Kissed Dating Goodbye review: 59-86

“Looking up ‘Love’ in God’s Dictionary” &
“The Right Thing at the Wrong Time is the Wrong Thing”

This week we’re entering the second Part of IKDG: “The Heart of the Matter.” I was hoping this meant that we’d be digging into different ideas, but so far these two chapters were repetitive. There’s building your argument, and then there’s just restating yourself, and Joshua is going in circles at this point. However, it did make it clear that there are two realities that are affecting his judgment: 1) his utter lack of experience, and 2) the cynicism and suspicion he’s been taught to see The World through. These combine to form an inaccurate understanding of how The World actually works; a side-effect is that he’s far too sanguine about fellow Christians and their behavior.

For example, he cites Eric and Leslie Ludy (although he doesn’t use their last name, which seemed odd to me) as a model for how courtship should work and why it’s successful, contrasting it with a high school friend who lied to his parents in order to sleep with his girlfriend. However, he does nothing to address the fact that in the early days of their speaking tours, the Ludys talked about the fact that they didn’t consummate their marriage for over a year. Joshua presents them as the ideal: “You’d be hard pressed to find two more romantic people” (61), but he glosses over (or doesn’t know about) their lack of sex, which Joshua has argued is central to marriage.

In the next chapter he cites William Bennett, using a parable of Bennett’s creation about self-discipline and patience, concluding with Bennett’s line:

“Too often, people want what they want … right now. The irony of their impatience is that only by learning to wait, and by a willingness to accept the bad with the good, do we usually attain those things that are truly worthwhile. (76)

This statement serves as the chapter’s main thesis, except … Bennett had such a severe gambling problem that he lost millions of dollars in Vegas. But sure. It’s “The World” that has the problem with selfishness and impatience.

I’m also worried about Joshua’s view of sex. He has consistently portrayed sex as something that happens primarily because of selfishness, because a person is consumed about their own gratification– and has applied this definition to his own view of sex. This worries me because what you believe about the nature of sex doesn’t change simply because you signed a piece of paper. If he thinks that sex outside of marriage can only be selfish (65), what miracle happens to suddenly transform selfishness into benevolence when a couple signs on the dotted line?

His lack of experience shines through here: he doesn’t believe it is possible for sex outside of marriage to be anything except selfishly motivated. And sure, it frequently can be. However, that’s not an intrinsic part of pre-marital sex, but a problem with the individual person. In my experience, pre-marital sex was one of the most affirming, life-giving, healing, and beneficial experiences of my life. With Handsome’s help, I was able to overcome some elements of my PTSD. If we’d waited until we were married to start exploring this area of our relationship, I am 100% positive that it would have been disastrous for us. In our case, it was the least selfish thing we could do for each other.

He’s being overly cynical about what sex outside of marriage can look like for people. It’s probable he’s only ever heard horror stories used to bolster the abstinence-only position. If someone ever came into his church’s pulpit and said “we had sex before we got married and everything was fine” I’ll eat my hat. Except, for a lot of people, that is the reality of their experience– everything was fine.

One of his points is that “Love must be sincere,” following Romans 12:9. He uses this to denounce the “fact” that dating comes with a “an angle, a hidden agenda” (70). He describes a conversation he once heard between young men where they talked about negging (although he doesn’t use that term) and other manipulative PUA-style tactics. So while I agree with him that love is sincere and honest, and he’s right to condemn horrible things like negging, he’s holding up betas and PUAs like they’re the standard form of secular dating. Hint: they’re not.

He also condemns the type of boyfriend who says “If you really loved me, you’d do it” (65) but infuriatingly ignores the ubiquitousness of “if you don’t sleep with your husband, you don’t love him (and you’re responsible if he cheats on you!)” in his complementarian culture.

***

In the next chapter he breaks down what he views as cultural problems that affect romantic relationships, like how The World is supposedly all about impatience– and the more impatient our culture becomes, it affects how we treat sex, such as having it at increasingly early ages. Spoiler alert: the trend at the time Joshua wrote IKDG was actually the opposite of this. The rate of girls ages 15-19 who’d had sex fell by 8% from 1988 to 1995, and that trend continued past the original publishing of IKDG. Today, the average age for a woman to have sex for the first time is 17, and the number of high-schoolers who say they’ve had sex has dropped below 50%.

But, little things like facts and research shouldn’t stand in the way of a perfectly good pearl-clutching moment.

The latter half of this chapter is dedicated to the concept that you have to trust God and their perfect timing, which is one of the primary messages of purity culture. If you try to rush things, you’ll inevitably be losing out on “God’s best.” Wait for the person God has for you. God knows best. God knows better than you ever could. You can’t be allowed to make your own decisions because you will screw it up.

This is all based in a view of God that is primarily punitive:

God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, “This is love.” God always defines love by pointing to His Son. This was the only way our sins could be forgiven. The innocent One took the place of the guilty–He offered himself up to death so that we could have eternal life. God’s perfect love for a fallen world is more clearly seen in the death of His Son. (67)

My marginalia for this section is “UGH.” Because that specific understanding of the Atonement is supposed to be viewed by us as the pinnacle of love. God points at the torture and crucifixion of Jesus, the beating, the misery, and says “that’s what love looks like“? It looks like violence and terror? It looks like an execution performed by the state? Just … this articulation always makes me want to beat my head into the wall. I also find it disturbing that, according to penal substitionary atonement theory, it is impossible for God to be merciful and forgiving. They must exact vengeance, a price. Sin must be paid for, or we will all burn in hell.

That’s not love. That’s not forgiveness. That’s not mercy.

Jesus paints such a different portrait of God. In his Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, Jesus portrays God as a king who forgives his servant of an enormous debt– a number that would look something like $10 million dollars when you make $30,000 a year. He forgives the debt for no other reason than that his servant begs him to be merciful, and he is. This is what the kingdom of heaven is like, Jesus says. A king who forgives incomprehensible debt for no reason besides mercy.

But if your view of God is the opposite of this, then of course it makes sense to see our human relationships as being extremely precarious. There’s no room for grace or second chances, of making mistakes and learning from them, if this is who you think God is.

Feminism

I Kissed Dating Goodbye review: 49-56

“Counterculture Romance”

What I’ve been trying to keep in front of me as I’ve been reading is that Joshua was 23, and on top of being really young he grew up in the same homeschooling culture I did– and at this point in his life was being inducted into the cult-like atmosphere of C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries. If you’re wondering why SGM is ringing a bell, it’s because they’re the folks that spent a lot of time and energy covering up the fact that children were being raped and molested in their churches in order to protect the abusers.

That’s where Joshua was at this point in his life. He was being instructed by Mahaney, a man whose leadership is utterly void of any form of Christian love or compassion. So, I have a lot of empathy for what he was going through … but he was still disastrously wrong in writing IKDG.

The first thing I want to highlight is in the differences Joshua and I have toward the Bible– and it’s more than just our differences on inspiration. He opens chapter four by referencing Ephesians 4, where Paul encourages us to “throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through … instead there must be a spiritual renewal” (49).

When people like Joshua read these passages, it’s in the context of individualism and the sorts of “evil” that conservative evangelicals point to … like rebellion in children or watching R-rated films. However, I don’t think a word like phtheirō which means utterly corrupted, destroyed, ruined— is an appropriate term to describe two teenagers fooling around in a parked car (53). However, phteirō is properly rendered in something that destroys as many human lives as misogyny or white supremacy have. I do believe in “throwing off your old evil nature.” But, because conservative evangelicals like Joshua are trapped in seeing sin as individual and not communal, they’re inevitably going to arrive at interpretations of Ephesians 4 that apply it to ordinary human behavior.

But, let’s move into the steps Joshua lays out for how Christians can “renew” their dating life:

1. Every relationship is an opportunity to model Christ’s love.

Yes, of course. Joshua even harkens back to Jesus’ proclamation they shall know you by how you love one another— a standard Christians don’t have the reputation of living up to. But, that’s not what I want to talk about:

Unfortunately, much of her interaction with guys is fake–it focuses on attracting attention to herself … (50)

And now contrast that with:

He still operates from the old dating mindset that he’s incomplete without a girlfriend. (51)

We could also contrast this statement about a young woman with how he described his own motivations for dating “selfishly” in the first chapter– according to him, he was seeking emotional gratification and avoiding loneliness. But the young woman he describes isn’t dating around for a sympathetic reason, no, she’s doing it to get attention. Because of course that’s all women really want, right? We’re not motivated by anything less vapid or shallow like “loneliness” or “cultural pressure.”

I’m positive this was unintentional. Joshua doesn’t strike me as an active misogynist; he’s not deliberately trying to make women look horrible. It just happened because, unfortunately, he was brought up to believe sexist things about women, like that we’re attention-seeking fake liars. He’s hardly alone.

2. My unmarried years are a gift from God.

He’s recycling the familiar message that you can get more done when you’re single:

As a single you have the freedom right now to explore, study, and tackle the world. No other time in your life will offer these chances. (51)

Granted, I’ve only been married for three years and I don’t have kids (which is still more experience than him) but so far the opposite of this has been true. Having Handsome as a partner has enabled me to do so much more than I was capable of producing by myself. I have his support and encouragement backing me up, I have him to bounce ideas and arguments around with, I have him to be inspired by. I also think it’s possible to experience these sorts of thing with people you don’t ultimately marry, too. Any good relationship should leave you feeling stronger and braver, I think.

It’s important to note that buried under the assumption that married people don’t have “freedom” is the belief that married people always have children. This is most definitely not true, but the expectation is still there.

3. I don’t need to pursue a romantic relationship before I’m ready for marriage.

Two things to highlight:

Both [Jenny and her boyfriend] have specific things to accomplish for God before they can take that step [toward marriage]. (51)

These things they’re supposed to “accomplish for God” are almost always described in classist, sexist terms. Complete a college education, have a 9-to-5 job, own a home, be able to support a middle-class suburban lifestyle … take your pick, the whole “white picket fence with 2.5 kids” is what you’re supposed to be able to “accomplish” in Joshua’s world. Maybe not to Joshua, personally, he doesn’t really say, but every preacher in our common backgrounds cited “able to attain a middle class life” as the only thing you really needed to be able to do before you get married.

Highlight Number Two:

If you’re not ready to consider marriage or you’re not truly interested in marrying a specific person, it’s selfish and potentially very harmful to encourage that person to need you, or ask him or her to gratify you emotionally or physically. (52)

See, Joshua, this sort of thing is why a bunch of the people who read IKDG walked away with the notion that they could only date people they already knew they wanted to marry, which ended up making “hey would you like to grab coffee sometimes” basically an offer of marriage.

4. I cannot “own” someone outside of marriage.

Ai yi yi. You cannot “own” someone inside of marriage, either. Marriage is not slavery. Marriage should be an equal partnership of people. It can challenge us, it can ask us to sacrifice sometimes, but it should never make us slaves to our spouses.

It honestly makes me ill that Joshua was taught to believe that getting married entitled him to own a woman. He says how bad it is for us to seriously date someone without marrying them because we “would have made unwarranted claims,” but he doesn’t challenge the idea that supposedly marriage is a “warranted claim” to another human being. That’s disturbing.

But we also get this:

Even though they hadn’t had sex, they constantly struggle with going too far. (53)

“Too far,” of course, is “penetrative intercourse.” This definition prioritizes men and the male orgasm; it also completely erases non-heteronormative sex. Even cisgender heterosexual couples are capable of having a completely satisfactory sexual experience, orgasms and all, mutual pleasure and all, without anyone’s penis going into anyone’s vagina.

5. I will avoid situations that could compromise the purity of my body or mind.

This chapter is where we get our first incidence of rape culture peeking through:

She thinks it’s very romantic, and it gives her a feeling of control over her boyfriend, who, to be quite honest, will go as far in their physical relationship as Jessica will allow. (53)

Firstly, men are not sex-craved beasts. If men exist in the default state of “going as far as their girlfriends allow,” that makes male rape impossible. Except, men aren’t permanently consenting to any and all sex acts available to them. This statement is also steeped in rape culture because it contains the dangerous idea that women are the “sexual gatekeepers.” We’re not– and treating us like we are makes rape our fault. We “allowed” it to happen … through kissing him, or being alone with him, or “leading him on” in a thousand indefinable ways that are constantly shifting.

But now I have a question for purity culture advocates: why is “purity” always about what you do (or want to do) with your genitals? Why couldn’t it be a call for us to abstain from greed? Greed can cause far more devastation– on people, on our planet, on our society– than having sex ever could, so why are we so obsessed with fornication rather than avarice?

Making the Trade

This is his conclusion to the chapter, and it asks us to think about giving God our best, instead of being “plagued by the question ‘Has God given me His best?'” It’s a Christian rendition of ask not what your country can do for you. This is the core of his argument:

You and I will never experience God’s best … until we give God our all. (55)

In my opinion, this makes God incredibly petty. Traditionally, they created us as inferior creatures. We’re not as wise or as powerful as themself, so why is an all-powerful and utterly sovereign deity dependent on us to “give our all” before they’ll allow us to experience their “best”? That just seems capricious and juvenile.

***

Joshua does seem like a genuinely sweet and sincere person, but I have a feeling that the implicit sexism, the subtle jabs at women, and the appearances of rape culture are going to be a continual problem.

Feminism

I Kissed Dating Goodbye review: 25-48

“The Little Relationship Principle” &
“The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Dating”

In a nutshell, I think the main concept of I Kissed Dating Goodbye is “Joshua Harris doesn’t think immature people should date.” That concept comes out in a variety of ways, and the illustration he uses to open “The Little Relationship Principle” illuminates one of those ways for us:

Deepening intimacy without defining a level of commitment is dangerous … many people experience deep hurt when they open themselves up emotionally and physically only to be abandoned by someone who proclaims he’s not ready for a “serious commitment.” (27-28)

He spends the rest of the chapter arguing that intimacy should be reserved for “committed” relationships. I think it’s possible Joshua feared intimacy in general when he wrote this (utterly unsurprising, considering his background. Manly Masculine Men having intimate and vulnerable relationships? What?), but it definitely comes out regarding romantic relationships here.

I think many of us would question the premise that intimacy can be dangerous. Yes, break-ups can suck. I casually dated a guy who all of a sudden disappeared, only to pop up at a party a month later obviously attached-at-the-hip to another woman. That stung for a second, and we’d only really “hung out” and obviously weren’t anything even broaching serious. I’ve watched friends in more serious relationships break up, too, and sat with them and hugged them and made them tea and bought them ice cream.

But just because the outcome of a relationship might be negative isn’t a reason to avoid relationships. I’ve had friendships bust apart– some violently. Sometimes friendships faded away. Losing those people sucks. I still think about many of them, and when I do I feel the pangs of loss. For some, I feel regret. For others, I feel anger and resentment.

It’s probably obvious that these results are a natural part of life. Relationships can be fraught, but they’re still worth having. Dating relationships, just like other relationships, can be viewed as informative and helpful. Breakups, because they’re unpleasant, help teach us how to manage loss and grief– and, importantly, how to be our own person so the next time we’re disappointed in a relationship– any relationship– we know how to handle it appropriately.

To Joshua, though, feeling those feelings is inherently dangerous in the way falling off the side of a cliff is dangerous (28). He prioritizes avoiding unpleasant experiences over learning the lessons they can offer. He doesn’t seem to take into account that personal development is a possibility either, but here’s another way that “immature people shouldn’t date” comes out:

Instead of being selfless, [intimacy without commitment] is selfish; instead of being patient, it’s impatient; instead of looking out for the ongoing good of the other person, it’s focused on the needs of the moment. (32)

Question: why are “the needs of the moment” in opposition to “the good of other people”? They don’t have to be– but they can be, when the people involved are selfish and immature. A mature person looks at the needs or desires of the moment and weighs them against the good of other people– but a mature person knows that all decisions carry risk. Every moment sees every person practicing an intuitive version of risk assessment, based on our situation and relative experience. To Joshua, “heartbreak” is an extremely threatening hazard, but that isn’t always the case with every person. For many of us, our experience shows that heartbreak is eminently survivable. Maybe for an individual person it’s not– maybe for Joshua it’s really not. But I think Joshua is projecting a lot of his fears and hangups onto other people and calling that projection “godly.”

One of my biggest problems with IKDG is that he doesn’t examine the consequences of purity culture. In chapter three he talks about a couple who experienced “trauma and guilt over past memories” because they’d slept together (37). When you tell a woman that her value and worth as a human being is totally summed up in her virginity, that penetrative intercourse makes her a “half-eaten candybar” or a “cup full of split” or a “used toothbrush,” or when you tell a man that he’s a “wolf,” then yeah– trauma is the logical reaction to sex. But is the problem having PIV sex, or is the problem the unnecessary mountains of shame that purity culture heaps on people?

To Joshua, it’s obviously because they’d had PIV sex. To me, it’s obviously because they had ongoing problems with the shame and humiliation their culture inculcated in them. Without the shame built into purity culture, you could experience some regret, sure. But to describe your experience as traumatic years later at a high school reunion? That’s not a healthy or normal reaction.

But, let’s dig into the “Seven Habits of Highly Defective Dating.”

1. Dating tends to skip the friendship stage of a relationship.

With immature people, sure. However, dating can be one avenue– among many– for friendship to blossom. I dated Handsome, and now he’s my best friend. We continued dating because we discovered common values, common interests, and we fell in love on top of that. Joshua says that “A relationship based solely on physical attraction and romantic feelings will only last as long as the feelings last” (39), which is patently obvious– but to that I say but now you know.

2. Dating often mistakes a physical relationship for love.

Yes, it can. So what? Now you know.

3. Dating often isolates a couple from other vital relationships.

Again– with immature people it definitely can. However, as I’ve aged, 100% of my friends have all expressed something like “I used to lose touch with my friends when I dated, but I’ve learned that my friendships are more important to me than a possibly temporary partner.”

I also want to add that unhealthy relationships are isolating. Abusers do it deliberately in order to make sure their victims can’t escape, but toxic and co-dependent relationships can also cut people off as a symptom of the problem. Does Joshua mention this, though? Take a guess.

4. Dating can distract young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future.

I found this argument boggling. In what possible way is dating different from marriage in its level of “distraction”? Also, one of the primary conservative arguments for marriage is that being in a relationship helps you “grow” as a person because of the work involved– how is that any different from “maintaining a relationship tak[ing] a lot of time and energy” (43)?

He also says that dating someone means you can be “distracted” from “serving in their local church,” and I want to sit on that for a moment. I wasn’t a part of evangelical culture for very long as  single person, but I’ve heard from multiple single people– some in their late 30s– who feel like their local church treats them like slaves. “Well, you’re not married, so you’re free, right?” seems to be a common refrain single people hear from their church leaders– as if single people exist for no other reason than to serve their church. That’s not at all ok, and shame on you Joshua for encouraging that mentality.

But, skipping 5 (“don’t be discontent with God’s gift of singleness,” which is a rehash of 4) and moving on to 6:

6. Dating can create an artificial environment for evaluating another person’s character.

This one I straight-up disagree with. People create artificial environments when they’re dishonest or insincere. That isn’t a problem with dating. In fact, as an adult, the “environment” of dating is exactly the same as how I make friends. I met a woman online– after we’d chatted for a bit and decided we liked each other, I arranged to meet her for lunch one day. I got dressed up, so did she, and we made “getting to know you” conversation for an hour. Now we’re fast friends. Another woman I met at a mutual friend’s birthday party; I announced that I liked her and why don’t we meet up for coffee sometime? After a few coffee dates, I invited her and her partner over for dinner. I cleaned my home, made my fanciest cake, and was all sorts of nervous beforehand.

I don’t think Joshua is aware of what this is like, though, because if his early adulthood was anything like my life, 100% of his social interactions evolved from his church. Getting to know someone in the context of church potlucks and Sunday school and atrium donuts is really different from what it’s like outside of church. Outside of church (and college), striking up friendships doesn’t always happen as organically. Sometimes you sort of have to force it in the beginning and hope it works. Sometimes you forge a connection, sometimes you don’t.

Mature, self-confident people know that hiding who you are is a guaranteed way of hanging out with people you don’t like. Eventually you learn to quit it and just be yourself, but that’s a natural part of human development. A nervous teenager that lacks confidence and emotional security, whose brain is hardwired to feel social embarrassment more painfully than an adult … yeah, you’ll feel less inclined to “be yourself” on a date. You get older, though, and you tend to get over that. Doesn’t mean that there was anything wrong with the times you weren’t 100% confident.

7. Dating often becomes an end in itself.

This is essentially nothing more than a restatement of “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” So. Not going to waste your time, or mine, on that one.

***

I had a conversation with a friend last weekend where she said that learning about child development helped her reject the abusive child rearing methods we all grew up believing in, like spanking or “blanket training.” I think that Joshua doesn’t just understand child development, and he also doesn’t seem to be aware that who you are as a teenager isn’t who’ll you be in your late twenties. I’m going to forgive him that, since he was 23, but I think our culture in general could do with learning some things about progress and self-acceptance.

Yes, teenagers can be immature– but expecting them to be anything else is ridiculous, and acting like immaturity is wrong, like IKDG does, is awful.

Feminism

IKDG review: “So This is Love” (11-24)

I haven’t read this book since I was in college, so reading it again almost a decade later is an … interesting experience. I was honestly expecting to be more annoyed than I currently am, so finding myself genuinely understanding where Joshua is coming from and even empathizing with him a great deal is surprising. I still strongly disagree with him (and probably will be horribly annoyed at him later), but I’ve been in the ideological place he was at 23 (and 28, when he updated IKDG), so I get it.

As I read the opening chapters, I realized that Joshua is working with two basic, under-girding assumptions and one unexamined problem. First, he essentially believes in the same general ideas that led people to found the monastic orders and that abnegation is always morally good.

The monastic orders drew their justification for existence primarily from I Corinthians 7. Early in the chapter, Paul bemoans the fact that people have to get married “because it is better to marry than to burn,” but nevertheless he wishes “all men could be like as I am.” In a word, he’s traditionally been taken to mean “single,” but queer theology posits he meant asexual. Later he argues that married people’s attention is “divided” but a single person can be “devoted” to God. The early church got really caught up in this idea, some people even possibly taking it to self-castrating extremes. Lots of people in those days gave up families and marriages (possible and existing), and the impulse toward monasticism remains today in attempts to redeem singleness from the marry-or-else attitude in Christian culture — arguing for it as “a time when you can commit completely to serving God.”

This impulse comes out a few times in IKDG:

We were violating each other’s purity, and our spiritual lives were stagnant as a result (17).

Instead, by avoiding romantic, one-on-one relationships before God tells me I’m ready, I can better serve girls as a friend, and I can remain free to keep my focus on the Lord. (20)

I’m not going to waste your time rehashing why gnostic dualism = bad, but it should become apparent that it’s one of the driving forces behind monasticism and this book. When you’re convinced that “wanting things that feel good” is inherently a problem, then you’re inevitably going to have issues with dating simply because it’s fun. According to Joshua’s ability to weigh risks and reward in this ascetic system, the fun of dating and fooling around is extremely outweighed by the “danger” of heartbreak and possibly becoming “spiritually stagnant.”

Which leads us to his second assumption: that abnegation is always morally good.

If you haven’t read the Divergent series yet, I’m going to be horrible and spoil some of it for you #SorryNotSorry. In the series, the main character Tris is raised in a “Faction” called “Abnegation.” In short, this faction sees selfishness as responsible for all the world’s ills, so they totally reject it … and Joshua does the same thing:

But I’m still aware of the consequences of my selfishness (14).

My own self-centered approach to romance started young (15).

I was still very immature and selfish. (16)

…we can no longer live for ourselves–we now live for God and for the good of others (19).

And not with the selfish kind of love I practiced so often in the past (20).

I believe the time has come for Christians, male and female, to own up to the mess we’ve left behind in our selfish pursuit of short-term romance (23).

This first chapter gives us the contextual insight to show us what he means by selfish— a term he uses on nearly every page. Most of us define selfish as “placing personal desire over the good of others”; in a way, he is working with this idea, but he’s taking it one step further: the opposite of selfishness isn’t merely consideration for others, but abnegation:

Every relationship for a Christian is an opportunity to love another person like God has loved us. To lay down our desires and do what’s in his or her best interest. To care for him or her even when there’s nothing in it for us. To want that person’s purity and holiness because it pleases God and protects him or her. (19)

On its face, I don’t really disagree. I do believe in loving others as God loves us, to put others first, to care for others without needing something in return … but only to a point. At some point, the need for self-protection and boundaries becomes necessary. Like that old adage “put on your own oxygen mask first,” we can only be helpful and good to others when we are helpful and good to ourselves. However, that gets a bit lost in this chapter.

Now for the unexamined problem I mentioned earlier:

When I stopped seeing girls as potential girlfriends and started treating them as sisters in Christ, I discovered the richness of true friendship. (21)

Replace “potential girlfriends” with “objects” and “sisters in Christ” with “people,” and you’ll have a better understanding of what Joshua means, I think. A few times so far he has actually admitted that he saw women as objects (15), and part of his motivation for rejecting dating seems to be a rejection of misogyny. He’s still sexist as hell, but the descriptions he gives of his dating life as a teenager made me think wow you were a real sonuhfagun. He was cavalier, narcissistic, and horribly entitled. It’s good that he rejected that … but he’s swung too far in the opposite direction because he went from a misogynistic point of view to a benevolently sexist one.

That’s totally unsurprisingly considering the circles he travels in– benevolent sexism is one of the hallmarks of complementarianism and conservative evangelicalism. However, the problem is that while he stopped trying to use the women he viewed as objects … he never really stops viewing them as objects. They’re just on a pedestal now and off-limits, instead of something he feels entitled to.

The biggest thing that bothered me about this first chapter is that he never actually encourages you to think about what the other person wants. He swears up and down that he is, that “thinking about others” is what’s compelling him to give up dating, but he presumes to know better than women about what’s good for them and what they want. If she wants to kiss you, or sleep with you … well, the implication is that she’s a hussy, but mostly that possibility just doesn’t enter into the equation.

I’m all for deciding for yourself whether or not dating or sex is something you want. If you feel that not dating or having sex casually will be the best thing for your own mental or emotional health, then I support you 100%. However, what you do not get to do is decide that for other people, especially women. In IKDG, though, Joshua is pretty emphatic about “protecting” other people, and takes the stance that rejecting dating is the “mature” and “godly” position … and that people who haven’t similarly rejected dating or physical intimacy are immature and ungodly, so you have to remove the stumbling block from your weaker sibling’s path.

That’s incredibly patronizing. Considering this was all coming from an unmarried 23-year-old, I feel especially patronized. It’s all covered over with a grimy layer of sexism, too, so there’s that as well. One chapter in, and we’re already off to a somewhat bumpy start. And I didn’t even touch that horrible six-former-girlfriends-at-the-altar-nightmare.

Feminism

purity culture and the wedding night

I’ve written a lot about purity culture. I plan to write even more on it in the future, considering that I want to write a book on the subject (I have three books planned at the moment, which is the biggest reason why I’m going to seminary. Research is hard and expensive outside of academia, y’all). But, for now, I’m limited to giving snap-shots of what it’s like to grow up in purity culture (and, of course, reviewing I Kissed Dating Goodbye).

I’ve spent most of my time railing against it because I believe that purity culture was the #1 reason why I remained in an abusive relationship and was raped repeatedly. If I hadn’t believed to the very core of myself that my “impurity” made me ineligible to be married to anyone else, then I probably wouldn’t have been so viscerally terrified at the idea of losing him, as awful as the relationship was and as miserable and broken as I was.

But, there were other effects of purity culture. It built up a lot of funny notions over the years, and I’d like to talk about one in particular, mostly because I’m curious to see how wide-spread of a concept it was. I encountered it in lots of Christian romance novels, primarily, and it was a concept fairly widely embraced by my peer groups in high school and college. I’m especially curious to know if there were any men in purity culture who had similar conversations.

For a long time I planned not  to have sex on my wedding night.

In retrospect it seems funny (as in both humorous and odd), but I was dead serious back then. I knew that if I had a “godly courtship” we wouldn’t have the time or space for any canoodling, so we would enter our marriage with no sexual experience whatsoever. None. No kissing, no hand holding, no cuddling, no hugs. If the first time we ever kissed was at the altar, leaping from that to full-on coitus was terrifying.

Now that I’m outside of my own particular fundamentalist sub-culture (and there are many flavors. The differences between IFB and Plymouth Brethren are deep), I’ve seen conversations happening about the correctly-criticized ridiculous expectation for women to go from innocent virgin to sex pot in one day with the flick of a switch. I received that message loud and clear from a variety of sources– once I was married, that was it. My husband would have spent all those years fighting off his beastly urges and that, on the wedding night, I was primarily there so that he could unleash himself for the first time. All that pent-up frustration from all those years of never being able to even masturbate was to going to create a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am situation.

Hence why I was horrified, and had every intention of talking to whoever my intended was and convincing him to wait just a little big longer so I could get used to the idea of having a man touch me. Complicated with all of that was a deep-seated fear that I was actually a lesbian and that was why the thought of sex was repulsive. Turns out, no, I’m bisexual and it was just that all the men I’d ever known were repulsive.

Heterosexual vaginal intercourse and everything that went with it just sounded messy and gross and a little scary. Men were scary. So, I fervently hoped that I’d end up courting a sweet and equally innocent boy that thought waiting until we’d gotten used to each other was a good idea. As did every woman I talked with. With no clear idea of what goes into sex besides “Tab A and Slot B”-level knowledge, and the fact that it supposedly hurts, all I knew was that it wasn’t something I was willing to leap into.

But … ultimately I believed it wasn’t my choice. Which was why I hoped that I’d be lucky enough to marry a man “willing to wait.” Who, after he heard me say “I don’t really want to have sex tonight, I just want to cuddle and kiss and maybe see where it goes over our honeymoon,” wouldn’t ignore me, but respect me. In retrospect, that’s the most stomach-churning thing I’ve ever heard.

I thought I’d be lucky  not to marry a rapist.

I wasn’t alone. My best friend was just as scared of the wedding night as I was. As was the first roommate that I talked with about it in college. As was a girl I bunked with at camp. It was a fairly consistent pattern with my girlfriends: we were, essentially, convinced that “wedding night” equaled “possible rape.” In the end, purity culture amounts to really nothing more than rape culture taken to an extreme.

The Christian romance novels I read portrayed it as helpfully and optimistically as possible– scared, innocent virgins would marry sweet men who cherished just how precious and adorable their fear was (patronizing much?) and over the course of many nights would gently and lovingly and compassionately draw her out of her shell. It was, in fact, my favorite plot. If the couple got married at the start of the book instead of at the end, I ate it up.

In retrospect, it’s obvious why. Those books helped me believe that not all men were rapists, basically. If all these women authors thought up this situation, they must have experienced something like a compassionate man who respects your boundaries, right? They exist, right?

So … how about you? Was this something you thought about? Again, I’d especially like to get the raised-as-male take on this, because obviously you’d be going into this with different expectations placed on you. If I was afraid of possibly being raped, were you afraid of not being able to be “manly” enough or something similar?

Photo by pillow of winds
Feminism

“I Kissed Dating Goodbye” review: Introduction

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Romance and Relationships by Joshua Harris originally came out in 1997, when I was ten and Joshua was twenty-three, although I didn’t read it until I was in college because my church considered him far too liberal. We followed something that has more in common with betrothal and arranged marriage than it does with Joshua’s vision of “courtship,” although we both called it the same thing.

I mention both of these facts because it makes two things very clear: Joshua was an incredibly young man when he wrote this, and this is book is not the be-all-end-all of the courtship method that some have made it out to be. There are as many different ways to “court” as there are people, and I don’t want anyone coming at me with “but this book doesn’t represent real courtship”– from either those who think he went too far or not far enough. I’m aware.

I’m also aware of the fact that a twenty-three-year-old is going to say some laughably naïve things about relationships, and I think that Joshua might be aware of that, too. I reached out to him and asked if he’d like to be a part of this review series, but since he’s in seminary now he said he couldn’t. Because of all of that, I’m going to do my best to keep in mind that what he said in 1997 may not represent his views now (although I am working with the updated 2003 edition).

However, it’s important to keep in mind that although he might have matured and changed, his book is probably the most popular book on courtship (and possibly on Christian dating in general) ever written, and it’s continuing to have an impact today. Goodreads reviewers have writtenIt just gives me whole new perspective between courtship, dating and in relationships” and “I wished to have had this book before I got married” and “Life changing” and “a must read!” as of last month, and on Amazon the recent reviews are even more glowing, including one that went up last week. Over 70% of the thousands of ratings this book has gotten are 4 or 5 stars, and it’s still relevant, still influential.

I mention all of that because it honestly surprised me. When you lovely readers suggested that I dig into IKDG, I was hesitant at first because I thought of it as a relic from my college days. Were people still reading this? I wondered … and it turns out, yeah. They are. And while mine won’t be the only critical review– there are plenty on Amazon and Goodreads– I think it may be the first in-depth review that gets down into the trenches and examines the details of what went wrong in this book.

***

I think that, like most of the other books I’ve reviewed, my principle problem with this book is a problem I have with pretty much any book in the Christian “self-help” genre, especially books in the “gender and relationships” sub-category. In short, when this appears on the first page, in the foreward by Sam Torode:

it’s a book about following Christ and what that means for all our relationships with others– romantic or not. Joshua writes, “Every relationship for a Christian is an opportunity to love another person as God loved us.” That sums up the book’s message Once we embrace this principle, the rest is just details. (8)

… I’m going to end up massively disagreeing because the rest is almost absolutely not “just details.” I agree with the idea that every relationship is an opportunity to show the love of God to a person. Of course I don’t disagree with that– what Christian could possibly say “no, relationships have nothing to do with us showing God’s love to people”? However, the rest of the foreward is dedicated to how he didn’t kiss his wife until they were at the altar together, and that’s a pretty significant detail. “Showing God’s love in my relationships” doesn’t necessarily equal “I don’t kiss my girlfriend,” but that’s an idea that’s going to get lost a lot in the next 200 pages.

Like on the next page: “This book tells you how to make your life pleasing to God– even if that means taking a break from dating” (9). Or the next: “I want to help you examine the aspects of your life that dating touches … and look at what it means to bring these areas in line with God’s Word” (10).

All the other books I’ve reviewed have done this: they continually conflate their ideas with “God’s will” or “what God wants for your life.” This is always done honestly– Stasi Eldredge and Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mark Driscoll and now Joshua Harris are all convinced that they’re representing God and “wisdom” and “Christian living” and whatever else, and they’re doing their best to do that faithfully. The problem enters with their pride and arrogance, because they haven’t really asked the question “could I be totally, utterly, 100% wrong about this?”

I get that. I hadn’t either, when I was twenty-three. That monumental shift in my thinking, in admitting that I could be fundamentally wrong about everything didn’t occur until I was twenty-six, and I’d already been blogging here for a while. I spent a decent amount of time on this blog saying similar things– making proclamations about what the Bible really means and what God really wants. I still do it on occasion, if I’m being perfectly honest.

We all think we’re right. It’s human.

However, when what you think is right becomes a massively popular book that has done a lot of harm to a whole generation of Christians, then people like me should definitely spend some time kicking your pile of blocks over.

Photo by Zach Zupancic
Feminism

consent isn’t enough

This is a concept I’ve been wrestling with for a long, long time. In a way, I’ve written about it a few times, most directly here and here. I’ve heard similar thoughts from many women– in comments, in letters, in real-life conversations. Ever since I heard the term enthusiastic consent I’ve latched on to it as my basis for sexual ethics, as I strongly believe that the only sex that should ever happen is sex that all parties definitely and enthusiastically want. The only times I have sex with my partner are times when we both very much want it.

Because, honestly, I’ve always known that simply “giving consent” isn’t enough. There were plenty of times in my abusive relationship where I’d technically consented. Technically, what he did wasn’t a crime. But most of the time, when I technically said yes, everything inside of me was screaming no, no I don’t want this. Afterwards, I’d be left feeling used. Manipulated. Torn.

But … I’d said yes. So, that meant that everything was ok, right?

Last week, though, I read an article titled “Let’s Talk about ‘Consent‘” by Freya Brown. It’s long, and slightly academic, and I’m not sure I agree with all of her conclusions (and am also frustrated by the fact that she never offers an alternative model), but something she said in the middle section got me thinking. She’s discussing how some studies indicate that many women feel sadness, depression, or regret after sex, and that it happens often enough for us to ask why.

Growing up in the purity culture camp, I already knew what studies she was referencing. They’ve been cited in practically every sermon or book on the subject, and used to prove that sex outside of marriage is intrinsically bad for women– that without the comfort and security of marriage, a woman will not to be able to fully enjoy sex, and in fact, could suffer emotional and psychological harm. This interpretation has always set wrong with me, because I always thought why do these studies only show that it’s bad for women? Why do the same studies say that the only regret men have is not having sex more often?

Of course, the gender essentialist answer will be something along the lines of “duh.”

But that’s a blithe answer, and gender essentialism doesn’t really stand up under a microscope. So … why?

The answer Freya Brown gives is “patriarchy,” in a similar sense of how I think of makeup and shaving. I like wearing makeup– I enjoy the experience, the artistry. But one of the reasons why I like it is that it helps my face conform to Western beauty standards just a tad more; my eyes appear larger, my lips poutier, my cheekbones and jawline sharper.

In my life, I rarely wear makeup. I don’t feel any pressure at all to wear makeup when I leave my house, and anyone who thinks I look sick or dowdy or tired or unprofessional can go fuck themselves with a cheese grater. Same thing with shaving– sometimes I like the feel of smooth legs, but if I want to go the beach with hairy armpits and legs, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Sex, just like everything else, takes place in a culture, a system– a system dominated by misogyny and the subjugation of women to male desire and expectation. Personally, I only have it when I want it, but just like many women don’t feel comfortable leaving their home without “war paint” on (or are punished at work for not appearing “professional”), many women have sex under pressured circumstances.

For example, a little while ago I was reading a webcomic, and two of the characters started having PIV sex. It had been established that these two had an ongoing sexual relationship and that she’d happily consented to everything they’d done prior. In this scene, though, he initiated anal without asking (similar to what Danny did to Mindy in a Mindy Project episode). The character seemed hesitant at first, but then went along with it after some cajoling.

The comment section exploded into a discussion of whether or not what happened was technically rape. With all the givens, some said absolutely yes it was rape, and some said hell no it wasn’t. What bothered me about that whole fiasco was that it happened along such divided lines– to these commenters, there seemed to be a mile-wide gap between sex and rape.

An article on a sex-ed website calls “grey rape” a “myth,” and says that “consent or lack thereof is really clear and intuitive.” In a sense, I agree. The difference between legal consensual sex and what will get you thrown in prison (if you’re reported and convicted, a big If) is clear. Couldn’t be clearer. If they didn’t agree, then you’re raping them and you’re committing a felony.

But there’s plenty of other times where someone says “yes,” especially in the bounds of a long-term relationship, but the sex that happens isn’t ideal, healthy, or what it should be. The biggest example that comes to mind is pretty much any woman in a typical Christian marriage.

One of the consistent messages evangelical women get is that they owe their husband sex, that his sex drive must be satisfied at any and all costs– that if she doesn’t fulfill her “wifely duties” her husband could fall into sin, either through pornography or adultery. She must give him sex under pain of a ruined marriage and destroyed family.

Even if any particular woman living under this framework says yes, and even seems to have a healthy, enjoyable sex life … how consensual is it, really? Under these circumstances, does she have an unfettered choice? Could she say “no” and escape the consequences of a manufactured penalty? Could she refuse without pangs of guilt, making her wonder if she had any right to say no?

Maybe. Maybe once, or twice, or rarely, or as long as he still seemed reasonably satisfied. As long as she felt assured she was performing her “duties.”

That is not what sex should look like. A long time ago, I watched a movie (I think it might have been Sunshine Cleaning?) where one of the main characters has sex with her boyfriend, and eventually gets so bored that she flips on the TV and starts watching something banal until he finishes. What I saw happening there wasn’t rape, but what I did see was a guy being a complete and total asshole.

Our culture, and especially Christian culture, is set up to make it deadly certain that male sexual needs and fantasies are consistently gratified. Female pleasure, and even female consent is broadly secondary– making sure we want it, that we’re invested, that we’re enjoying it, that we’re having orgasms, that we don’t feel pressured or coerced in any way … is immaterial to an awful lot of people. As long as he gets to orgasm, as long as she’s willing to “go along with it,” there are a staggering number of men willing to accept that. In fact, some numbers say that 58% of men would “force women to have sex.”

Sex should not be a “duty.” It shouldn’t be an act we feel obligated to perform for other people. It should never be manipulated or coerced. It’s hard for each woman, individually, to operate inside this system where we’re beaten down into thinking things like I have to have sex with him or he’ll leave me.

But we shouldn’t accept this status quo. As the magnificent and wonderful Nicki Minaj put it: “I demand that I climax. I think women should demand that.” That’s the attitude that should be accepted and normal. Consent is only the absolute minimum baseline, not the goal. It should be so commonplace for women to be comfortable, and happy, and trusting, and respected during sex that anything else would be as incomprehensible to us as building a bicycle seat out of a cactus.

Update 9/8/15: There has been some confusion over the term enthusiastic consent. As a concept, it is not a description of a person’s emotional state or libido, it is intended only to describe the nature of the consent given. Enthusiastic consent is consent given without any pressure or coercion, that’s all. The opposite of enthusiastic consent would be “grudging consent.”

All individuals have autonomy. This means that it is possible to give unpressed, uncoerced consent no matter your libido or current level of arousal. This applies to anyone on the asexual spectrum, as well. The point of the post is simply to examine some of the various ways our misogynistic culture or unhealthy relationships can apply pressure and make it harder for uncoerced consent to be possible.

I believe it is important for every woman to examine the reasons why she has sex, and if “because I’ll ruin my marriage if I don’t” or “he’ll leave me” or “he’ll make me miserable” or “it’s my duty” or “I owe it to him” are among those reasons, than that is something we should actively fight– in our own relationships and more broadly in our culture.

Photo by Darin Kim
Feminism

to the moms who want to hate on middle-school girls

[this satirical post is in response to Kristen Welch’s “To the Middle School Girls at the Pool who Told my Son He was Hot]

Listen, moms, I get it.

You live in a culture where anything goes. Where the public shaming of girls is acceptable. We sacrifice their education on the altar of “not distractings boys,” and we joke about how their “Instagram feed has more duck faces than a pond.” As mean and petty as those jokes are, our culture says they’re hilarious. You live in a time when we’ve figured out another way to shame women, and this time it’s not for reading “sentimental nonsense” like Jane Austen, it’s for having a twitter handle.

What our culture decides to use to control women changes so often, I know it can be confusing to handle all the messages the media throws at you– about “hook-up culture” and how young we are when we loose our virginity (hint: for most of us, it’s after highschool).

Maybe you can’t see how girls are explicitly told every day that the only thing that matters about them is their bodies. Whether it’s being sent home when you’re in kindergarten for wearing a spaghetti-strap sundress or the fact that I had an insanely hard time finding a picture of “middle-school girls” that wasn’t actually of 18-year-olds for this post, we’ve been taught practically since the day we were born that the only thing anyone cares about– even moms like you– is whether or not we’re wearing a bikini. Culture says we have to or no one will love us, and moms says we’re disgusting slutty whores when we do.

I know, moms– I know it’s hard to train your sons to be respectful and decent human beings who don’t mutter the insulting “like I care” under his breath when a girl gives him a compliment. It’s so much more convenient to expect middle-school girls to be invisible and silent, and since that plays right into what culture says, too, that makes your job a lot easier. You shouldn’t have to bother teaching your sons how to communicate to a girl respectfully; a sincere “thank you, but I’d like to spend time with just my family today”– after all, any middle-school girl who makes her presence known is obviously just “aggressive” and “tempting,” and you should be able to make fun of her on the internet as much as you want.

Maybe no one has told you these things, so I thought I would:

Honey, it’s not okay to act this way. It’s not becoming. It’s immature and contributes to a world where middle-school girls are the butt of all our jokes, when in reality middle-school girls are people.

See, I can look past your snide remarks and your sense of superiority because you think you are raising your family so much better than whoever is raising that little slut in the bikini. I can ignore that you decided to take a little girl’s moment of vulnerability and exploration to see someone who is craving hits and clicks and views. I can see that you’re just a mommy blogger trying to figure out where you fit in this dog-eat-dog World Wide Web.

But it’s not ok to humiliate little girls on the internet. It’s not ok to send the message that any girl’s existence around your son isn’t to be tolerated. It won’t make you feel better about yourself. And while it might get you page views, it’ll only be from other arrogant people who think they have the right to judge a little girl for having an opinion and being a person in a public place.

I’m trying to teach women and girls that they have the right to exist, to be people, and you aren’t making it easy for any of us. I’m trying to show us that we don’t have to hide who we are just to make a judgmental mom at the pool happy, that we should be allowed to see something we like and go for it– and if he doesn’t like us back, it’s not the end of the world. I’m trying to make it possible for all of us to live in a world where a girl can say “I like you,” and she isn’t humiliated by a mommy blogger with an agenda.

I’m cautioning them not to let moms like you determine their self-worth.

I’m trying to teach them to respect themselves. I’m trying to teach them that they have the same rights as anyone else.

~~~~~~~~

[note: obviously, I didn’t see the incident Kristen described in her post. If she is describing what happened accurately, then it’s possible the girl involved was either oblivious to or ignoring signals from her son. That’s not ok– learning to understand and respond to social cues, while difficult for many, is a part of growing up, and I think our culture needs a lot more “just respect people’s boundaries, ok? OK.”

However, it’s also likely that Kristen did not see what happened accurately. She described the girl involved as “aggressive,” and while she might have been, it’s possible this girl simply violated social conventions about the meekness and quietness and voicelessness of women by being open and honest. We, as a culture, tend to overestimate or exaggerate the behavior of women.]

Update (6/10/15): This post is meant to be satirical in nature; I apologize for not making that clearer. I do not actually think that Kristen is merely “craving clicks and views,” or that she’s “just a mommy blogger with an agenda.” I borrowed the wording of Kristen’s post and reversed it, intending to make it clear how ridiculous and awful it is to assume the worst about someone that you do not know at all. The unfortunate thing is that Kristen’s post isn’t satire: she meant every misogynistic word.

Photo by Michael-kay Park
Social Issues

how Josh Duggar is getting away with it

[content note for discussions of child sexual assault]

Before we get started with today’s post, I’d like y’all to read these two pieces, especially if you’re not aware of what came out yesterday:

What you Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report” by Libby Anne
Josh Duggar says he’s sorry. So what?” by Kathryn Elizabeth Brightbil

Libby Anne and Kathryn address many of the things I would have said, which I’m thankful for because now I can focus on making a broader point that I think applies to conservative evangelicalism as a culture and not just the Duggars as a family.

~~~~~~~~~

A close friend of mine has spent most of her adulthood in Spanish-speaking countries. During a recent visit, she told me a story about what it’s like to make the adjustments between languages. She was working with a bus ministry at her church and had to deal with a rambunctious boy who was invading the personal space of other children, including touching them without their consent. In order to try to reign him in, she wanted to tell him to “stop bothering her,” but what came out was “stop molesting her.”

In Spanish, the word for bother is molestar.

It was an amusing anecdote, but then she made the point that English tends to soften concepts that Spanish doesn’t. As a culture, we call what Josh Duggar did to his victims child molestation; even though we understand the connotation of the phrase, it doesn’t have the clarity that child sexual assault does.

Our culture is set up in almost every conceivable way to harbor abusers.

For example: racism, sexism, and any other form of systemic bigotry is, essentially the abuse of one people group by another. Individual white people benefit from a system that abuses people of color. Certain men receive benefits from rape culture, which allows the worst among us to take advantage of everything we collectively believe about women and sex.

Another way that our culture allows abuse to flourish is that we refuse to really deal with what is actually happening. Rape is referred to as “non-consensual sex,” and Josh sexually assaulted five little girls by groping their breasts and genitalia but that’s not what the media is calling it, and it certainly isn’t what anyone connected to the Duggars is calling it. It’s not being described as child sexual assault, not as the felony it is, but as molestation. Over and over again I’ve seen Christians calling it a “mistake.” In the different announcements we’ve gotten from the Duggars, it’s been coated over with a thick layer of Christian Speak. Anna, his wife, called it an “offense,” as if the sexual assault of a five-year-old were the same thing as calling her carrots.

It’s not just the Duggars that do this. We see this every single time one of these “scandals” comes to light. Whoever was responsible “apologizes,” but they never admit to anything. Josh said he “behaved inexcusably,” which doesn’t mean anything. If Josh had gotten up in front of everyone and said the words “I committed a felony, I sexually assaulted five little girls, and I’m sorry,” it would make it obvious to every single last person on the planet that oh, I’m sorry isn’t going to cut it.

But, in our culture, abusers can “apologize,” and that becomes the headline. And, as Kathryn pointed out, it makes the victims look bad in Christian culture if they don’t immediately “forgive.” We saw this with Sovereign Grace, and we’re seeing it now.

This is why I never use softening, minimizing language. I say assault and rape and abuse. And, if it comes to light that Josh digitally penetrated his victims, I’m going to start saying Joshua Duggar is a rapist.

The words we use matter.

~~~~~~~~~~

The biggest reason why Josh will get away with sexually assaulting five girls is purity culture. If you’re a regular reader that connection should be apparent right now, as I’ve frequently talked about how my belief in “purity” kept me from talking about my rape for years.

Everything about this situation was not just mishandled, it was covered up. On purpose. That makes any mandatory reporter that knew about this a criminal (at the minimum, the church leadership and the original police officer, who did not file a report), and it makes Jim Bob and Michelle, in the words of Jesus, hypocrites and vipers. White-washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones and rotting corpses.

However, Jim Bob and Michelle and the church leadership and the police were able to cover this up because of the culture his victims belong to. They have been taught since they extremely young that women are capable of tempting the most holy man to sin, that women can provoke men into raping them, that if something bad happened they must always look for their part in the blame. The Duggars belong to an even more nightmarish subculture than I was exposed to, since they follow Bill Gothard. If you’re not familiar with ATI/IBLP, this is what Gothard teaches about sexual abuse.

Counseling_Sexual_Abuse

That is the only framework that Josh’s victims had to process their assaults. Like me, they were forced by the only things they knew to evaluate how they could be responsible for what Josh did to them. It was their responsibility to repent of “immodesty” or any “sensuousness” they may have displayed, however innocently. Then, because they contributed to their own assault, they don’t have the ability to pursue justice. They were duty-bound to “forgive” their abuser because, after all, it was their fault, too.

If his victims were to come forward, to make police reports within the limited three-year window they had to get justice, they would have been dragged through a nightmare the likes of which we can’t even begin to imagine. It is extremely likely that every single last person they knew– their family, their church– would have turned their backs and rejected them. They would hear sermons preached about them about the “spirit of bitterness” and how it can destroy a young woman. They would have been sternly reminded that Christians handle problems among themselves and don’t involve the courts.

In ATI/IBLP, if they received any “counseling” at all (which seems unlikely, considering Michelle Duggar said that Josh’s “counseling” involved helping a family friend remodel his house), it would have been laser-focused on figuring out what the victims did “wrong” so they could be shamed for it.

This is what purity culture does. More than anything else, it silences victims.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Further reading:

When my abuser is welcome at the table, I am not” by Sarah Moon
Josh Duggar and the Purity Lie” by Sarah Posner
Josh Duggar and the Problem of Easy Forgiving” by Mary DeMuth

Photo by Vincepal
Uncategorized

which book should I review next? your pick!

I have a small-ish library in my office, with four filled-to-bursting bookcases (English major, what can I say?). One of those bookcases has what my partner refers to as the “caution tape shelf.” It’s the shelf I set aside for all the books I’ve amassed that are anything from mildly irritating to absolutely horrific. I don’t want their bookjackets contaminating all my other lovely books, after all.

I’m sitting here looking at it, and was attempting to decide which book I should choose next for my Monday review series. Eventually I gave up and decided to ask all of you. It’s a a slightly different list than the last time I did this– not all of them are in the “marriage-advice” category this time around. Each of them, however, is a well-read book in evangelical circles and all have some pretty serious problems.

[edit 3.29.15: I’ve narrowed the poll to the three most popular choices]

If you’re not familiar with these books, here’s a short break-down:

How to Win Over Depression is, in my opinion, one of the worst books written. Ever. I’m having a hard time trying to come up with a worse book. It’s one of the books that started the “you can pray away your mental illness!” approach to “biblical counseling” back in the 70s. This book has killed people.

Lies Women Believe I read when I was a student at PCC, and my memories of it are that it was vaguely encouraging. It would be interesting to go through this one an re-experience it now. I imagine it would be a bit like how some of you responded to going through Captivating again. Helpful at the time … but not so helpful now.

Redeeming Love is slightly different because it’s fiction, but it’s equally as horrible as all the rest. Rape? Check. Misogyny? Check. Horrible theology? Check. Thank you, Francine Rivers, for taking Hosea and Gomer and making that story worse.

Anyway, let me know which one you’d like to see me rip to shreds!

Photo by Ginny