I generally don’t write about particularly divisive topics, even though I have some pretty strong opinions. There are times, however, when topics arise that I feel the need to write about. So, let me preface this by saying that I am not trying to offend anyone. I think that people have the right to make decisions about how they live, and even if I don’t agree with them, it is certainly not my place to judge. If anything I write about is offensive to you, I apologize, but I feel the need to say something, because this is something I feel very strongly about.
Within the last week or so, I have come across two news articles that have given me some pretty strong feelings. They have bothered me to the point where I have been meditating on them for a few days, and I am still feeling a strong emotional reaction to them. The first was an article from about a week ago about a bride that presented a certificate of purity to her father on her wedding day. The second was about a blog post giving advice to men on how to deal with their wife if she isn’t interested in having sex.
There are many thoughts that have gone through my head in reaction to these articles. These thoughts don’t really come from a place of judgement (especially not for the bride), but I do feel strongly about the rights of women.
In case you didn’t hear about either of these stories, I will give you a quick idea of what happened. The first story is about a woman, who is the daughter of a pastor. On her wedding day, she gave him a present: a framed certificate of her purity. She had went to a doctor to get a signed certificate stating that she had not been penetrated. She had promised him that she would remain a virgin until marriage when she was young, so she was happy to “honor” him with the present. The second article is about a pastor who is a blogger. He wrote a post about what husbands are supposed to do when their wives are not interested in having sex with them. Essentially, he said that if a wife is not interested in sex, a husband should still have sex with her (but only if she has consented, which he basically said they have to unless something serious is going on) but not look at her face. He stated that he should treat her as if she’s Medusa, and only look upon her body, rather than looking at her face and having an emotional connection.
First off, there is nothing wrong with a woman “saving herself” for marriage. If a woman wants to remain a virgin until married, that is absolutely her right. I don’t think that anyone should judge a woman for making that decision. A woman’s virginity, however, is not really her father’s concern. Parents generally always raise their kids to hold a certain set of values, but it is up to the individual to decide whether to uphold those values, or adopt a set of values for themselves. This set of values includes things like whether or not to have sex. This decision is a deeply personal one for everyone. Parents can guide their kids, and give them advice on these issues, but the decision is ultimately up to the individual.
The biggest reaction I had to both of these articles was the sense of entitlement that was evident. In the first article, it seemed that the father felt entitled to proof that his daughter was still pure. What would be have done if she had refused? Of if she hadn’t abstained? Besides being her father, I do not understand what his grounds are for making that kind of demand. In the second article, it seems that the blog post is saying that husbands have the right to demand sex from their wife whenever they want. Even if this isn’t really what he was trying to say, this is an attitude that men have. There is so much proof that there are men out there that feel that their needs surpass the needs of women, to the point where there is no consideration of whether women have needs or not. Women are sometimes taught that their needs and desires don’t matter, or that their husband’s needs must come first, which leads to a sense of entitlement, which is so dangerous for relationships.
The first article shows that there is a pretty big misunderstanding of how women’s bodies work. Having a woman go to a doctor to prove that she is pure is somewhat ridiculous. A doctor would check a woman’s hymen to see if it were broken. The problem with this is that sometimes, a woman’s hymen doesn’t break during sex, or her hymen will break for reasons completely unrelated to sex. This includes things like playing sports. Putting a burden of proof solely on a woman is so unfair. There was no mention of whether the father of the bride demanded that the groom prove his purity. And, that is because the groom was probably not asked to. Not only is there not really a test to “prove” it, male purity is not seen as being much of a priority. Many times, males seem free to make whatever decisions they want about their bodies and sexuality without fear of being chastised, but women are not given this same consideration.
When it comes to the second article, even though the author said that he doesn’t condone rape, he did say in a previous post that he did not believe that marital rape is a thing. This is not only dangerous, but it is also untrue! Any time someone is forced into having sex, regardless of relationship, it’s rape. This relates very heavily to the entitlement point that I made above. It seems that the argument is that rape can’t exist in a marriage because women are supposed to be available for their husbands basically whenever requested. And, they are supposed to do so happily. That is the exact point that his blog post is saying. If a wife is essentially forced into having sex (out of duty, rather than desire) her husband should not emotionally connect with her. The Bible says many things about marriage, duty, and gender roles, but I don’t think it ever says that a man can force his wife to have sex with him whenever he wants it, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Sex is supposed to be a loving act, especially within marriage, so forcing or shaming a woman into submission is definitely not loving. There are other ways to fix relationship problems, and they generally involve communication and empowering women to stand up for themselves. Telling women that their needs and desires do not really matter seems to only be perpetuating rape culture in America, by leaving women voiceless and powerless in their romantic relationships and marriages.
I know that there are points related to both of these stories that I am missing. I know that there are some people of the Christian faith that have a more conservative view of the lessons of the Bible. I do not want to judge them, even though I disagree. I know that these stories are not totally representative of Christianity, or even conservative Christianity. I do, however, think that it’s important to realize how their lessons and actions are harming the people that they are supposed to love. I also think it’s important for people to realize how these ideas and rules are having an impact in the bigger picture, and are doing so much damage to women and their agency. I hope that we will be able to change this, so women are free to hold onto their belief system without losing their agency, identity, or right to live a happy and fulfilling life with the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.