I read a blog today which I found so deeply offensive that I felt compelled to take the time to type out a response to his post. I am going to attempt to address each of the author’s points and explain why I find his generalized, sweeping statements to be logical fallacy and downright outrageous. Keep in mind as you read that I, myself, am one of those “fundamentalist Christians” about whom the blog author is writing. I am also a survivor of childhood molestation at the hands of a family member. For the record, I was not raised fundamentalist; I wasn’t even raised Christian, for that matter. (Please read the original post here before reading my comments.)
The author of this blog starts out by saying , “Fundamentalist teachings on sex tend to lead to young men who would not otherwise be predators act out in predatory ways.” Here are his various statements to back up his claim, which I intend to refute.
“Thinking about sex is lust, and lust is as bad as doing it…This idea is hammered into children by Gothard and others. The hope is that they would be able to banish all sexual thoughts and desires until that magical wedding night when the switch is flipped.” This statement is asinine and not at all based in fact. I presume his assertion comes from Matthew 5:28 which says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In this verse, Jesus is addressing intentionally lustful thoughts; in other words, the sexual coveting of another person. That’s not to say that men are never allowed to look at women and find them attractive, or vice versa. Simply put, what it means is that we believe it’s wrong to have mental sex with someone who is not your spouse, reducing them to the role of a visual prostitute. It is disrespectful of that person. It dehumanizes them and turns them into nothing more than an object. Lust distorts, dishonors, and destroys. As a so-called “fundamentalist Christian,” it’s my belief that we should practice self-control in all aspects in life – and that certainly includes our sexual thoughts and desires. Even within marriage we must practice sexual restraint at times. The verse is about keeping our hearts and thoughts in check and not allowing sexual thoughts to take over our lives; it’s not telling us that we’re never allowed to find another individual attractive.
“’Modesty Culture’ teaches that female bodies are the source of said sinful lust…The source of male sexual sin is the woman, who, by virtue of being attractive, causes him to lust.” No. Seriously, just…NO. This is completely wrong. I’ll be the first to say that I’m huge proponent of modesty, but it isn’t just about the way we dress. It’s about the state of our hearts. Modesty means humility and not living one’s life so as to constantly bring attention to one’s self. Being modest means holding ourselves accountable for not only our own thoughts, but also for our actions. Luke 17:1 states the following: “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.'” I believe that means that we are not to be stumbling blocks to other Christians. Also note that Jesus never specified that toward just women, either. None of us should be carrying on in such a way that would cause a brother or sister in Christ to fall into sin. In terms of modesty, we are all (men and women alike) held accountable for the way we present out bodies to the world. No, we cannot, and rightly should not, be held accountable for the thoughts of other individuals; however, Christians should make a conscience choice not to blatantly dress or behave in such a way that would cause others to be tempted to sin. The aforementioned verse about lust demonstrates Jesus clearly putting the guilt of immoral thoughts squarely on the individual thinking the lustful thoughts, not on the one who is the victim of said thoughts. This verse in Luke goes hand-in-hand with the verse in Matthew and addresses everyone else, making it clear that we should never be guilty of intentionally seeking to cause others to stumble. This, I believe, is the point the author fails to see. Like all of Jesus’ teachings, it comes down to our hearts. Are we putting ourselves and our own needs first, or do we have a servant’s heart that prioritizes others above ourselves? The very essence of Christianity is selflessness.
“Sexual desire is presented in a gendered way…The idea is that women don’t really want sex…Thus, females will always want to say no to sex, so the man will have to impose on them to some degree.” I’m guessing it’s been a while since this person has read Song of Songs. In case you need a refresher, Song of Songs is a collection of love notes from a man and woman to each other. It is a beautiful book about love and the gift of sex that God gives married people. God created men and women to enjoy sex! In many healthy Christian marriages, wives sometimes desire sex with their husbands more often than the husbands. That’s not abnormal or unhealthy, it’s simply the unique way God creates people. Never at any time have I been taught, nor will I ever teach others, that sex was designed solely for male pleasure. There’s nothing Biblical about that, and it’s certainly not a belief held by conservative Christians.
“No outlets for sexual feelings are acceptable – until marriage.” This one is broken down into several subcategories, so I am going to address each of them separately.
“Keep in mind that what applies to Gothardism also applies to most Fundie systems, and in some cases applies in significant part to mainstream Evangelicalism these days. Because of the obsession with preventing sex, these systems impose significant ‘safeguards’ against it occurring.” First of all, let me make it clear that Christians are not “obsessed with preventing sex.” I think I can speak for all conservative Christians when I say that what we are concerned with preventing is premarital and promiscuous sex. Those are different things entirely. Premarital/promiscuous sex leads to so many problems, both within the hearts of individuals and within intimate relationships as a whole, that if I were to touch on all the ways that these things cause permanent and sometimes irrevocable damage, I’m pretty sure it would take up an entire blog post in and of itself. From the emotional baggage it leaves behind to statistically-proven increased divorce rates, STDs to the perversion of sex it leads to… suffice it to say that sexual immorality is not good.
“For example, as I have already noted, they insist on constant work to repress any and all sexual feelings, because these are ‘lust.’ Second, as I noted, they work to keep female bodies from being visible. They must be hidden away as best possible, because without them, (presumably), young males wouldn’t want sex. This is what is behind the obsession with the way young girls dress, as I pointed out in my series.” I addressed all of these topics above.
“Third, in many of these systems – including Gothardism – cross-gender friendships are discouraged, and in some cases forbidden altogether. The young people must be kept from each other, or sexual feelings might develop.” Actually, this isn’t quite correct. That’s not to say that some families don’t go too far in their desire to help their children avoid sexual immorality, but I have never personally experienced this nor is this belief cultivated within my own family. We certainly are going to discourage the cultivation of inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, such as allowing teenagers to spend long amounts of unchaperoned time with individuals of the opposite sex, but that’s because we have been teenagers ourselves and we know full well what can and does go on in those circumstances. Adolescents aren’t exactly known for their wise decision-making skills, so it’s my belief that there are times when it is appropriate for parents to establish guidelines for our children to follow to help them keep themselves accountable. If that’s wrong, then I will happily accept blame for that. We certainly do believe that boys and girls can be friends. If no one was ever permitted to socialize with the opposite gender, then how would anyone ever progress to the courtship stage?
“Fourth, many of these systems discourage sex education because it might lead to lust. This is particularly the case for girls, who ideally would learn about sex from their husbands on the wedding night. I wish I was making that one up. Certainly, a robust family discussion of sex is out of the question. Instead, sex isn’t talked about, except to say ‘don’t do it and don’t think about it.'” This is so far off base that I actually laughed when I read it. No, Christians are certainly not refusing sex ed. As I said before, I cannot speak for all families, and I know that in all sects there will be those extremists who do not account for the majority. His assertion is incorrect for not only my family but ALL of the like-minded families I know. We teach our children about sex from a Biblical view. We teach our children that it’s a wonderful gift God gives us and in the bounds of marriage can and should be thoroughly enjoyed. I answer questions my children may have in an honest and age-appropriate way, holding back only those things which discretion tells me their ears may be too young to hear.
“Fifth, the whole system of ‘courtship’ or ‘betrothal’ further separates the genders until that magical wedding night. For those not familiar with ‘courtship,’ it forbids dating of any kind until both parties are ready to marry. That is, until he has enough money and income to support her. At that time, he asks her father for permission, and the courtship takes place under closely supervised conditions. Chaperones are present always, and the couple is considered as essentially engaged from the beginning of the process.” Courtship is not as simple as this blogger makes it out to be. It looks very different from one family to the next. Generally speaking, pro-courtship families encourage the couple to work together to make their own set of standards that they wish to follow and utilize tools (such as chaperones) to help them maintain those standards in the event that temptation arises. Some courtships will have kissing and hand-holding, while others might choose to save any and all intimacy for marriage. Ultimately, it’s up to them. Furthermore, it’s important to understand that courtship and engagement are two completely different things; individuals within a courtship are free to leave the relationship at any time if they feel that God is not leading that relationship toward marriage. There are a lot of benefits to courtship or, as some call it, “dating with a purpose” – far too many for me to list here. Check out this article to read more about it from someone who is far more eloquent and knowledgeable than myself.
“My experience in these cases is that the young men involved – again, not adults, but 12-15 years old[sic] – have seriously screwed up beliefs about women, consent, and sex; because the teachings are obsessed with preventing sex, not in creating a healthy view of sexualty[sic], which embraces consent, female sexual desire, and equality within the sexual relationship.” I’m pretty sure I covered all these claims in my comments above. There may be some families out there who are, as the author puts it, screwing up their children’s views of sex, but those families do not represent the majority of conservative or “fundamentalist” Christian families. I encourage the author to step back and truly examine the sweepingly generalized allegations he’s making against Christians and consider amending his remarks to not include a majority when he is clearly only addressing a small minority.