Christianity, King David, and the justification of sexual assault

CN: sexual assault, religion, clergy

I grew up with a rapist/ child sex offender.  I didn’t know it at the time, but he was there.  I was also very lucky to not have been his primary target.  That doesn’t mean I escaped without my own wounds.  For years, I had no idea what was wrong with me and why I viewed the world and relationships the way that I did.  It has taken a long time to unravel the past and enter into the future.

When I discovered that Christianity Today’s publication, The Leadership Journal included a piece by a child sex offender and former pastor who uses the forum to discuss his first person account of how he made the leap from youth pastor to rapist and convicted felon, I was curious, then upset, then plain outraged.

That article is exactly like talking to the rapist/ child sex offender I grew up with.  The unnamed man in the article, blames his wife and failing marriage for driving him to what he calls an “extra-marital affair.”  Because, in his mind it was a consensual relationship, and therefore he didn’t rape her.  That concept is probably upsetting and  ridiculous to him. In his mind they were in love, and she “adored” him.  Nowhere in this article does he take responsibility for grooming her, abusing her and leaving her destroyed in the wake of his “sin.” His biggest regrets seem to be having to leave his ministry, losing his family and going to jail.  Not the girl, she’s not part of his regrets or his thought process.

The Journal gives five pages of space to a rapist to justify his actions.  This man goes on about how everyone is temped by sin, and warns against giving into the temptation.  Not because abusing a child wrong, or harmful to, but rather, the implication is, because you might get caught and lose everything.  He is doing that thing that rapist do; he is assuming that all men think the way he does.  He gives a half-apology for is actions, calling them simply, a “sin,” and negating all responsibility because he couldn’t help it, and the girl was willing, and wanted to be with him too.  He discusses how they were both upset by the temptation and sin of their relationship.  He puts the abuse back on her, as if it is at all her fault that a grown man in his 30’s, a respected man in her church, and friend of the family,  groomed, seduced and raped her as child.

  • Nowhere in this piece was the voice of the victim, or any victim, heard.
  • Nowhere in this piece was the mention of consent ever discussed.
  • Nowhere in this piece was the concept of victim grooming described.
  • Nothing in this article was about taking responsibility or preventing this from happening again.

Rapists believe they are normal, and all men think like they do.  Most of them are average looking members of the community with spouses, and families, and respected jobs.  They are coaches, friends, neighbors and they are the one at the summer BBQ who makes that uncomfortable  joke about women being objects to see if anyone will push back.  When nothing happens, they give themselves a pass, after all, boys will be boys, and he couldn’t help himself, she was a slut anyway, look how she was dressed, she was asking for it…. need I go on?

We hear these comments in the voices of our friends and family and we let them pass without incident.  We don’t want to believe that this person is capable of rape.  So we laugh nervously, and change the subject or worse, agree.  That is the same as permission in the mind of a rapist.  Stop that people.  When you see a comment of Facebook about “girls like that” and “boys will be boys” say something.  When you hear it on the sports field, in the office, or at you dinner table, speak up.  Let these men know that rape isn’t funny, and it isn’t sex and it isn’t a relationship, it’s sexual assault.  Let the women around you hear you when you stand up for women and the boys and girls who get abused each day.

Be outraged.

If you are a Christian, take the time to talk about this issue. Don’t blame the victim.  Don’t talk about what the victim can do to prevent this from happening.  Talk about consent.  Use the words rape and abuse instead of calling it a “sexual relationship,” because it was neither sex, nor a relationship. Then talk about it again, and again and again.   Don’t allow rape to be called a “sexual sin” or “moral failing”.  This is not adultery.  Don’t allow assault and abuse to be minimized in your homes, your churches or houses of worship.

David begehrt Batseba. Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts. Öl auf Leinwand. 141 x 169 cm. Via Wikipedia Commons. Image is public domain.
David begehrt Batseba. Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts. Öl auf Leinwand. 141 x 169 cm. Via Wikipedia Commons. Image is public domain.

This pastor, like the rapist/ child sex-offender in my life, used the story of David and Bathsheba as one of his favorite stories of the bible.  David was a King, that saw a woman he wanted.  He had her.  When she got pregnant and the baby couldn’t be passed off as the husbands, David and had the man sent to the front lines of war to be killed, so he could take Bathsheba for himself .  Nice.  The narrative is from the point of view of David, one of God’s chosen men.  Never in many years of hearing this story from the pulpit  have I ever heard anyone consider if Bathsheba could have said no.  David was a King, did he have consent? Could this woman have told the King no when he wanted her in his bed?  How many rapists in the church will look to this story, see themselves, and use the favored status God had for David and tell themselves that it’s okay for them to rape/assault/molest women and children because they are just like David, and it’s going to be okay.

It’s not okay, it’s never been okay, and religious groups, like The Leadership Journal, need to stop making excuses for sexual crime, silencing victims and publishing stories like “the spiritual sin that destroyed [the rapist’s] life.”

The following ladies had some great things to say on this subject, I highly recommend a click through, and a Facebook link to their articles.  I didn’t include a link to the original piece because I don’t want to drive traffic from this space to theirs.

If you are on  twitter, send your opinions along with #TakeDownThatPost to @CTmagazine and @Leadership_Jnl.

An Open Letter to Christianity Today” by Elizabeth Esther
Christianity Today Publishes a Rapist’s Story” by Libby Anne
Because it’s Time to Take Down That Post” by Tamara Rice
On How the Church Discusses Abuse: Denying the Endorsement” by Dianna Anderson
Because Purity Culture Harbors Rape and Abuse” by Suzannah Paul
Why did a Journal for Christian Pastors Give a Platform to a Sexual Predator?” By Hännah Ettinger and Becca Rose

“Leadership Journal, Christianity Today and #TakeDownThatPost” by Samantha Field

*** Thankfully, not all men are rapists.  There are many, many good and wonderful men in the world and I am thankful that they exist.  They have a job to do beyond being  a good guy.  They are the ones women and children need most to stand up to their peers and stop the culture of rape and assault.  It’s not enough to be a good guy alone in your own home.  Be the voice in the office, in your school, on your sports team, in the locker room and at your church that stops the slut shaming, victim blaming and the slide into rape-is-funny banter.  Rape isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a cultural issue, and a men’s issue, and a children’s issue, and it affects everyone.  Don’t stand by and be too polite to say something.  You might save a life.

The other side of the glass

Describing disconnection and depression is hard to do.  In my head it felt like a large pane of glass between me and the world.  The glass was thick and in any other context might be considered beautiful and even a work of art.

From your side of the glass it was barely visible.  Most people would never notice it was there because to them it was only a thin film that comes and goes flittering like a butterfly when the light is just right.

From my side of the glass it was thick and solid it feels like clear steel that is impossible to break through. The thickness varies so that somedays I could hear and see rather well and others I was in total silence no matter how loud I screamed.

I could see you and the others that I loved. I could see life happening around me but it was at a distance. I was never all the way there, with you in the sunlight.  The sun warmed me through the glass the way it does in a greenhouse.  The light could be soft, warm, and comforting or it could be hot, and stifling, and everywhere yet nowhere all at once. It was never directly on my skin in a way that is satisfying and nourishing to my bones.

For years, I had been looking for a door.  Searching for a crack in the glass or a seam in the construction that might hint as to how to dismantle the divide.  It had been there so long it was hard to remember if I was born behind it, or if it arrived one day, or if it grew slowly until it got so thick I could no longer get back to the other side.

None of those explanations are helpful in finding a way out of the prison that held me so invisibly.

There were days when I was strong and angry.  On those days I’d rage and scream and pound and kick at the glass.  No one seemed to see when I would do this.  I could be in a crowded room, screaming myself hoarse and to the world outside it was only silence.  Maddening is what those days felt like.  I have raged until my body was bruised and bloody so many times I had lost count and yet, the glass remained.

I hated that glass with a passion you can only know if it holds you too.

On the other side of the hate was sadness so deep it can stretch to the bone. When the tantrum ass over and my body aches and the blood ceased to flow from the fresh wounds I would sit in stillness.  These are the days when the darkness settled.  It came when the tears and the ache flowed freely until I sobbed so hard my stomach hurt and the tears filled a pool of anguish from my soul at the separation that was both foreign and powerful.

From that shadow it was easy to stray into the territory that questions why I am alive, and flirts with the ease with which I could let the darkness envelop me fully. When I am there I know all too well, that from that place, I would never come back.

I am lucky to have had threads and breadcrumbs and a lifeline to follow back out of the night.  Smiles, a flower, an animal, an e-mail, a call to say hello have all been the thread back.

I am grateful.

On the good days when the sun was warm and wrapped me up I could wander and play in the silence and find joy in the journey.  Those days the hurt faded and I felt the grass on my toes and I would smell the leaves growing in the greenhouse inside which I called home. The ceiling iwa clear and I saw the blue sky dotted with clouds and that day the rain didn’t reach me as it fell. I knew I would be okay.

Those days I dreamt big dreams and I stored up my reserves to once again set out in search of the door. My heartbeat in my chest provided the resolve to not give up and I promised the me that lived in the surface reflections and danced in freedom on the outside that I will continue to live.

I make little reminders and pack them in my bag so that when the clouds come and the darkness returns I will find the thread and make my way home.

It worked.

One day something changed.  On that day I looked over and saw a small hole in the glass.  It was barely visible but I could feel it with my fingers and I could smell the air that floated in from the other side and the feel of that breeze the touched my skin was everything.

As I was sitting, eyes closed, focused on this new sensation a new person walked up and said hello.

At this point in my journey I have had a lot of half conversations through the glass.  I have screamed and mumbled and tried to be clear but that glass always garbled the message and half the meaning was always lost.

I am tired of pretending and saying the things that I thought would make them stay, and today I decide to stop.  I spoke the truth to this new person. Why not?  They likely couldn’t hear me anyway.  Except this time, through this tiny hole I was heard clearly, and the voice of my friend was easy for me to understand.

This miracle was the fuel I needed to get up each day and return to the tiny hole in the glass. I keep talking and listening and being more real and more raw and honest with anyone, than I ever have in my life.

I keep talking and my friend stayed with me.  I say anything and everything and I was so terribly honest about who I was and what I wanted.  Slowly, so slowly I realized that my tiny hole was expanding. The honesty was opening the space between here and there until one day I could reach through and touch my friend.   The human contact was the best thing I had felt in so long.  It is what my soul had longed for and is also fully overwhelmed after being isolated for many years.

My friend talks with me until one day, when I had stopped paying attention the door appeared.  Just as I had hoped, and dreamed, and prayed for, the door was available.

I didn’t know what to do at first.  In my mind I should run across the field and whoop for joy, never looking back.  When I first stood in the doorway I was nervous.  I had only really seen it from the other side and suddenly it doesn’t seem safe.

My friend was there and now I know why. We had talked so much and knew each other so well, sharing all our hopes and dreams and fears and foibles. Fierce honestly had been the creation of this freedom.

It was time to trust the bond and I took their hand and stepped through to my new home.

People, support, love, connection and hope are all the things that had sustained me and are now available each day.

When I allowed myself to be seen and heard as I truly was I regained my humanity, and my strength.  When I gave that same gift to another I gained a friend and in the process the glass wall disappeared.

Now only one question remains.

What do you want to do now?

 

Pastors daughter teachers women to open portal to demonic realm through masturbation

I had no idea I was opening portals to the spirit realm with my clitoris. I knew my vulva was powerful but apparently I was really underestimating my own potential.

I wish I could say that this was a new and ridiculous idea that “sex toys are an open portal between the demonic realm and your own life,” and that sex demons are the cause of “urges to play with yourself so powerful that only an orgasm will allow you some temporary relief.” Sadly, this kind of fear mongering around sex from the Mack Major at EdenDecoded is quite common in evangelical Christian circles.

I signed my purity contract when I was eleven. I grew up as the pastors daughter and attended a variety of conservative Christian churches over the years. In a lifetime of exposure I have heard little consensus about what, exactly, it means when Godly sex is described as “between a man and a woman.” Most individuals are left to their particular churches self-made list of sex acts that are allowed, and feel guilty over asking for what we really want lest it be considered a sin. I have seen a lot of women and couples over the years worry about wanting more than missionary position penis-in-vagina sex.

The vulva, vagina, clitoris and all the parts and pieces that go into the standard definition of female anatomy can be confusing to operate. What works on one vuvla may not work on the next one so this idea that all one needs for sex is to put a penis inside and vagina until the penis ejaculates is a very oversimplified description that really covers the basics of making a baby. Making babies and making pleasure between two people with genitals is not the same thing.

Masturbation is how you learn what you like and how you like it. Knowing how we get aroused, and have orgasms, is not always intuitive and it takes some practice. We need time alone with our genitals to try different things, so that when we do have a partner we can teach them how to operate the system.

You wouldn’t hand the keys of your car to someone who only knows how to put gas in the tank and push on the pedals. Why do we expect good sex to come from the limited idea that a woman opens her legs and a penis goes inside. Its more complicated than that, and masturbation is where you begin to learn the nuance.

Intimate partners should be sharing pleasure. That pleasure should be equal in importance. In the version I was taught as a child, my body was the property of God and my future husband. My body was never mine. My sexual pleasure was a gift that was bestowed upon me by my husband in whatever measure it was given. How was I supposed to enjoy sex when I was told in many ways, that it wasn’t for me? I was only supposed to want children, security and a happy Christ centerd home. Sex was something I was going to give to my husband. My desire for sexual fulfillment was supposed to be minimal or non-existent. When they weren’t, I was sinful and lustful and in need of repentance. This is a recipe for shame and shut down for a lot of women, including me.

I hear so many men complain that their wives don’t want sex, aren’t adventurous, and what can they do to inspire more or better sex in their marriages? We need to start by allowing women, and girls, the idea that they are sexual and that their sexuality is normal. Women and girls need to be taught how to navigate their sexuality with more nuance than,” don’t want it or do it until marriage and then it will be spontaneously blissful and hot and Godly, the end.”

A penis may not be enough. Ignoring or minimizing the role of the clitoris during sex, and focusing on penetration alone, is a big problem. Many people that have penises could not imagine sex being pleasurable if they were never again allowed to touch their penis and instead, only allowed to play with their testicles. Or, more accurately, sex is only okay when they don’t touch themselves at all and only their partner is allowed to touch their testicles. That’s what you are telling your partner when you say that it is wrong, or sinful for a finger or vibrator to stimulate the clitoris during sex.

Clitoral stimulation is critical, it’s nuanced, and takes time to learn. Masturbation is how that learning happens. I teach women and people with clitorises how to masturbate. I teach them how to write their bodies pleasure manual and that inspires their ability to be intimate and playful with their partners. Most importantly I help them get rid of years of shame and self-loathing they carry about their bodies and sex.

I do this work because my clients have an intuitive knowing that pleasure is something they deserve. They are tired of being the side note and afterthought in articles that demonize female sexual desire, and are tired of hearing that sentiment in sermons from the pulpit, and in the voices of their communities of origin.

Demons aren’t coming for you if you masturbate like Mack Major claims.  The only consequences I’ve encountered are personal freedom, joy, pleasure, increased self-esteem and better body image.

The Truth About Being Fat

How many times have I looked into the mirror and told myself I was disgusting, gross, fat, and many other terms that denote being less than. You pick your favorite.

I’m sure you have too. Maybe you did it today.  You might not have been near a mirror when you said it. How many times did you say the words? Can you even count?

All of that chatter is a way we tell ourselves that we are not enough, that we don’t deserve love or abundance or happiness. It’s a lie.

It took me a long time to see the lie for what it was, and even longer to believe that it was possible to love myself and to be loved in whatever body I was wearing at the time.  Even now, there are days I find myself slipping back into the mind of “I’m not enough” and all the negative self talk that goes along with those thoughts. I have to actively change the way I talk to myself.  Every. Single. Day.

sumo wrestler
Photographer Ivan Hernández via Flickr. Used in accordance with Creative Commons license.

I don’t need anyone to tell me what I look like

No one who was ever overweight missed the memo. I have mirrors and scales and doctors and family and random strangers to tell me what I look like, but you know, I was aware of it long before anyone ever felt the need to have a discussion with me about it or make an off-hand comment.

There are a myriad of reasons why bodies have more or less fat that than others. There is a lot of evidence that weight is not a direct indicator of overall health.  The bottom line is that you have no idea what is happening in the life of the person whose body size you are evaluating. The only person for whom it is relevant to discuss it, is the person and their doctor. I promise this fat person in your life doesn’t need your opinions or advice. What they do need to to have friends and family who treat them as whole people, instead of fat people.

Sometimes it’s not about food

In my own life I needed to be able to feel my body again.  I needed to learn to trust my body to know if it was hot, or cold, or tired, or hungry, or full and not have to turn to an outside source to tell me what I was feeling.

After that, the question for myself became; why am I you eating what I am are eating? What, if anything, am I covering up? Not talking about? Avoiding? Ignoring? Looking for? Wanting? Believing about myself?  Food, for me, is the arrow that points to the issue inside.  It points to what I am really hungry for, the emotional and physical hunger that isn’t being met and is, instead, being filled with edible things that fill me up.

When I started addressing these issues for myself. When I started acknowledging the thing(s) I really wanted, and really needed, and the things was ignoring in my life, food became irrelevant.  Weight started leaving and I didn’t need a diet.

I am enough

When I followed the food long enough I discovered a bigger truth.  I am worthy of love and affection and joy from myself and from others.  When I finally got this into my head and into my heart, my body and my life began changing in ways that were bigger than numbers on a scale.  My outlook changed, I received compliments, I wanted to be more active and creative and involved in the world. I felt joy as a regular experience. I even got smaller.

I love myself as I am

I am still a Botticelli, but I don’t cringe when I look in the mirror.  I focus on the things that I love and appreciate about my body.  I treat it kindly and with love, that includes what I eat and how I move.  Things are changing but I’m not waiting for an arbitrary finish line to love and appreciate myself and you shouldn’t either.