(Warning: Subject matter may be triggering, because of the way sexual abuse/ rape is discussed. It will also be more sexually graphic than anything else on this blog.)
Yes, I know a hundred bloggers tackled this topic in the past week. I’ll try not to repeat what everybody else said, okay? Doug Wilson wrote something in 1999 which caused no outrage among his patriarchal male readers, but it landed on the Gospel Coalition’s website a week ago, where it was approvingly quoted:
“A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence. When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed. But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless. True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.” – Douglas Wilson, Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man
Thousands of commenters on many blogs have already expressed their concern/ outrage/ discomfort with most all aspects of the above, and the blogger who put it on the Gospel Coalition site took it down. Please, my readers, accept one thing about the post below: It will not discuss the heart of the matter, because the heart of the matter was discussed elsewhere. This is my 2 cents that contain additional thoughts as far as I know, not another echo.
1) These words were printed 13 years ago. In 13 years of reading by patriarchal men, nobody seemed to speak out against these words. Days after it appeared where a non-patriarchal audience could read it, it went viral. What does this say of the sex lives of patriarchal men, if they do not oppose conquering and colonizing language for intercourse? What does it say of their fantasies, if they apparently find “men dream of rape” credible enough not to protest? How committed are they to truth, if they find it acceptable to blame egalitarians for sexual violence?
2) It is good that the Jared Wilson piece that quoted this was taken down. Anything that calls the most intimate act between a man and a woman a place for dominating, for conquering (winning) and surrendering (losing) is not speaking for the One who said:
“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.But you are not to be like that.- Luke 22:25-26
Material that does not have the spirit of Christ do not belong on a website called the Gospel Coalition. Egalitarians should probably not start by saying: “Hallelujah, this post exposes the dark underbelly of complementarianism!” There may or may not be reason to say: “Perhaps those complementarians will start to think better about who they endorse.” But a bigger point than the comp/egal debate, I think, is that these words are not something anyone should associate with Jesus. Because of statements like that, the name of Jesus is blasphemed by the world. If you do not believe me, look up what atheists are saying about this.
3) Doug Wilson’s further explanations obscure, IMO, instead of clarify. He claimed we should read conquer and surrender language as a poetic description of the sexual act, not as an endorsement of domination. For example:
“Only a person with a poetic ear like three feet of tin foil would maintain that penetrates can only be used of a Nazi invasion of Belgium…”
“One thing that gave offense was my rejection of an ‘egalitarian pleasuring party.’ This was taken by some as me saying that only the man need get the pleasure, which would be ridiculous. The emphasis needs to be placed on ‘EGALITARIAN pleasuring party’ — the kind of party where the sexes of the participants don’t matter, because all that matters is that two or more people come to orgasm. I was by implication lauding a complementarian pleasure party. The term of opprobrium there was egalitarian, not pleasure.”
Okay, we should not think of a situation where the woman’s pleasure do not count, where she takes it because she has no right or power to stop him. Instead, it is about a situation where the sexes of the participants count – penetration and planting for what men physically do during the act, versus receiving for what the woman do. Put “a situation where the sexes do not matter, as long as two people come to orgasm” as his definition for egalitarian bedroom activity, and “man pushes his tab P into female slot V” as definition for complementarian bedroom activity, and we get:
Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of putting tab P into slot V, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate for violent caricatures of authority and submission. The sexual act is a complementarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. Tab P to slot V intercourse is offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of tab P pushing in and slot V enveloping in marriage. We suppressed tab P to slot V intercourse. Our banished tab P to slot V comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. … When Tab P pushed into slot V is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.”
I simply do not believe this is what he meant. Men are still pushing tab P into female slot V. Bondage and submission is probably not about a desire for that particular tab and slot, as such pornography seem to feature every other tab and slot combination imaginable. Male-tab-P-to-female-slot-V has never been forgotten and seldom rebelled against. Egalitarians, complementarians, the undecided and those who never heard the words egalitarian or complementarian all use that tab and slot.
Would Wilson really claim people have rape fantasies because their sex lives brings them to orgasm, but do not involve that tab and slot in that way? Do they go into bondage games because prior to exploring the bondage kink they did not use the right slot or tab? Does he think egalitarianism causes people to find that particular act offensive?
I do not believe that Wilson made that bad an argument. I believe he simply does not want to admit to what he really said, but both his fans and his critics understood: He is advocating for men having more, if not all, decision making power in the bedroom. He is not advocating for a pleasuring party with the desires of both partners mattering equally much, and the slots and pushing done exactly as it would fit his imagery.