What We Missed

Absolute must read about the organizations behind AZ’s immigration law and similar laws in other states.
Evangelical megachurches now add support groups for women with porn addictions to their list of services. Unsurprisingly, most of these groups appear to treat masturbation and arousal, not sexist porn, as sins.
Homophobic Family Research Council founder vacations with male escort.
Dakar’s female taxi drivers are kicking ass and taking names.
According to a new study: 88 percent of women say they are easily sexually aroused. Hot.
Connecticut College is “Learnen Dem Hoes.”
Why were there only 8 women on the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels of the Twentieth Century? Smart folks discuss at Guernica’s panel on Diversity for PEN.

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18 Comments

  1. Gila
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    I love to hear positive news about women’s sexuality, but the survey linked here about women’s arousal and sex lives is pretty much meaningless as studies go. It’s a survey of a self-selected group of people, drawn from an unidentified but presumably nonrandom pool. The subset of people who tend to respond to online sex surveys isn’t necessarily reflective of the population as a whole.

  2. ebetty
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    Re: “Evangelical megachurches now add support groups for women with porn addictions to their list of services. Unsurprisingly, most of these groups appear to treat masturbation and arousal, not sexist porn, as sins.”
    I have many friends, Christian and non, who think sex and porn and all that is fine. I also have many Christian friends who think it is not.
    I’ve already explored the reasons of the former pretty thoroughly. Lately, I’ve been pondering why it would be that, specifically, the Bible teaches against extramarital sex, “fleshy lusts” etc. (1 Corinthians 7:1-5, 1 Peter 2:11) in order to understand more clearly the objections of the latter group.
    I’ll preface this by saying I’m the first to admit that the way the church deals with sexuality is incredibly ham handed. So I see the emergence of ministries like XXXchurch and Dirty Girls Ministries to be an interesting step in the right direction. From what I gather they try to reach people with displays of love, acceptance and compassion IE. “Jesus Loves Pornstars” Bibles, groups that acknowledge — just by existing– that women are sexual beings too, and so on. It is a refreshing departure from the “adulterers go to hell” approach, in my opinion.
    Even after considering the matter for some time now, however, I have yet to completely make up my mind. But I am leaning towards the view that if one professes to be a follower of Jesus then adhering to what the New York Times calls “secular sexual theory” seems out of the question.
    I think the problem with the way many Christians view extramarital sex & masturbation is that it is often equated with other sins identified in the Bible like murder or grand larceny, which is a histrionical response at best. Not having sex or masturbating is probably closer to not making loads of money or displaying road rage (Galatians 5:20).
    So, is the core message of what these programs preach inconvenient? Yes. Unnatural? Probably. But it is part of what defines a Christian. In other words: it’s a choice.
    It doesn’t make sense. Just as it doesn’t make sense that the religion encourages its followers to live in poverty in a capitalist society. And, as sexuality is an issue of feminism, I get why ministries like these would ruffle some feminist feathers. But, at the same time, I don’t.
    What I’d like to ask you at this point, Courtney, is why must Christianity and feminism be portrayed as being at odds?

  3. Naught
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    “Not having sex or masturbating is probably closer to not making loads of money or displaying road rage (Galatians 5:20).”
    That’s the issue with scriptural interpretation – you can easily find a line somewhere or other that implies whatever you want to be true. I assume your argument is that since Galatians 5:19-21 says:
    “19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
    20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
    21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,”
    that adultery and fornication are more like the not-that-bad sins listed at the start than murders (listed near the end). Of course, murders is right next to drunkenness which suggests an issue with this line of thought in the first place, but setting that aside, you can find other passages that mention fornication in context of much worse sins, eg,
    “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” (Matthew 15:19-20)
    All those are pretty bad. While we’re at it, note how it’s nearly always “adultery and fornication?” This should suggest something about the biblical view of sex, since adultery is in the 10 commandments. Actually, everything in the passage above except evil thoughts and fornication is in the 10 commandments.

  4. caprette
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Here’s my answer for you, Courtney: I can’t speak for everyone, but I think a lot of us may have been raised in environments that were Christian to one degree or another, but eventually came to reject Christianity after seeing behaviors and teachings that are very anti-woman. To me personally, rejecting sexuality outside of marriage feels unnatural and even unhealthy, though I respect that others can come to their own personal decisions about that. Sexuality wasn’t the only reason why I left the church, but I know that for many who grew up in more conservative churches than I did, it’s a major reason.
    I know that the teachings of Jesus were very tolerant and accepting, particularly considering the culture he lived in. The (female) priest of the church I grew up in once taught a class on early Christianity, emphasizing the fact that there were many women who held leadership positions before the Church became more rigidly codified. But the Bible was written by men who lived in a very misogynistic culture (St. Paul, anyone?), and their anachronistic teachings seem to get a lot of attention in today’s churches.
    I can respect other women who can find something uplifting amongst all the other stuff in Christianity. But many of us have witnessed the ugly and intolerant teachings of men in positions of power in the church. I think our experiences have lead us to have good reason to perceive Christianity and feminism as being at odds.

  5. caprette
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    edit: I meant to say “ebetty” not “Courtney” in the first sentence. Clearly, finals period is messing up my brain.

  6. Audentia
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Did you all read the second page of the article?
    “I’m learning the correct way of intimacy and bonds,” she said of the group. “It’s learning what your spouse wants, his needs.”
    She added: “You have to take into consideration what’s best for the one you’re going to be with. Say someday I’m married and my husband can’t please me as much as I please myself. That’d be terrible.”
    This is NOT a message of empowerment, for heavens sake. This is, “Don’t masturbate, because if you do you’ll be sad if your future husband can’t get you off, and your sadness will be hard on him.” It has little to do with women’s happiness; it’s all about protecting the feelings of the men. Because HEAVEN FORBID you make FutureHusband feel like less of a man!
    (I am a Christian and about to receive my MDiv. The myth that Christianity and feminism are incompatible is perpetuated in large part by patriarchal church leaders who want nasty feminism kept OUT of “their” institutions–with no concern for the hundreds of millions of women this harms. It is incredibly frustrating to see secular feminists buy into their rhetoric.)

  7. ebetty
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    No, I never said they are “lesser sins” so much as implied that they are perceived in our society as lesser sins. It was an attempt to illustrate the futility of applying our society’s hierarchy of ethics to Biblical sin. I can probably safely say, Biblically speaking, any sin is a ticket to hell. Which is why sin can’t possibly be the point — as in, it is written that all have sinned, so why bother figuring out which is which?
    So, anyone who attempts to rank sin is missing part of the picture. And, anyone who responds to this thinking in kind, as if it makes sense, legitimizes & encourages the initial myopia.
    You discount my points with the argument that they’re subjective interpretation but I strongly object to that. I am not chopping up scripture to serve my own needs or worldview. All one needs to do is check the scripture with the actions of Jesus. Christianity — Jesus is revolutionary in that the core message states that no matter the sin and despite all shortcomings, the individual is to be treated with love, respect, compassion and infinite grace. (And, if your brain doesn’t explode at the beauty of the concept alone, regardless of your religion or lack thereof, then all I can say is I’m sorry for it.) Christians are expected to be that. It is supposed to be difficult; it is not convenient for anyone, least of all, me.
    Though I can imagine the disappointment that comes with experiencing the discrepancy between what should be and what is, that doesn’t excuse reacting to intolerance with intolerance, nor divisiveness with divisiveness.
    [cont. below]

  8. ebetty
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, a lot of us have been raised in Christian environments. I would say most of us have also been raised on planet Earth as well. None of us would think fleeing the planet because of the injustice that occurs here a reasonable course of action. But that’s my anger talking.
    I can’t help but be exasperated because how is that your response (a common one, I may add) be considered a fair one to my question? and of all people, submitted by community members from a place like feministing? This is a place that thrives with discussion and activism in favor of reconciling the genders, ethnicities, and the different socio-economic strata by dismantling institutions of racism, ableism, prejudice and sexism. All of these incredible feats take place on the inside of “the system,” whatever that may be in context, and they take place because there is a hope that there is something to be salvaged. Yet, somehow if these injustices happen within the realm of religion it is beyond redemption? Really?
    Putting feminism at odds with Christianity not only alienates potential allies by forcing them to choose between their ideals and their faith but leaves many of our sisters who remain in the church behind, basically to fend for themselves in a community that is completely ill-equipped to serve their needs. Yours is a position I have seen often. And, in its rawest form, I find it a destructive, selfish position that is, dare I say, ridden with cowardice. To varying degrees, it permeates feministing; it’s a complete turn off. Like you said. A lot of us have been raised in a Christian environment. Therefore, one can reasonably deduce that for a large portion of that “us,” being Christian is a very essential part of who we are. Shaming, not accepting, or discrediting an opinion of a women for who she is (read: spiritually) does not seem very feminist.
    I realize there are vocal Christian feminists, or what have you. In fact, a friend pointed this magazine/blog out to me : http://www.sojo.net/ after I wondered, accusingly, almost bitterly why there isn’t a strong feminist voice in what is arguably the most influential institution in this modern age on God’s green Earth. I fully intend to investigate Sojourner & others like it. But in the meantime I respectfully submit this question again:
    why must Christianity and feminism be portrayed as being at odds?

  9. ebetty
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    On a side note, re: Paul. Yeah….Personally, the jury’s still out on his role in all of this. 1 Timothy is pretty damning of his character.

  10. ebetty
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Well… on the other hand if you read the stories of the men who go into sex therapy with XXXchurch the primary reason they join the group is because of how the men’s habits hurt their wives & kills the joy of sex for her.
    Correct me if I’m wrong. As a student of this stuff you would know better than I but I read an article on what the Bible says about sex & in I Corinthians 7:1-5 it pretty much states, the wife’s body is the husbands and the husbands body the wife’s.
    So perhaps, Christian sex looks like the husband focusing on pleasing the wife and the wife the husband.
    What are your thoughts?

  11. Naught
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    You appear to be changing your argument.
    Previously, you said:
    “I think the problem with the way many Christians view extramarital sex & masturbation is that it is often equated with other sins identified in the Bible like murder or grand larceny, which is a histrionical response at best. Not having sex or masturbating is probably closer to not making loads of money or displaying road rage (Galatians 5:20).”
    Now, you say:
    “No, I never said they are “lesser sins” so much as implied that they are perceived in our society as lesser sins. It was an attempt to illustrate the futility of applying our society’s hierarchy of ethics to Biblical sin. I can probably safely say, Biblically speaking, any sin is a ticket to hell. Which is why sin can’t possibly be the point — as in, it is written that all have sinned, so why bother figuring out which is which?
    So, anyone who attempts to rank sin is missing part of the picture. And, anyone who responds to this thinking in kind, as if it makes sense, legitimizes & encourages the initial myopia.”
    If all sins are ultimately equivalent in the biblical sense, and masturbation is a sin, and murder is a sin, then in fact masturbation is, biblically speaking, equivalent to murder.

  12. Naught
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Now, on the topic of your new argument, you say
    “Jesus is revolutionary in that the core message states that no matter the sin and despite all shortcomings, the individual is to be treated with love, respect, compassion and infinite grace.”
    This is, of course, true of the Jesus that is described in some parts of the Bible. The Bible is nothing if not inconsistent. Luke has several good examples of Jesus saying things that blatantly contradict your assertion:
    “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay before me.” – Luke 19:27
    ”If any [man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

  13. caprette
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    I think the way I see it, Christianity (as well as many other institutionalized religions) have been used as justification for misogyny. My problem is with religious institutions that have an Earthly power structure.
    But I also have to admit that I don’t understand true religious faith. In my worldview, the existence of a deity is completely irrelevant to my life, and I don’t believe in a conscious afterlife. I interact with the world through secular rationality, and I think someone who believes in a god probably interacts with the world in a very fundamentally different way. I think that for me, it’s hard to see the faith itself as separate from the institution, and the institution teaches many things that I believe are profoundly anti-feminist. I know there are many Christian women out there who can justify their religion with feminism, but as an outsider, I don’t understand. Perhaps it’s because I turned away from Christianity I see it as a choice rather than “an essential part of who we are.” But I’m willing to admit that that view is wrong if I could understand it better.

  14. Naught
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to briefly point out how silly your first sentence is.
    “Yeah, a lot of us have been raised in Christian environments. I would say most of us have also been raised on planet Earth as well. None of us would think fleeing the planet because of the injustice that occurs here a reasonable course of action. But that’s my anger talking.”
    People leave the church because it’s really not very hard to do. You just stop going to it on Sundays. We can’t exactly just hop on a spaceship and head to Andromeda.
    I’m sure if heading to another habitable planet were as simple as ceasing to participate in organized religion, we might see interplanetary migration be as common as atheism among feminists.

  15. Audentia
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Because it serves the interest of male church leaders who don’t want to give up their power. And also in part Mary Daly is a much more media-friendly–in the sense of being polarizing and, unfortunately, stereotypical–figure than feminist theologians whose work poses a real challenge to mainstream Christian theology. You might be interested in Rosemary Radford Reuther’s Sexism and God-Talk or Traci West’s Disruptive Christian Ethics.
    As to why secular feminists are so eager to mirror the declarations of male church leaders who say the two are uncompatible–I can’t help you there. I’m not saying everyone should be Christian–obviously, to each her own–but I don’t think they comprehend how much of an influence Christianity has on people’s lives. Much of it has to do with the mistaken concept in the West that religion is a choice, and thus it is easy for anyone to leave a religion with which she disagrees. (There is a sense that “well, if they stay in the church, they want what they’re getting). Reality is vastly more complicated than that, especially when you step outside a North American-European viewpoint.

  16. kisekileia
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    On premarital sex and Christianity:
    First, the New Testament doesn’t expressly prohibit premarital sex. It opposes “porneia” (Greek word), which denotes some sort of sexual impurity whose exact nature is uncertain, and is sometimes translated as “fornication”. It’s clear from reading the NT (particularly 1 Corinthians) that the culturally expected behaviour among early Christians was to not have premarital sex, but it’s not an express command.
    Secondly, New Testament sexual ethics, as well as being unclear, were formulated in a time when premarital sex had much graver consequences than it does now. There was no effective birth control. There was no effective STD protection. There was little economic recourse for women who had kids with no husband to take care of them. Jesus stated that all of the law and the prophets are subsumed in the commands to love God with all your strength and love your neighbour as yourself–and in that time period, the law of love would generally have required that people not have premarital sex.
    Now things are different. We have good birth control. We have good STD protection. And so many people get hurt so fucking badly because they try to live up to a sexual ethic that just doesn’t work when people don’t get married for ten to fifteen years after they go through puberty. I used to be a hardcore True Love Waits type, but after years of watching people struggle and struggle to live up to those strict sexual purity rules (and doing so myself), I really think now that the traditional Christian restrictions on sexuality do more harm than good and do not fit with Jesus’ law of love anymore. I’m familiar with the Christian anti-masturbation and anti-porn movement from when I used to be an evangelical, and people fucking flagellated themselves emotionally over that stuff. It’s not good and it’s not worth it.
    So there’s the other side of the debate. If you’re interested in a different theological perspective on sex in the Bible than you may have previously heard, I recommend the book Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today by William Countryman. Whether it persuades you or not, it’ll help you realize that the Bible doesn’t have to be treated the same way mainstream North American Christianity treats it.

  17. Audentia
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    “People leave the church because it’s really not very hard to do. You just stop going to it on Sundays. “
    No. This is assuming a compartmentalization of religion that is most definitely not the case in all countries–and even across all subcultures of Christianity in the U.S.
    If the entire social life of your family, and friends, and depending on where you live, everyone in your city, revolves around church and church-sponsored activities, leaving is simply not an OPTION. I mean, maybe *you* could quit going to the services, but everyone else in your life, including any guys (or girls, but if we’re talking fundie Christians here, let’s be realistic) you might end up with, are still going to be absorbing the damaging messages.
    And that’s assuming leaving is even an option! What about all the little girls who don’t yet have a voice in their families, simply because they’re kids, and are dragged to Sunday school every week (or go happily)? Abandoning the church to the patriarchy is, in a very real sense, abandoning them. Additionally, the picture looks very, very different in many countries in the global South, which is (a) where Christianity is growing and (b) where Christianity’s growth is being driven by women converting.
    Again, I’m not calling for secular feminists and non-Christian feminists to convert; that’s silly. But the idea that leaving the church is as easy as snapping your fingers is a false myth and very damaging to those who remain Christians.

  18. Naught
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    You’re right that it depends on where you live. I should have said “many of the feminists who have left the church/organized religion.”
    Regardless, no matter where you live, it’s far, far easier to leave the church than the planet, which was my point – this is a false analogy.

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