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Elliot Rodger and the Lies We Believe About Sex

Last Updated: April 15, 2015

Lisa Eldred

Lisa Eldred is the Educational Content Strategist at Covenant Eyes, and has 10 years of experience in researching and writing about porn addiction and recovery. She has authored numerous blog posts and ebooks, including More Than Single, Hobbies and Habits, and New Fruit, which was co-authored with Crystal Renaud Day. Her writing about faith and fandoms can be found at Love Thy Nerd.

Let’s talk about Elliot Rodger for a moment, shall we?

On May 23, “the Day of Retribution,” the 22-year-old man acted in vengeance against those who, he believed, had willfully ignored him, keeping him a virgin and denying him the physical affection he craved. Enacting a plan that originally called for the dismemberment of random strangers, the destruction of an entire sorority, and the premeditated murder of his own half-brother and stepmother, Rodger murdered six people before turning a gun on himself.

It’s easy to write him off as a lone lunatic. Certainly Rodger had mental health issues. His own 140-page autobiographical manifesto reveals that he had been in counseling off and on for most of his life, and that he had faced at least some bullying during his schooling. Whether he could or should be described as clinically insane is a question best left to the experts, but there’s no doubt that these issues contributed to his rampage.

The more frightening undercurrent to his manifesto, though, is his attitude toward women in general and sexual relations in particular. Roger was consumed by bitterness that the hot women of the world ignored him—that they didn’t seem to give him a second glance, despite his expensive clothes and BMW; that women prefer idiot jocks over him with his obvious intellectual superiority. Women were objects, and sex was a right that had been denied to him.

This attitude is terrifying because it shows up everywhere. Call it male privilege or call it rape culture, it appears in porn and in Sleeping Beauty, in sexual chat rooms and on Facebook. It’s sleeping with and then murdering prostitutes in the Grand Theft Auto games, and it’s Mario winning Princess Peach as a prize after hard work. It’s “pick-up artists” and rapists, and it’s the “nice young man” in your church who thinks he can earn the right to a date by being nice to a woman, regardless of her feelings.

And herein lies the problem: pop culture is engraining in us a number of tragic lies about sexuality and relationships. And without meaning to, we all start to internalize them and believe them.

Lie #1: Sex is an irresistible biological urge.

One of the common tropes in TV and movies is that of the boorish male. This tends to show up in one of two ways. First is the womanizing “Bros-before-hos” frat boy, such as Jon from Don JonSecond is the lovably inept father (usually married to a smart career woman), such as Tim Taylor from Home Improvement; he may not act on his sexual impulses, but his wandering eye is played for laughs. In either case, the message is simple: men get a pass for their sexual attitudes and actions on the basis of their biology.

But it’s more than just comedy. This attitude is taught in school and church. You’ve probably heard or even repeated some of the mantras yourself: “Men are visually stimulated; they have a greater sex drive than women; they crave physical touch more than women; they think of sex on average once every seven seconds. Women don’t care nearly as much about looks; they want emotional intimacy.”

Many of these teachings may be true, and can even be helpful as baseline gender differentiators. It reminds young Christian women to dress modestly, for example. But it can also lead men in particular to abdicate the responsibility for their own lustful thoughts, and to blame-shift sin to either biology or women.

Perhaps you’ve heard some of the arguments:

  • “I can’t help that I was staring at her. She was wearing revealing clothing.”
  • “I’m not married, I have a high libido, and I need to relieve myself somehow, so of course I look at porn.”
  • “You, my wife, aren’t meeting my sexual needs, and that’s why I look at porn.”
  • “You were just too much for me.” (A youth pastor told this to a former student after raping her.)
  • “It wasn’t until I went through puberty and started desiring girls that my whole life turned into a living hell. I desired girls, but girls never desired me back. There is something very wrong with that. It is an injustice that cannot go unpunished” (p. 135 of Rodger’s manifesto).

In each of these cases, the man is giving himself a pass for his sin on the basis of his anatomy, on the basis of being created male and finding females attractive. And a God who gives men sexual urges and condemns them for acting on them must be an unjust God indeed.

(By the way, there are women who blame their ovaries for their sexual temptations as well, so ladies, you’re not off the hook on this. This does seem to be a primarily male excuse, though.)

Lie #2: Women (and therefore sex) are prizes to be won or a payment to be earned.

Princess Leia, from the Star Wars trilogy, is perhaps one of the strongest female characters to grace the screen. She’s clever, she’s a strong leader, and she’s a good shot to boot.

She is also beautiful, and it is the combination of her beauty and her obvious need that sends Luke off on his epic quest. And Han and Luke’s competition for her attention forge some significant interactions between the trio. Leia kisses Luke on-screen twice; once is “for luck”—to motivate him to safety—and the other is to show her satisfaction with him, and incite jealousy in Han. In these two little kisses, she trains Luke and Han, and all the audience, that good behavior merits sexual rewards.

This is one of pop culture’s favorite lies, especially among the geek/nerd subculture (warning: some language at that link). “Romance” is embedded in many video games, for example; but their success or failure is dependent—literally—on whether or not the player hits the right button at the right time. In TV and the movies, the nerdy guy almost always gets the hot girl. (But, of course, the nerdy girl must always become the hot girl to get the hot guy, mind.) Even in the hilarious, trope-thwarting LEGO Movie, the everyman hero Emmet convinces the smart, beautiful Wyldstyle to dump Batman—Batman!—for him. He has saved the world, and therefore he has earned the girl.

Is this fiction? Sure. Are the stories amusing? Sure. But Elliot Rodger internalized and believed them. As he entered adulthood, he expected that the typical status signifiers of nice clothes and a nice car would be enough to earn him the respect and admiration of women. He went to college and attended parties expecting that women would see him and fawn over him (never mind that he never thought to strike up a conversation himself). And when he never got the attention he believed he deserved, six people lost their lives.

Rodger, you see, took this attitude to its logical extreme. He stripped women of their choice and of their personhood. His manifesto says to women: “Your thoughts and desires don’t matter. I am smart and wear nice clothes, and therefore I deserve you. And because you have denied me your love, you must pay.”

Most people don’t take such extreme views, but a frightening number of people still objectify each other. Even Christian singles aren’t so different. Sure, most people know enough to realize that a conversation is the first step in a relationship. But it’s common for both men and women to see interactions with each other as transactional:

  • “If I help her with her broken-down car, she’ll have to go out with me!”
  • “If I bake the best cookies ever, he’s sure to fall in love with me!”
  • “Sure, I’ll listen to her cry about her boy troubles. Then she’ll fall in love with me instead, right?”
  • “He seems to like blondes. That means all I need to do is to dye my hair to get out of the friendzone.”
  • Or, to quote Rick Springfield: “I’ve been funny/I’ve been cool with the lines/Isn’t that how love’s supposed to be?/Why can’t I find a woman like that?/I wish that I had Jessie’s girl.”

This kind of patient hanging-on rarely works, and will often lead to bitterness. Or, worse, the admirer may try to take the prize by force.

Lie #3: Sex will solve everything.

“You just need to get laid.”

This was a common refrain at my college, especially among my non-Christian friends. Anger or aggression issues? Just go have sex. Bitter or lonely? It’s probably because you’re a virgin. In retrospect, it’s amazing how many personal problems were blamed on sexual abstinence.

But then, we were the generation of American Pie and other “teen” comedies focused on characters breaking free from the shackles of virginity before graduation. We were—and now are—the generation in which cohabiting is becoming more common than marriage; in which “saving yourself for marriage” just isn’t done. And if you made it through college without being deflowered, then something certainly must be wrong with you.

Again, this was a belief Rodger deeply internalized. He couldn’t shrug off the shame of being a 22-year-old virgin; he raged when those younger, uglier, less intelligent, or less white than him managed to attract the tall blondes he so eagerly desired. And in the end, he wished to destroy what he could not have: “All of those beautiful girls I’ve desired so much in my life, but can never have because they despise and loathe me, I will destroy. All of those popular people who live hedonistic lives of pleasure, I will destroy, because they never accepted me as one of them. I will kill them all and make them suffer, just as they have made me suffer. It is only fair” (p. 137).

Water from the living well

All of these lies, and all of our lusts (sexual or otherwise), are manifestations of our deeper desires—for love, for acceptance, for belonging. Rodger, for example, was a sensitive child from a broken home growing up in the shadow of Hollywood, where wealth and sex were signifiers of personal value. While he acknowledged that his self-worth came from more than material possessions, his mind twisted into believing that because he had worth, he deserved those signifiers, and those who denied him of them must pay. Mercifully few rampage like Rodger, but a rather large number of people enter into a relationship looking for some sort of personal validation, and when the relationship fails to fill the need, they are filled with bitterness and resentment.

This is precisely the brokenness that Jesus addresses in John 4. “I’ll give you water that will keep you from thirsting,” he says to a Samaritan woman, an outcast from good Jewish society.

“Great,” says the woman. “Give it to me, so I never need to come fetch water again.”

Jesus sees that she doesn’t quite get what he’s talking about. “Go fetch your husband,” he says.

“I’m not married,” she replies.

“That’s right,” Jesus says. “Your first five marriages didn’t work out, so now you’re dating a sixth guy.”

The woman, you see, had kept thirsting, had kept trying to find fulfillment in relationships. But her thirst was never quenched, no matter how many times she returned to the same well. But Jesus came to her, a sexually broken “lower class” woman living in a patriarchal world, just as he still ministers to all of us, the objectified and abused and the objectifiers and abusers alike. His answer? “Come to me, Elliot Rodgers of the world. Fill your mind on my word, not culture’s lies. Drink from the living water. I want to give you the water that will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

This seems very abstract and ethereal, but it’s actually intensely practical. Let’s look at those lies again:

Truth #1: We are meant to (and therefore are able to) glorify God with our bodies.

The first lie, remember, is that our sex drive is an uncontrollable biological function, meaning we should give ourselves free passes for staring after each other. And yet Jesus calls these behaviors lust, and says that anyone who even looks at someone else with lust in his (or her) heart is guilty of committing adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). So obviously these lustful urges, which do have a basis in biology, do not need to be our masters.

Men, stop blaming women for your lust. Stop blaming your hormones for your sin. If you don’t, you’ll always find excuses for your sexual sin. Even if every woman in every church in America wore a burqa, there will always be billboards on the road, or silhouettes on the mudflaps of the pickup trucks in front of you, or bikini-clad women on the beach. Women fixing themselves will not solve your sin issues.

Instead, meditate on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:13-14: “‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” If you believe in a God strong enough to raise Jesus (and eventually us) up from the dead, then remember: you believe in a God who can help you get your lusts under control.

Truth #2: We are brothers and sisters in Christ.

The second lie was that women are objects and relationships are rewards. This dehumanizing behavior again flies right in the face of Scripture.

  • Objectifying each other, treating each other as prizes instead of people, counters Genesis 1:27, where God creates both men and women in His image.
  • The singles’ complaints about the friendzone, and any transactional relationships, goes against 1 Timothy 5:1-2, where Paul commands us to treat each other as brothers and sisters.
  • Well-intentioned husbands who describe their wives as “smokin’ hotmay be saying more about their own sexual prowess than their sacrificial love of their wives (Ephesians 5:25).
  • Wives who are embarrassed by their husband’s inattention to physical appearance should remind themselves that the goal of marriage is to reflect the church’s submission to Christ, not their own perfect family (Ephesians 5:24).

Truth #3: Sex is a gift, but it complicates things.

The third lie is that getting laid solves a host of problems. It is true that the lack of sex—or rather, the lack of relationships—can cause its own set of problems. It’s easy to feel lonely or left out. In reality, though, sex and relationships solve nothing; rather, they complicate matters. Even in the happiest, God-centered marriage, sex is not always a smooth process. Even if both partners are virgins, there’s the first-time awkwardness. Sex can be uncomfortable, if not outright painful. In some cases, intercourse may even be medically impossible without surgery. And that’s assuming neither partner brings in baggage from porn or sexual abuse.

Rather than longing for sex or relationships, Solomon begs us not to “stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 2:7). Solomon himself ought to know; he had 1,000 sexual partners (1 Kings 11:3), and yet he called it all “vanity and striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). His wives and concubines no doubt provided him pleasure, but they turned him away from serving the Lord, and as a result God raised up enemies for him (1 Kings 11). If the wisest, richest man who lived could not avoid trouble, it’s little wonder that Paul would eventually write, “Those who marry will have worldly troubles” (1 Corinthians 7:28). Far from sex solving your personal issues, it is actually the single person who is free from anxieties (1 Corinthians 7:32).

Two ridiculously practical tips

So now that we’ve identified these cultural lies, what do we do? Do we respond like Rodger, who destroyed what he could not have? Or do we recognize our own sexual brokenness, both in action and in attitudes?

The first thing to do, of course, is to turn to God. Cultural solutions to this cultural problem—like fixing misogynistic attitudes—may help for a while, but “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:62). Only by diving deep into the Word and by casting all our cares upon God through prayer (1 Peter 5:7) can we truly transform our attitudes and actions about sexual brokenness and other sins.

The second thing to do is to find a good accountability partner, probably of the same gender and similar relationship status as you. This is especially true for those who are single and/or are dealing specifically with sexual brokenness (like pornography). This person needs to empathize with your pain…but make sure you listen when they offer reproofs.

It’s important to note that both of these are only as good as their foundation. Are you seeking “a higher power” or the one living God? Is your accountability relationship focused on Christ or on complaining? Even Rodger attempted to pursue both of these aspects. He tried to manipulate cosmic karma after reading The Secret. He had a best friend, James, who was also single, but Rodger’s own venomous bitterness caused James to eventually disassociate himself from the vitriolic young man. Of course he lost all hope; he never found the source of hope to begin with.

Instead, then, let us dwell on what it says in Hebrews 12 about Christ (a man who never lusted and died a virgin, mind you):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (v.1-2).

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears (v.12-17).

  • Comments on: Elliot Rodger and the Lies We Believe About Sex
    1. Eddie on

      I have some problems with some of this. It strikes me as too much of an attempt to fit a specific event into things Ms. Eldred wants to say anyway.

      The trope of the male working to “earn” the girl goes back way farther than video games and the Lego movie. It goes back to the age of chivalry, the classical age, and on back into antiquity – including the Bible (You’ll recall Jacob working 14 years to earn Rachel). In fact, the general connection between virtuous, even heroic, male behavior and romantic/sexual success is pretty much a given throughout most all human history and literature until about, oh, the 1970s. And from a societal standpoint, it makes sense – it’s a great way to motivate men to behave virtuously. And until the 1970s or so, it was true: if you were able to provide, obeyed the law, and were generally well-behaved, you’d be able to get married, and then probably get semi-regular sex. It was never a guarantee, but it was in fact the way things worked for most men for the last few thousand years.

      This reality is offensive to modern readers, who want all marriages to be about “true love,” or finding one’s “soulmate” (talk about Lies we Believe), but it’s the reality of the way human civilization has in fact worked for millennia. Ms. Eldred is upset that Rodgers “objectifies” women, which I more or less agree with (even as I note she’s taking her language and concepts from feminist theory and then retrofitting scripture onto them, not vice-versa), but she goes way too far.

      ISTM Rodgers went wrong in several ways here: One he was taking a general tendency/norm for the way he thought life was supposed to work and expecting it to pay off for immediately. Another was divorcing sex from marriage: he probably would have had a better chance of getting the sex he wanted if he was willing to give the commitment women have traditionally demanded in return. Relatedly, he was unwilling to understand what attracted women – he deeply resented the “pick-up artists” because they (correctly) told him that women didn’t care about his car, and that he had to work on his social skills/charm/”game;” he refused to listen to them.

      I think Ms. Eldred would call these errors reflective of a “transactional mentality;” I’d call them standard-issue impatience, selfishness, and arrogance.

      Reply
      • Lisa Eldred on

        Hi Eddie, thanks for your feedback! I’ll try to address all of your points, so bear with me.

        First, you mentioned that I was fitting an event into some points I wanted to make anyway. It’s certainly true that I’d had several separate conversations about the lies I addressed around the time that I first read Rodger’s manifesto. His manifesto reinforced specific cultural attitudes about sex and women, and he took these lies to their logical extreme. If you believe I have somehow misread him, I’m curious to hear why.

        Second, you mention that the trope of “earning” the girl is much older than the pop culture examples I cited. That’s absolutely true. I chose to limit the focus to more recent history to limit the scope. I also hear your point that, in many ways, there can be a positive spin: as you point out, “it’s a great way to motivate men to behave virtuously.” It is a way to motivate men to behave virtuously, though certainly not the only way (or even a great one).

        What I’m really trying to address, though, is the age-old “Women as property” message that still somehow persists. You cited Jacob’s work for Rachel for 14 years as an example; it’s true that it’s a powerful testimony regarding his love for her, but don’t forget that (1) Laban essentially used his own nephew as a slave for 14+ years, and (2) Jacob’s intense focus on Rachel caused intense bitterness and jealousy with Leah, Rachel’s own sister and Jacob’s first wife by treachery. In fact, it led (literally) to the transactional attitudes I address. When Reuben found a mandrake root, Rachel traded with Leah the right to have sex with Jacob just to gain what she hoped would be a fertility drug. This may be in the Bible, but it’s not the intention of the author of Genesis to set this up as model behavior.

        Perhaps the better biblical example for us to emulate is the marriage of Jacob’s father, Isaac, to Rebekah. Abraham’s servant sought out Rebekah; he brought a dowry to her father and brother, and he invited her back to be Isaac’s bride. In Genesis 24:58, her father and brother ask her if she’s willing to go. She assents, and she and Isaac have what’s portrayed as a pretty happy marriage (until they pick favorites among their twins, which is a separate issue). And, as you point out, it illustrates that “if you were able to provide, obeyed the law, and were generally well-behaved, you’d be able to get married, and then probably get semi-regular sex” (though I’d argue that the physical and emotional intimacy described in Song of Solomon is much more attractive a concept than “semi-regular sex.”)

        Of course, modern Western culture has given up the dowry system, leading to the error you rightly point out of basing marriage solely on emotion, and also leading to increased divorce rates. Marriage is a commitment, and it is hard work on both the husband and the wife’s part. But the hard work should reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church, not either partner’s desire to “get some action.” Sex is supposed to be a beautiful form of intimacy between a husband and wife, not an entitlement for “doing all the right things.”

        Regarding your comment about retrofitting scripture on feminist theory, I’m sorry if it felt that way. I actually started the post as more of a cultural critique (like this post) and found that the arguments that came most readily to mind all came from scripture, which is greatly affirming of women. I will confess that (1) I come from a more liberal educational system, (2) I read many feminist-angled posts and have picked up their language cues, and (3) am personally as feminist as I can be, given that I’m a complementarian who believes in Paul’s arguments in favor of wifely submission and does not believe women should be called as pastors (i.e., as feminist as I can be, given that I both study and believe the Bible).

        I have no disagreements to what you say about Rodger. I simply would like to point out that he didn’t feel like he had to work on his “game” because he objectified women and felt he deserved them. It was a horrible, vicious cycle.

        Finally, regarding my terminology, you’re right: “transactional mentality” really is a code word for “sin.” I hope my word choice didn’t diminish my point.

        I hope this clarifies matters.

    2. Jessica on

      One of the key problems that has been associated with salvation is the thought that we must earn it. It is the same way with male/female relationships. In our prideful nature we feel that if we do x we deserve y. But God doesn’t look at us that way. Adam did not deserve Eve. He had done nothing to merit her or to work for her. She was a gift of grace to Adam simply because God loved him. Man also cannot work for salvation as the Pharisees did. That belief led many into hopelessness because they had been “too bad to be saved” or into pride because “they had done all the right things”. This leads many men to resent women and God because you can do all the right things and you still do not deserve a woman. Just as you can be a good person and not deserve salvation. I hear men say all the time the same things this kid did. Basically “I did all the right things where’s my woman!” A spouse is a gracious gift from God. To be blessed with one of His daughters is a great responcibility. Just as a man who does all the right things does not deserve a woman, a man who is single is not being punished. God may be wanting him to grow closer to God or maybe God has something for him to learn or do that a woman would get in the way of. But instead of leaning on God and accepting God’s authority in life We listen to Satan and feel sorry for our singleness, resent people who we feel reject us and become jealous of those who have what we want. Don’t let a relationship be an Idol in your life. Take what God gives you with gratitude and trust that what he has not given you is also for His glory.

      Reply
    3. Eddie on

      Thanks for your kind response.

      “If you believe I have somehow misread him, I’m curious to hear why.” — I didn’t get the sense that your take was wrong, so much as incomplete. Your response, and the post you linked to, explains why.

      “I will confess that (1) I come from a more liberal educational system, (2) I read many feminist-angled posts and have picked up their language cues, and (3) am personally as feminist as I can be, given that I’m a complementarian …”

      I think you’ve picked up a lot more than their language cues.

      Like most –isms, (say, Marxism) feminism has had many useful and valid cultural critiques that we do well to pay attention to. But like all –isms, it also has pitfalls, and it also has fundamental philosophical precepts that you can’t ignore.
      There are people that proclaim themselves “Christian Marxists,” in that they agree with some of Marx’s criticisms of a market economy. But Marx was pretty explicit in saying that his philosophy was grounded in a materialistic worldview and was incompatible with a religious metaphysics. Agreeing with Marxism on this or that political issue is one thing; but you can’t wholesale adopt the philosophy without running into pretty irreconcilable differences with Christianity. While acknowledging that Feminism is not as neatly defined and doesn’t have the same single, authoritative text as Marxism, there are nonetheless identifiable core philosophical assumptions that distinguish and define it, and some of those are equally irreconcilable with Christianity.

      Christianity is, and has been for two millennia, irretrievably, hopelessly Patriarchal. There’s just no getting around the male-centrism of a religion that starts with “God the Father” and goes on to recount, mostly with approval, the exploits of a bunch of dudes called “the Patriarchs,” then follows up with “God the Son” and his twelve male followers, before telling women to be submissive and that they aren’t allowed to teach men. All of that is deeply, fundamentally, at odds with core feminist precepts.

      Or to pick a term you have used, Objectification: feminist principles assert that women (including wives) are always autonomous subjects with full moral rights to independent agency. Christianity, as you point out, analogizes marriage to Christ and the Church. Does the Church have full moral rights to independent agency? I suspect you know enough theology agree the answer is something less than an unequivocal yes. “You did not choose me, I chose you,” is not the statement of a guy setting up an egalitarian relationship of coequal subjects, and is likely to draw a lot of angry responses to the guy who tries to use it on Match.com … and yet, on some level, that is the model that scripture offers.
      The Isaac and Rebekah story is also a little more complicated than a rejection of “the age-old Women as property message.” Abraham’s servant was sent to go find Isaac a wife in a way that sounds akin to sending him to the mall; Rebekah “passes” a test she had no idea she was taking; her father agrees to the marriage without asking her (v. 51); and her opinion is only sought when they’re deciding whether to leave immediately or to wait ten days (v. 54-57). Yes, she does say she agrees, but certainly no feminist analysis of the story would fail to point out that Rebekah was hardly in a position of unconstrained agency. I don’t think too many feminists would accept “hey, she said ‘I will go’,” as an ironclad defense from a guy accused of date rape.

      Certainly the attitude toward female consent exhibited in Judges 21, Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 20, Exodus 21, etc. is hardly compatible with feminism: God explicitly tells the Israelites to take women as spoils of war. Deuteronomy 21:10-14 specifies what to do with a woman taken against her will after she has ceased to please her captor; read it in different translations, and each one will be offensive a new and different way.

      But that was all the Old Testament, right? Except look to Church history: For two millennia, the Christian church accepted and even encouraged arranged marriages where women were betrothed with only nominal consent. They were much less common than some imagine, but they were indeed accepted. Heck, there were even principles of “as punishment for raping her, now you have to get married to her;” it’s hard to think of anything more abhorrent to our modern sensibilities, and yet numerous Christian authorities endorsed it, following the precedent of Deuteronomy 22:29.
      Which is not to say I endorse it, or other church teachings over the centuries that undeniably treated “women as property” in various ways. But it takes a bit of what C.S. Lewis calls “chronological snobbery” to suppose that Christians for over 1900 years were totally, completely wrong about gender relations, until we finally figured out what scripture was saying in the last 50 years or so; and it’s absurd to pretend that it was sheer coincidence that our new and improved understanding of scripture just happened to coincide with the broader changes is secular society. The reality is, most modern Christians are guilty of putting the “modern” first and the “Christian” second and retrofitting our religion onto our cultural presuppositions; certainly I’ve done it.

      None of which is to say that every bit of feminism needs to be discarded, and certainly one can outright reject feminism as a movement and/or philosophical school and still embrace all sorts of nominally “feminist” causes and positions. And I can’t offer up a doctrine of gender relations/marriage, because I don’t have all the answers, either. What I am sure of, though, is that Christians need to be very, very careful about adopting the language and concepts of secular movements in general, and that the relationship of Christianity and feminism in particular is much, much more problematic than your posts suggest.

      So to bring this around to Eliot Rodgers: your analysis was not wrong, but it was very incomplete.

      Read his rantings, and it’s clear that he wasn’t just angry that he wasn’t getting sex – it’s that he wasn’t getting sex and that everybody else was (Or at least he perceived that to be the case, and given his social milieu, he was probably correct). You’re correct that can’t disconnect his screwed-up ideas about sex from the larger cultural backdrop … but you miss the fact that feminism is a huge, huge part of that backdrop. It’s not a coincidence that the feminist movement and the sexual revolution – including the porn explosion – have happened at the same time: the former laid the groundwork for the latter. Nobody is better at deploying feminist rhetoric — empowerment, self-ownership, rejection of patriarchy — than porn stars. (Okay, maybe grad students. Grad student Porn Stars, look out.)

      We can’t know what Eliot Rodgers would have been like in another time and place, but as I read his writings I can’t help but wonder what he’d have been like in one of those oppressive, patriarchal society that feminists have worked so hard to free us from. If divorce laws hadn’t been loosened, would he have had an intact home and a different upbringing? If he lived in a country where young women were expected to be modest, would that have affected his expectations and/or libido? If he lived a society in which sexuality was expected to be confined to marriage, would he have felt the same rage at being (in his mind) the only one not having sex?

      For that matter, what if he lived in a society, like most of those in history, where a man in his 20s probably IS married, or soon to be, and thus he would have had a legitimate sexual outlet? No, “sex doesn’t solve everything,” as those of us who are married can attest. But for men, sex and intimacy are pretty inextricably connected, and the ability of a committed, intimate relationship with a woman to greatly reduce men’s propensity to violence and crime is very, very well documented in the psychological literature. (For that matter, research shows early marriage and traditional family structures and gender roles make women happier, too). And you can’t honestly discuss the modern norm of delaying marriage until one’s 30s – to say nothing of the divorce rate, the end of the male-breadwinner model, the general sexualization of the culture – without seeing the huge, huge role played by feminism.

      We agree that while Eliot Rodgers was responsible for his actions, there were cultural factors at work. But I think you need to be a little more thorough – and a little more fearless — in assessing those cultural factors.

      Hope this explains. Thanks for the convo.

      Reply
      • Lisa Eldred on

        Thanks for the reply! I appreciate (and even enjoy!) that you’re pushing back and making me think through both theology and feminism, and I hope you appreciate as I do the same.

        First, I should clarify that I agree with you: there are many portions of the feminist movement that are incongruous with what is found in the Bible (“sex-positive feminism” being chief among them). Given its baggage, in Christian circles, my use of the “feminist” identifier may be unhelpful, if not downright hurtful. This is especially true since I see more scriptural support for complementarianism than for egalitarianism (a more “Christian” version of feminism).

        (Relatedly, you may be accurate in relating a committed relationship to a decrease in men’s propensity toward violence and crime, as well an increase in women’s happiness. As you may have guessed, my background is in rhetoric and literary analysis, not psychology. I think we can both agree that the committed intimacy through marriage is the key, as opposed to the act of sex itself.)

        However, “patriarchy” is an equally loaded term. Remember, many modern Muslim countries have returned to the form. In some, women are limited to even basic things like education. It’s not a Christian book by any means, but you may be interested in reading Reading Lolita in Tehran for a take on a modern society that returned to patriarchy. See if the treatment of the women in that book meshes well with the treatment of women in the Bible. I know you’re not arguing for that extreme form of patriarchy, but if we need to be careful about feminist terms, so too must we be careful about all our language choices.

        The Bible (and therefore God) is actually less affirming of the patriarchy and more affirming of women than you give it credit for. Before I explain, I want to restate some things I think we both agree about:

        1. Most of the leadership throughout the Bible is male, starting (as you point out) with God the Father;
        2. God set up a system of male headship, both in the home and the church; and
        3. We must be very careful not to retrofit our own cultural assumptions onto the Holy Word of God.

        That being said, I want to briefly address some of the specific scriptures you mention regarding female consent. You’re right; a modern feminist would hate those passages. However, these passages aren’t quite saying what you seem to be using them for.

        In both Numbers 31 and Judges 21, there’s a passage about taking women as spoils of war. You seem to state that this was at God’s command. However, God’s command for doing so appears in neither passage. In Numbers, God’s command is “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites.” Moses is the one who, in verse 18 allows the preservation of the virgins (supported by Deuteronomy 20:14; I’ll get back to that in a moment). In Judges 21, the men of Israel were the ones who swore the vow not to give their daughters in marriage to the Benjaminites; there was no command of God. It says (repeatedly) that the Israelites met before the Lord, but never does it say that the Lord was the one who commanded them to go and kidnap virgins for their wives. Remember, the passage ends, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” So both of these report history, but they do not give us a model to follow.

        So what does the Bible really say about slaves? Basically, according to Deuteronomy 20, the Israelites were supposed to kill everyone in the cities they were supposed to inherit (no virgins or otherwise). However, if it wasn’t a city of the promise, they were to offer peace terms, which included making the residents do forced labor. If the city resisted, they were to kill all the men and take the women and children as slaves. In Deuteronomy 21 (and Exodus 21, regarding Hebrew slaves), any woman who was taken as a slave for sexual purposes was to be treated as a wife. She was no longer property, and even though the husband could send her away following divorce rules, he could not sell her. Captive females were even to have a month of mourning for their parents before the man took her as a wife. Compare this to the slave girl Briseis in The Iliad, who was literally traded around like a prize.

        (Regarding the Midianites in Numbers 31, I don’t have my Bible maps handy to overlay Midianite territory with the promised territory of the 12 tribes, but Moses either took the law too far by commanding the killing of everyone but the virgins, including kids, or he didn’t take it far enough in that he allowed anyone to survive.)

        Finally, regarding the passage about rapists marrying their victims in Deuteronomy 22, a little cultural context is helpful. Most specifically, do a study of the literature about rape up until the last 50 years or so. In most if not all cases, rape victims were considered damaged goods; they would be unable to marry, which in a patriarchal society meant cutting a woman off from her future. Think the rape of Lucretia, where Lucretia committed suicide; think Samuel Richardson’s “Clarissa,” who essentially moped herself to death. In this (ancient!) light, it’s easier to see the marriage law as surprisingly merciful to the rape victim; it’s saying, “Hey, rapist, you wrecked this girl’s future, so you had better give her one.” (It also explains why, in 2 Samuel 13, Tamar begs her half-brother to marry her after he raped her; the last we hear of her is that she lived “a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.”)

        Relatedly, one of the benefits of feminism is that a woman’s value is no longer on her sexuality; rape gives her baggage but no longer ruins her chance for future marriage, and therefore her future.

        All of these rules were in effect within a patriarchal society, but they served to emphasize the value of women. We shouldn’t retrofit the Bible onto feminism, but it is fair to look at passages like this and compare them to other texts of their time and realize that they protect women not just for their attractiveness or for their ability to bear children, but as people deserving of respect and dignity. (Note to self: someday write a comparison of the Proverbs 31 woman to Pericles’ commentary in Thucydides about the ideal woman being completely housebound.)

        I digress. To wrap this up, you mentioned being curious about whether Elliot Rodger would have been happier in a patriarchal society. It’s an interesting thought exercise, but the reality is, he didn’t live in one. Western culture isn’t patriarchal anymore. In some ways it’s good. In some ways it’s bad. Either way, we have to live in it. And how do we do that? By remembering that “male and female He created them,” and therefore we must “Encourage older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters.” In the end, as it says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    4. Mark White on

      I just wanted to say: Thank you! It is a well written article and the comments are well thought out and enlightening.

      Reply
    5. Eric on

      Lisa, thanks for including the link to “Your Princess Is In Another Castle.” I read the entire article, and then returned here. It was a digression worth taking. I do not plan on reading Rodger’s manifesto.

      I appreciated reading Eddie’s observations and contributions as well. The only additional point I would like to add is that for many centuries and many cultures (Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Asian, and others), the model of marriage has been one arranged by one’s parents. I have many co-workers who are Middle-Eastern, Indian, or Korean, who have been raised with the cultural reality that their spouse would be found by their parents or close relatives. The model of Working Hard to Deserve a Wife (or “win the girl”) is a Western tradition for Europeans and Americans, somewhat disconnected from the traditions of vast portion of the population. In arranged family marriages, an adult child has the right to refuse (think back to Bethuel and Rebekah in Genesis 24), though certainly there is family and social pressure to conform as much as possible. All told, however, it was a thought-provoking post.

      Reply
    6. Merriwyn on

      In relation to the comments- I think it would be bizarre to suggest that it is congruous with the gospel of Christ to treat women as things rather than people. There is no room in justice or mercy to treat fully half the population as less deserving of personhood or personal autonomy than the other.

      Regards the post – largely excellent, though I am very wary of suggestions that men and women have fundamentally different sexual drives (men being ‘visual’, women ’emotional’ blah blah blah). Men AND women, as you point out, should ALL strive for emotional and spiritual drives in sexual experience. Ones ‘lusts’, male or female, is never about other people, but about oneself. We all have a responsibility to control our own behaviour, and discussions about ‘modesty’ helping others control themselves never help that. Modesty if discussed at all should be about what kinds of socio-cultural signals we are /choosing/ to project. People’s reactions say as much about themselves as anything else. People can choose what they do about their initial reaction, and even initial reactions are about their internal focus.

      Reply
      • Lisa Eldred on

        Good comments on modesty! I’m wary of an overemphasis on “fundamentally different sex drives” as well. There will be some inherent differences based on the X or Y chromosome, but I’ve started hearing more reports about women shifting more to visual stimulation via porn. Culture seems to be training many of these differences out of us.

        Either way, whether a man wolf-whistles at a woman, whether a woman forms an emotional “affair” with a man who cannot and/or should not reciprocate, or whether we gender-swap those scenarios, it’s really about what we are doing about our own longings, both the sinful and the godly ones.

      • Eddie on

        I think it would be bizarre to suggest that it is congruous with the gospel of Christ to treat women as things rather than people. There is no room in justice or mercy to treat fully half the population as less deserving of personhood or personal autonomy than the other.

        Nobody here is saying that.

        I am very wary of suggestions that men and women have fundamentally different sexual drives (men being ‘visual’, women ‘emotional’ blah blah blah).

        With all respect, Merriwyn, this is a prime example of letting what we want to be true replace what we know istrue. The fact that male sexual attraction is largely (though not exclusively) based on visual cues that signal fertility, while female sexual attraction is much more complex and involves many different elements, is very, very well established scientifically; just google “human sexual attraction” and you’ll find no shortage of information.

        But really, we all know this is true; we know pornography is powerfully addictive for men, but pornography targeted towards women is 1) much less common and 2) usually involves some kind of story and character development and not just visual stimulation.

        You can attribute that to the our fallen nature, but even so denying reality doesn’t help us overcome it.

    7. Ainonn on

      My wife was the promiscuous one before we got married. I was the 24 year old virgin – intentionally. After my eyes were “opened” on our wedding night, I couldn’t accept how she had prostituted herself with other guys before we got married. One night stands – for taking her to a Journey concert. Nice. A convicted felon who appeared on TV to talk about how he conned his way around the world and later made into a movie. She had sex with him as a high schooler after he came and talked at her school. I guess he WAS a motivational speaker. She had sex with her high school business class teacher. I suppose she got an A in that class. And so on, and so on. For me, I see porn as evil but not as evil as doing it in the flesh. It is still bad and should be avoided by all, especially Christians. I do think it rots the mind and degrades human sexuality.
      But I still struggle with the nice white bridal gowns on all the young women who lived lives of sexual degradation, but decide to “come clean” and settle down with those nice guys they found. What about all the trash that women bring into the marriage? It’s not always the sweaty palmed guy with bloodshot eyes obsessed with porn that screws up the marriage bed. Hold women accountable, too. They can be even nastier than the guys.

      Reply
      • Lisa Eldred on

        It’s absolutely true that women need to be held accountable for their actions. To say that men are the ones with a problem is an absolute stereotype: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That includes men and women.

        I don’t know anything about your wife’s situation other than what you’ve mentioned here, so I can’t speak to whether she personally was repentant or not. I also want to affirm what you’re saying that both men and women bring baggage (sexual and otherwise) into a marriage…in fact, part of the point of marriage counseling is that both partners are aware of any baggage before the wedding, so they can be prepared to address it throughout the marriage.

        I do want to address your comment about “nice, white bridal gowns,” though, and that’s primarily to say, don’t assume that because someone lived a life of sexual degradation prior to marriage, they by definition should not wear white. First, their repentance is between them and God. Second, if our ability to wear white in general was represented by the purity of our lives, none of us would be able to ever wear white. Ever. Here are just a few examples:

        • “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Romans 3:10-11)
        • “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6, emphasis mine)

        And yet, in the marriage supper of the Lamb, all of us are clothed in white.

        • “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” (Zechariah 3:4)
        • “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18)
        • “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.” (Revelation 3:5)

        My point is simply that none of us are pure. None of us deserve to wear the white bridal gown. But Jesus makes all things new.

    8. wtf on

      This is turning a complete misunderstanding of child youth to sexual deviences. I used to live in owosso. I now live in Florida. I do not look at porn nor have interest. I know you will deny this post and that’s fine. I hope you realize that the company you work for is very biased and there are better options outside of the state. Please better yourself and know that you’re working for a company that is very biased and has a corrupt leader. My friend used to work there but was let go due to stereotyping against him. Your future is in your own hands. You can do better.

      Reply
      • Lisa Eldred on

        I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “complete misunderstanding of child youth to sexual deviances.” Can you please explain?

    9. Greg on

      Obviously Elliot Rodger was wrong in what he did. No-one questions that, and never should we make excuses for our own sin. But I think that the church in general has a stark lack of compassion for what young people and even many husband and wives are going through in dealing with God-given hormones and the sex-saturated culture that surrounds them.

      One of the biggest issues and frustrations I personally am seeing is the lack of honesty from women themselves about what their sexual struggles and temptations are. Why is this important? Because until more women are honest enough to take off their plastic masks (men have had theirs forcibly removed for a long time), it will be difficult to respect them when all we can see is the lies that we’re being fed by our culture. Which translates to: women are smart, beautiful, desirable, and laugh at the unintelligent men with the animalistic. sex-only minds. And sadly, there’s some truth in that. So there’s a war going on culturally (and even among believers) which casts men in a poor light, and it’s getting very difficult to respect and value women in the midst of that.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thanks Greg.

        I think it probably varies from church to church. On one hand, I’ve been in many congregations that have a remarkable compassion for how sin has warped our hormonal reactions, probably because the leaders of these congregations are themselves so transparent. On the other hand, the lack of compassion is a characteristic of other churches.

        As for women “ripping off their plastic masks,” I hear a lot of women doing this in the circles I run in, but I think your first comment speaks to that very issue: when the church shows a general lack of compassion for those caught in sexual sin, it isn’t easy for anyone (much less women) to take off those masks.

        I’m not sure I follow your comment about culture casting men in a poor light and how that translates to disrespecting women. Can you elaborate?

    10. Eddie on

      (Relatedly, you may be accurate in relating a committed relationship to a decrease in men’s propensity toward violence and crime, as well an increase in women’s happiness. As you may have guessed, my background is in rhetoric and literary analysis, not psychology. I think we can both agree that the committed intimacy through marriage is the key, as opposed to the act of sex itself.)

      It’s a little more complicated than we might like. As I think you’ve noted yourself, multiple studies have shown that use of pornography leads to lower incidence of rape; this result has been found repeatedly in a variety of contexts, and yes, the consensus of psychologists is that sheer physical, sexual release is to credit. The same effect is usually found when prostitution is legalized. Of course, there are also plenty very heavy negative consequences of pornography and prostitution as well, as you obviously know. I think a fair analogy would be to suggest that crime rates would also be lowered by government-funded universal free pizza, beer and videogames; it does not follow that that would be a good idea, because there is more to life than low crime rates, and fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through it. Where marriage comes in is as a positive motivator for men to do their best – men who are married, and especially married fathers, work harder and generally achieve more.

      The point I was trying to make there is that while “sex is essential and you can’t live without it” is indeed a myth, so is the opposite – the suggestion that the sex drive, and especially the male sex drive – is anything other than a very, very powerful force that has to be dealt with pragmatically. The traditional model, where people got married in their late teens or early twenties, was indeed a pragmatic way of dealing with it. The modern middle-class secular model, adopted post-60s and supported by feminism — go to college to “find out who you are,” then get out and get a good, professional job so you can be independent, and then at some point in your late 20s you find “The One,” and then get married at 32 – works for the larger world because they take it as a given that you’ve been having sex with whomever you’ve been “dating” all that time. (Of course, it doesn’t really work because of the enormous psychological consequences of uncommitted sex, especially for women, but there is a chorus of feminist voices ready to help them rationalize away those feelings.) The modern middle-class Evangelical Christian model is the exact same … except that we claim to expect that young people should hold off on the sex until that marriage at 32.

      It’s simply not a realistic approach to the facts of human biology, and the fact that Christians consume porn, have premarital sex, get pregnant, get abortions, and get divorced at rates pretty similar to the secular population should be the tipoff.
      The sex drive, especially for men, is a powerful thing that needs to be harnessed and channeled into marriage. Moreover, the facts of human fertility indicate that women are designed to be having children in their 20s, not their 30s and 40s. But outside of very traditionalist circles (e.g. Mormons, Bob-Jones-U style fundamentalists) a 22-year-old-man marrying a 19-year-old-woman is likely to be received with disapproval and cries of “They need to find out who they are first.” We’ve inverted Paul’s advice, and instead adopted “it is better to burn with lust than to marry before you’ve finished grad school, got your career going, had some adventures, explored your truest self, and found “The One.” (or “God’s Match For You.”)
      Biology gives us examples of species that practice “serial monogamy,” species that adopt early-life “pair bonding,” and species that practice various kinds of polygamy; all of which humans have tried at various times and places. I’m not aware of any species that puts off reproduction until the prime years of fertility are over … and yet this is what most Christians in 2014 recommend.

      And no, feminism is not wholly and completely the cause of delayed marriage … but it is a very, very large part of it.

      However, “patriarchy” is an equally loaded term. Remember, many modern Muslim countries have returned to the form. In some, women are limited to even basic things like education. It’s not a Christian book by any means, but you may be interested in reading Reading Lolita in Tehran for a take on a modern society that returned to patriarchy. See if the treatment of the women in that book meshes well with the treatment of women in the Bible. I know you’re not arguing for that extreme form of patriarchy, but if we need to be careful about feminist terms, so too must we be careful about all our language choices.

      I’ve read it, and I agree I should have been clearer about specifying “patriarchy as modeled and recommended in scripture and historically advanced by Christianity,” which, in fairness, itself includes some problematic elements. I probably also could have distinguished between first-wave/equity feminism and the more theory-based gender feminism.

      But let’s be honest here: in 2014, equity feminism has long since won the day; nobody is going to argue that Bob the engineer should get paid more than Mary the engineer simply because he’s a man, or that girls should be required to take Home Economics and prevented from taking Calculus. Feminism as a live issue today is gender feminism, and considers the fact that relatively few girls want to take calculus or be engineers is ipso facto evidence of oppression. It’s the claim that most of the things that make men and women different are culturally constructed.

      And any random collection of a hundred invocations of “patriarchy” in feminist websites/books/articles is going to find that the contexts of those invocation are rarely calls for practical, concrete action to stop honor killings, and much more frequently discussions of contraception, abortion, female underrepresentation in this or that profession, and/or how great it is that Lena Dunham is overweight, naked, and on TV all at the same time. (Google check: Patriarchy + female genital mutilation = 87,000 hits. Patriarchy + abortion = 435,000. Patriarchy + Barbie = 673,000) The “patriarchy” feminists are upset about is not so much the kind represented by Osama Bin Laden, the Middle Ages, and the burqa, as it is the kind found in Ward Cleaver, the 1950s, and gender-segregated playground games. As actually practiced, it’s overwhelmingly a movement by, for, and about middle- and upper-class white women living in America and Western Europe. The relatively few feminists of color have been pointing this out for years.

      So, to clarify: my criticism is not of all possible feminisms, but of the specific kind that has been advancing for the last few decades, and my defense is not of patriarchy in the abstract, but of the specific patriarchy that feminists are primarily concerned with dismantling.

      The Bible (and therefore God) is actually less affirming of the patriarchy and more affirming of women than you give it credit for.

      I hadn’t originally planned on writing another comment; this is the sentence that prompted me to respond again. Unless I misread it, there is a very, very revealing assumption embedded in it: that there is a conflict between “the patriarchy” on the one hand, and “affirming women” on the other.

      I couldn’t possibly disagree more. The gender role revolution of the last 50 years has had mixed results for all kinds of people, but on balance its women who have been hurt by it the most.

      It’s bad for some men – the meek, quiet kind of guy who just wants to marry a “nice girl” (i.e. sexually inexperienced), who will keep house and raise the kids while he works outside the home and seeks to earn her respect by being the provider and protector of the family — that guy is increasingly SOL in 2014.

      For other men, feminism has been great; like the guy who really doesn’t want to commit to any one girl, but would prefer to date around for a decade or two, sleeping with as many women as he can. They’ll be on the pill, so it’s ok, and none of them are going to expect him to provide or protect them (They’re supposed to do that for themselves, right?). They’re quite happy to help young women empower themselves. And if they do come across a churchy type who says she’s “saving herself for marriage” … well, Miss No-fun can stay alone, because there are plenty of other places to get the milk for free.

      Boys have been taught for a few decades now to not to be that first guy, so he’s increasingly rare. The second guy is thriving, and we’re getting more of him.

      But while men are mostly adapting and adjusting to the new social norms feminism has endorsed, it’s been a disaster for women. The social changes of the last 40 years have seen more of them divorced, more single mothers, more poor and more just plain unhappy. Numerous studies have shown that modern women on the whole are much less satisfied with their lives than their mothers and grandmothers were back in the bad old days, even as they get more and more of the things feminism tells them they need. Numerous books have been written on just this “paradox.”

      For the elite Sheryl Sandberg types, it’s been great, with exciting high-power careers, marriage to an equally high-powered career man, and enough money and clout to get a nanny and/or flextime to care for the kids. But for everyday working class women, the new social expectation that they have their own career means spending 8 hours a day in cubicle staring at a screen, learning the hard way that most jobs aren’t really all that empowering, and hoping their kids are doing well in daycare. It means a larger labor pool, which stagnates her husband’s wages making it harder for her to stay home even if she wanted to. It means constant social cues (The Wild, Eat Pray Love, Fireproof) telling her it’s okay to seek a divorce if she’s not deeply fulfilled (60-90% of divorces are initiated by women, with the most common reason being not infidelity or abuse but variations on “unhappiness”) … which in turn means her daughters grow up in a broken home with all that that entails.

      So – on balance, the biggest victims of feminism’s reshaping of the gender landscape are not men, but women. Science increasingly tells us that traditional gender roles – males as providers/protectors, females as nurturers –are rooted in our biological design, not socially constructed. It’s not patriarchy that’s failing to “affirm women” … it does affirm them, as women; on the contrary, it’s feminists that are telling women to be something other than what they were made to be.
      Your analysis of the texts I mentioned – and I agree with essentially all of your interpretations – makes my point for me: the traditional, patriarchal social structures that feminists are rejecting were not set in place to oppress or victimize women, but rather to protect as them from the real dangers of life on a fallen planet. It’s the same lie we were told in the garden: “Surely the restrictions are not there for your benefit, but his; The Man is keeping you down.”

      Having said all this — much of what you’ve written here tells me you really aren’t a feminist; I’m pretty sure some of your views would get you cast out (perhaps literally) of most Women’s Studies Departments. But ISTM you have pretty clearly absorbed their rhetoric, and I’d suggest that the language we speak and think in often colors our presuppositions and our thoughts more than we realize.

      I digress. To wrap this up, you mentioned being curious about whether Elliot Rodger would have been happier in a patriarchal society. It’s an interesting thought exercise, but the reality is, he didn’t live in one. Western culture isn’t patriarchal anymore. In some ways it’s good. In some ways it’s bad. Either way, we have to live in it. And how do we do that? By remembering that “male and female He created them,” and therefore we must “Encourage older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters.” In the end, as it says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

      Is that the same Paul that told slaves to obey their masters? If so, that passage clearly can’t saying the categories are meaningless.

      “This is the world” can rationalize just about anything. We live in a society where porn is seen as “normal” and “harmless” by many, and yet you make your living writing against it (and ISTM the tide is beginning to turn — thanks to moral suasion from you and your peers and the increasing findings of science).

      I’m not calling for a political program to forcibly alter society; I’m saying those who claim the name of Christ need to look closely at what the Bible, the church, and common sense tell us about sex and gender, and then act and speak accordingly. If that puts us at odds with the secular world, so be it. A lot of people think of Mormons as hopelessly old-fashioned patriarchical wackos. And yet Mormons do very well on most social metrics of health and happiness … and it’s been the world’s fastest-growing religion for decades.

      As you may have guessed, my background is in rhetoric and literary analysis, not psychology.

      I understand it may not be your métier, but I encourage you to broaden your horizons. My own background is also in rhetoric; my first career was teaching lit at Major State U.

      You may find it thought-provoking to read up on some of the findings of science about human nature in recent decades. The atheist psychologist Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate is easily read, but quite challenging for a thoughtful Christian. There are a slew of good books written on the biological roots of gender (including one by Pinker’s sister), as well as quite a few bad ones. And certainly I’d encourage you to do your own fact-checking on the claims I’ve made above!

      Thanks again for the thoughtful exchange! Peace.

      Reply
      • Lisa Eldred on

        Thanks for the clarifications, especially on equity-based feminism vs. the gender revolution and biblical vs. secular patriarchy. And I’ll see if I can hunt down a copy of The Blank Slate…it looks fascinating.

        In reviewing your comment multiple times, I think the heart of the issue may actually have little to do with the three lies themselves, but rather on what we should tell young men and women (starting in childhood) about relationships, marriage, sex, and gender roles in light of both the Bible and culture? Interestingly, though we both tried to address both genders, I, as a woman, approached the issue more from the angle of “what men should know about women” in my initial post (e.g., “Don’t buy into the lies that you somehow deserve sex, and that having sex will solve everything”), while you, as a man, approached it from the angle of “what women should know about themselves” (e.g. “Science tells us that both women and men are, in general, happier and healthier if they get married younger and have children sooner.”)

        I’ll state outright that your stance (at least as I’ve paraphrased it) is solid advice for most young people. I think you’ll agree with my stance if you understand that culturally, many men in particular equate “sex” to “an attractive partner.” The emphasis is often on “attractive,” as if a woman’s fleeting physical beauty were her main value, which is why I am somewhat annoyed whenever godly men talk about their “smokin’ hot wife.”

        My point is similar to what CS Lewis states:

        We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he “wants a woman.” Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman as such may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes).

        Bringing it back around, what should we tell people (especially women and singles) about sex today? How do we apply the good parts of Biblical patriarchy to an increasingly sex-positive feminist culture? We should teach them to get married, especially since “it is better to get married than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9). We should teach them to find fulfillment in their single state by serving God (1 Cor. 7:32-34), not through a career. And when looking for a spouse, look for a person of godly character, not for someone who seems like “a catch” simply because they are physically attractive.

        This advice seems simple enough until you start applying it to Millennials (Christian Millennials especially), the cohort of those who are 32 and still single. You say:

        We’ve inverted Paul’s advice, and instead adopted “it is better to burn with lust than to marry before you’ve finished grad school, got your career going, had some adventures, explored your truest self, and found “The One.” (or “God’s Match For You.”)

        That may be true in non-Christian circles, and it may even be what young Christian men believe. However, based on my experiences with single Christian women of that cohort (of which I know a good number), most of them fall more strongly in the category of, “I’d like to get married, but I’m not going to put my life on hold waiting for the guy to show up.” In fact, off the top of my head I can’t think of any female graduate students (Christian or no) who held off on either starting a serious relationship or getting married because they were in grad school. Childbearing, perhaps, but not marriage. One friend with a very strong claim to feminism repeatedly stated she would not have made it through grad school without her husband’s support.

        The bigger problem is that the Christian young men haven’t stepped up to ask them out in the first place. Perhaps these young men are overlooking these young women because they’re not traditional beauties. Perhaps it’s because the young men buy strongly into the mentality of “finding The One” and are terrified of asking the wrong woman out (this is the group raised off I Kissed Dating Goodbye, after all). Perhaps they’re simply satisfying themselves from porn. This leads to the “hanging on” behaviors I address in lie 2. They don’t feel they can ask a guy out, so they just hope he notices.

        All of this really points to why we need to look to Jesus for our satisfaction, not relationships or sex. Relationships will fail; even the strongest marriage may end in one partner’s sudden death. And sex is a gift for Earth; “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). Single, married, happy, dissatisfied, whatever, we need to find our joy in Jesus.

    11. Brent on

      Lisa i’m a strong believer in God’s word . A true blood bought child of the most high , but i’m INFESTED with a severe state of loneliness . This desire for physical intimacy is God given that’s not being met . I’m no Rodgers . I didn’t come up thinking women owe me ANYTHING regardless of whatever , but i do desire a woman’s love . You say we should seek and give our loneliness to Jesus . Well …. I have and long ago , but it’s only gotten worse . I’ve never become bitter . Why ?? Because i know it wouldn’t do me any good . God’s will – will be done and nothing changes his mind ……… Even if it means suicide

      Reply
      • Dan Armstrong on

        Hello, Brent – I’m proud of you for leaving your comment on the blog because it is very difficult to admit our struggles. I’m deeply concerned about your comments about suicide – here’s the truth…you have unmeasurable value! Your life is a precious gift and a blessing to this planet. Unique. Unrepeatable. Please find someone you can talk to about your struggles. If you don’t have anyone you can talk to, and you start to have suicidal feelings again, promise me you’ll call this number: 1-800-273-8255, if you are in the United States. They also have a chat feature that always has someone there to respond. God is for you! Brent, you can get through this, and it will be hard work, but it’s worth it. Remember the strength you have in Christ – Romans 8 can remind you (can you go read that right now?). The cross of Jesus Christ IS strong enoughto overcome everything. Even this. Peace, Dan

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