How the Church Treats Women & Sex

Last week I did a "Would You Rather?" post contrasting Rahab and Mary, Mother of Jesus. In that post, I mentioned that it was a loaded question, and I alluded to the fact that sexism plays a part in the both the question and the answer; however, I never delved into that subject. In Galatians 3:28, Paul reminded us that there is neither male nor female but we are all one in Christ. Unforunately, sexism persists in the church. Don't think that because I say "sexism" I mean a one-way mistreatment of women; sexism can effect both genders, however today we're just going to focus on one aspect: the treatment of sex when it comes to women.

Accountability

I have a friend who used to be "the other woman" (let's call her Jane Doe) and the guy (let's call him John Doe—no relation 😂) she was seeing was good friends with the guys in my friend circle—basically, everyone accept this guy's actual girlfriend were in my friend circle. The reaction among the women vs. the men was starkly different, even though we all were raised in Christian households, all professed to be Christian, and for the most part, all attended the smae church.

When my female friends and I found out, we immediately went into accountability mode. We we're saying things like "you can do better," "you wouldn't want someone doing that to you," and "this is not ok." We stopped inviting both of them to the same events at our apartment and made it clear—in a loving manner—we disapproved of their actions.

My male friends knew before we did, and they did not care. Their reaction was complete apathy. They had hung out with John and his girlfriend one night, then turned around and hung out with John and Jane the next night. None of them thought to say anything to John about his behavior or to suggest he was being unfair to both women.

Now, there are a lot of issues we could talk about here but the one I want to focus on is the difference in reactions.

Slut Shaming

Have you ever heard a man be called a homewrecker, hoe, or slut? While I am prone to calling my male friends a hoe to their face, I don't think this a general trend. From high school all the way through college, in every scandal, only the girl was ridiculed. Of course, when I look back on those situations, it wasn't men ridiculing said girl; girls shame girls. Sure, when word gets around guys might not take that girl as seriously (we'll get to that in the next section), but the name calling, whispering, rumor spreading, and other ostracizing behavior came from the women. Meanwhile the guys in the scandal are either celebrated by their male peers or met with apathy.

These scenarios play out just like the one with my friend Jane. Although we took the approach of trying to build her self esteem to believe that she was better than relegating herself to "side-chick" instead of degrading her, we still expressed a negative view of the situation. Right or wrong, why is it that women are more likely to have and express a negative opinion on such situations? Is it because we are taught to value different traits within ourselves?

Standards and Values

We unconciously set standards that dictate whether we see people as "good" or "bad." These standards are based off traits: kindness, honesty, reliability, loyalty, etc. Generally speaking, the traits valued in men are different than those in women. One of the traits placed at high value in women is purity. Whether we learned it from Disney, from church, or from slasher films where only the virgin survives, women pick up the idea that their value is tied to their purity. While I don't condone sleeping around or even premarital sex, you're not a less valuable human being if you've done. these things. However, because this idea creeps into our minds subconciously, women not only internalize this standard but project it upon our female peers. Men, on the other hand, use it as an excuse to not value women they see as promiscuous.

Put plainly, I believe the difference in reaction is due to a difference in the standard we hold women to (many of you are saying "well, duh"), but my question is where does this standard come from and why isn't it applied to men? If we are picking up this idea from society, why isn't the Church doing anything to counter it? If its being picked up from the Church, where are the Bible verses that say its ok for a man to sleep around but not ok for a woman? If a woman must be married to have sex, it follows that the man must marry the woman to have sex with her.

Modesty

Most likely, the way this comingling of value and purity begins in our subconcious is the from the teachings on modesty. Modesty discussions always focus soley on women.

Double Standard

I remember running in to a professor from college and his wife outside of class. It was over 90 degrees outside and the sun was blazing. The professor was in a short-sleeve t-shirt, cargo pants, sneakers, and low-rise socks. His wife had on a long sleeve shirt, long pants, loafers, long socks, and a hijab. This visual contrast may not exist in the Christian community, but the mindset does.

Before we continue the conversation, I want to clearly state that I'm not attacking the concept of covering yourself (or even wearing a hijab). I am attacking the double standard that says its perfectly ok for a man to wear shorts but not ok for a woman to.

Men will post shirtless pictures of themselves, but talk about a woman who posts a picture in a swimsuit. Men will wear tight pants but degrade women for doing the same. Men will wear muscle shirts, but a woman showing off her curves is "asking for it." We're put in a lose-lose situation where if we cover up too much, we're being oppressed or frumpy and if we don't cover up enough, we're loose.

Responsibility

Despite the Bible proclaiming men to be the leaders of the house, the responsibility of purity is placed on the woman's shoulders. Many churches teach that it is the woman's responsibility to keep the man from lusting and never tell the men that one, it is their responsibility to control their mind and two, they are to treat a woman with respect no matter how she dresses, because three, they are supposed to be the leaders. Meanwhile, women are taught to control our thoughts regardless of what men do.

The Visual Creatures Excuse

"Men are visual creatures."

I'm not sure why people don't think women are visual creatures. We struggle with lust, too, and I can tell you many times it has nothing to do with how a man dresses (though sometimes it does). In the interest of proving a point, I'm going to be transparent. Ok, so there are things that make a person attractive, but then there are things that go beyond attraction: turn ons. For me, those things are athletic legs and voice (I'm not even going to say a deep voice, it's just a certain type of voice that hits you a certain type of way).

There used to be a guy in my young adult group who had both great legs and a sexy voice. The first time this man volutneered to read Bible verses in Sabbath school, my mind forgot all about Sabbath, the Bible, and the lesson. Having had conversations with others, I know that I was not the only one. Can you imagine if men were required to pitch up their voices so women weren't distracted? Or be fully clothed in the heat so we aren't distracted by calf-muscle flex or your biceps or your six-pack? This is unnecessary though, because from an early age, we're taught to suppress those thoughts. After the initial shock of hearing that guy read, we dug into our basket of Spiritual Fruit, pulled out self control, and turned ourselves off.

Instead of placing the responsibility of male thoughts on women, why don't we encourage them to tap into this miraculous power of being in control of their own thoughts?

The Prostitute and the Virgin

So that brings us back to the Would You Rather I asked about Rahab and Mary. We see total opposite ends of the spectrum: hypersexuality and hyperpurity. While I think there is room to discuss both, we rarely have conversations about the middle area. The church spends time praising virginity (but only for women) and time condemning promiscuity, but never stops to confirm that sex between a married couple is not only normal but good.

Suggested Reading

  • Song of Solomon

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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